Photo: Jessica Kovalcin
On day two of the EHL’s Novemver Showcase, the Knights took on their second-straight Boston division opponent in the Walpole Express. The Express entered play second in their division with a record of 12-5-3, having lost game one of their showcase to the Philadelphia Revolution.
After a quiet start, both teams began to pick up their pressure as the first half progressed. With Austin Smith in net for Walpole and Jared Stahel anchoring the pipes for the Knights, both goalies faced a high number of chances in the opening 25 minutes. Smith stopped all 13 shots he faced, but the Express bested Stahel and the Knights defense twice in 19 tries.
The first goal came at 13:57 when Chris Peters poked a George Thurston wraparound rebound home to put the Express on the board. A second Walpole tally came at 19:12, when on the power play, Ryan Campbell ripped a puck from the circle past Stahel off assists from Chris Gratton and Eric Wright. The 2-0 lead held for the Express through the end of the first half.
Coming out of the intermission, Walpole quickly built a 3-0 lead when Peters found the net for a second time, assisted by Bryan Colburn just over two minutes in. Steady play from Smith in net held the Knights at bay until the 9:27. On a power play, Anthony Starzi and Denys Arkhypenko sifted the puck through traffic in front to find Jake Fuss on the back post for the Knights captain’s 19th goal of the season.
The Express responded 28 seconds later when William Lebel put home a 2-on-1 rush started by Peters. Smith and Stahel then engaged in a 10-minute trade of strong saves, with the Express holding the edge in number of chances. The Knights would finally break through Smith’s steady play at 19:49 when JP Natishan picked up his second goal of the season off a redirect of Zach Ouladelhadjahmed’s shot, set up by a Brady Hanson pass.
Within two, the Knights forecheck picked up its pace and intensity but could not solve Smith. Following an unsuccessful power play that expired at 23:42, the Knights pulled Stahel, who finished 36/40 on the day, shortly thereafter. The Express didn’t take long to ice the game, as Tyler Pietrzyk buried an empty-net goal, unassisted at 24:38.
At the horn, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-2 final. They’ll look to get back on track against the Boston Jr. Rangers at the Breakway Ice Centre this Friday, November 17th, at 7:50 pm EST. The game can be viewed on hockeytv.com. Stay tuned to @WBSKnightsEHL on twitter and visit easternhockeyleague.org for updates.