Pittston, PA-A strong start does not ensure the same quality ending. The Knights were the unfortunate recipients of that lesson after picking up a pair of losses to Johnstown this weekend. The opening game to the 2016-17 season began on a high note with the Knights controlling the tempo and scoreboard for the majority of the first period.
Newcomer Vince Marino put the Knights on the board at the 7:47 mark (Carlson, Dawson) after he and forward Sam Antonitsch drove hard to the net allowing Marino to bury a rebound off Britt League’s pads. The goal came with just 12 seconds left on a 5-on-3 powerplay.
With under six minutes left in the period, Michael Morrissey dug a puck loose off the half wall and fed a waiting Jimmy Elser who then floated a knuckle puck off the glove of League to put the Knights ahead by two.
With less than a minute and a half left in a solid first period for the Knights, Dalton Hunter barreled down the left wing boards and ripped a shot past the glove of Grant Valentine to cut the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lead in half (Buncis, Quetell).
In the second set of 20, the game took a decided Johnstown turn, first on a powerplay goal from Steve Ott. Taking a Galambos pass from the low left corner, Ott, worked his way back up the zone before threading the needle with a cross-ice pass to Filips Buncis. Ott than wheeled his way back around to the top of the slot and ripped a goal past Valentine to tie the game at the 9:56 mark.
The Tomahawks then found their groove, with Alex Singley scoring on a two-on-one breakaway, and an Andrew Quetell rocket from the blue line to create a 4-2 lead.
The Knights rebounded in an improved third period as the physicality and intensity increased. Adrian Danchenko crashed the crease hard on a late powerplay to bring the Knights within one at 7:38 off assists from Markus Komuls and Joe Campolieto.
At 12:13, with the Knights on the kill, Vince Marino found a loose puck and streaked through the right side of the ice. As he worked his way past the last wave of back checkers, the Tomahawks pulled him to the ice, causing officials to award Marino a penalty shot.
Making his way right to left, Marino closed quickly in on Britt League, but the netminder calmly slid back into his crease and stonewalled the Knights would-be equalizer. Despite a few quality chances coming late, and pulling the goalie Grant Valentine in the final minutes, the Knights were unable to find the tying tally, handing Johnstown their first win and the Knights their first loss on the season.
Following a hard-fought one goal loss, the Knights took the ice on Saturday eagerly looking to salvage the weekend with a series-splitting win.
Following a quiet 13:10 to open the contest, the Tomahawks got on the board following Josh Norman picking up the loose change left by a heavy Riley Doyon offering in front of Knights goalie Grant Valentine.
Matt Kidney, the Knights 2016 first round draft pick provided a late period response by dekeing and dragging his way through neutral ice before rocketing a back door pass to 2015 first round draft pick Braden Brown for the easy goal.
Kidney was far from finished. Following a scoreless 18 minutes to open the second period, Kidney and Brown found themselves spearheading the Knights penalty kill unit. Brown checked the puck loose following the opening faceoff and defenseman Brendan Pepe lobbed a pass to the zone-exiting Kidney who was then joined by Brown on a two-on-one breakaway. Once the duo gained the offensive zone, Kidney looked off the defense with a glance at Brown before landing a laser-like shot over the glove of Johnstown goalie Vinnie Purpura.
The craziness had only just begun, despite less than two minutes remaining in the period. On the Tomahawks ensuing trip down the ice, Knights defenseman Markuss Komuls raced back to the puck under his own goal line and seemingly made a routine attempt at wrapping the puck around the boards. Instead, the puck took a jarring bounce off the corner glass, placing itself perfectly at the feet of an open Steve Ott at the top of the slot. For the second time in as many days, Ott ripped the powerplay goal by Valentine.
Hockey karma would smile on Komuls, as a few minutes later the Tomahawks drew a penalty. On the ensuing faceoff, Brown pulled the faceoff back to the left point where Joseph Campolieto cycled the puck over to Komuls who fired a goal past a screened Purpura to send the Knights to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.
In the final period of play, the Tomahawks would answer, and do so loudly. Two eerily similar wrap around goals came off the sticks of Dalton Hunter and Nick Bruce within the first 5:06 of play.
Also eerily similar was the way in which the Knights tied the game. Just as he had done the night before, Vince Marino crashed the net alongside Sam Antonitsch. Just as he did the night before, Marino picked up a rebound off the pads of the Johnstown goalie coming off a heavy shot from the point.
And just as the night before, the Knights were unable to prevent the Tomahawks from regaining the lead. Dalton Hunter weaved and danced his way through two back checking Knights before blasting a shot past Valentine for the 5-4 lead.
This lead would stick as Tommy Horn iced the game with an empty net goal in the final minute of play.
Weekend Point Totals:
The Knights will look to bounce back with a two-game series against the New Jersey Titans this weekend. They’ll host the Titans Friday at 7:30 pm before traveling to New Jersey on Saturday for face off at 7:30 pm.