Team finds itself in a familiar, unfortunate role
BLAINE, MN-The Knights started their NAHL showcase off looking to earn their second straight win in a row. Since touchdown in Blaine, the Knights lineup has seen the return of a couple of familiar faces. Paul Maust returns to the Knights for a second season in the NAHL, a year removed from being a top six forward for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 15-16-31 in 59 games. The 98 birth year plays larger than his size, brings a rare mixture of physicality, speed and skill. Joining Maust in a return of sorts was defenseman Dorian Dawson, who had been out since the opener with an injury.
Unfortunately the duo could not prevent the reading of what has become an all too familiar script. As they have in three of their now four losses this season, the Knights put two periods of good hockey together only to be thwarted by one ugly 20 minutes of play.
Despite an early first period goal put on the board by forward Caleb White at 7:04, the Knights got off to a decent enough start against the Minnesota Magicians. They equalized White’s offering with Curtis Carlson’s first career NAHL goal at 8:14 as he crashed the net to bury a Paul Cimilluca rebound. The Knights would pick up three penalties in the period, but were a perfect 3-for-3 on the kill, anchored by the strong play of Grant Valentine in net.
Despite spending significant time in the box, the Knights were able to answer the Magicians’ speed with a physical tempo of their own, answering eight shots on Valentine with eight of their own. Their efforts forced a late slashing penalty committed by Travis Brown at the 19:17 that would carry over to the second period.
With that powerplay opportunity came added momentum as in the second stanza, as the Knights controlled possession in the offensive zone. Shortly after the Magicians returned to full strength, the Knights strong offensive play culminated in Matt Kidney ripping an offering off a feed from under the goal line past Minnesota netminder Daniil Gerasimov.
The 2-1 lead would grow a little more than halfway through the period as the Knights would strike again, this time on the powerplay after Vince Marino put back an Aiden Beck rebound to extend the lead to 3-1. Looking for some kind of spark, the Magicians relieved Gerasimov for David Fessenden.
Despite the lead, the Knights could not stay out of the penalty box. Having already had four opportunities, including one double minor, the Knights gave the Magicians a fifth opportunity at 19:41 in the second period. Minnesota used the advantage to start an avalanche of chances for the rest of the way.
Nikita Kozyrev notched his first NAHL goal in the waning seconds of the carryover powerplay to cut the lead to one. Four minutes later Cameron Buhl jumped on an odd-man rush and buried a loose puck over the shoulder of Valentine to tie the game at three.
Will Hammer lived up to his last name at 13:29 into the 3rd placing the proverbial nail in the coffin as he crashed the net hard and slammed a puck past Valentine to give Minnesota the 4-3 lead. That lead would hold up as the Knights spent much of the remaining time hemmed in their own zone, with their few offensive chances being swallowed up by the 6-6 frame of Fessenden.
The loss drops the Knights to 1-4. They’ll look to rebound against the Aberdeen Wings on day two of their NAHL Showcase schedule.