LEWISTON — Stefan Owens came up clutch for the Maine Nordiques.
The veteran forward scored the lone goal in Game 1 of a North American Hockey League East Division playoff series, a 1-0 Nordiques victory over the New Jersey Titans, at The Colisee on Thursday.
The goal came with 3:24 remaining in the game, after Owens knocked the puck down with his hand and got his stick on it in the crease.
“I tried to get (the puck) on the ice as quick as possible and put it in,” Owens said. “I think it worked out.”
The referees originally waived off the goal, but after a conference they changed the call and ruled it a goal.
Titan coach Craig Doremus declined to reveal what the officials told him after it was ruled a goal. However, he did commend the play of both teams.
“Not only for us but for them, it was a really good junior hockey game,” Doremus said. “There was a captive audience tonight, there was really no other games on the schedule, so any colleges tuning in saw two really good teams battling hard, going toe-to-toe, making good plays up-and-down the ice.”
New Jersey had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes while they had a man advantage, their only power play of the game, but they couldn’t solve Maine goalie Tyriq Outen, who stopped all 39 shots he faced.
Outen credited his teammates for killing off the penalty.
“Unbelievable play by all the PK guys out there,” Outen said. “(Isaiah Fox) on that (one chance) when (the puck) was sitting in the crease, talking to me, I didn’t know it was there. He talked to me, telling me it was there, giving me a chance to get back (in position). The guys made it easy for me.”
Outen also stopped Titans forward Jack Ford on a breakaway midway through the third period.
“I was just watching his body language. I know he’s a guy who likes to shoot,” Outen said.
Though they didn’t capitalize, including on a power play midway through the opening period, the Nordiques’ offense didn’t lack chances early in the game, and they out shot the Titans 17-13 in the first.
The physicality started to pick up in the second period. A scuffle in front of Titans goalie Christian Stoever (38 saves), between Titans forward Matthew Iasenza and Nordiques forward Jack Strauss garnered each a roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct.
With under five minutes remaining in the second period, the Nordiques went on their second power play when Titans forward Zach Nazzarett was called for tripping. Just like in the first period, Maine didn’t convert the opportunity into a goal.
Nordiques coach Nolan Howe wasn’t surprised by the close Game 1.
“It was a fast-paced hockey both ways, and I think both teams are dangerous,” Howe said. “There was a reason we are so close throughout the regular season and tonight. It’s a tremendous honor for us to get to compete in the Robertson Cup playoffs, and it was the way we wanted to play. At the end of the day, there are things we can improve on and we can get better at, but to get the first (win) under our belt at home, it was big.”
Game 2 is Friday night at 7 p.m. at The Colisee.