MIDDLETOWN, NJ — The New Jersey Titans took a three-goal lead into the third period Saturday, but victory was not to be as the Northeast Generals rallied for four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes of action to come back and win, 5-4, in Middletown Ice World.
The game-winning goal came with just five seconds on the clock when Mike Egan converted an unassisted goal to complete the comeback. Justin Jallen had a hat trick and and Colin Bilek picked up four assists in the triumph.
The opening period would be quiet compared to the final 40 minutes as the two teams tried to find each other’s weaknesses. Neither North American Hockey League team would find one, though, as each goalie was perfect. David Fessenden would make 14 saves for the Generals, including several big saves, while Matt Ladd was perfect on nine chances for the Titans as the opening frame expired with zeros still on the board.
The action would really begin in period two as the two offenses woke up to combine for nine goals over the final two periods.
It was just 1:10 into the second period when the Generals struck first when Bilek fed Jallen for a shorthanded marker to put the Generals up 1-0. It would be their only goal of the frame, however, as the Titans responded with a fury.
Just 29 seconds after Jallen broke the ice, the Titans would answer. Still on the power play, Eric Manoukian found the back of the net assisted by Ryan Wheeler and Andrew Husted to even the game, 1-1. With momentum on their side, the Titans struck again just over two minutes later when Nick Boyagian sent a beautiful cross-ice pass to Kyle Jeffers who gave New Jersey its first lead of the game, 2-1.
The score remained the same until the midway point of the period, when the Titans would add two more to their advantage. First, with 9:14 left in the frame, it would be Ryan Naumovski finishing a nice pass by Jeffers. Then, with 5:08 to go, Boyagian struck when Tyler Antonucci found him with a nice pass off of a 3-on-1 break.
Four unanswered goals gave the Titans a 4-1 lead after two periods, but fortunately for the Generals, a third period of play remained.
The Attleboro, Massachusetts-based team came out strong in the third and scored on their first shot of the frame just 58 seconds in. It would be Jallen again, with another assist to Bilek as well as one to Matt Demelis. The Titans still held a 4-2 lead at that point, but just over five minutes later the momentum would swing beyond repair.
Naumovski, who had a goal and an assist prior, was nailed with a five minute major for boarding. Though a coincidental roughing minor kept it 4-on-4 the first two minutes, the Generals would capitalize on their remaining three minutes of power play time.
With 11:36 left, the Generals would pull to within one when Jallen completed his hat trick, assisted by Bilek and Demelis. With the ice was tilted in their favor, the Generals pressed to find the equalizer and found it with 5:55 remaining in regulation when Demelis grabbed a goal to go with his two assists. Bilek would also add another point, picking up his fourth assist of the night on the play.
All tied at 4-4, the Titans appeared to retake the lead just two minutes later when the puck found the back of the Northeast net. Celebrations were halted, however, when the goal was disallowed due to a ruling it had been kicked in.
The game looked headed for overtime as the final seconds slipped away, but there would still be one more goal to come in the third.
With only five seconds on the clock, the Generals would find the winner when Egan notched his 14th goal of the season, tied with Bilek for the team lead. As time expired, the Generals claimed victory by a 5-4 count.
With the triumph, the Generals improve to 16-11 in the NAHL East Division. The Titans fall to 11-8-1-1 in 2017-18.
It was a tough loss for the Titans, not only seeing the 4-1 lead slip away, but also giving up the game-winner with just five seconds left in regulation. The Titans will now go back to work in preparation for their next game, which will be this Friday, Dec 1, at 7:30 EST in Johnstown against the Tomahawks.
Written by Dane Turner / Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: New Jersey Titans’ goaltender Matt Ladd makes a stick save in NAHL action against the Northeast Generals. (Photo by Tom Smith/TSPImages.com)
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