TRENTON, N.J. - This looked, for whatever reason, too easy for a game of this magnitude. The second round of the playoffs isn't supposed to be like this.
The Trenton Titans continued their dominance over the Toledo Storm with a 6-0 triumph last night in the opening game of their second-round series at the Sovereign Bank Arena.
Cail MacLean scored two goals and Alain St. Hilaire, Rick Kowalsky, Chris Heron and Aniket Dhadphale also scored for the Titans.
The challenge for the Storm is to find a way to overcome the Titans' efforts. Dating back to last season, they have lost all nine meetings with Trenton and have been outscored 53-11.
Last night they came within one shot of setting a record for the fewest in a playoff game, as the Titans finished with a 42-12 edge.
Storm coach Dennis Holland disputed the shooting stats, however.
“We had a flurry in the second period with four or five shots and they only gave us one shot,” Holland said. “(Storm general manager) Pat (Pylypuik) counted 24 shots for us on net.
But there was no doubt about the score.
“Our preparation was right,”' said Trenton coach Troy Ward. “The guys came out and responded.”
It only took 1:45 for the Titans to grab the lead. Dhadphale fed St. Hilaire, who cut through the defense and scored on the rebound of his own shot, with Toledo goalie Mark Bernard prone on the ice.
The Storm blew its best opportunity to score early when Chris Bogas hooked a man from behind and was penalized, as his team was breaking down the ice on an odd-man rush. One of the problems that Toledo had during the two regular-season meetings was an inability to get 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 chances, so missing out on a chance like that was sure to be costly.
MacLean made it so when he scored just as the Bogas penalty expired. The Titans defensemen worked the puck around until MacLean got open in the high slot for a shot that rifled past Bernard.
“Psychologically it was probably a factor in the hockey game,” Holland said of Trenton's strong start. “I thought that if we could win the first 10 minutes of the hockey game, we had a great chance to win. It didn't happen.”
The early going of the second period was no different than the first. St. Hilaire set up Kowalsky's blast from the top of the right circle that made it 3-0 Titans 1:21 into the period.
Twenty-four seconds later, Chris Heron and Butch Kaebel whacked away at a rebound unimpeded until Heron slid it into the net for his second goal of the playoffs.
“We stood around and watched them play hockey tonight,” Holland said. “We didn't compete like we competed against Roanoke. You need to be on top of your game to beat Trenton. We weren't on top of our game tonight.”
The Storm's two top offensive players, Andrew Williamson and James Patterson, were held completely in check and could not even muster a shot. The Storm's best line in the Roanoke series - forwards Jason Norrie, J.J. Hunter and Rob Thorpe - was a combined minus-9.
Toledo didn't threaten in the final period, as neither team had a shot until MacLean's blue-line flip went in at the 10:04 mark, extending the lead to 5-0.
“This game wasn't anything like I thought it would be,” Ward said. “To win 6-0 was a surprise. It's only one game and it's a best-of-five.”
Holland would agree.
“We need to regroup,” he said. “It's a five-game series. We need to win three. We're respecting them too much. We need to compete and get dirty like we did against Roanoke.
“They haven't seen the real Toledo Storm yet. They haven't seen our hockey team yet. That's what's disappointing.”
And Holland let the team know after the game.
“I laid into them a little bit,” he said. “Hey, they're in the same league we are. They're no better or no worse than we are.
“We've got a good hockey team, we finished eighth overall. We're playing like we're lucky to be here, but we are where we are because we are a good hockey team. We earned the right to play in the second round.”
Blade sports writer Dan Saevig contributed to this report.