By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
TRENTON, N.J. – The Titans are heading to Alaska, but after last night’s miraculous effort they probably don’t need a plane.
The Titans pulled off one of the most memorable comebacks in franchise history, erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period to defeat the Reading Royals 4-3 in front of 3,444 roaring fans at Sovereign Bank Arena.
The Titans avoided a trip to Reading and a winner-take-all Game 5 today with three goals in a span of 10 minutes against a team that was 30-1-2 with a lead after two periods during the regular season.
The Titans now travel to Alaska to face the Aces in the National Conference Finals starting Tuesday.
The 4,400-mile trip to Anchorage probably does not seem so daunting after what the Titans accomplished in a span of 10 minutes in the third period.
Scott Bertoli got the friendliest bounce of the season to complete the Titans amazing comeback. Brent Robinson dumped the puck in and it went off the boards and right into the slot, leaving Royals’ goalie Barry Brust stunned and Bertoli with an open net. Bertoli easily shot the puck past a diving Brust to give the Titans a 4-3 lead with 11:02 left in the third period.
“There has not been a better time to get one of those (bounces),” said Bertoli, who had two goals and an assist. “We will take it. We didn’t want to go back there (Reading). We had a great crowd tonight. We had to seize the opportunity. We went after it in the third and got a couple lucky bounces.”
Stephen Wood tied the game 3-3 and sent the Sovereign Bank Arena crowd into a frenzy when he took a centering pass from Bertoli and knocked his own rebound past Brust for a power-play goal with 12:45 left in the third period.
All of the Titans’ energy and momentum started with former Royals forward Leon Hayward (pictured).
Hayward cut the Royals lead to 3-2 with 18:30 left in the third period when he chipped a shot over the shoulder of Brust. Robinson stole an errant Royals clearing attempt and slid a pass to Rick Kowalsky creating a quick two-on-none that Hayward converted.
“You could just feel it (after Hayward scored),” said Kowalsky, who had three assists. “And away we went. I have not seen an onslaught like that. We just kept coming and coming. Leon scores and you could feel it on the bench, each line got stronger and stronger.”
The Titans still had 10 minutes of frantic action after Bertoli’s goal including two Royal power plays. The Titans did an outstanding job, limiting the Royals’ chances, getting huge ovations with each successful clear.
“You are so pumped up and the crowd is so pumped up you can’t even hear yourself,” said Hayward. “We tried to slow it down and play our game.”
The Titans never doubted they could still win, despite the fact the Royals grabbed a 3-1 advantage on two goals by Jeff Miles and one by Tom Galvin and the solid play of Brust through two periods.
“That was probably the best comeback I have been involved with since I have been in this league,” said Haviland. “We talked about going out and giving ourselves a chance to win. I could not be prouder of everyone in that room. They never panicked. We took it to another level, it is that chemistry and attitude that they are never going to give up.”
Andrew Allen was inspired by the play of his teammates and was determined not to allow another goal after surrendering what he felt were two soft goals.
“No matter how bad we played we scored that goal early in the third it was like we are going to do this,” said Allen. “It changed everything. You could feel it. I knew I had to stay ready. I had two bad goals. I tried to come through it and the guys never gave up. They were unbelievable in front of me today.”