Saturday, January 12, 2013

Stingrays stop Titans again

For The Trentonian

TRENTON -- Titans head coach Vince Williams conceded that Saturday night's 3-1 loss to the South Carolina Stingrays was little more than a blueprint of Friday's defeat to the very same team.

But, after seven straight losses, it appears more likely that last year's abysmal second half could be a blueprint of things to come in the capital city. 

"We're losing two more guys tonight, so take a look around," said Williams, who is believed to be losing both Bryan Haczyk and Kelly Zajac to the AHL's Albany Devils.

"We're getting plucked pretty good.  We've got to find guys to come in here quickly...we had some sustained pressure, it was kind of a throwback of last night though.  A couple mistakes, a bad pinch, missed assignments."

The night certainly started on a positive note for the home team when Marcel Alvarez, who played his last game for the Titans before leaving to re-join the Army, was honored on the ice in a well-executed pre-game ceremony.  But that's about where the good feelings stopped.

Although the pace of the game certainly picked up from Friday's disastrous effort, fueled in part by bad ice, both teams still couldn't get on the scoreboard in the first period.  Trenton's defensemen as a whole have struggled throughout the season, but that point has only been magnified by a complete retooling of the blueline made necessary by the end of the lockout.  That has  led to, as Williams confirmed, plenty of rookie mistakes.

So, with most of the Titans' regular D core in the AHL -- perhaps for good -- it's somewhat miraculous that capital city primary puckstopper Scott Wedgewood was able to keep South Carolina off the scoreboard for as long as he did.  But even he showed some cracks once the second period got underway.

Just three minutes and 12 seconds into the second stanza, Stingrays forward Chris Langkow drove to the net with speed up the left side and managed to stuff a shot into the pads of the Devils prospect.  But the 20-year-old goaltender appeared to lose his angle a bit, over committing to the short side, all while Langkow made contact with him after his scoring chance.  Phil Mangan was trailing the play the whole way, and simply tapped the stray disc into a wide open net to put South Carolina up, 1-0.

About five and a half minutes later, and the Stingrays would double their advantage.  Connor Goggin was the last defenseman back on a partial 2-on-1 and managed to block the initial shot attempt of Tyler Johnson in the slot.  But Johnson simply followed his shot and managed to sneak the puck past Wedgewood. 

Langkow managed to beat Wedgewood on another odd-man rush midway through the third period to account for the final marker.  In the other net, Jeff Jakaitis was spectacular at times.  The 29-year-old journeyman didn't see many quality chances from the Titans, but stopped most with relative ease.  Only a Bryan Haczyk goal with 2:36 left to play spoiled a shutout.

The post-lockout era has proven to be a challenge for Trenton; their loss put them in 13th place in the 14-team ECHL Eastern Conference, with only a loss by Kalamazoo keeping them from being in the cellar.


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