By Brian Compton
TRENTON — Rick Kowalsky (pictured) has certainly been a calming influence for the Titans all season long.
The 33-year-old has seen a lot during his career — one that is still missing that elusive championship — which is a main reason why No. 27 is one of the top leaders in the ECHL.
Despite the manner in which the Titans dropped Games 3 and 4 of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Florida Everblades — Trenton blew two-goal leads in both contests on home ice — Kowalsky did not seem ready to push the panic button. After winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Florida, the Titans now face a pivotal Game 5 this afternoon at Sovereign Bank Arena.
“This goes right out the window,” Kowalsky said after the Titans suffered a 6-3 loss in Game 4 on Saturday. “We got off to a good start, and then we didn’t respond and they did.”
Florida benefited from Andrew Allen’s rough night, as the Titans’ goaltender surrendered a couple of horrid goals, including a 90-footer from Tim O’Connell during a dreadful second period. Allen was eventually replaced in the third by Chris Houle, who has not started a game since March 19. While Titans head coach Mike Haviland wouldn’t say who would start today in between the pipes, it’s likely that Allen — who was also shaky in Game 3 — will get the nod.
“He’s won games for us,” Kowalsky said. “He’s entitled to have an off-night. We know he’ll bounce back and I think a day of rest will be good for him.”
If the Titans are going to win their first Kelly Cup, they will have to do so on the road. They’re in a similar spot to the one they faced in the semifinals, when they could not capitalize on the opportunity to win the series on home ice against the Alaska Aces. This time around it’s more disappointing when you consider that Trenton won the first two games of the Kelly Cup Finals in the Sunshine State.
“It’s kind of funny because we really didn’t’ want to go back to Alaska, either,” Kowalsky said. “We’re in the exact same situation.”
And just like that Alaska series, today’s Game 5 is a must-win situation for the Titans. While they were very successful in the first two games down south, it could be too much to ask for Trenton to win Games 6 and 7 on the road. Haviland hinted that the Titans could have a different look today. It’s possible that Jeff Smith could get another chance up front, and the much-anticipated return of Vince Williams on the blue line is not out of the question, either.
“I’m thinking about the adjustments we need to make,” Haviland said. “Whether it’s changing some more personnel and getting new bodies in here ..I don’t know. We’ll make some changes probably in the lineup. We have one game at home here that we need to win.”