Ailing Rebels Fall To Titans, 3-2, In Fifth And Deciding Game
With a full roster, the Jamestown Rebels may well have seen a different result than the one that took place in Game 5 of the North American Hockey League East Division semifinals on Monday night at Northwest Arena.
But with the effects of injuries and illness still lingering, the New Jersey Titans were able to hang on for a 3-2 win after scoring a pair of goals in the first period and another at 13:04 of the second.
They will advance to face No. 1 Johnstown in the divisional finals after winning three consecutive games to finish off their comeback in the opening round of the postseason.
“We just weren’t a deep enough hockey team to get through this,” said head coach Joe Coombs. “I don’t think for a second that we lose if we are healthy, but at the same time we’ve played this team before and the organization before and I knew going into Game 3 that we needed to answer. We needed to go in ready and we didn’t. We were a little bit better in Game 4. We’re dropping like flies. We lost another guy tonight at the end of the first and if we would have had to play another shift we lost another guy (also).”
Jamestown gave itself a chance to force overtime on Monday, firing a series of shots on goaltender Brandon Perrone after pulling their own netminder for the man advantage with a minute and a half to play in regulation. The Titans were able to do what they had done for much of the night defensively in that situation, crowd the front of their net and block shots.
With the Rebels struggling to put fresh legs on the ice, New Jersey was able to play chip-and-chase down the stretch despite giving up a pair of goals in the second period.
“We played three lines all hockey game and all New Jersey did — they knew — was chip it out and we had to come back and get it, dump it in and we had no energy to go get it,” said Coombs. “I felt like some guys gave it a truly valiant effort, and I felt like some guys were putting their time in.”
A tripping penalty by Alex Frye gave the Titans their first power-play opportunity, and New Jersey made it count. Ryan Naumovski and Mitch Machlitt would start things off with some nice puck movement on the right side of the ice, with the latter feeding Gavin Gulash in the slot for a redirection that found its way past Jamestown goaltender Ryan Keane.
After giving up the first goal, the Rebels responded with a good offensive chance from Frye, but the Jamestown captain was unable to get his shot away. With time winding down in the opening period Nate Clark found himself all alone in scoring position, but was the recipient of a poor pass that found his skate.
After being gifted an opportunity to tie things up when Naumovski was booked for tripping, the Rebels suffered a crucial mistake with the man advantage.
Looking to bat a puck down near the blue line, Alex Roy misplayed his position, allowing Chris Garbe to streak down the ice for a breakaway that was tucked home on the stick side to make it 2-0.
Jamestown had another close call early on in the second period as Nick Stuckless let a shot go that found the post. The Titans put their skill on display with the third goal when Kyler Head threw a no-look pass to Naumovski in the slot. From there, the Niagara University commit whirled around and wired home a wrist shot over the blocker of Keane.
That goal prompted a Jamestown goaltending change, as Noah West entered the game after Keane’s 14 saves on 17 shots.
The Rebels got on the board a little over a minute after Naumovski’s first of the postseason with Antonio Venuto firing home a screened wrist shot on passes by Colin Schmidt and Frye.
With a minute to play in the second period, Frye fought his way around the Titans net for a wraparound chance that was finished off by Schmidt to pull the Rebels within a goal.
In the end, Jamestown simply did not have the horses it would have liked in the stable at the most crucial time of the year.
“We look back, we had four season-ending injuries,” said Coombs. “One the second week into the year, one in December and two more after the trade deadline. If you look at the guys that are missing from our lineup who would have played significant minutes, it’s six guys. You can’t recover from that.”
Perrone stopped 28 shots in the win while West turned away all 10 pucks he saw in 25 minutes of time between the pipes for Jamestown.