A slow start gave way to a dominant finish as the Knights erase 4-goal deficit to stun New York in overtime
It’s not how you start, but how you finish. The famous line may be uttered often, but it makes it no less relevant in the world of ice hockey.
On Monday afternoon’s contest with the New York Bobcats Royals, the phrase had to have been present in the back of the Knights collective thoughts as they watched their opponents race ahead to a 4-0 lead.
Things began clicking for the Bobcats Royals out of the gate, as in the game’s first minute, forward Bryan Whelan hopped on a turnover under the Knights blue line and in alone, made a nifty move in front of Knights goalie Thomas Walker for the 1-0 lead. From there, the Bobcats Royals attack ultimately ran through their captain Matthew Araujo. The left-handed defenseman scored the game’s second goal at 5:44 with a power play rocket off assists from Bryan Whelan and Anthony Zyller.
Arajuo would strike again at 16:18 on another well-placed shot (Thomas Fagan, Connor Blair) to build a 3-0 lead that would hold through the end of the period.
With the Knights looking to turn things around in the middle frame, they came out with an aggressive tempo to start the second, but an offensive zone turnover forced by Araujo led to his assist on former Knight, Louie Kuka’s breakaway goal, putting New York up 4-0 in the game’s first 22 minutes. After the score, Knights coach Josh Fusco replaced Thomas Walker with Jared Stahel in net.
Stahel settled in and made few tough saves to keep the game from getting out of hand. It was around the 15 minute mark of the period that the Knights began to find their stride. As their forecheck gained steam in the attacking zone, the Bobcats Royals took a two-minute penalty for interference, sending Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to their first power play of the game at 15:22. Just 38 seconds in, Rhett Padgett poked and weaved the puck through the offensive zone, before burying it through the traffic in front of New York goaltender Niklas Butchma.
The Knights first goal was quickly answered by an Araujo hat trick assisted by Jason Santoriello and Thomas Fagan 54 seconds later. With the period winding down, the Knights attack refused to quit. At 18:12 Alex Morawski set up Anthony Starzi, who notched his first goal of his junior hockey career, beating Butchma to trim the deficit back to three.
With their forecheck humming through the end of the period, the Knights drew another penalty and power play opportunity with just 14 seconds left in the second. Though they were unsuccessful in scoring on the man-advantage that bridged 1:46 into the third period, the Knights were able to generate sustained offensive pressure and scoring chances. Niklas Butchma’s steady play kept them at bay, as it had for the majority of the first 40 minutes, but the disadvantage of New York having a short bench finally showed its effect in the third period.
The Knights presence in the offensive end of the ice built rapidly in the opening minutes of the frame as the Bobcats Royals were consistently caught chasing in their own end. At the 4:17 mark, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman David Pfoestl fired a missile from the point that banked off a New York leg and past Butchma to bring the Knights within two.
Another Bobcats Royals penalty followed at 4:45, and while the Knights again were kept out of the net by several strong saves by Butchma, their was no shortage of quality chances.
At 8:20 the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck drew their fourth power play of the game, an area that Alex Morawski is quickly turning into a specialty. The Lake Worth, Florida native found the twine for the third time this season, assisted by fixtures Jake Fuss and Rhett Padgett.
Having seen their lead shrink to one, the Bobcats Royals pushed their way back on the attack, but were turned aside by Stahel’s steady relief effort and a Knights forecheck that was quick and dangerous in transition. In a game they had once trailed 4-0, the the Knights drew even when Anthony Starzi, parked in front of the net, tipped home an offering from Morawski at 15:09 for his second goal of the game.
Regulation would prove to be too short to name a winner, as both teams headed to overtime desperate to earn two points. The Knights wouldn’t take long as just 49 seconds into the extra period of 3-on-3, Starzi started a cycle to Padgett who ripped a shot to the front of the net where a waiting Jake fuss tipped it home for the Knights exhilirating win.
The team improved to 3-3 on the young season. They’ll be back at it for a home-and-home on Saturday, September 30th at 2:30 pm and Sunday, October 1st at 2:00 pm against the Connecticut Rough Riders. Both games are free to attend at the Revolution Ice Centre, and the game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Follow @WBSKnightsEHL on twitter and the live box score at easternhockeyleague.org for live updates!