By MIKE MASTOVICH
No one was describing this one as fancy footwork.
But Johnstown Chiefs forward Adam Henrich and his teammates didn’t mind.
Henrich’s goal 4:46 into overtime against the visiting Trenton Titans had another more important title: Game-winner.
The Chiefs edged the Titans 2-1 in overtime to win Game 1 of a best-of-3 Kelly Cup play-in series before 1,069 fans at Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Monday.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” said Henrich, positioned near the far post when forward Zbynek Hrdel sent a puck toward the cage from the left-wing corner. “I just went to the net. Hrdel threw it to the net and luckily it went off my foot.”
The puck caromed off Henrich’s skate and bounced past Trenton goaltender Rejean Beauchemin.
“I was telling the boys I’ve had seven or eight breakaways in the last four or five games and I didn’t get one,” Henrich said. “Then, I get a greasy one like that. That’s what the playoffs are all about.”
Game 2 will be at 7 tonight at Sovereign Bank Arena. Game 3, if necessary, moves to Planet Ice on Thursday.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be a tight game,” said Chiefs forward Jean Desrochers, whose goal 1:24 into the third period knotted the score at 1-all. “Ten out of the 13 games we played them this year were by one goal. We knew this wasn’t going to be an offensive contest.
“You try to play good defense and not give them too many chances. Every opportunity you get you shoot the puck. You go to the net. You get some lucky bounces at the end and that’s how you get it done.”
Chiefs goaltender Morgan Cey had another strong performance, turning away 38 of 39 Titans shots.
“That’s what playoff hockey’s all about,” Henrich said. “The battle and the grind.”
The fourth-place Chiefs and fifth-place Titans played with playoff desperation from the outset of a fast-paced, tightly-played contest.
Titans defenseman Stephen Wood beat Cey with a wrister from the slot 15:42 into the second period.
“We knew it’s playoff time and we knew what we had to do as a team to come back,” Henrich said.
Only three seconds remained on a Titans power play when defenseman Mike Jarmuth found Wood in front of the net.
“You can’t get down,” Desrochers said. “We bounced back. We had a good talk after the second. We stayed positive and every guy picked it up a notch.”
Johnstown tied the game on Desrochers’ goal. Joe Tallari and Dennis Packard had assists.
Neither team had been able to cash in while skating through a fast-paced and tightly-played opening 35 minutes.
“Anytime that both teams can go into an overtime, everybody knows that a bounce here or a bounce there is not indicative of how everybody played for the first 60 or 65 minutes,” Titans coach Tony MacAulay said. “It was a close, hard-fought battle. They’re going to be ready for us (tonight) and we’re going to be equally as ready for them.”
There was some drama even before the series opened. Both the Titans and Chiefs strengthened their respective lineups with help from the AHL.
Titans veteran forward Scott Bertoli returned to Trenton on Sunday after an assignment with the Norfolk Admirals.
The Chiefs’ Tallari came back from Bridgeport on Sunday.
The fine-tuning continued right up until Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline for the playoff roster.
The Titans got Wood and forward Kiel McLeod from the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms, and the Chiefs added contract players in goaltender Jonathan Boutin and defenseman Jay Rosehill from AHL Springfield.
Notes: Forest Hills’ Josh Kush and Bishop McCort’s Steven Polonkey earned the 2006 Galen Head Memorial Scholarship and were honored at center ice.
Mike Mastovich can be reached at 532-5083 or firstname.lastname@example.org.