Late special teams’ miscues pave the way for heartbreak against Tomahawks
Entering Friday’s action, the Knights and Tomahawks were two of the NAHL’s hottest teams. For their part, the Knights were winners of eight of their last 10 contests. The Tomahawks boasted an impressive 12 wins in their last 13 games, had yielded just nine goals in their last eight outings and perhaps most importantly, they began the night with two games in hand over the Knights in the head-to-head tilt.
Things got off to a very fast Wilkes-Barre/Scranton start with their forecheck finding twine twice in the first three and a half minutes. The first goal of the night was Matt Kidney’s 13th on the season, set up by Curtis Carlson’s 16th and Dorian Dawson’s 22nd assists. Carlson followed with a tally of his own to join the team’s double-digit goal scorers, with a role-reversing Kidney (16) and Elser (7) supplying the helpers.
Hayden Rowan (Bokun, Kile) would provide Johnstown’s first answer at 6:25 to temporarily halve the deficit. Sam Antonitsch would tack one back on at 17:15 following a beautiful feed from Joey Kubachka to eventually send the Knights to the dressing room with a 3-1 advantage.
Though everyone has long since tired of hearing the adage, Johnstown proved the fickle nature of two-goal leads once again as they broke out of the locker room with purpose. In eerily similar fashion to the timing of the Knights first two goals, Logan Stork combined with Josh Biasillo to tally a pair of scores to tie the game in the period’s first 3:22. Following his tip of fellow European Markuss Komuls’ points shot, Sam Antonitsch would again provide the answer, giving the Knights a 4-3 lead at 10:22 with his second goal of the evening.
As the period wore on and the Tomahawks continued to mount pressure, the Knights would run into penalty trouble in the last quarter of the frame. A successful Knights kill would quickly be overshadowed as upon the return to even strength, Tommy Horn would fire a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton turnover to an open Nick Bruce, who in turn ripped it on by Matteo Esposito to once again draw the teams even.
With eight combine goals in the game’s first 40 minutes of play, it was easy to surmise that more scoring would be on the way. From the blade of Mike Morrissey, the Knights would yet again retake the lead following the setup from Dorian Dawson (23) and Joe Schuler (9). In the immediate aftermath, both teams’ forechecks stalled with a plethora of stoppages and solid saves made by both Esposito and Johntown’s Drew Hotte.
With the Tomahawks banished to the sin bin for 2:00 over halfway through the third, it appeared Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was in prime position to put the game on ice. Nick Bruce had other ideas as at 13:47, he pulled away from the Knights power play to record just the second shorthanded goal allowed by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton all year.
With the game tied once again and momentum on their side, Johnstown found itself nearing the expiration of a power play chance within the final three and a quarter minutes of play. This time Dalton Hunter would play the role of hero, scoring his 20th goal of the season (Pilewicz, Buncis) to give the ‘Hawks the lead for good.
With the valiant empty net/extra attacker effort turned away as time expired, the Knights dropped their fourth straight game to the Tomahawks and fell for just the third time in the 2017 calendar year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Upon further review, Andrew Quetell was credited by the league with an empty net goal (Rowan, Hale) at 19:59 in the third, making the final score of this game officially 7-5.
They’ll have the opportunity to bounce back Saturday night in Johnstown for 7:00 pm rematch with the surging Tomahawks, now winners of 13 of their last 14.