Last season, the Trenton Titans finished dead last out of the 20 teams in the ECHL with 21 wins and 52 points over 72 games.
During their time at the bottom of the league last year, the squad only produced one winning streak that was three games or longer. Just three games into the 2012-13 season the Titans have already matched that total, as they sit atop the “E” with a record of 3-0-0. Six other teams in the league are undefeated, but none of those clubs have played three games yet.
Head coach Vince Williams believes there are several differences between this year’s squad compared to last year’s team: “It’s a whole bunch of elements that we’ve improved on since last year. Obviously goaltending and our defense is intact. We have a little bit more punch and skill up front. I think collectively we’re just a better hockey team. We have a little bit more personality and you can sense it. You can sense it in the dressing room. It’s just a totally different make up. To compare the two, it’s just totally different.”
Captain Ray DiLauro is happy with the success, but knows the team can play better. “It’s great. Whether it’s one game, three games, or 10 games it’s always good to win. We are making some mistakes. It’s the beginning of the year, so everyone is still getting to know each other and getting to know the systems that our coaches are putting in, but we’re winning.”
It doesn’t hurt when the team is helped with the addition of players who would be in the AHL if it wasn’t for the lockout such as Blake Kessel, Jason Akeson, Luke Pither, Marcel Noebels, and Tyler Hostetter.
Trenton notched their first win of the season at home with a 3-1 decision over the Greenville Road Warriors, the New York Rangers’ affiliate. Niko Hovinen stopped 31 of the 32 shots he saw on the night for a victory, while Noebels had a pair of helpers in a game where the Titans were outshot 32-19. Stephen Schultz and Akeson each netted a power-play goal in the game’s first 9:06 to give Trenton a 2-0 lead before Greenville responded late in the period with a strike from Brandon Wong. With a little over seven minutes left in the second period, Ryan Hayes put a shot home to make it 3-1.
The following day the Titans hit the road to record a 6-2 win over the Reading Royals, the Washington Capitals’ affiliate, at the Sovereign Center. Jacob Drewiske had a two-goal game, Andy Bohmbach had a three-point contest, and Mitch Versteeg produced a pair of assists, as Trenton scored four goals in the middle stanza. After Drewiske scored 31 seconds into the first period, he extended the Titans’ lead 1:33 into the second period. Bohmbach’s first, Schultz’s second, and Ian Slater’s first of the season came later in the middle frame to make it a 5-1 game. A short-handed tally from Drew Akins late in the game made it 6-2, while Scott Wedgewood made 31 saves on 33 shots for his first win of the season.
On Wednesday night the Titans hosted the Royals at the Sun National Bank Center and beat the visitors 3-1. With the game tied at one near the middle of the second period, Noebels was hit with a two-line pass from Bohmbach past the Royals’ defense for a breakaway that resulted in his first professional goal and a Titans’ lead. The one-goal lead would be all Wedgewood needed, as the goaltender made stops on all 20 shots he saw after replacing Hovinen seconds into the second period. The Finnish goalie took a shot off the collarbone 25 seconds into the middle stanza and left the game. It’s still uncertain as to the extent of Hovinen’s injury. Kessel scored his first ECHL goal ever in the first period on a Trenton power play to give the Titans a 1-0 lead. DiLauro put home an empty-netter with 42 seconds left to finalize the score.
Several players were involved in transactions for the Titans in the first week of the season. After releasing goaltender Jody O’Neill and forward Adam Presizniuk last week, Trenton let go of Akins on Wednesday. The forward had one goal in one game this season before being cut.
With the departure of Akins, Trenton signed forward Pierre-Olivier Morin the same day. This is Morin’s first professional contract, as he played for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL last season.
The Titans look for the franchise’s longest winning streak since April of 2010, when the club was known as the Trenton Devils. Trenton will endure a short two-game road trip with games against the Evansville IceMen tonight and the Cincinnati Cyclones tomorrow night. Evansville is an affiliate for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the St. Louis Blues, while Cincinnati is an affiliate for the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators.