Titans Hammered by Nailers, 5-1
The only problem the Wheeling Nailers had on Saturday was with their bus. The games original 7 p.m start was pushed back to 8:30 due to mechanical issues. Once the game started, it was all Nailers as they thumped the Trenton Titans, 5-1.
The Nailers (6-1-0) wasted no time once the puck dropped Saturday. Just 52 seconds into the game, Patrick Johnson put in a rebound from the right side of the crease.
Trenton (2-7-0) found themselves in a 2-0 deficit when Zack Torquato received a cross from Zach Hansen and buried a wrist shot that snuck between Brad Phillips blocker and the crossbar.
The Titans struggled getting past the Nailers forecheck. Sloppy passes along with stifling pressure from the Nailers made it difficult for the Titans to keep possession of the puck.
“We just got outworked. Plain and simple,” Titan’s defenseman Tyler Hostetter said. “We weren’t getting to the puck fast enough.”
The Titans finished the first period with nine shots. The Nailers’ pressure in the Titans zone dismantled the Titans ability to have productive possessions on offense. The period ended with no legitimate scoring opportunities.
Trenton’s feisty left wing Peter Lenes didn’t think the team was on the same page.
“We weren’t doing a good job on our breakouts,” he said. “We were all on different pages and we weren’t able to execute in the zone.”
The Titans forced the puck resulting in a high amount of turnovers Saturday. When they were able to settle in the Nailers zone, they were only able to manage low percentage shots from the outside.
Trenton had three power plays in the second period but were still unable to put pressure on Nailers goalie, Peter Delmas, who finished with 23 saves on 24 shots.
“We were trying to get pucks on net and slowly come back,” Lenes explained. “They forced hard. We needed to adjust but didn’t.”
While the Titans offense stalled the man advantage, the Nailers applied continuous pressure on Phillips.
With five minutes remaining in the second period, the ECAC Atlantic Division-leading Nailers tallied to take a 3-0 lead. Paul Crowder buried a loose rebound into the back of the net.
Phillips explained Wheeling’s offensive strategy.
“They took good shots from the outside,” he said. “They did a good job of getting in front of me and tipping pucks and shooting. We needed to do a better job getting in their shooting lanes.”
Phillips finished the game with 25 saves on 30 shots. He was able to make initial saves, but the defense left the Nailers forwards open enabling them to put in wide open rebounds.
The Titans came out of the second intermission and played inspired hockey. Their physical and aggressive play in the opening minutes created opportunities, but they were unable to convert. Delmas’ strong goaltending stabilized the Nailers.
The deflating moment of the game came when Trenton forward Denny Kearney received the puck from a rebound on the left side of the crease and was denied by Delmas. The goalie was able to stretch his leg out and stop the puck despite being out of position.
Wheeling delivered the knock out blow when they scored their fourth and fifth goal of the night separated by 1:07. Both of the goals followed the strategy the Nailers applied throughout the game.
The first was a slap shot from the top of the zone and was able to get passed Phillips because of a screen.
“I didn’t even see it. It just went over me,” Phillips said.
The Nailers last goal came off a deflection from another slap shot from the top of the zone. The goal came just 4:31 into the final period.
The avoided being shutout when Kearney scored on an assist from Jordan Southorn. Kearney streaked down the left side of the ice and was able to put his slap shot into the top right corner above Delmas’ outstretched glove.
The Titans hope to regroup when they host the Reading Royals (5-3-1) Wednesday.
Hostetter held his team accountable for Saturday’s poor performance.
“There are no excuses here,” he said. “We need to come on Monday ready to work.”