Stephen Willey scored 1:15 into the third overtime to give the visiting Titans a thrilling 3 – 2 come from behind victory over the Jamestown Rebels to clinch the best-of-five East Division finals three games to one and punch their ticket to the franchise’s first ever NAHL Robertson Cup final four.
It was Willey’s second game winning goal in the series.
Rebels netminder Nolan Suggs stopped an amazing 73 of 76 shots in the loss.
The night didn’t start off on the right foot for Suggs when Billy Feczko scored with 5:56 remaining in the opening period on a goal that Suggs which he could have back. After the puck exited the Titans zone, Jamestown’s defenseman Peter Klemm dumped the biscuit back into the offensive zone where it was picked up by rookie Reece Brednich at the far side half wall. Brednich looked and found Feczko waiting unguarded at the top of the Rebels zone. Feczko walked in all alone on Suggs and took a wrist shot that Suggs saved but the puck bounced off his chest and slowly rolled into the back of the net to make it a 1 – 0 game. It was Feczko’s second goal of the playoffs.
The Rebels then scored two unanswered goals in the middle stanza.
At 2:22 into the second period Rocco Testa-Basi was called for boarding to give the Rebels the man advantage. Forty-six seconds later the game was tied. Jamestown’s Joshua Burke started the play at the top of the point, and he passed the biscuit to Jak Vaarwerk on his right. Vaarwerk immediately made a tape-to-tape cross-ice pass to Noah Szretter at the far side faceoff dot, and Szretter took a one-timer that beat Titans netminder Andrew Takacs short side for Szretter’s four goal of the playoffs.
Just thirty-eight seconds after Szretter scored, the Rebels’ Kolby Amici gave Jamestown the lead. With play in the Titans zone, Rebels forward Max Hamstad picked up the loose puck at the goal line and to the left of Takacs. Hamstad passed it back to Amici at the top of the near side faceoff circle, and Amici took a shot that handcuffed Takacs and beat the Titans goalie high blocker side to make it a 2 – 1 game.
With the clock about to expire and looking like the series was headed back to Middletown for a fifth and deciding game, Anthony Calafiore pulled off some heroics – very similar to what Ryan Coughlin did to win game five of the Northeast series.
With three seconds remaining in the game and the Titans pressuring in the offensive zone, Nick Ring picked up the loose puck at the top of the near side faceoff circle and passed it down low to Chris Carroll, who was to the left of Suggs. Carroll immediately made a tap pass to Calafiore in the slot and the Staten Island, NY native took a clapper that beat Suggs with 0:01 left in the game to send it into overtime.
After two scoreless overtimes (which are played just like a regular 20-minute period in the playoffs), it went into the third overtime session. After a Titans pass was deflected in the slot out front of Suggs, the puck went to Jamestown’s Nathan Jurrens who cleared the puck into the Titans zone and on net where it was retrieved by Takacs. The Titans netminder made a long bounce pass off the far side boards and landed just into the offensive zone where it was picked up by Willey. Willey skated towards the net, and as he cut across the slot, he backhanded the puck over Suggs to win the game and send the Titans on the Robertson Cup final four.
Takacs stopped 34 of 36 shots for his sixth win in the post season. Click here for the box score.
“Another great win by our team” said Titans head coach Craig Doremus. “We battled hard and stuck with it for five weeks plus periods and came out with an epic win. So proud of all of our guys for continuing to work and buy into the details necessary to be successful this time of the year. I would be remiss not to mention what an incredible series it was and tip my cap to Joe, his staff and all of the Rebels’ players. It was a long, hard battle and those guys played unbelievably hard. We are excited to represent the Eastern Division in the Robertson Cup finals in Minnesota next week” concluded Doremus.
It was the longest game in Titans history, and it gave them an overall 4 – 1 record in overtime playoff games (three wins against Johnstown). The last time they played in overtime they defeated the Tomahawks in Johnstown back on April 27, 2019 when Chris Garbe scored the game winner at 1:47 in the extra period to give the Titans a 4 – 3 win.
The other time the Titans and Rebels played in overtime was back on May 6, 2017, in again the East Division finals, when Ryan Wheeler beat Rebels (back then it was Aston) goalie Jack Levy at 3:27 into overtime to give the Red Buckets a 3 – 2 win to tie the series at two.
The Titans will flyout on Tuesday to Minneapolis with the Robertson Cup semi-finals (opponent to be announced later) on Thursday.