Andrew Hart scored two goals and Jack Leavy recorded his sixth shutout as the visiting Aston Rebels defeated the New Jersey Titans last night 5 – 0. The win gave the Rebels their 45th victory on the season and they clinched the North American Hockey League’s regular season championship.
The game, unfortunately, started out as an omen for the Titans. Fifty-three seconds into it a Titans’ defender inadvertently checked Rebels forward Andrew Bellant into his own goalie Brandon Perrone and knocked him down. Perrone was attended to by trainers from both teams and needed to be removed from the game and never returned to the bench. He was replaced by Ryan Ferland.
Bellant would score the ultimate game winning goal at the 5:37 mark of the first period. Titans forward Danny Eruzione was called for cross-checking at 3:48 into the game putting the Rebels on the power play. With time winding down with the extra attacker, New Jersey dumped the puck deep inside the Rebels zone where it was picked up by Michael Underwood. Underwood sent an outlet pass up to Bellant. As Bellant skated into the neutral he passed the puck to his left to Aaron Maguyon. Maguyon brought the puck into the Titans zone along the far side boards and cut across the goal mouth. He took a shot that was saved by Ferland but the deep rebound came out to Bellant who wristed the puck past the Titans netminder for his twenty seventh goal on the season.
The Rebels would take at 2 – 0 with 5:22 remaining in the first period. Kolby Vergara was at the top of his own near side faceoff circle and sent a soft clearing pass into the Titans zone. The puck was retrieved by a Titans defender but he was pressured by Evgeny Yakovlev. Yakovlev stripped the defender of the puck and passed it to Auggie Moore in the slot who took a shot that beat Ferland for his seventh goal on the season.
A minute and eleven seconds later Hart would score his first goal of the game. New Jersey dumped the puck into the Rebels zone for a line change and it was picked up by Underwood. Underwood would then pass the puck to Ryan Solomon who brought it up the far side boards. As Solomon entered the Titans zone he passed the puck to his right to Jensen Zerban. Zerban took a wrist shot in the slot that was saved by Ferland but the rebound came out to Hart who put it into the Titans net to make it a 3 – 0 game with 4:41 remaining in the opening period.
After a scoreless second period Rebels’ Rookie of the Year award winner Maguyon would make it a 4 – 0 game at 6:52 into the final period. Zach Parrott brought the puck out of his own zone but was pressured at center ice by birthday boy Ryan Patrick. Patrick knocked the puck off of Parrott’s stick and it went to Solomon. Solomon sent the puck into the Titans zone where Ferland went to play it but Maguyon reach the puck first and skated around the out-of-position Titans goaltender and he tucked it into an open net for his eleventh goal on the season.
Hart would finish the scoring less than a minute later. Titans defender Ryan Wheeler brought the puck into the neutral zone but he was hit by Hart. Hart brought the puck into the New Jersey zone and passed to his left to a breaking Carter Woolley down the far side boards. As Woolley got to the middle of the faceoff circle he passed the puck to Hart in the slot and redirected it by Ferland to make it 5 – 0 with 12:11 remaining for his tenth goal on the season.
Leavy turned aside all 27 shots he faced. Leavy and goalie partner Mareks Mitens have a combined seventeen shutouts on the season. The Titans goalies stopped 22 of 27 shots. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels have two games remaining in the regular season. They will travel to Johnstown to play the Titans and then return home to open the Robertson Cup’s divisional semi-final series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Friday, April 14.