Titans’ defenseman Ryan Wheeler scored with 3:27 remaining in overtime to give New Jersey a 3 – 2 victory over the visiting Aston Rebels to force a game five in this best-of-five divisional finals. The fifth and deciding game will be played tonight at 7:00pm at IceWorks.
The Rebels opened the scoring with 9:38 remaining in the first period. A Titans’ defenseman took a shot from the point that was saved by Rebels goaltender Jacky Leavy. The puck came off Leavy’s stick directly to Ryan Solomon who sent a lead pass up to Andrew Bellant at center ice. Bellant skated in on a breakaway against New Jersey’s goalie Ryan Ferland. Bellant took a wrist shot that trickled off Ferland’s blocker and into the net to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead. It was Bellant’s third goal on the playoffs.
The Titans would tie the game at 9:15 into the second period. After a save by Ferland the rebound came out to Tyler Antonucci at the top of his own near side faceoff circle. Antonucci head manned the puck to Todd Goehring who brought it through the neutral zone. As Goehring entered the Rebels zone he passed the puck to Jordan Kaplan on his left. Kaplan took a wrist shot at the far side faceoff circle and beat Leavy long side to make it a 1 – 1 game.
The Rebels would go back on top with 5:52 into the third. Gianluca Esteves picked up a deep rebound in his own near side zone off of a save by Leavy. Esteves brought the puck up ice and passed it over to Evgeny Yakovlev on his right. Yakovlev entered the zone and took a shot that went wide but the rebound came out to Aaron Maguyon. Maguyon passed the puck to Esteves on his right and Esteves slid the puck passed Ferland to make it a 2 – 1 game.
Three minutes later New Jersey would tie it. Dylan Healey brought the puck up along the near side boards after picking it up from a scrum behind the net. He passed it back downlow to Max Andreev. Andreev sent a pass back to the point to Ryan Wheeler, who took a slapshot that the redirected by Goehring out front past Leavy to make it a 2 – 2 game with 10:57 left in the third.
With time winding down in the first overtime Wheeler would score his first goal of the playoffs. After Kolby Vegara retrieved the puck in his own zone he passed it up along the far side boards to Ryan Patrick. As Patrick went to dump the puck to make a line change it was picked up by William Riedell at the top of his own faceoff circle. Riedell sent a lead pass up to Wheeler at the Rebels blueline. Wheeler cut across and took a long shot that beat Leavy short side to give the Titans a 3 -2 win and force a fifth and deciding game.
Leavy stopped 23 of 26 shots while Ferland turned aside 41 of 43 shots. Click here for the box score.