Junior Titans claim victory in USHL Atlantic Challenge

Staff Writer

The New Jersey Junior Titans 16U AAA National ice hockey team achieved a significant preseason accomplishment when it won its division in the first United States Hockey League (USHL) Atlantic Challenge showcase held from Sept. 6-8. The Junior Titans, who competed against 15 16U AAA Tier I teams, went 5-0-1 during the weekend tournament that gave its players a chance to play in front of coaches and scouts from the USHL, college teams and the National Hockey League (NHL).

“The event was extremely well scouted by NHL and college scouts alike, and offered the Northeast’s teams the opportunity to play in front of the USHL coaches and scouting staffs without having to leave New Jersey,” said George Haviland, who is the 16U National team’s head coach and director of hockey operations for the Titans organization.

Games were split between the Cody Arena in West Orange and the Ice House in Hackensack, and the Junior Titans played all of their contests at the Ice House. The showcase marked the first time that the USHL, considered a top Junior player development league, held an exhibition in the Northeast, and its goal was to expose teams from the region to top competition while providing scouting opportunities for the USHL.

“The exposure at the facilities where the event was hosted was tremendous, and it was an opportunity for players to see what the USHL was about.”

The teams in the 16U tournament were divided into two brackets, and they played four preliminary round-robin games before a two-round playoff.

The Junior Titans opened their schedule against the Rocky Mountain Rough Riders from Denver, Colo., on Sept. 6 with a 2-2 tie. They shut out the New Jersey Rockets, 4-0, in their second game on Sept. 7. The Junior Titans followed with a come-from-behind 6-3 victory against the Connecticut Wolf Pack later that day.

“The game brought the group together and set the table for the rest of the weekend,” Haviland said about the game against the Wolf Pack.

The Junior Titans closed out the round-robin schedule with a 3-2 victory over New York Apple Core on Sept. 8, advancing into the playoffs as a No. 2 seed in the B Division.

They faced the New Jersey Devils in the semifinals, where the Junior Titans came back from being down 1-0 to take the game into a shootout and win, 2-1. They were forced to erase deficits on two occasions against the Long Island Gulls in the finals, winning the game on a 4-2 final score following an empty-net goal to win the Atlantic Challenge.

“For me, the most important part of the weekend was the condition that our guys were in to play three days of grueling games against the top teams in the Northeast,” Haviland said. “We played six total games, including an overtime and shootout game against these teams. For our guys to be prepared mentally and physically to perform for that period of time at a high level was fantastic and a major accomplishment, as well as keeping their focus the whole time.”

Goaltender Michael Cernero “had a great tournament and was our tournament MVP,” according to Haviland. Cernero played in four of the Juniors Titans’ games, including both playoff games.

Ryan Walker led the Junior Titans offensively with eight points, while Matt Kidney and Mike Gelatt posted six and five points, respectively.

“[J.T.] Tarantino scored and picked up assists against the Wolf Pack and Apple Core, while [Jimmy] Timko was a good two-way player for us all weekend,” Haviland said.

The Junior Titans play out of Howell Ice World and Middletown Ice World for home games and practices throughout the season. They opened their North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) schedule during the 11th annual North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn., on Sept. 19-22. Through five games, the Junior Titans were 4-1.

The members of the Junior Titans 16U National Team are forwards Max Weber (Holmdel), Trevor Madden (Mullica Hill), Brendan Donohue (New Hope, Pa.), Jimmy Timko (Sea Girt), Brendan Ban (Rumson), Michael Gelatt (Middletown), Ryan Walker (Spotswood), Joe Low (Jackson), Matt Kidney (Middletown), J.T. Tarantino (Wall) and Todd Goehring (Wayside); defensemen Jack Kosinski (Howell), Michael Foggia (Rumson), Justin Nicholson (Denton, Texas), Christopher Helmlinger (Yardville), Matthew Chinnici (Manalapan), Ryan Rowland (Manahawkin) and Bradley Becker (Howell); and goaltenders Trevor Babin (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Michael Cernero (Wall).

Haviland is joined behind the bench by assistant coach and manager Justin Friedman.