Knights drop final regular season meeting with Tomahawks in yet another nail-biter
Basking in the awe of the 40th anniversary of the hockey epic Slapshot, the rink it was filmed in and a ceremonial puck drop featuring the film’s legendary Hanson brothers, one could reasonably expect two star struck teams on the ice for Saturday’s matinee action. Instead fans were treated to a typical Knights-Tomahawks matchup; speed, lead changes and an abundance of physicality.
As they did the night before, the Knights struck first in game’s opening period when Reed Robinson notched his 10th tally of the year on assists from Michael Morrissey and Joey Verkerke. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went to the dressing room with the lead in both shots and goals, leading 1-0 and 13-9, respectively.
The second period saw the Tomahawks bounce back, mounting more sustained offensive pressure to the tune of a 14-6 shot advantage and an equalizer at 13:14 from Riley Doyon set up by Hayden Rowan and Evan Somoza. Both teams’ penalty kill units proved sturdy once again as both went a perfect 2-2 through the first 40 minutes of play.
Through a pitched third period of play, Donovan Ott was first to find the net for the 25th time on the year at 9:34. The 2-1 Johnstown lead held for just under five minutes before Paul Maust scored for the second straight game, tying the contest at two. Both netminders would stand tall with Vinnie Purpura stopping 12 of 13 and Valentine saving 9 of 10 to send the game to overtime.
The Tomahawks would take the initiative in the extra frame, mounting a slew of chances on the Knights net. Things only became more difficult for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when they were assessed a double-minor for high-sticking for the final 2:52 of OT. Through it all, Grant Valentine would prevail, stopping all seven shots he faced including a breakaway and a handful of chances from in close.
In the shootout, the Knights were given the first shot. Round one saw Michael Morrissey turned away by Purpura and Dalton Hunter stoned by Valentine. Round two would feature a beautiful deke and score from Paul Maust only to be answered by Nick Bruce beating Valentine up high under the crossbar. Both teams’ sticks would go silent for five rounds before Josh Norman buried the game-winner in the eighth round.
The final meeting between the Knights and Tomahawks for the 2016-17 regular season was a perfect representation of the competitive nature of the season series. Despite the Tomahawks taking the total tilt by a 9-3 margin, the head-to-head consistently played down to the wire. Of their 12 matchups, nine were decided by one goal. Four games went to overtime with two having to be settled in the shootout. The Knights won both games decided in overtime, while Johnstown took both games that went to the shootout.
Now at 23-23-1-3, the Knights will have a nice layoff to regroup before the next competition on the road in Aston on March 10th.