By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
READING, Pa. – More effort, more ice bags, even series.
The Titans paid the price to even things up in their North Division final, best-of-five series against the Royals last night at the Sovereign Center.
The end result was a 2-1 Titans victory and a visiting locker room full of bruised but satisfied Titans.
The series, which now stands at 1-1, resumes 7 p.m. Wednesday at Sovereign Bank Arena.
The Titans earned a day off after an impressive battle against the Royals, in which they fought for every loose puck and played team defense with a vengeance.
The mix of passionate but disciplined play quickly erased the memories of Friday’s Game 1 in which the Titans lost, 4-2, and had several defensive lapses.
“We talked about our focus and playing with urgency,” said Titans coach Mike Haviland. “We got that from everybody tonight. It was a battle for every little inch out there.”
Rick Kowalsky (pictured) provided the game-winning goal when he pushed in a loose puck during a five-on-three advantage with 1:08 left in the second period.
The Titans took their coach’s cue after Friday, not panicking but just making adjustments and coming out with a more focused, consistent performance last night.
“I like the character in that room,” said Haviland. “They are tighter than they have ever been. We knew as a group we were not mentally here (Friday). We were a step behind.”
The Titans were determined to make the Royals earn every scoring chance last night.
“It was a focus,” said Titans’ defenseman Jerramie Domish. “We played a little loose last night. One of our themes was to tighten it up. When we are playing good in our own end, the rest of the team flows off that.”
The Royals still generated 31 shots, 10 of those coming on seven power-play chances. The Royals’ lone goal came on the man-advantage with 6:16 left in the second period. Beau Geisler sent a wrist shot through a heavy screen to tie the game 1-1.
Titans goalie Andrew Allen finished with 30 saves and was impressed by the play of his teammates in front of him.
“It was tight all the way through,” said Allen. “Guys were diving in front of shots all over. We did a good job of limiting their odd-man rushes. Last night (Friday) they wheeled and dealed a little bit more. Tonight they had to work harder for it.”
The Titans got just what they needed early from B.J. Abel. The Titans center made a quick stop and pivot behind the Royals net and stuffed the puck past Barry Brust before the Royals’ goalie could slide back into position, giving the Titans a 1-0 lead with 18:29 left in the first period.
The goal, his first of the playoffs, seemed to lift Abel’s play to another level. The Titans center was a vital part of the Titans penalty kill, was a force on face offs and generated five shots on goal.
“We played the way we wanted to,” said Abel. “We knew what we had to do to win and we went out and executed it. Getting that goal right away helped my confidence. I was fighting the puck a bit.”