Knights punch their ticket to 2019 Frozen Finals
In a deciding game three, Johnny Jackson and Anthony Starzi scored 19 seconds apart during the middle period, while Thomas Walker held down the crease to protect a 3-2 lead over the New Jersey 87’s. The Knights would take the best-of-three series, 2-1, and now will advance to the 2019 Eastern Hockey League Frozen Finals at Providence College March 21st. It’s the first appearance the Knights will make in the final four group of the EHL.
After winning game one by a 3-2 margin, Wilkes-Barre fell on the wrong end of a 4-1 decision, making game three on Sunday inevitable. The team got off to a strong start with Zach Ouladelhadjamed finding his way through 87’s goalie, Dalton Jerzak for the 1-0 lead less than four minutes in. New Jersey would respond with Jack Lane beating Thomas Walker to tie it before the period came to a close. There was debate on whether the puck went in off a high-stick, but officials negated the argument from Knights Head Coach Josh Fusco and the goal stood.
In their 44 regular season games, the grey and blue scored 71 goals in the middle period. That was over 20 goals more than either of their first or third period totals. At Middletown Ice World on a Sunday evening, the team’s second period magic came once more.
11:40 in, Matthew Bielinski went behind the net where he then found Johnny Jackson in front of the goal. The pass connected and Jackson roofed the puck top shelf for his second of the playoffs. Just 19 seconds later, Anthony Starzi scored his second of the postseason. After the Knights won the draw in center, the team marched into the zone and quickly sent Starzi to the net where he knocked it through for the 3-1 lead.
Down by a pair, the 87’s put their best period together in the third, which saw a game-high 19 shots go to the net of Walker. Zach Egber was able to cut the deficit in half midway through the period with a goal on the doorstep, but that would be the final goal of the game. New Jersey had Jerzak pulled for the final two minutes, where the club threw as many pucks on goal as possible. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton struggled to clear and go the other way, but the EHL’s best goalie all season long was able to showcase his talents. The Albertus Magnus committed-Walker made 38 saves, including a Zach Tarantino breakaway late in the game to propel the Knights to Providence.
After 49 games since mid-September, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights will join the New Hampshire Avalanche, Philadelphia Little Flyers, and East Coast Wizards on the campus of Providence College for the hopes of raising the EHL Championship. The Knights were also the only team to advance without winning their division and receiving a first round bye.
The Frozen Finals run March 21-24. All games will be broadcast live on HockeyTV.