Friday Final: Knights 4, Rebels 2

Friday’s match up with the Philadelphia Rebels pitted the Knights against their division rivals for the fourth consecutive game. Having lost the prior three meetings, the Knights entered play determined to reverse the course of the last week of play.

Christian Stoever and the Knights defenders withstood a barrage of Early Philadelphia chances, as the Rebels jumped out to an early shot advantage of 11-2. The Knights swung the pendulum in the opposite direction near the midway point of the opening period, capitalizing on a failed, yet aggressive power play to build offensive chances.

At the 13:25 mark, Michael Morrissey surprised goalie Eli Billing as he came out to play a puck behind the goal line. Billing was able to hand the puck off to a teammate, but in the hurried exchange, the puck was pulled free by Morrissey. The Knights assistant captain found Jack Olmstead further behind the line, where Olmstead then fed an open Mike Gelatt in front. The other assistant captain buried the puck over the shoulder of the returned Billing to claim the 1-0 lead.

The Knights barrage of chances increased in wake of the goal, and in the period’s final minute they would strike again. Tyrone Bronte, off helpers from Thomas Farrell and Blake Kryska, burst down the right wing and around the last Rebels defender. In the process, the Australian forward cut sharply in front of Billing, who opened the five hole just wide enough for Bronte to slip the puck through, putting the Knights up 2-0 in the final minute of the first.

The lone score of the second period would come quickly, as in the period’s first minute the Rebels committed an early slashing penalty. Instead of the Knights power play cashing in, a quick Wilkes-Barre/Scranton turnover at the top of the Rebels zone turned into a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush the other way. Auggie Moore deftly slid the puck across the Knights zone to a crashing Eric Olson, who ripped a shot past Christian Stoever to halve the Knights lead.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would respond with a heavy dose of shots through the remainder of the man advantage, but Eli Billing (33 saves) had settled in. The ’97 netminder stopped a staggering 20 shots in the period to keep the Knights to just two goals in the game’s first 40 minutes.

In the third period, play slowed through the first 10 minutes. Shots registered in just the single digits as each side played catch through neutral ice. Finally the Knights broke through when Shay Donovan slid a puck to Lincoln Hatten to create a 2-on-1. Hatten, in a mirror image to Olson’s earlier shorthanded assist, slid the puck perfectly across the slot to the streaking Reed Robinson. The Rockwall, Texas native blasted a puck past the sliding Billing to establish a 3-1 lead for the Knights at the 7:12 marker.

The Rebels would not go quietly. After being blanked on their first two power play tries, Philadelphia would return to their usual success, just past the 13:30 mark in the third. Carson Moniz fed Aaron Maguyon, whose shot forced Christian Stoever to make a diving save. While the rebound kicked out to Jensen Zerban, Stoever hit the ice. Unable to reset and stand in time, Stoever (37 saves) and the Knights could only watch as Zerban cranked home his 17th goal of the season, trimming the lead back to one.

With time winding out, both sides fired up their final pushes to a conclusion. With just over a minute remaining, Billing left the net for an extra attacker. Shortly thereafter, Tyrone Bronte broke out of his own zone with a pass through the middle of neutral ice to Adrian Danchenko. With a deft one-touch pass, Danchenko found Matt Kidney in the middle of the offensive zone. Kidney walked the puck to the open net before emphatically slamming the door on the Rebels comeback.

The empty net goal brought about the final score of 4-2, with the Knights securing their 25th win of the season. They’ll look to keep their momentum rolling with a road trip to New Jersey Tonight for a 7:00 pm EST puck drop against the New Jersey Titans. A regulation win would pull the Knights into a tie for second place in the East with the Titans, a spot which Wilkes-Barre/Scranton held for the majority of the season. Tune in on www.hockeytv.com, and follow along on Knights social media:

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