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Jamestown’s Jak Vaarwerk, an East Amherst product signed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was named East Division Rookie of the Year after posting 18 goals and 35 assists during the regular season. PJ File Photo by Scott Reagle

The New Jersey Titans have had a ton of success at the expense of the Jamestown Rebels this season.

New Jersey won six of eight games between the teams during the regular season with the Titans beating Jamestown 25-17, but six of the games came before the New Year.

Rebels head coach Joe Coombs insists his team is different now – injuries to Carter Casper, Reid Lune, Owen West and Joe Calvarino forced it to be.

They will have the chance to prove it tonight.

The New Jersey No. 1 and Jamestown No. 3 will open their best-of-five Eastern Division Finals at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Middletown Ice World Arena in northern New Jersey.

“We were really bad the first two times we played them,” Coombs said Wednesday night. “The idea behind how I’ve built every team is to keep growing and improving.”

Game 2 is Saturday at 7 p.m. at Middletown and Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northwest Arena. A much-needed Game 4 would take place at 7 p.m. next Friday at Northwest Arena with a deciding Game 5 at 7 p.m. next Sunday in Middletown.

“Some teams peaked early in the season. Maryland was in first place at Christmas and did not make the playoffs. This team has not improved. said Coombs. “I love our group and we have continued to grow. …I’m excited for this round. I wish I had 24 guys, but it’s not. We have our 20s and we will go into battle.

Both teams are coming off spectacular victories in Game 5 of their Eastern Division semi-final series.

Jamestown beat No. 2 Johnstown 4-3 in overtime on Sunday as Ryan Waltman, who is tied for the NAHL lead with nine playoff points, scored the game-winning goal.

Likewise, New Jersey rallied in their Game 5 Sunday night against No. 4 Northeast. Ryan Coughlin scored his second goal of the series with 1 second on the clock to send the Titans to the Finals.

“I think our players should have learned a lot in the first round. We had no game experience and we played five games,” said Coombs. “I think our guys should have learned that it’s never over. Keep playing and keep improving. They did it.

On Wednesday, the North American Hockey League unveiled its teams from all divisions and its honors. Jamestown and New Jersey have often been mentioned.

Jak Vaarwerk, an East Amherst product signed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was named East Division Rookie of the Year after posting 18 goals and 35 assists during the regular season.

“He made it look really easy. He’s one hell of a hockey player. I would say Jak Vaarwerk is the best hockey player I’ve coached in my eight years in the NAHL. said Coombs. “He’s the best hockey player the NAHL has seen in eight years. He’s a great boy and a great teammate. I love her to death. It’s a delight to coach.

Vaarwerk continued their breakout regular season with a team-best four goals and four assists in the playoffs.

“I hope I see Jak grow up and hopefully cash a paycheck,” Coombs added. “I think the ability is there and he has the passion to match.”

Rebels captain John Lundy was named to the All-East Division team after scoring a franchise-record 32 goals to go along with 25 assists during the regular season.

“John is a very gifted attacking player” said Coombs. “His overall game is rounding up as well as his consistency.”

Lundy had a slow start to the semi-final series against Johnstown, but scored in each of the last two games.

“I’m absolutely flabbergasted that this kid isn’t engaged right now,” said Coombs. “Someone is missing. The longer we play, the better for him.

Jamestown defenseman Nathan Jurrens received the East Division Community Service Award.

“He’s a phenomenal teammate. Anything that needed to be done around the rink, he was ready to do it,” said Coombs. “I think the world of him as a person. … That’s why we are where we are. We have good people.

New Jersey forward Anthony Calafiore, defenseman David Posma and goaltender Andrew Takacs were named to the All-East Division team and the Titans were named the division organization of the year.

Calafiore scored 26 goals and had 33 assists while Posma had 11 goals and 29 assists during the regular season.

Takacs will be opposed by Nolan Suggs in the Jamestown crease. Takacs was 29-8-3-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in the regular season for the Titans. Suggs went 25-10-1-1 with a 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage for the Rebels.

“Nolan Suggs has gotten better and better over the year,” said Coombs. “No matter how good your team is, you’re going to crumble and you’ll need your keeper to make a ‘Grade A’ save. He will continue to do this for us.

The four divisional finals will begin today. The Central Division will feature the top-seeded St. Cloud Norsemen against the second-seeded Aberdeen Wings. In the Midwest Division, third-seeded Anchorage Wolverines will face fourth-seeded Minnesota Wilderness. In the South Division, the top-seeded Lone Star Brahmas will face the second-seeded New Mexico Ice Wolves.

The four division champions will advance to the Robertson Cup championship at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minnesota from Friday, May 20 through Tuesday, May 24.

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