Photo Credit: Jessica Kovalcin
The Knights kicked off a three-game weekend with their fifth meeting against the Philadelphia Little Flyers Friday afternoon. With both teams missing regulars in the lineup, the contest would prove a good test of mettle and depth for both benches.
JP Natishan put the Knights ahead early after Anthony Starzi found the forward streaking through a soft-spot in the Little Flyers back check. Natishan scored the game’s first goal when he skated in alone through the slot and put a shot past the glove of Philadelphia’s starter Brendahn Brawley.
Both sides exchanged solid looks on net with Brawley and Knights starter Thomas Walker fending off their remaining tests in the opening 11 minutes. Even without leading scorer Jake Fuss, the Knights forecheck continually applied pressure on the attack, drawing a penalty just after the halfway point of the period.
Less than a minute into the Knights man advantage, the Little Flyers capitalized on a bouncing puck through neutral ice as Joey Savel and Trevor Lewandoski fed Alex Ochterbeck through the middle to set up a shorthanded chance. Ochterbeck worked his way in alone on Walker where he backhanded a puck to the twine to tie the game at one at 11:00.
The Knights wouldn’t dwell on the miscue, and would draw another penalty at 11:15 to create a 5-on-3 advantage. With three seconds left in the initial penalty, Nick Peck fired a shot through traffic to best Brawley and give the Knights back the lead at 12:07. Anthony Starzi picked up the lone assist on the tally.
Before the end of the first, the Knights would get an added lift, when off a board battle on the left wing of neutral ice, Tyler Nielsen dragged the puck into the offensive zone before flipping a pass to an oncoming Alex Morawski. The latter forward barreled into the slot and ripped a shot through the pads of Brawley to give the Knights a 3-1 advantage at 16:34.
With a two-goal lead heading into the middle frame, the Knights looked to continue their impressive start with a clean, physical attack. Instead, the team was assessed four penalties in a sequence of events that would turn the second period into a costly quagmire. On a 5-on-3 power play at 8:48, Mitchell Hall found a rebound off an Ochterbeck shot, burying it past Walker from the middle of the slot to cut the lead to one. The play was set up on the cycle from Brendan Coughlin.
Five minutes later, the Little Flyers created an odd-man rush when Ricky Walsh, from Brendan Coughlin, found a streaking Ryan Vogt, who hammered the puck past Walker to tie the game at three. On their fourth power play of the afternoon, Alex Ochterbeck found himself open to the side of Walker following crisp passing from Nick Magill-Diaz and Joey Savel. The Little Flyers leading scorer paused just long enough for a space to open as Walker moved to meet him. Seeing his spot, Ochterbeck pulled the trigger for his second goal of the game.
Ochterbeck wasn’t done. In the final 30 seconds of the frame, he skated to the middle of a 3-on-1 rush from which he netted a hat trick on assists from Cale Coor and Magill-Diaz. At the end of the period, the Knights found themselves down 5-3.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton started the third quickly, as Tyler Nielsen brought his team back within one on a power play goal at 3:01 (Nate Chuckran, Alex Morawski). Nielsen’s 10th tally spurred more pressure from the Knights, as they rebounded from a quiet second with several quality chances and extended time in the offensive zone. Despite the improvement, Brendahn Brawley settled in, diverting the remaining chances sent his way, with help from an active defense that blocked a number of shots on goal.
After enduring the Knights fifth power play of the game, the Little Flyers found the insurance they needed when Octherbeck notched his fourth goal of the contest at 14:12 (Stanislav Haurus, Savel). The renewed two-goal lead proved too steep a hill to climb.
At the final horn, the Knights dropped the contest by a score of 6-4. They’ll look to bounce back against the Junior Flyers in Philadelphia tomorrow at 5:00 pm EST, before visiting the Little Flyers for a Sunday rematch at 12:45 pm. Both games will be broadcast on www.hockeytv.com. Follow the Knights on Twitter @WBSKnightsEHL and visit www.easternhockeyleague.org for updates!