The New Jersey Titans built a lead in the second period and pulled away late in the third period to grab a 5-2 victory over the Maine Nordiques in a North American Hockey League East Division junior hockey game Friday at the Middletown Ice World in Middletown, New Jersey.

Maine coach Nick Skerlick wasn’t pleased with the effort throughout the Nordiques lineup.

“When you got number 11 (David Helledy) and number 48 (Nicholas Bernardo) aren’t playing very good, you aren’t going to win a lot of games,” Skerlick said. “It’s uncharacteristic of them — it’s tough, it’s tough to play without two of your best players playing like that, that’s for sure.”

Nikita Meshcheryakov paced the Titans with two goals, while Dominick Rivelli had a goal and an assist.

After the Nordiques (26-9-4, 56 points) took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Meshcheryakov evened the game for the Titans (19-14-2, 40 points) early in the second. Dominik Bartecko and Kristofers Krumins extended the lead to 3-1 later in the frame.

“The first goal was a bad turnover by Tommy Heaney, the second goal was a dumb penalty by David Grosek and the third goal was a horrendous turnover by Evan Orloff,” Skerlick said. “… All three goals were preventable.”

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Forward Charles Tardiff, who scored Maine’s first goal, notched his second of the game with four minutes remaining in the contest.

“We were able to make 3-2 with about five minutes left — we got a power play,” Skerlick said. “The guys on the ice, they don’t want to win right now. I think everybody is tired of this road trip — we have three games left, and it’s not looking good for the Nordiques in those three games.”

Maine is 3-4 so far on its 10-game road trip.

With less than two minutes remaining in Friday’s contest, Meshcheryakov and Jack Hiller scored 23 seconds apart to extend New Jersey’s lead to 5-2. Both goals were empty-netters.

Zakari Brice recorded the win in goal for the Titans, stopping 24 shots. He also and also had an assist. Maine goalie Thomas Heaney made 30 saves.

Luke Chappelle, Kellen Murphy and Shane Kozlina all had assists in the loss for Maine.

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The Nordiques look for the split on Saturday when the teams meet again in Middletown.

NEWS AND NOTES

Four Nordiques players are on the East Division roster for the Top Prospects Tournament: Tardiff, the Nordiques’ leading scorer with 24 goals and 21 assists in 39 games; forward Tomek Haula (three goals, eight assists in 15 games); defenseman JP Steele (four goals and 12 assists in 38 games); and defenseman Aiden Dixon (five assists in 35 games).

“I think all four are Division I players that are going,” Skerlick said. “They deserve it, and I am hoping those four guys can come back — at least the (2003-birth years) — come back with Division I offers.”

Haula is a 2004-born player, while the other three were born in 2003.

• The Nordiques signed defenseman Cole Estey to a tender contract for the 2024-25 season. The 18-year-old has a goal and two assists in 15 games in 2023-24 with Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts.

“Cole is a hard-nosed defenseman. We will have to get away from the skill a little bit because skill doesn’t win you a full season,” Skerlick said. “We will bring in a hard-nosed defenseman in Cole Estey, who skates really well and is a pretty tough kid.”

Skerlick said Maine also signed defenseman Jake Stevens of the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, to a tender for 2024-25. The 18-year-old has four goals and 14 assists in 17 games this season.

“He’s a smooth-skating, right-shot defenseman who plays with good vision and (has 14) assists already with the Canterbury Saints, who surprisingly are having a good year and one of the top prep school teams in the country right now,” Skerlick said.

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