Titans on top! Takacs blanks anchorage as New Jersey claims Robertson Cup
The New Jersey Titans looked anything but tired on Tuesday, holding off the Anchorage Wolverines and playing a perfect defensive game to claim their first NAHL title.
BLAINE, Minn. -- Having survived nine periods of regulation and another three sessions of overtime to get to the Robertson Cup title game, the question for the New Jersey Titans was how much they would have left in their tanks for the finale.
From the looks of things, the Titans could hop on their bus with the trophy and head back to the swamps of Jersey without needing to fill up.
In Tuesday’s NAHL championship game, the Titans got a pair of second period goals and perfect goaltending to beat the Anchorage Wolverines 3-0 and claim their franchise’s first national title in the Tier II junior league.
"We knew it wasn't advantageous to go that long and that deep, but we talked about some things we were going to do that would allow us to manage the length of it," Titans coach Craig Doremus said after the championship celebration, crediting his training staff for having the team prepared physically for 60 more minutes of hockey.
Goalie Andrew Takacs, who has committed to Colgate, had 31 saves to win his 30th game of the season, as the Titans became the first East Coast team to win the crown in the 29-team NAHL.
"All year long you heard about every other goalie in this league. You didn't hear about our guy too much and he just continued to stack up wins and lead our team," Doremus said. "Every day he got in the pipes he gave us and chance to win, and the guys feed off his energy, and his emotion and his drive."
The Wolverines – a first-year-expansion team – had swept their semifinal series versus the St. Cloud Norsemen and had two full days of rest heading into the finale. But it was the Titans – who survived a grueling three-game series with the New Mexico Ice Wolves to get to the title game – that had the early jump on Tuesday.
The opening 20 minutes ended without a goal and with New Jersey holding a lopsided 16-8 lead in shots. But the game was much closer than the scoreboard indicated, with the Titans blocking shots and New Jersey goalie Andrew Takacs thwarting a point-blank chance by Wolverines right winger Talon Sigurdson late in the first.
In the second period, there were no statistical anomalies. The Wolverines held a slight shot advantage, but the Titans broke through with a pair of goals, taking a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
The Wolverines pulled out all the stops in the third and got the game’s only power play, but could not solve Takacs. Shortly after the teams were back to full strength, the Titans scored to make it 3-0 and put the game out of reach.
"I didn't think we were 100 percent our sharpest tonight, which is a little disappointing. You get on the big stage, you'd like to be your best and then see what happens," said Wolverines coach Mike Aikens. "I give them credit. They played the way they needed to win. They blocked a ton of shots."
Wolverines goalie Raythan Robbins, who has been brilliant in the two semifinal wins over St. Cloud, finished with 37 saves in the loss.
For the Titans, the title was the culmination of many years of working toward a goal that was continually just out of reach.
"For us it's mission complete. For the organization, it's six years of North American (Hockey League) players who were pulling for us today and I think 30 years of former Titan players from our youth program pulling for us today," Doremus said. "We wanted to be part of a bigger picture when we came here, and I told the players we were fueled by hundreds today, and any time it got tough, just to think about all the people tuned in from far away."
Named to the all-tournament team were Wolverines defenseman Campbell Cichosz and forward Colton Friesen, Titans goalie Takacs, Titans defenseman David Posma, Titans forward Brendan Dumas and Titans forward Tommy Bannister, who was named tournament MVP.
New Jersey 3, Anchorage 0
New Jersey 0-2-1—3
First period — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Second period — 1. NJ, Brendan Dumas 4 (Jack Karlsson, Anthony Calafiore), 9:38. 2. NJ, Nick Ring 6 (Tommy Bannister), 12:18. Penalties — None.
Third period — 3. NJ, Calafiore 4 (Ring), 10:15. Penalties — Ring, NJ (holding), 5:34.
Shots on goal — AN 8-12-11—31; NJ 16-11-13—40. Goalies — Raythan Robbins, AN (40 shots-37 saves); Andrew Takacs, NJ (31-31). Power plays — AN 0-of-1, NJ 0-of-0. Referees — Corey Harrington, Chazz Knoche. Linesmen — Tyler Willie, Ben Gawlik. Att. — 1,067.