On a dreary day outside that was just as gloomy inside due to the fact that there seemed to be roughly the same amount of hockey players on the ice as fans in the seats, Andy Bohmbach provided a ray of hope.
For one day at least, the last place team in the Atlantic and the Eastern Conference outshined the best in the Atlantic and the East as Bohmbach recorded the game-winning score with 26.1 seconds remaining in overtime to get the Trenton Titans a 4-3 win over the Reading Royals.
“Every game you play you want to prove a point that you belong there,” said Bohmbach. “I hope I get the chance to prove myself in the AHL again. But this was a good confidence boost for the team and for our goalie. To lose two tough games over the weekend to South Carolina and then win one against the best team in the league, it’s only going to be a good thing going forward.”
In his first game back since a brief call-up to Worcester of the American Hockey League, Bohmbach received a pass from Kelly Zajac just to the right of Reading goaltender Sergey Kostenko, and managed to wrap the puck around the far pipe for the deciding power-play score.
“I was going to wrap (it) but since I was on the short side, and he closed that off, I decided to go around him and hopefully he wasn’t going to figure out I was going to do that and it worked,” Bohmbach added. “We were talking about that, because we had a power play before and struggled. We just wanted to keep it simple, told Zajac once he got it to me that I was going to take it to the net.”
The advantage was set up on a questionable interference call, one that came as Royals forward Nikita Kashirsky collided with Trenton goaltender Scott Wedgewood as the former tried to rush the net for a tip-in try. Nonetheless, the hosts had the extra man for the final 51.6 seconds before a shootout and took advantage.
“I knew they were going to throw it over there, the way they held the puck along the boards, so I stepped up (inside the crease) and took away a little bit more ice. I don’t know if he was pushed into me or tried to jump over me, but he had all his momentum going in my direction,” noted Wedgewood. “When you get hit, there’s a tendency to want it to be called. You’re not going to throw your hands up in the air to get noticed, try and help your team out. But the big thing for me was to cut off that passing lane.”
Bohmbach finished the game with two goals and one assist, while J.S. Berube and Jacob Cepis added tallies for the Titans (15-17-5), who snapped a seven-game losing streak and posted their first win of calendar year 2013.
Wedgewood finished with 26 saves, while counterpart Kostenko did his part by stopping 36 pucks.
Ian O’Connor picked up a pair of scores and Patrick Wellar added two assists for the Royals (26-10-3), who have dropped three in a row. Kashirsky posted the other tally for the visitors, who have clearly been affected by the trickle-up of players due to the end of the NHL lockout.
The 11 AM start seemed to affect both sides, and the hosts were about to be clear for one period when O’Connor tipped home a Brett Flemming floater for the game’s first tally with 1:23 remaining in the first.
But that finally seemed to wake up the Titans, who struck back with two in a row in the middle period.
First, with Flemming in the box for slashing, it was Cepis who was alone in front to chip a Stephen Schultz rebound up and over a fallen Kostenko to tie the score at 4:42 — the first of three Trenton power-play markers on the afternoon.
Then, Berube was the beneficiary of sloppy Royals play in their own end. Unable to make an effective clear after Trenton nearly scored twice, a third attempt skidded behind the goal line to the winger, who banked the puck off Kostenko’s back for the lead score with 3:45 to play.
A scattershot third period kicked off with a nice individual effort from Kashirsky to tie the game, 2-2, at the 1:34 mark, then looked promising for the home team as Bohmbach snuck a shot inside the near post from the left side on the advantage with 5:06 played. Seconds before the tally, the club captain flubbed a one-timer from the right side, which would have seen the entire right half of the net to find space if the shot was true.
O’Connor quieted the sparse crowd once more near the midway point of the third, bursting by a pair of defenders up the middle and beating Wedgewood with a clean, hard chance for a 3-3 deadlock. The tally came during a delayed penalty call, which lasted long enough for the visitors to send an extra attacker onto the ice.
Justin Taylor could have been the hero thereafter. Awarded a penalty shot in the final five minutes when he was hooked from behind while crossing the crease, Taylor appeared to have his foe beaten until the last second, when Kostenko stayed close to the left pipe and closed the space between his arm and body to stop the shot.
“Well, I was hoping things would be over by then,” said Titans head coach Vince Williams, banking on a potential game-winner happening on that free chance. “Their goalie came up big.
Reading was offered the chance to end things in regulation when Berube was sent off for hooking with 1:09 to play, but the top squad in the league failed to mount much pressure for the entirety of the man-up situation.
“The one thing you can count on in this league is that they call things tight, and right to the end so you have to be careful, have to be prepared,” Williams added.
Notes: Trenton’s last victory came against Reading, at home, in the opener of a three-game series on December 27…The Royals fell to 7-2-2 this season against the Titans…Bohmbach failed to record a point in his lone appearance with Worcester, a 3-1 loss on Sunday to Portland…Zajac and Bryan Haczyk were also returned from Albany prior to the game…For Reading, Flemming, Stan Galiev and Alex Berry were returned from Hershey, while goaltender Drew McIntyre was shipped up to the Chocolate City…Trenton, tied for second-best in the ECHL in penalty killing, failed to give up a power-play goal in four chances…The Titans also stopped a three-game home losing skid and improved to 10-8-1 on home ice this season.