It wasn’t textbook, but in this contest it was enough. The Knights earned their first program win at the NAHL Showcase in grind it out fashion, topping the Aberdeen Wings 2-1 on Thursday.
When the defense wasn’t solid, the goal tending was stellar, as though the Wings controlled possession for large portions of the game, they could not solve rookie netminder Colt Hanks.
Through the first and second period, the Knights saw more of what troubled them in yesterday’s loss; penalties and long stretches of play hemmed in in their own zone. The biggest difference was in that, relative to their performance against the Magicians, the Knights defense was faster to the puck and better on the back check. There were fewer breakaways allowed and at times the Wings had trouble hitting the net on shots from the perimeter. In the instances where the Knights defense was beaten to the net, Hanks stood strong.
In contrast to prior games, the Knights did not allow too many opportunities o get away from them. Their tried and true penalty kill increased their kill rate north of 87% after a perfect 4-4 outing, and had potency on a few short handed rushes. This was punctuated in the final seconds of the second period when Joe Campolieto disrupted Aberdeen’s powerplay breakout at center, stole the puck, started a 2-on-1 breakaway before placing it past Aberdeen goalie Arrtu Kulmala for the game’s first score.
That lead was temporary as the Wings finally answered back at 11:23 in the 3rd, after Bernhardtz chipped a puck past Hanks from Jack Johnson and Ablin Lindqvist. Despite pushing possession deep for the majority of the time remaining, Aberdeen was again stymied by a flurry of Hanks saves into the final minute of play.
It was then that on a day where the forecheck was limited the Knights asserted rare quality zone time. With :48 seconds left, Matt Kidney passed up to the left point where Sam Antonitsch fired a shot towards Kulmala. A fraction of a second before the offering found his pads, Mike Gelatt’s stick redirected the puck to the twine, giving the Knights a lead that would prove permanent.
For a team that lost a one-goal game yesterday in frustrating fashion, it’s no small feat for the Knights to come back and take a gritty win on day two.
Following his performance today, Colt Hanks moves to 2-0 on the year with a save percentage of .946 and a goal’s against average of 1.90 in three games played.
With his first goal of the season today, Joe Campolieto has recorded points in five of the Knights six contests.
Mike Gelatt’s goal gives him points in three of the Knights last four games.
They’ll have an opportunity to make it two in a row when they face off against the Minot Minotauros tomorrow at 2:15 PM CST (3:15 EST).