Express hold off Titans, Bernie Parent recalls Alumni Game magic

Bernie Parent was showered with cheers and applause at the Alumni Game. (Candice Monhollan)

Bernie Parent was showered with cheers and applause at the Alumni Game. (Candice Monhollan)

TRENTON, N.J. – With legendary goaltender Bernie Parent in the house for Wednesday night’s Trenton Titans game against the Chicago Express, what started out as a good goaltending duel ended badly as the first five minutes of the second period ultimately dug the Titans a hole they could not climb out of.

Though they battled back several times, the Titans could not overcome the Express and fell 5-4 for their third consecutive loss.

“We came out and had a good first, and then the first five minutes we let our guard down,” head coach Vince Williams said. “Then you’re playing catch-up and a lot of their goals are just individual lost battles. Guys just weren’t hard enough in front of our own net.”

The Express seemed to have endless amounts of chances in close as the Titans failed to clear pucks or battle for loose rebounds.

“Look at all their goals,” Williams said. “A guy lying on top of our goalie and they score. You’ve got four tap-ins because they’re right in the crease. Every one of their goals were right on top of our crease from the hash marks down with second and third chances.”

After a few shot-less minutes to start the game, both teams began to get their chances. Dave Caruso of the Titans and Peter Mannino made the saves necessary to keep the game scoreless through most of the first. But opportunity struck when the Titans were given a power play. Eight seconds in, Randy Rowe took a feed from Rob Bordson behind the net and gave the Titans a 1-0 lead that they would take into intermission.

The second period was not the same story as five goals were scored.

Scott Wietecha fired a rocket from the point 2:41 into the middle period and the deflection from Devin DiDiomete beat a screened Caruso to tied the game at 1.

Wietecha scored his first of the night 1:48 later on the power play. With Caruso drawn to the left post, the puck went cross-crease to Wietecha, who banged it into an empty net as he came crashing in to make it 2-1.

The tough times kept coming as an apparent interference was left uncalled. Caruso was knocked down and had an Express player on top of him and was unable to make the save as Anthony Maiani scored 40 seconds after the second goal.

“I thought that if there’s a Chicago player laying on top of him, it’s goalie interference, but you never know what you’re going to get,” Williams said. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen missed opportunities and calls, but if he’s face down on the ice and there’s a guy lying on top of him, you’ve got to blow it down. It’s called goalie interference. I think there’s a penalty for that. I thought there was, anyway.”

The Titans bounced back as time was running down. Wietecha hurt his team by taking an unnecessary unsportsmanlike penalty when he shot the puck in the net well after the whistle for offsides. The Titans made him pay as Mannino could cover the puck and Ryan Hayes ripped one above the glove to pull the Titans within one with 1:33 left in the second.

The Express restored their two-goal lead halfway through the third period. Caruso made the save on Brett Motherwell, but the puck landed by his left pad and Maiani beat a Titans defender to the loose puck and flipped it over the goalie’s leg at 10:27 for his second goal of the night and a 4-2 score.

It wasn’t over yet as Mitch Versteeg, fresh off injured reserve, fired a laser from the point 2:50 after Maiani’s tally to once again bring the Titans to within one.

But the back-and-forth play continued as the Express reclaimed the two-goal lead for the third time in the game. Caruso came up with a big stop, but Corey Syvret failed in his attempt to clear the rebound out of harm’s way and DiDiomete scored his second of the night 1:58 after the Titans clawed back.

Once again, the Titans refused to go down quietly as they rallied back. Ray DiLauro scored his second goal of the season with 2:27 left in the game and a late delay of game penalty from Chicago’s Darcy Campbell gave the Titans a prime opportunity to tie things up. They created several chances, but Mannino and the players in front of him were able to hold off the home team for the win.

For the Titans, who continue to sit last in the Eastern Conference, Williams feels they need to help out their goaltenders more than they are.

“There’s nothing worse than standing beside the guy that taps it in when you’re right there,” Williams said. “Our goalies make the first save and our job is to tie up sticks and get the rebounds out of the way and obviously three or four goals were like that. Nothing you can draw up. Just win a battle. That’s it.”

Still one of the most beloved and iconic figures in Philadelphia Flyers history, Parent had the rare chance to participate in the Flyers and New York Rangers Alumni Game on Dec. 31 in honor of the Winter Classic held two days later.

“The last time I played outdoors, I was 12 years old,” Parent said. “Five minutes before the game, the players in the dressing room were talking and were having fun. Then the guy comes in and says, ‘Five minutes to go before the game starts,’ and the whole place got quiet. For five minutes, nobody said anything. Everybody would play back the old days when we played. The magic was there. It was beautiful.”

The fans took the opportunity to relive the past when Parent started in goal for the game and chanted “Bernie! Bernie!” several times.

“It was one, big noise,” he said. “I’ve played in front of 20,000 people, but 45,000 – it’s a different ball game. There’s a lot to be grateful for. Great fans in Philly.”


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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports, Winter Classic

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