By Brian Compton
TRENTON, N.J. -There’s nothing like overtime hockey.
Last night, though, the 3,005 in attendance at Sovereign Bank Arena didn’t get to see much of it.
But, it didn’t seem to bother them.
Rookie sensation Brent Robinson (pictured) scored just 20 seconds into the extra session as the Titans took a 2-0 series lead in the North Division semifinals with a scintillating 2-1 win over the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies.
Trenton, which has now won six straight dating back to the regular season, can wrap things up with a win tomorrow afternoon at Boardwalk Hall. After being swept by Mike Haviland and the Bullies in the playoffs in both 2002 and 2003, Haviland and the Titans are just one victory away from making the Bullies extinct. The Atlantic City franchise is headed to Stockton, Calif., next season.
As far as the Titans are concerned, they have to be feeling somewhat fortunate. They did not play well for the first 30 minutes of the game — they had just 10 shots on goal during that span — and yet still came away with the win.
“I don’t think we played that great,” Haviland said. “They had a lot of power plays. “You knew they were going to come hard, and they did. That’s what the playoffs are all about. Guys stuck with everything. We pulled it out.”
Atlantic City broke a scoreless tie at the 7:19 mark of the second period on a shorthanded goal by Jason Notermann. After B.J. Abel turned the puck over in the slot for the second time of the night, J.F. Plourde faked a shot and sent a cross-ice feed to Notermann, who stuffed it past Andrew Allen as the Bullies grabbed a 1-0 lead.
Allen, who was spectacular and had 27 saves through three periods, kept the Bullies from increasing their lead only a few minutes after Notermann’s tally, as he robbed Brian Fahey with a gorgeous sliding save. Fahey, a defenseman, was inexcusably permitted to skate right into the slot, and he one-timed a feed from the right corner only to be denied by Allen, who somehow was able to get across the crease in time to make the save.
“You need goaltending to be successful,” Haviland said. “He’s got a lot of confidence right now. He’s reading the play very well. It’s great for us as a team.”
Despite getting thoroughly outplayed for the majority of the game — the Titans had just 10 shots on goal in the first 33½ minutes — Nick Deschenes capitalized on a turnover to tie the game with 3:55 remaining in the second period. After Atlantic City defenseman Matthew Deschamps coughed up the puck at the Bullies’ blue line, Deschenes took control and skated in on Trevor Koenig before letting go a pretty backhander over the goaltender’s glove to make it 1-1. It was the second goal in as many games for Deschenes, who had gone the final 10 games of the regular season without a tally.
Trenton came to play in the third period but failed to get the lead. Michael Schutte had a nice opportunity after some gritty work in the corner by Rick Kowalsky. Schutte took pass and fired a laser from the blue line that was denied by Koenig. The Titans somehow managed to out-shoot Atlantic City 12-6 in the third despite the fact that referee Joe Ernst awarded the Bullies three power plays to Trenton’s zero. But the Titans buckled down defensively — they allowed just one shot over the course of those three man advantages — as the game went to sudden-death overtime.
“It was great,” Haviland said of the P.K. unit. “Special teams will win you games. I thought the kill was great. They’ve got some pretty skilled guys. They did a good job.”
And it paid off. Just 20 seconds into overtime, Kowalsky fired a shot that Koenig got his left pad on, but the rebound was left in front and Robinson slammed it home for his second goal in as many playoff games.
“All the guys were thanking me,” Robinson joked about the fact that the extra session did not last very long. “Killer did a great job getting a shot off. The rebound just came right out to me. It was a pretty easy goal.”
One that has the Titans just one win away from the second round of the Kelly Cup playoffs.