Special Teams, Antonitsch and Gelatt Lead the Way
Coming off a tough weekend in Fairbanks, the Knights entered Friday night looking to reverse the fortunes of their road trip in a meeting with the Kenai River Brown Bears.
The intensity of game three in Alaska was established in the early stages when Knights captain Tim Gelatt dropped the gloves with Brown Bears forward Carter Wade. The bout was quickly followed up by a slew roughing penalties less than a minute later that saw both teams send players to box.
Following an unsuccessful Knights power play, both teams hunkered down and channeled their adrenaline into a spirited, back and forth first period. After going nearly 18 minutes without a goal, Knights blue liner Paul Cimilluca notched his second tally of the season on assists from Paul Maust (25) and Michael Morrissey (8). The first ended in a 1-0 Knights lead on the scoreboard and 10-7 advantage in shots.
The second period began in similar fashion to the first, with an early Kenai River high-sticking penalty setting the tone. The Knights again would fail to score on the man advantage, but would soon be find more opportunities. At 5:02 Dorian Dawson and Jack Vincent dropped their gloves for the game’s second fight, shortly followed by the Brown Bears heading back to the box for a tripping penalty. This time the Knights would succeed on the power play when Mike Gelatt beat Robbie Goor for his 11th goal of the season (Antonitsch 20, Kidney 21).
The Knights followed up their tally with sloppy play, committing three penalties in the five minutes that followed Gelatt’s goal. Despite over a minute on the 5-on-3 kill, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton withstood each infraction, backed by their steady penalty kill and workhorse netminder Grant Valentine making his eighth-straight start. Kenai’s penalty kill got its turn when it withstood 44 seconds of 5-on-3 before killing off two penalties to close the second period.
Entering the third the Brown Bears forecheck found its stride. In the frame’s first 5:22, Kenai River struck twice off goals from Luke Radetic (Kaplan 8, Marzec 24) and Marzec (unassisted). With the game even at two, both teams buckled down once more, with just one penalty coming per side in the period. For the Brown Bears, their lone infraction would prove costly.
With just over four minutes left in regulation, Mike Gelatt (20) and Dorian Dawson (25) set up Sam Antonitsch’s 17th goal of the season on the power play. Vince Marino followed up the eventual game-winner with an insurance tally of his own at 16:31 coming off helpers from Adrian Danchenko (6) and Andrew Jackson (5). The 4-2 score would hold up as Valentine and the Knights back check fended off the last handful of Brown Bear chances to secure the victory.
With the win, the Knights improve to 27-25-4 as they ready themselves for the postseason. Their playoff push is currently being bolstered by a penalty kill that again represented itself well, going a perfect 6-for-6 on Friday night keeping the team firmly entrenched in the league’s top 10 units at 7th with a kill rate of 84.1% . The power play continues to make progress, now up to 16.7% success rate on the season with their 2-for-5 performance against the Brown Bears. The team and its players will get another opportunity to build on last night’s performance with a rematch slated for 7:30 pm Alaska Standard Time/ 11:30 pm Eastern tonight in Kenai River.