By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
The Titans let the disappointment of their Game 6 overtime loss to the Alaska Aces dissipate in a 24-hour break away from the rink and are looking forward to a great opportunity to make some history.
A chance to win a Game 7 and advance to the Kelly Cup Finals.
The Titans face the Aces in Game 7 of the National Conference Finals at 11:15 p.m. ET Monday at Sullivan Arena. The survivor advances to face the Florida Everblades, with the winner claiming the Kelly Cup.
This will be only the third time an ECHL conference final is extended to seven games. Titans coach Mike Haviland was involved in both of them.
He also won both.
Haviland was an assistant coach with the Titans when they defeated the Peoria Rivermen 4-3 in Game 7 of the Northern Conference Finals in 2001. In 2003, Haviland was the head coach of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies when they defeated the Cincinnati Cyclones 3-2 in the Northern Conference Finals.
In both instances the home team won the seventh and deciding game.
The Titans know they will be facing yet another challenge tonight at sold-out Sullivan Arena.
Titans forwards Scott Bertoli and Rick Kowalsky both played for the Titans against the Rivermen in 2001, and defenseman Steve Munn was with the Bullies in 2003.
“We are settled in for a Game 7,” said Bertoli. “It is something to get excited about. It is the opportunity to play a Game 7 and play for a championship.”
The way Bertoli looks at it, during the playoffs the Titans have played their best hockey when they couldn’t afford to lose (Game 2 of both the Reading and Alaska series, and Game 5 of the Alaska series), or trailing in the third period. Bertoli is hoping the Titans take that mentality into Game 7 tonight.
“We are a better team when we are pressed,” said Bertoli. “Any time we had to press to win or score a goal, that is when we are at our best. When our backs are to the wall we have been at our best.”
Haviland feels the Aces are under more pressure playing at home in Game 7.
“There is more pressure on them,” said Haviland. “It is in their building, they have to do it in front of their home crowd.”
The formula for winning a Game 7 is no different than any other game, according to Haviland.
“You have to play desperate hockey and win battles,” he said.
Kowalsky echoed Haviland’s sentiments.
“You have to look at it like another game,” said Kowalsky. “You can’t build it up too much or guys will be holding their sticks too tight. You just try to win every shift and battle and concentrate on limiting your mistakes.”
The closest Titans goalie Andrew Allen has been to a Game 7 was when he was with Jackson and he helped the Bandits upset top-seed Louisiana in a deciding fifth game on the road.
“I don’t know how it is going to feel,” said Allen. “I have not been to this point before. It probably won’t be any different feeling than (Game 6). It will be an exciting game. You can’t let the emotions get the best of you.”