The two-game series with Aston got off to a rocky start last night as the Rebels took the first contest in convincing fashion.
The first shift of the game for the Knights was spurred along by the return of centreman Braden Brown, and for an extended stretch, the Knights held and created a few quality chances in the offensive zone. The Rebels survived the early onslaught and quickly settled in defensively.
For the next 10 minutes thereafter both teams locked in a pitched defensive affair. Finally, following a collision in neutral ice that freed the puck, Ryan Solomon collected the loose change and fired one through the five-hole of Colt Hanks.
The Knights didn’t take long to respond. Five minutes later, Khristian Acosta continued his quick start in the NAHL with a snipe that beat Mareks Mitens to tie the game at one.
The first period came to close in a one-to-one draw, and shot totals weighing in at a low 7-6 in favor of Aston.
The second period began in a similar fashion, again with both teams having trouble setting up on the puck in each other’s zone. A boarding penalty assessed to Andrew Jackson allowed a potent Aston powerplay its second opportunity of the evening.
Just 22 seconds into the chance, Andreas Maier took a slick offering from Brennan Kapcheck and rifled a shot under the crossbar to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead. It was one they would not relinquish.
The Knights would muster just eight shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of play. The chances they placed on net were stopped by the red-hot Mitens, who continues to lead the league in most goaltending categories.
In the third, the Rebels opened with a blistering pace and physical forecheck that kept the Knights hemmed in their own zone for a good portion of the game’s final 20 minutes.
Adding insurance to the Aston lead first was Ryan Patrick. At the 9:37 mark he followed up a rebound and poked it around Colt Hanks to give the Rebels a 3-1 advantage.
A little less than five minutes later Gianluca Esteves bested Hanks again after Evgeny Yakovlev fought and won the board battle and fed Esteves in front.
The Knights would respond with pulling their goalie with a little more than four minutes to play. They’d gain valuable zone time with the extra attacker, but still could not solve Mitens.
With exactly three minutes left in regulation, Drew Blackmun navigated around a sprawling Tim Gelatt to tap home the empty netter, finishing the scoring in a definitive 5-1 manner.
The Knights will look to rebound with another matchup with the Rebels tonight at the Revolution Ice Centre at 7:30 pm.