Better With Popcorn

Titans blow early lead in 5-4 loss to Wheeling


The Trenton Titans blew a two-goal lead and failed to make a late rally in a tough 5-4 loss against the Wheeling Nailers Wednesday night at the Sun National Bank Center.

4,321 fans (the second highest total of the season) had a lot to cheer for early when Steve Silva scored the Titan’s first goal 36 seconds into the game. Silva received a pass from J.S. Berube and led a 3-on-1 into Wheeling’s zone. After he faked a pass, Silva fired the puck at the net for the goal.

Trenton was able to possess the puck with an aggressive forecheck and accurate passing. Dustin Cameron extended the lead when he scored at the 7:08 mark. Trenton (10-15-2-2-24) found itself in a rare position.

The Titans usually open games slow and rally in the second and third periods. Opposing goalie Patrick Killeen was able to keep the Nailers in the game despite facing swarms of pressure. Killeen (29 saves) and the Nailers defense killed two Titans power plays in the first period and were able to minimize the early damage.

Wheeling (16-9-1-1-34) cut the deficit to one when Matt Lombardi scored with 6:50 left in the opening period on a power play.

The second period killed the Titans. Denver Manderson leveled the scoreboard when he scored a shorthanded goal just 28 seconds into the period. Titans coach Vince Williams summed up the second period.

“We got outworked, outcompeted. Our first shift we gave up a shorthanded goal. That can’t happen,” Williams said. “We had success [in the first period] and we just strayed away from it.”

The Titans had streaks of several minutes where they couldn’t get the puck out of their defensive zone. Wheeling out-hit, out-hustled, and out-played the Titans. There was no more precise passing or hard skating. The Titans had turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

Dave Caruso’s night ended early when Nailer defenseman Kyle Bushee put a wrist shot into the top corner on a power play. The goal came off a faceoff and Caruso seemed to be screened. Williams substituted Caruso for Brad Phillips hoping to change the way things were going. Caruso had 13 saves on 16 shots.

“We needed to do something. We needed to wake up everybody,” Williams said of the switch.

Phillips saw action immediately. After making several saves Phillips gave up a goal to Ben Farrer with 6:54 left in the second period. Farrer got a pass from the game’s first star Christian Minella and was able to put the puck past Phillips on the left side of the crease.

“You always have to be ready as a back-up,” Phillips said. You never know when you’ll be called in.

The Titans had a power play to close out the second period but were unable to capitalize. The Titans skated off the ice after the second period giving up four consecutive goals.

J.S. Berube and Ryan Hayes put two hard shots on net 30 seconds into the third period and set the tempo for the final stanza. The Titans dominated possession and were beginning to play their style of hockey. Aggressive but in control, physical but finesse, and inspired but focused.

Matt Germain scored 8:33 into the third period to make it 4-3. Germain streaked down the right side and found Chase Langeraap on the left side of the crease. Langeraap’s shot was deflected off the left leg of Killeen and Germain put in the rebound.

After Germain’s goal the Titans kicked it into another gear. The Nailers were trying to hold onto the lead and escape with a win as the Titans continued to put high-percentage shots on cage.

A delayed penalty was called as the Titans possessed the puck in the Nailers’ zone. After several flurries on the crease Cameron received the puck up top and scorched a slapshot. Berube (3rd star) was able to put in the rebound with 7:54 left in the game.

With the scored tied, the final eight minutes turned into a fast-paced slugfest. Both teams traded good shots as the puck flew up and down the ice. Germain and Peter Lenes were both inches away from scoring on separate occasions. Phillips and Killeen were forced to make big saves as the end of regulation was approaching.

Titans’ defenseman Ray DiLauro got called for slashing with 2:45 left in the game. The Nailers had converted on their two previous power plays and could ice the game with a goal. Trenton was successful in clearing the zone for the first minute.

The front of the crease was packed with Titan defenders and Nailers’ forwards when Minella was able to put a rebound through the scrum of players and into the net with 1:45 left in the game.

The Titans were able to produce a couple of shots in the waning moments but to no avail.

Without a doubt, the second period cost the Titans the game.

“We had a huge let down in the second period and that’s what hurt us. We had sloppy plays that cost us the game,” Berube said. “I like the attitude of the guys. We didn’t stop playing.”

Coach Williams had a similar response after the game.

“What you saw in the third period is the makeup of our team. We did everything we could to put our team in a position to win the game,” Williams said. “We need to do it for sixty minutes.”

The Titans travel to Reading to play the Royals Friday night.