NAHL: Knights Stop Unbeaten Rebels

Entering their seventh contest in the past two weeks, the Knights were not looking ahead at their impending weekend off. Instead, they were  fixated on the team in front of them in the East Division-the undefeated Philadelphia Rebels.

In their two prior meetings, the Knights took two losses: a 2-1 defeat in regulation and a 5-4 loss in overtime. This time, on their own ice, and with a full roster, the Knights looked to respond.

It was the Rebels on Friday who struck the game’s initial blow. Following a Knights slashing penalty just a minute and a half into the game, the Rebels made quick work of a steady Knights penalty kill, one that ranked just .02% behind the 5th-ranked Rebels PK entering the day. Following crisp puck movement around the perimeter of the Knights zone, Auggie Moore found a rebound off the pads of Knights goalie David Tomeo, firing it by for the 1-0 lead (Diarmard DiMurro, Andrew Bellant).

For a brief stretch following the score, it appeared the Rebels would establish their fast-paced forecheck that had bested all opponents faced this season. Instead, the Knights would awake as the period wound on, implementing a physical forecheck to counter the Rebels shiftiness and speed.

With the pace of play and shots evening out as the period ticked down to its final seconds, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton attack forced the Rebels to send a puck out of play in their own end. With just seconds to spare, Anthony Firriolo fired a Tyrone Bronte faceoff win to the net where Justin Engelkes tipped the puck through the pads of Rebels starting goalie Ryan Keane. Firriolo’s assist is his fifth in four games since joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The tally on a goaltender that entered the contest with a 0.80 GAA and a .964 save percentage bolstered the Knights confidence heading into the dressing room. Off the opening face off of the second, Adrian Danchenko knifed and dangled his way toward Keane’s net before the puck rolled off his stick and onto Keane’s left pad. The save sent the puck to a waiting Tyrone Bronte, who ripped the puck past the netminder to give the Knights a 2-1 lead. Justin Engelkes picked up the secondary assist.

Not relenting, the Knights continued their heavy blitz up ice, not letting Keane get comfortable as they peppered him with 18 shots in the middle frame. The Rebels responded with pressure, and tested  Dave Tomeo, but the netminder proved unflappable in the crease, turning away multiple chances with a quick glove. The second ended with no additional scoring, as both teams were left hungry for another goal heading into the third.

Gabe Temple, the Knights 2017-18 first-round pick, found the insurance the team needed just 3:07 into the final stanza. Fed by Matt Kidney and Tom Farrell, Temple drilled a dart top shelf, past Keane for a two-goal lead the first goal of his Knights career. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would continue to be bolstered by Tomeo in net, who stopped 26 of 27 on the afternoon, and clamped down on the Rebels as time ticked away.

As the game shortened, the ice lengthened for Philadelphia as the Knights continually hammered pucks deep into the Philadelphia zone. Forced to repeatedly Rebels chase and reset, time ran out on their effort to come back, and the Knights skated to the 3-1 victory.

Now 9-3-3 on the season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finds themselves just three points behind first place in the east division. They’ve now recorded a point or more in six-straight games, going 4-0-2 in that span. They’ll receive a well-earned weekend off, before traveling to play Northeast in a three-game set to open November.