NAHL: Knights Close Alaska Trip with Loss to Fairbanks

On Saturday night, the Knights met the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for the fourth and final time in the 2017-18 regular season, looking for their first victory against a team riding a 20-game winning streak.

The Ice Dogs struck quickly in a relatively quiet first period that saw just 12 combined shots on net. At 6:51 Tanner Schachle continued his successful season by putting his 22nd goal past Knights starter David Tomeo, coming off assists from Grant Ledford and Connor Chilton. Fairbanks backcheck allowed little to develop for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the remainder of period with Logan Neaton keeping the Knights three shots at bay.

Early in the second, it appeared the Knights would finally get their offense going when Jack Olmstead danced his way into the Ice Dogs zone before setting up Tom Farrell for a backhanded goal. After deliberation, the officials proceeded to disallow the score, stating that the net had come off its moorings.

Fairbanks didn’t blink. Samuel Ruffin came right back down the ice to bury a goal past Tomeo on the ensuing shift (Daniel Haider, Jack Johnston) for a 3-0 lead at 3:12. John Stampohar added to the advantage with another tally just over three minutes later off assists from Robert Blueger and the aforementioned Schachle.

The Knights would finally catch a break when Mike Morrissey would set up Adrian Danchenko who in turn  threaded a perfect, home-run pass to Reed Robinson for a breakaway just under a minute later. Robinson would drive all the way in on Neaton and then put home his own rebound to cut the score to 3-1.

Fairbanks did not allow any further momentum, as their offense came  back on a power play dart from Robert Blueger at 13:09 (Kyle Mayhew, Schachle). Before the Knights could leave the period to regroup, Jack Johnston, set up by Ruffin and Jax Murray, poked a wraparound by Tomeo for the 5-1 advantage.

In the third Connor Chilton would strike early to put a damper on any hopes of a Knights rally. Chilton bested the Knights defense as he shook off heavy traffic in front to flip a puck home at 5:15 (Vanska, Schachle).

Anthony Firriolo wouldn’t go down quietly as he buried a power play goal set up by Jack Olmstead and Curtis Carlson at 6:05, his second of the season. If there was one silver lining on the weekend for the Knights, it was that they were able to turn in a 3/8 (37.5%) performance against the NAHL’s best penalty kill.

Jack Johnston picked up his second goal of the contest just over a minute later with helpers coming from Murray and Ruffin.

At the final horn the Knights left the rink on the wrong end of a 7-2 loss. They’ll look to bounce back with a road series in Johnstown next weekend to close out February before seven of their players and head coach Tom Kowal head to the NAHL’s Top Prospect Tournament to close out the month.

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