By Len Bardsley
© 2005 The Times of Trenton
ESTERO, Fla. – It is hard to believe under such an intense playoff atmosphere, with thousands of fans willing him to fail, Titans goalie Andrew Allen feels no pressure.
Allen has been next to perfect for the last five games of the playoffs, all because he no longer feels he has to be perfect.
Allen has allowed only three goals in the Titans’ last five games, including Sunday night’s spectacular 39-save effort that allowed his team to push through a desperate Florida Everblades team for a 2-1 win in Game 2 of the teams’ Kelly Cup Finals series. The Titans lead the series 2-0, with the next three games in Trenton starting at 7:30 p.m., on Friday.
You want to talk about pressure?
For Allen, it was in the middle of the season when the Titans were inconsistent in all areas of the ice and every mistake the 28-year-old goalie made was magnified.
“When we were struggling I was worried if I give up one or two goals we were going to lose the game,” said Allen. “Now you feel no matter what I do, we are going to fight to the end. It helps me focus more and be loose and react naturally. It is a whole team mentality.”
The positive energy Allen feels seems to spread throughout the team with every save.
It was evident again last night when he withstood furious first-period pressure from the Everblades.
“We were able to win this game because of the way he (Allen) played in the first 10 minutes,” said Titans forward Scott Bertoli. “He made big stop after big stop. He is so composed and controlled back there. It is amazing. I am happy for him. He has battled all year. This is his time and he has stepped up big.”
Allen watches the effort his teammates give in front of him and he knows one slip, one rare mistake, won’t wilt their will to win.
“As a unit we feed off each other,” said Allen. “If I happen to be down they pick me up. It is a great character team.”
The Titans have followed Allen’s lead in several games, including Sunday night. Allen was awesome in the first period of Game 5 the National Conference Finals against the Alaska Aces, stopping some high-quality scoring chances before the Titans picked up the effort, leading to one of his three shutouts.
“That kid is unbelievable,” said Titans defenseman Steve Munn of Allen. “He has been our MVP of the playoffs. He has been our backbone. He is making every big save when we needed it. It is a chain reaction. We see him play unbelievable and it inspires me.”
Allen has been quick to blame himself after a loss, but he is happy to pass out credit to his teammates for his incredible run.
“Our guys were awesome in front of me,” said Allen. “They are diving head first sometimes to block shots. I give them so much credit. They do a good job in front of me. I give up a lot of rebounds, but they are there and they are letting me see the shots.”