Still chasing fourth place in the South Conference through the final weeks of the 2017-18 regular season, the Knights entered their lone game of the weekend just four points behind their future playoff opponent, the New York Applecore. With New York idle until Monday, the Knights Saturday contest against the Junior Flyers provided an opportunity to climb another step closer to home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stormed out to an early advantage Saturday, dictating the early pace of play. In a period they out-shot Philadelphia 18-9, the Knights built an early 2-0 lead via goals from Tyler Nielsen at 8:58 and Nate Chuckran at 11:26.
Nielsen’s tally was a breakaway set up by Tyler Watungwa and Rhett Padgett in which Nielsen bested Junior Flyers goalie Garrett Stenberg for the 1-0 lead. Chuckran followed suit on a power play several minutes later when Emerson Emery found him alone in front of Stenberg for the quick score.
The Knights appeared to be destined for a 2-0 lead after one, but with 42 seconds left in the first, the Junior Flyers nabbed a late-period strike to halve the deficit. Connor Lenaghan beat Knights goalie Thomas Walker on a scramble around the net created by Billy McDevitt and Drew Platt.
When play picked up again in the second, it was Philadelphia building off the momentum of their score in the first. The Junior Flyers flipped the script, out-shooting the Knights 10-6 and nullifying each of their chances. For their part, the Knights would withstand Philadelphia’s attack for 19 of the second period’s 20 minutes. It would be yet another final-minute goal that would tie the contest. Nick Kiemel rallied the Junior Flyers to their second goal of the afternoon off feeds from Adrian Martinez and Gianni Dini.
Renewed push from both sides saw an uptick in physicality in the third. Each side traded an unsuccessful power play, while Walker and Stenberg stayed steady to keep the score locked at two. With overtime nearly a forgone conclusion, the Knights prepared a final push to close the period. They were rewarded just shy of the 19:00 mark when Jake Nimeh ripped home his sixth goal of the season, with assists coming from Bryan Whelan and Austin Weber.
With a minute remaining, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shut down the Junior Flyers last-ditch efforts to secure the 3-2 victory. The win pulls the Knights within two points of fourth place in the South Conference with two games to play in the regular season. The Knights will next take the ice at home against the Philadelphia Revolution on Friday March, 2nd at 4:00 PM EST. Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and easternhockeyleague.org for all news and updates as the Knights prepare for their playoff push!