Moral victories are absent from the mental dictionaries belonging to Knights players and coaches. Fans of the Knights can take heart that their team made some strides against the NAHL’s points leader last night.
The game started in a familiar fashion. The Rebels got on the board early when Gvido Jansons buried a puck past Grant Valentine on the game’s first powerplay. The Knights continued to struggle moving the puck cleanly out of their own end and through neutral ice for the majority of the first, and to that end they went into the intermission down 1-0.
Things got worse in the second when Drew Blackmun added his 5th goal of the season against the Knights just 30 seconds into play. The score, combined with an increase in physical play to end the prior period did seem to galvanize the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck. They began to create space and passing lanes and began mounting chances on stellar Aston goalie Mareks Mitens.
At 10:12, Mike Gelatt barrelled in alone, and rocketed a puck over Mitens’ shoulder to get the Knights on the board. The score snapped a scoring drought of over 197 minutes against the Rebels and Mitens.
Aided by a couple of close-quarter saves made by their Latvian netminder and a Knights penalty at 11:21, Aston responded quickly with Jansons netting his second goal of the evening, again on the powerplay. The period would end with the scored 3-1 in favor of Rebels.
The third period in Aston has been a nightmare for the Knights thus far this season. The team has seen close contests get away from them on more than one occasion in the final stanza at Ice Works. This game would be different.
The Knights came out of the dressing room with renewed purpose, and while on a penalty kill, they forced a pair of Aston penalties to create an eventual 5-on-3. Dorian Dawson capitalized, walking into the top of the slot to whip puck by Mitens to cut the deficit to one. The second penalty would be successfully killed by Aston.
The result built momentum for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck, as the team began sustaining offensive zone time with physical play along the wall. What was a 22-14 shot tilt favoring the Rebels was quickly erased as the Knights pulled even. A third penalty of the period by Aston put the Knights and Curtis Carlson back on the man-advantage. Carlson rewarded them with a snipe across the face of Mitens to notch the game at three with 10:08 remaining.
Aston didn’t allow for much celebration. Andrew Bellant wheeled his way free and put the Rebels back in the lead at 12:08. A Knights penalty at 16:55 gave Aston the opportunity for insurance, and they didn’t pass it up. Just after the penalty expired, Brennan Kapcheck took advantage of his team’s strong shift in the offensive zone and found the back of the net to put the game away.
With the loss, the Knights dropped their seventh straight to Aston, and second in a row overall. On the evening they went 2-4 against what had been the league’s best penalty kill unit entering the evening. They scored three goals on a netminder who’s season GAA was 1.27 and 1.02 against the Knights.
The result wasn’t what the they wanted, but the Knights will have the opportunity to build on the positives from yesterday’s game in short order. They’ll play the Johnstown Tomahawks at 7:30 pm at home in the Revolution Ice Centre.