Philippe Doucette had two goals and an assist to help lead the visiting New Jersey Titans to a 5 – 4 win over the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks to give the Titans a 1 – 0 lead in the Fraser Cup’s East Divisional Semi-Finals series. It was the Titans first-ever NA3 playoff victory.
The Titans took a two-goal lead in the opening period, and Doucette started it off at the 7:09 mark. TJ Stone intercepted a Hat Tricks pass at the top of his own slot and sent a pass between his legs to Brett Bell behind him as Bell skated through center ice and into the offensive zone on a 3-on-2. As Bell reached the top of the far side faceoff circle, he passed the puck over to Brandon Avezov on his right at the top of the slot. Avezov passed it over to Doucette on his right and Doucette took a wrist shot that went bar down past Danbury’s netminder Nathan Hadley for the Titans very first playoff goal in franchise history.
The Titans doubled their lead with 4:46 left in the first. Bell picked up the loose puck along the far side boards at center ice and dumped it into the Hat Tricks zone where it was played by Hadley behind his own net. Hadley went to pass the puck up along the boards, but it was intercepted by Bell. As Bell was being knocked off the puck from behind, he passed it back to Doucette at the top of the faceoff circle. Doucette made a centering pass out front to Avezov on his right and Avezov wristed the puck past Hadley long side to make it 2 – 0.
The second period was a 180 degree turn with the Hat Tricks scoring three unanswered goals, and it started just forty-four seconds into the middle stanza. Danbury’s Misha Mshar picked up the loose puck along the near side boards midway between center ice and the Titans blueline and he sent a cross ice pass to a breaking Nikita Kovalev. As Kovalev reached the top of the far side faceoff circle, he took a wrist shot that beat Titans netminder Ethan Kavanagh long side to make it a 2 – 1 game.
Stone was called for hooking with 3:28 left in the second to give Danbury the man advantage. A minute and seven seconds later the Hat Tricks tied the game at two. With the Tricks setting up in the Titans zone, Nick Cullinan took a shot from the near side point that went wide of the net, hit the end boards and rolled up along the far side boards to Connor Lefkof at the point. Lefkof passed it over to Cullinan on his right and Cullinan took a one-timer that was deflected out front by Dylan Webber and past Kavanagh.
Danbury took a 3 – 2 lead with 1:14 remaining in the second period. The Tricks Nate Mastrony picked up the loose puck along the far side half wall inside the Titans zone and wrapped it around the boards where it was picked up by Kyle Madigan who was to the left of Kavanagh. Madigan made a backdoor pass through the goalmouth where Mastrony redirected the puck past Kavanagh to give Danbury a 3 – 2 lead going into the third period.
George Haigley knotted the score at three just 1:32 into the final period. After the Tricks dumped the puck deep inside the Titans zone, it was played by Kavanagh who left the puck to the right side of his net for Lucas Salas. As Salas went into the far side corner, he passed the puck up to Nick Byron who sent a bounce pass off the boards and into center ice where it was picked up by Haigley. As Haigley gained the line, he took a wrist shot from the far side faceoff circle that beat Hadley long side to make it 3 – 3.
The Titans regained the lead at 7:21 into the third. After Stone was being knocked off the puck behind his own net, he was able to send it up to Nate Biron at the near side half wall and Biron passed the biscuit up to a breaking Jonah Sabatini at his own blueline. As Sabatini skated through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone along the near side boards, he started to cut behind the Danbury net and left a pass out front on the doorstep and Zach Carfaro redirected the puck past Hadley to make it 4 – 3.
Less then two minutes later Danbury tied the game. Mshar picked up the loose puck at center ice and dumped the puck high off the end boards glass behind the Titans net where it was picked up by Kovalev to the left of the Titans cage. Kovalev made a centering pass out front to Mshar who took a wrist shot that went through Kavanagh’s five hole to make it 4 – 4.
Doucette then scored his second goal of the game with 9:14 left in regulation. After Danbury dumped the puck into the Titans zone, it was picked up by Justin Hiler at the top of his own near side faceoff circle. Hiler sent a cross-ice pass up to Doucette just outside the Hat Tricks blue line. As Doucette gained the line and entered the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 with Bell, Doucette cut towards the center of the slot and took a wrist shot that beat Hadley long side to give the Titans the 5 – 4 lead and close out the scoring.
Kavanagh stopped 42 of 46 shots while Hadley turned aside 19 of 24. Click here for the full box score.
The two teams will meet again this afternoon at 3:00 PM at the Middletown Sports Complex. It will be the Titans first time playing on home ice since November 18. Should the Titans win, they will advance to the East Division finals. Should Danbury win, game three of this three game series will be played at the Danbury Ice Arena on Monday at 12:30 PM.
All fans attending today’s game will receive a free 2020-21 Titans team photo.