Off the eve of a close loss to Minot, the Knights entered the final day of the NAHL’s annual player showcase hungry for a win. The game started off in familiar fashion; defensive and devoid of scoring. The first period was a trade of saves between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Grant Valentine’s 15 and the Jackalopes’ Jon Flakne’s 9.
The second period followed in similar suit until Aiden Beck ripped a laser of a shot past Flakne following the expiration of a Knight’s power play on a feed from Vince Marino. Grant Valentine protected that lead, stopping a handful of 2-on-1 breakaways among a few other quality chances for the remainder of the period.
Late in the period, Zach Heintz and Jake Levin both headed to the box for holding and high sticking, respectively, giving the Knights a 5-on-3 advantage for the final 1:49 of the 2nd. Odessa held strong, and in the carryover into the 3rd, the Jackalopes killed the remaining 11 seconds. Capitalizing on the momentum of the successful kill and the growing number of chances, the Jackalopes finally got on the board when Zach Zech was set up by his brother Cooper and Louis Helsen on an odd-man rush at 5:39.
The Knights refused to fold in wake of the equalizer and dug in as the Jackalopes tried to find the go-ahead tally. With the increase in urgency, so too came an increase in intensity. The breaking point came when Connor Wood was assessed a cross-check at the 16:09 mark, and a subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct and misconduct. With one of the more talented Jackalopes off the ice for the remainder of regulation, the Knights took advantage.
Their ensuing power play saw strong offensive zone time but failed to net a goal, but history came to repeat itself. Just as Odessa returned to full strength, the Knights forecheck capitalized on crisp puck movement when Paul Maust fed a puck from under the end line to an open Matt Kidney. The rookie promptly fired a puck past Flakne to give the Knights the late 2-1 lead.
With less than two to play, the Jackalopes pulled their goalie. The Knights again dug in and were rewarded as Jimmy Elser potted an empty netter to put the final touches on a 3-1 win. A 2-2 finish in Blaine puts the Knights at 3-5 on the season.
By the Numbers: NAHL Showcase
-Knights Goaltenders combined for a 95% save percentage in 4 games in Blaine, stopping 152/160 shots
-Curtis Carlson (1-3-4) led WBS in points at the showcase
-Knights went 13/15 (86.67%)on the PK
-In both losses, the GWG against the Knights came in the 13th minute of the 3rd period.
-In both wins, the GWG for the Knights came in the final two minutes of the 3rd period.