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NA Now: New Jersey Titans

August 27, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

New Jersey Titans

Head Coach: Craig Doremus (7th season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 38-18-4, 80 pts. (2nd in the East Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Michael Young (60 points)

2023 Playoffs: Lost East Division Semi-Finals to Maine, 3 games to 0

2023-24 Division: East

First regular season game: Friday, September 8th vs. Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks

Home opener: Friday, September 29th vs. Rochester Jr. Americans

Coming off their Robertson Cup win in 2022, the Titans had a bit of a championship hangover to start last season as they dropped their first six games of the year. After a couple of transactions, the Titans started to turn things around and began climbing in the East Division standings. They would wind up in second place just five points back from top seeded Maryland. The Titans season would end abruptly as the they ran into the Maine Nordiques in the first round of the Robertson Cup playoffs. Maine would sweep the Titans in three games bringing an end to their championship defense.

“We got off to a terrible start. Before we tried to figure it out, we had some very tough conversations with our staff. We made some tough decisions and got rid of a number of players that were a part of the championship team but everyone needed a wake call at that point and I think it worked,” said head coach Craig Doremus.

Through roughly one-third of the season, the Titans’ record stood at 7-11-0. Through the final 42 games, New Jersey went 31-11, the best record in the league during that time frame. However, that strong play wouldn’t continue once the playoffs began. “It took a lot of energy and took a lot of effort. I think you see that come back to bite you in the butt when you go out weakly in the first round of the playoffs,” explained Doremus. “Full credit to Maine, they jumped on us. They deserved to win. For us it was a culmination of putting a lot of effort into the regular season and sustaining injuries to three of our top six forwards and weren’t able to overcome it.”

Watch: NA Now video interview with Craig Doremus

16 players from the Titans roster ended up with a NCAA commitment in 2022-23 with 9 of those commits going to Division I programs. With some of those players moving on, there will be holes to fill for the upcoming season. “Our player procurement starts with Gary Biggs and Kyle Shapiro, they kind of drive the bus on our end. I think both guys did an excellent job not only this past year. We don’t have a Robertson Cup without those guys and the work they’ve done in the past,” Doremus said in praise his staff. “I think this year they took it personal with how we struggled, and made it a point that this wasn’t going to be the case moving forward.”

In addition to the new players, the Titans also have a good group of returners coming back for another run with New Jersey. Dominik Bartecko leads the returning core as he had 16 goals and 52 points a season ago. The forward was acquired from Amarillo midseason and appeared in 40 games with the Titans, registering 39 points with the red buckets. Johnny McMahon also comes back to New Jersey after a year battling injuries. The Long Island University commit had five goals and nine points in 28 games last year.

On the back end, Leo Schwartz and Brian Robertson are the top returners. They each appeared in 49 games last season, both scoring a pair of goals and each finished the year with 13 points. The Titans also added Simon Becar in an offseason trade with Corpus Christi. The Slovakian blue liner had a goal and eight points with the IceRays a season ago and appeared in the world junior championship with the Slovakian national team. In goal, Zakari Brice with man the crease for a second season. The Arizona State commit went 25-9-3 in 38 appearances a year ago. He sported a goals against average of 2.27 and a save percentage of .921.

“You start with Dom Bartecko, he came in and really acclimated himself well to our community and our hockey team and was a huge producer for us throughout the year. He is an extremely motivated uncommitted 20-year old so I think he’s poised for a big year. McMahon is excited and eager to get into year two,” said Doremus. “Leo Schwartz returns as a right shot defenseman, I think he’s poised to have a big year and Brian Robertson returns as well on the right side. We brought in Becar from the IceRays. He’s committed to the University of Maine, he’s played World Juniors and we think he could be a really big part of our group on the blue line."

After a quick exit from the playoffs in 2023, the Titans are eager to get back to the top of the mountain. That climb will get a little tougher with the two new additions to the East Division but the group in Middletown is determined to win each day and hope it ends with another Robertson Cup in New Jersey.

Next Up: New Mexico Ice Wolves

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