By Brian Compton
©The Trentonian 2005
TRENTON, N.J. – If the Titans thought Wednesday night’s 3-2 overtime win over Reading in Game 3 of the North Division Finals was difficult, they ain’t seen nothing yet.
With their season now on the line Friday in Game 4 at Sovereign Bank Arena, the Reading Royals will certainly go all-out in an attempt to force a Game 5 at the Sovereign Center on Saturday evening. The Titans, who have a 2-1 lead in this best-of-series, would earn a trip to Alaska with a win Friday. Game 1 of the National Conference Finals is scheduled for Tuesday night in Anchorage.
But first things first. After all, it would be ludicrous to count out these Royals, who earned 93 points during the regular season and won the North Division. Sending them home for good will be no easy task for Mike Haviland’s squad. The Titans will need to bring the same killer instinct they brought to Boardwalk Hall on April 17, when they finished off Atlantic City in an opening-round sweep.
“It’s the hardest game of the series,” said Haviland, who picked up his 27th career postseason win on Wednesday. “We know that. We’ll make some adjustments. We’ve got to come out with that instinct. We had it in A.C., we’ve got to have it here. Their backs are to the wall and they’re going to come hard. It’s going to be a great battle.”
Captain Rick Kowalsky (pictured), who picked up his fourth goal in six playoff games on Wednesday, echoed Haviland’s statements. The Titans know just how important it is to knock Reading off tonight, as it would be awfully difficult to win a deciding fifth game at the Sovereign Center tomorrow, especially since a Reading win tonight would certainly shift the momentum back in the Royals’ favor.
“It’s the toughest game of any series,” Kowalsky said. “We just have to come ready and really want to put these guys away.”
The Titans did not come ready to play on Wednesday night, as they were dreadful in the first period and were out-shot 13-4. But Andrew Allen kept his team in the game by stopping 12 of those 13 shots and the Titans came out of their 20-minute coma at the start of the second period.
“After the first period, we felt pretty good about the way we played,” Kowalsky said. “We just came out sluggish and made some mistakes that we shouldn’t have made. In the third, we felt really good. They got a power play goal and sent it into overtime. Allie was big for us. We were just glad to be on the right side of things. Guys weren’t happy in the first and we responded well.”