Titans continue with hot start, Hovinen injured

Niko Hovinen made 11 saves on 12 shots before being injured early in the second period. (Mike Ashmore)

Niko Hovinen made 11 saves on 12 shots before being injured early in the second period. (Mike Ashmore)

TRENTON, N.J. – The Trenton Titans were looking to continue on their hot streak Wednesday night as they faced divisional rival Reading Royals once again.

An injury to starting goaltender Niko Hovinen could have derailed the Titans, but Scott Wedgewood, who made his pro debut Saturday, entered the game and allowed no goals on 20 shots and helped secure the 3-1 win.

“It might be a little more natural [to come into a game] now after preseason,” Wedgewood said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but all goalies get prepared to go in if it happens and I went in there, got the nerves out early and just kept playing.”

The 3-0 start to the season matches the longest win streak at any point last year (Nov. 20-26), and don’t appear to be slowing down at all.

“Collectively, we’re just a better hockey team,” said Titans head coach Vince Williams. “We have a little more personality. You can sense it in the dressing room.”

Trenton’s power play found the back of the net early in the game. Andy Bohmbach slid a pass in front of the crease for an easy tap-in goal from defenseman Blake Kessel, the second of his pro career and first this season.

The Royals struck back on their own power play at 15:03. Adam Comrie took a shoot from the blue line where Hovinen attempted to catch it, but the puck dropped out of his glove. Yannick Tifu scooped the puck up slid it over to an open David Marshall waiting at the far post for his first of the season.

It was a scary moment for Titans fans 25 seconds into the second period when Julien Brouillette launched a shot at Hovinen, which hit him up high around the right collarbone. Hovinen collapsed onto the ice and took some time for him to get over to the bench.

He remained out for the game and Wedgewood entered.

“You always have to be prepared for anything,” Williams said. “[Wedgewood] came in there pretty calm and made some big saves. We battled a little bit harder to make sure we try to make his job as easy as possible.”

It wasn’t long before Wedgewood was tested.

Four minutes later, the Royals thought they had a goal, but it was waved off by the referee, ruling Wedgewood had made the save before Marshall pushed him across the line.

Just over forty seconds later, Royals goaltender Philipp Grubauer showed his skills with fantastic glove save on Luke Pither.

Unfortunately, Grubauer couldn’t do the same on Marcel Noebels at 8:12 of the second. Bohmbach sent a pass from the defensive end up to a waiting Noebels at the Royals blue line. He skated in on a 1-on-1, beat the defender, went forehand, backhand and put it top shelf. It was one to remember for Noebels’ first pro goal.

Wedgewood continued to be strong for the Titans, including a huge save on Kirk MacDonald, who was left open in the slot for a point-blank shot on a Royals power play.

Ray DiLauro sealed the win with a zone-clearing shot which banked off the glass and inexplicably made its way roughly 160 feet into the Royals’ empty net with 42 seconds left.

“I’ll take the empty net like that,” DiLauro said. “It’s fine by me. I was just trying to get the puck out of the zone.”

The Titans continue to roll through the start if the season. Only three active skaters on the team are without a point.

The team heads out west and looks to still improve, even with the 3-0 record, and work on strengthening the locker room more.

“This is what we needed, to win this game before we hit the road,” Williams said. “We’ll do a little bonding. We’ve got plenty of time – 14 hours to go. That’s how you build good teams on the road here.”

UPDATE ON HOVINEN

Williams said he did not know the extent of Hovinen’s injury.

“We’ll try to find someone to come in and get him reevaluated,” Williams said. “I know that he wasn’t feeling too good.”

It sounds like he will not make the trip out west with the team for the upcoming games over the weekend.

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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