Carlson, Morrissey, Fuss lead way in thriller
In a season series that has been as even as any in the 2016-17 season, the Knights and Titans met Friday night with the head to head locked in a 5-5 draw. In their 10 prior meetings to Friday night, each team had registered 41 goals against the other, while both squads had five wins, for losses and a loss in OT/shootout a piece. Despite both teams already knowing their final standing and opponent in next week’s first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs, the theme of parity would not end Friday.
With the Knights sloppy out of the gate, the Titans quickly took advantage, drawing a penalty in the offensive zone just 65 seconds into the contest. Less than a minute into the man advantage, Titans captain William Riedell ripped a point shot through traffic past Grant Valentine to put the Titans on the board.
After shaking off the goal and the slow start, the Knights initiated offensive pressure of their own, and began to successfully establish a presence in front of New Jersey netminder Ryan Ferland. Exactly 12 minutes after the Titans goal, Michael Morrissey found affiliate player Tom Farrell cutting to the back post and threaded a perfect pass to the crashing defenseman for his first-career NAHL goal.
In the minutes that followed the Knights would continue to drive hard to the net, creating chances around the Ryan Ferland, forcing the goalie to make several difficult saves through traffic in front. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton offense would rally following a disallowed goal, burying a legitimate score at 16:51 when Curtis Carlson rammed a puck home on the power play.
The Titans would not go quietly into intermission. Sticking with what had worked earlier in the period, Titans defenseman Oskar Stromberg floated a perfectly-placed point shot past Grant Valentine to tie the game at two to close the first period.
In the opening shifts of the second, Stromberg would re-introduce the rubber to the twine, as again the big blue-liner ripped a shot home to give the Titans a 3-2 lead.
The Knights would not wilt. Their forecheck again made a habit of crashing the net and playing the boards throughout the second period. Their efforts were rewarded at 7:02 when Curtis Carlson placed a perfect pass to the front of the net to a waiting Mike Morrissey, who in turned, stuffed the puck home.
Like Stromberg in the first and second period, Morrissey followed up his first goal with the game’s next score in the third. Again crashing hard to the net, Morrissey’s score was set up on efforts from Vince Marino and Paul Cimilluca to give the Knights a 4-3 lead at 3:02.
Despite dictating tempo for good portions of the period, the Knights would again be foiled by another disallowed goal and then frustrated further when the Titans tied the game halfway through the stanza. Set up by Stromberg and deft maneuvering down low by Hunter Alden, Gordie Helmuth tucked a puck through Valentine’s legs to draw the score even at four.
Despite Stromberg missing a hat trick off the pipe and the Knights failing to score on over a minute of 5-on-3 advantage, neither team was able to find the game-winner in regulation. This drought extended into overtime even after the Knights had 1:45 of carryover time on the power play to begin the extra five minute period. With both sides deadlocked at the end of 65 minutes, the Knights and Titans headed to their second shootout in as many meetings.
After a high-scoring affair in regulation, the scoring drought extended beyond overtime and through the first nine skaters in the shootout. Grant Valentine went a perfect five-for-five stopping, Kyler Head, Jordan Kaplan, Greg Malafronte, Gordie Helmuth and Oskar Stromberg, patiently mirroring each challenger and rejecting each of their offerings.
Ryan Ferland was similarly excellent through the first four Knights. The fifth was Jake Fuss, fresh off his first NAHL goal and assist on Tuesday. Fuss moved in from the left circle and crossed the face of Ferland before flipping the puck up and over his stick to seal the win. The win gave the Knights their 29th of the season and their 6th against the Titans.
PLEASE NOTE: Saturday night’s game scheduled for 7:30 pm has been postponed due to a technical malfunction. The game has been moved to Monday, April 10th at 1 pm at the Revolution Ice Centre.