Better With Popcorn

Backlund Shines in Titans Debut, Loses in Shootout

The Trenton Titans looked to extend their point streak to three games against Elmira on a Sunday afternoon feature. Helping the cause was the arrival of goaltender Johan Backlund, who would be making his ECHL debut after being reassigned from AHL Adirondak.

Backlund had a positive mentality about making the start.

He said, “they (Phantoms management) asked me if I wanted to come here and play a game. So I said ‘why not?’ you always want to play.”

He also maintained a realistic view of himself having missed significant time with a hip injury this season.   

Backlund said, “I think it was a good thing to come here and try to get my game back.”

Backlund was tested early as former Buffalo Sabres Captain and current Elmira Jackals Defender Craig Rivet fired a slapshot on Backlund early on an odd-man rush just 30 seconds into the game. Backlund turned the puck away easily.

While the Titans controlled play throughout most of the first period, out shooting Elmira 12-5 and out chancing them 9-1, Backlund brought a calming presence that Dave Caruso has not always had.

Even though he only faced five shots, Backlund played the puck well on dump ins and clears, his skill and experience was mostly needed during the Titans lone penalty kill situation of the period when Rob Bordson was sent off for Delay of Game at the 5:51 mark.

Even with the light workload, Backlund seemed to be in good spirits regarding his health,

“I felt pretty good actually.” But he also credited his teammates, “The guys played good in front of me… I’ve been on and off the ice a lot recently, but I feel good now and today I felt great.”

Later in the period, the Titans would have two power plays, but the offense would display a lack of finishing power on both man advantage situations.

The second period picked up in a way that was reminiscent of a late 1990s NHL game. Both teams played a 1-2-2 high neutral zone trap leading to few quality shots and even fewer quality scoring chances.

However, Backlund quickly showed that he was the best player on the ice, he showed why he was trusted to start an NHL game in 2010 and play in relief during the Flyers 2010 playoff run.

The Jackals had a small flurry of chances midway through the second period, Backlund calmly gloved all of them and unlike Caruso and Phillips, Backlund would leave no rebounds.

Finally, late in the period, the Titans would break through the Jackals defense. After a fluky bounce on a dump in, Mitch Versteeg would feed Adam Presizniuk to start an odd man rush, Presizniuk would find Dustin Cameron in the high slot for a one timer that would find the back of the net.

The goal with 1:31 left, would send the Titans to the second intermission with a 1-0 lead. Working against the Titans going into the third was the fact that off the faceoff after the goal, Bordson would catch a Jackals player with a high stick while attempting to play the puck, the questionable penalty call meant that the Titans would start the third down a man for 37 seconds.

In the third period, the Titans would finally be hurt by the penalties, with Eric Baier in the box for delay of game, Mike Radja would score on a puck misplayed by Backlund. It was Backlund’s only mistake of the night.

Backlund admitted to the error after the game.

“I’m just a little upset about that goal” Backlund said, “I just miscalculated that puck there so; the guy came there before me.”

Backlund would finish the period strong, however, and the Titans and Jackals would head to over time. After a back and forth extra session, the team would head to a shootout just like Friday night.

In another rerun of Friday’s game, Brian Stewart would continue being perfect in ECHL shootouts, 16 times he has faced a shooter, and 16 times, he has kept the puck out of the net.

Backlund would get beaten twice and the Titans would fall in a shootout once again.

Notes and Observations

Titans placed Chris Berenguer (D) on 21-Day Injured Reserve before the game, he was injured in a boarding incident last week against Chicago. It’s an upper body/shoulder injury.

Titans placed Dave Caruso (G) on Injured Reserve before the game with a lower body injury.

Titans received Johan Backlund (G) from AHL Adirondak, Backlund was instantly named the Titans starter for tonight’s game.

Alternate Captain Andy Thomas (D) was loaned to the AHL Phantoms before the game.

Titans signed Stephen Mallaro (D) to compensate for the missing defenseman.

Coach Williams was happy with his team’s play. He noted that getting 4 points out of a possible 6 in a 3-in-3 with travel was success.

“Points are points,” he said, “All things considered, four out of six (points), 3-in-3, travel, couple bumps and bruises, calling guys up, we didn’t give up much.”