Written by Intern Nick Marotta
Photo: Steve Yakimowicz
Christian Stoever put on yet another memorable performance yesterday as he led the Knights to a 4-1 victory in the opening game of their best-of-five series against the Philadelphia Rebels. Stoever held the Rebels down for two periods before only letting in one goal in the third. This performance comes off the back of 5-2 and 1-0 victories over the New Jersey Titans in the first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. In each of the games, the Knights would have been eliminated with a loss.
“I knew it was do or die, so I had to step up for the team.” Stoever said.
Stoever also managed a 25-save game in last night’s opener. The Rebels, who lead the NAHL’s eastern division in multiple offensive statistics, as well as home winning percentage, just couldn’t get the puck in the net against number 31. Stoever has had a knack for stepping up in clutch moments in both the regular season and this postseason. The series against New Jersey was no different for the Knights’ goalie, as he racked up 129 saves in the last three games.
“During my whole junior career I’ve always been able to do really well under pressure, and I knew our season was on the line [against New Jersey] so I just did what I had to do.”
The Knights defense was also quite impressive in game one of their series against Philadelphia. Defensemen Joseph Verkerke and Thomas Farrell contributed a point each in the victory on Thursday. Stoever had high praise for his defensemen as well.
“On defense everyone has been great on and off the ice,” he said. “They’re great supporters out of the game and they move the puck well in it. They’re just best friends, which only helps chemistry.”
Stoever attributed the team’s win to the physicality the team displayed against the Rebels.
“Philadelphia is a physical team, so if we’re able to match that, I think we can slow them down,” he said. The goalie also mentioned that the team did well putting bodies in front of the goal.
“It seems to be the most reliable way we score on them.”
Despite the Stoever and the Knights being able to take game on in Philadelphia, the team as a whole has struggled on the road versus the Rebels. This was the first Knights victory against their top-seeded rivals, away from the Revolution Ice Centre in 2017-18. Stoever seemed undeterred by this, though, as he said that each game in this series would be treated as just that, another game.
“We just have to go out there and play them like it’s anybody else’s [rink.]” he remarked.
The Knights will look ahead to their second game against Philadelphia tonight, at 7:00 pm EDT. They will then head back home to the Revolution Ice Centre on Monday, April 30th and Thursday, May 3rd for games three and four. Home Ice has been much kinder to the Knights this season, as all four of their regular season wins against Philadelphia came at home.