The regular season’s final meeting between the Knights and Titans took place in New Jersey Tuesday night. The teams had traded a win and a loss over the course of two meetings this weekend. With the Titans entering the evening with a one point lead for second place in the East, a New Jersey win would clinch them home ice advantage through the first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
Standing in their way was Knights goaltender David Tomeo. The West Caldwell, New Jersey native stoned the Titans on Friday making 52 saves on 53 shots. The Titans rebounded Saturday and chased him from the game in the second period, on their way to a 5-1 win.
On this night, Tomeo would quickly regain his Friday form that has helped carry the Knights to a 3-1 record over their previous four games. Despite the Titans getting the early jump, they could not solve Tomeo in the opening period, seeing a staggering 23 shots-many of high quality-fail to find the twine.
For their part, the Knights offense picked up steam slowly. They were besieged by the Titans transition game for good portions of the opening frame. Further limiting their attack was Matthew Ladd, fresh off a sterling performance against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday. He was steady again early, stopping all 10 shots he faced in the first.
The second period began in similar fashion, with the early tilt of the ice belonging to the Titans. Tomeo hunkered down yet again, keeping New Jersey at bay, on his way to a 13-save middle stanza.
The turning point for the Knights offense came at the 7:43 mark. Shay Dononvan intercepted a Titans clearing effort at the top of the zone. He turned and lifted a shot high through traffic, beating Ladd under the crossbar for the Knights 1-0 lead. Off the ensuing faceoff, Joey Verkerke ladled a puck to Gabe Temple down the left wing, into Titans territory. Temple filtered a pass ahead to the left side of the zone, through Tomas Koblizek, and to Jake Fuss in the low slot. Fuss slammed the puck by Ladd, giving the Knights two goals within nine seconds of play.
Bruised but not yet beaten, the Titans regained some of their stride around the three-quarter mark of the period. Following a Knights penalty at 14:40, the Titans were able to capitalize to trim the deficit to one. The Knights penalty kill was bested with about 40 seconds remaining in the Titans man-advantage.
Set up by Ryan Naumovski, Matthew Cameron fired a pass through to the slot where a waiting Tyler Antonucci deflected the puck by Tomeo to put New Jersey on the board.
With no further scoring in the second, the next goal in a 2-1 game would decide who controlled momentum in the third.
Early in the third, Jake Fuss came crashing down the right wing of the New Jersey zone. He fought through a heavy check to flip the puck back to Luke Robinson at the point. Robinson fed a pass to the middle of the to Tomas Koblizek. The Czech winner spun impressively off a body and turned the puck to Morrissey firing into the low slot. The Knights assistant captain buried the biscuit past Ladd for the 3-1 lead, 2:13 into the third.
The Titans would answer five minutes later when, off a set up by Zachary Faremouth, Hunter Alden gained the middle of the Knights line. At the top of the slot, he dangled his way through one pair of skates before deftly dropping the puck back for the trailing Eric Manoukian. The defenseman didn’t miss on a quick release from the middle of the ice, as the Titans again cut the lead to one.
The see-saw third saw New Jersey continue to push offensive play while the Knights attempted to protect their lead. Tomeo and the back check withstood New Jersey’s efforts long enough to force the Titans to empty their net with a minute to go. The first draw with the open net came deep in Knights territory. Curtis Carlson won possession for the Knights, only to see the Titans force a quick turnover. Lincoln Hatten took it right back for the Knights fired the puck into the open net New Jersey twine at 19:03.
The 4-2 lead would be tested, as the Titans would empty the net again and even take a penalty shot near the game’s end, but the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense and Tomeo (43 saves) would hold strong through it all. At the final horn, the Knights had the victory and possession of second place in the East once again.
They’ll look to add to their one-point lead in the standings with a 3:05 pm EDT resumption of play today against the Philadelphia Rebels. The final game of the Knights regular season will pick up midway through the first as it is a continuation of a postponed game form earlier in the season. The score is 2-0 Rebels. Tune in for the Knights comeback effort on hockeytv.com, and follow along with Knights social media and at nahl.com!