Knights back over .500 with dramatic win
Entering Friday, the Knights were in search of a strong start their March campaign-a month that will see them play three games this weekend before a two-week road trip for four games in Alaska. Being just the fourth game in the prior 26 days, the Knights entered their final regular season meeting with Aston on Friday night a well-rested roster. That didn’t mean things hadn’t been hard in recent games. Of the prior three, two were decided by shootout, and one by a three-goal rally by Johnstown in the third. All three ended in losses.
Their luck against Aston has not been much better. Heading into Friday night, the Rebels boasted a league-best 25 wins at home to go along with a just two regulation losses and one in OT. They were a perfect 5-0 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the Ice Works Skating Complex.
Things had a familiar feel when just six minutes into the first, Evgeny Yakovlev deflected a puck past Grant Valentine to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead. The Knights however, did not falter. Through a low-shot, back and forth period, the Knights were presented with a power play opportunity when Yakovlev was sent to the box with just over three minutes left in the frame. With 15 seconds left on the man advantage, Mike Gelatt would respond with the equalizer on his 10th tally of the season from Robinson and Dawson.
The second period would follow a similar script. Shot totals again failed to crack double digits for both teams as defense dictated the game’s tempo. The Knights penalty kill was able to fend off two power play chances in the period’s first six minutes, providing frustration to the Rebels 3rd-ranked power play unit. After being granted an opportunity on the man-advantage at 14:46, the Knights were again able to capitalize. Following a cycle and shot from Matt Kidney and Elijah Latimer, Curtis Carlson scooped up the loose change in front and beat Jack Leavy inside the post at 16:26.
Entering the third, the Knights found themselves with a rare lead over the Rebels. After being frustrated by Grant Valentine and the Knights defense and penalty kill, Aston finally broke through at 6:06 into the third when captain Dom Garcia scored off helpers from Brennan Kapcheck and Dustin Manz. The final 14 minutes saw each team fail on a power play and both goalies standing tall enough to force overtime.
Having already played a total of 10 minutes of overtime in two of their last three games, the Knights were no strangers to the prospect of 3-on-3. Perhaps that is why Aston managed just one shot in the extra frame, as the Knights did well to limit grade-A chances on goal. That being said, the Knights managed just one shot of their own, punctuated by a dramatic breakaway by Adrian Danchenko in the final seconds of OT. Though he was ultimately denied by a last-second hooking by Kapcheck, the resulting nine-second power play, also unsuccessful, provided the Knights a shot of momentum transitioning into the shootout.
Sam Antonitsch began Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s third shootout effort in their last four games by ringing a shot off the post. Carter Wooley responded with a goal to put the Rebels up 1-0. Paul Maust answered with his second shootout tally in as many tries. Grant Valentine’s stop of Andrew Hart set the score even at 1 heading into a pivotal round three. Both Valentine and Leavy stopped their challengers in Reed Robinson and Jensen Zerban, respectively to force a round four. Adrian Danchenko, given his second chance in alone and this time unencumbered by a trailing defenseman, drew Leavy out of the net and maneuvered around the falling goalie to flip puck home and the Knights ahead 2-1. Valentine then stoned Brennan Kapcheck to close out the regular season series against Aston with a dramatic win.
Now back over .500 at 24-23-1-3, the Knights will return to the Revolution Ice Centre Saturday for a home-and-home series with the Northeast Generals.