Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reading stuns Titans in Trenton

For The Trentonian

TRENTON -- One step forward, two steps back.

After getting out to a 2-0 lead through the first two periods, the Titans gave up three third-period goals and suffered a devastating 3-2 loss to the Reading Royals on Saturday night.

There was a time when Trenton would have been  satisfied with one win in three games against what Titans head coach Vince Williams has frequently referred to as "the best team in the league" -- especially given that each contest was decided by just one goal -- now is clearly not that time.

"We're 100 percent not (satisfied)," Williams said.  "We're on the way up, but they're a solid team from the net out, there's no question.  That's why they're where they're at...we have to out-execute a team like that, and when we have our opportunities to put it away, we have to."

Trenton quickly put its collective skates to the throats of the Royals in the first period, staking itself to a 2-0 lead within the first 2:41.

Stephen Schultz put his stamp on the game early, needing just 14 seconds to put the Titans on top.  Schultz, still wearing a full shield after losing four teeth after getting high-sticked in the mouth two weeks ago, tipped a great Kelly Zajac feed from the left-wing corner past goaltender Philipp Grubauer to put Trenton up 1-0.

Schultz did it again just 2 minutes and 23 seconds later, again with a little help from Zajac.  The Devils farmhand intercepted a brutal pass from a Royals defenseman in the offensive zone and fired a quick shot on goal that Grubauer stopped.  He couldn't thwart Schultz's effort on the rebound, and Trenton had a quick 2-0 lead.

The tide slowly started to turn after Trenton turned in a poor effort on a five-minute major power play in the first period, unable to truly put away their bitter rivals. That wouldn't start to show itself until the third period, when Reading's continuous pressure on  goaltender Scott Wedgewood finally started to pay dividends.

Just 2:39 into the final frame, Royals defenseman Denny Urban started the stunning turnaround with a right point slapshot through traffic that found the twine. Ian O'Connor tied it just four and a half minutes later, but the game seemed headed to overtime until Yannick Tifu changed everything.

Tifu, who has been a thorn in the side of Trenton hockey teams for years, outworked the Titans on a 2-on-4 and threaded a perfect wrister just under the crossbar and past Wedgewood, who could do nothing to stop it.  Thanks to a Bryant Molle delay of game penalty with under two minutes to go, Trenton had its chances late, but Andy Bohmbach couldn't finish on a fantastic cross-ice feed from Matt Mangene, and Grubauer robbed Jacob Cepis in front of the net with just 25 seconds left to seal the win.

"We scored two goals early, which was great for us, but on the other side we thought we won the game already a little bit," Wedgewood said.

"We didn't push as hard as we wanted to. We didn't get as many shots after that in the first, the second we did a little bit, and the third we just didn't sustain anything in their end. ... When you're up by two going into the third, people say it's the worst lead in hockey, but you've just got to be smart in your own end."

Notes: After Friday night's 132 penalty minute debacle, in which Royals head coach Larry Courville said referee Chris Pitoscia "lost control" of the game and Williams described his actions as "panic mode," the ECHL sent an officiating supervisor, Jim Doyle, to Trenton at the last minute.

Correction: In Friday's story, Trenton forward Jake Drewiske was inadvertently misidentified as having sparked the second of two ugly brawls.  It was, instead, Justin Taylor, whose actions earned him an indefinite suspension and hearing with the league next week.  The Trentonian apologizes for the error.


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