By Brian Compton
©The Trentonian 2005
TRENTON, N.J. – So long, Anchorage.
Hello, Sunshine State.
After a scintillating 2-0 win in Game 7 of the National Conference Finals over the Alaska Aces on the other side of North America on Monday night, the Titans returned home yesterday — albeit briefly — to begin preparation for Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Florida Everblades, which takes place on Saturday night at 7:30.
It was an unbelievable effort by the Titans on Monday in Anchorage, as they used first-period goals by Rick Kowalsky and B.J. Abel and a splendid effort by goaltender Andrew Allen, who made 29 saves for the shutout. The Titans responded incredibly after a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss in Game 6 last Friday.
“It’s just another step,” Kowalsky said. “I hate to sound like a coach or a father, but I’m so proud of them. We’ve got a young team and we know that when everyone comes to play we’re a tough team to beat. It’s just a great feeling.”
After Friday night’s loss, the Titans did not pack it in. They realized their season was not over. Their 3-0 win in Game 5 at Sovereign Bank Arena gave them two cracks to win the series in Alaska. It simply took one game longer than expected.
“We didn’t want it to end,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of character in our room. We did exactly what we wanted to do. Everybody played great. You dream of this. You say right from the beginning of the year, ‘Our goal is the Kelly Cup.’ We’re there now. We’re in the finals. We’ve got to keep working hard and we’ve got four more big wins to get here.”
Monday was certainly an emotional night for Scott Bertoli, who has been with the Titans since the franchise’s inception in 1999. Trenton reached the Kelly Cup finals in 2001 but fell to South Carolina in five games. Since that time, Bertoli and the Titans failed to get this far in the postseason. They lost in the second round to Mike Haviland and Atlantic City in 2002. Haviland beat Bertoli’s Titans again — this time in the opening round — in 2003. In 2004, the Titans missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
“This is big,” Bertoli said. “Emotionally, it’s probably not as big as winning at home against Peoria (in Game 7 of the conference finals in 2001), but at this point in my career, to win and to get another opportunity to win a championship … it’s big. We didn’t win (in 2001). I’ve got that possibility in front of me, and I’m excited about it. It’s a good feeling.”
It was also a good feeling that the Titans traveled 4,444 miles yesterday knowing that their season was not over.
“That’s a long flight home,” Allen said. “If we had lost … but, we didn’t really think about it at all. Thank God. This is going to be a lot of fun.”
But, as Haviland pointed out, nothing has been won yet. The Titans still have one more series to go.
“That was one hell of a series,” Haviland said. “Now we’ve just got to get refocused for another group.”