Following another week of practice, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (5-11-1, 11pts.) finish a three game home stand Friday afternoon, hosting the New Jersey Titans (12-6, 24pts.) in the first half of a home-and-home weekend.
Searching For Answers
Wilkes-Barre has dropped seven consecutive games, with the recent one perhaps stinging the most. After a 4-2 lead on the Johnstown Tomahawks through two periods of play last Friday, the Knights failed to secure any standings points, allowing Johnstown to storm back for three goals in the third to take a 5-4 decision.
“Lesson learned”, said NAHL Head Coach Tom Kowal. “We aren’t really harping on it too much, but we understand you have to play 60 minutes of hockey; not 40 or 45. That was our lesson to the guys. It was a tough loss, but sometimes a tough loss can be good.”
The Knights did manage four goals, ending a streak of five consecutive games with just one. Three of their goals came on the power play, which went three-for-four in the game.
The Way Too Early Playoff Picture
Every team in the North American Hockey League still has over 40 games to play, but we’ve passed the quarter point of the season and the Knights sit last in the East Division with 11 points. They match up with New Jersey twice this weekend, who place in second behind only Johnstown.
The top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, and right now the Knights are separated from the fourth place Maryland Black Bears by five points. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has also played one game less than Maryland and New Jersey, as well as two games fewer than Johnstown. The other club occupying a playoff spot in the East is Jamestown, sitting third and lead the Knights by seven.
Haven’t Seen You In A Minute
New Jersey comes to town for the first time in over a month, having last traveled to Revolution Ice Centre October 5th. That game was a 2-1 win for Wilkes-Barre. Jacob Badal and Sacha Guillemain scored for the Knights.
The following night was a rematch in New Jersey that favored the Titans, 3-0. Samuel Vyletelka took the loss in net, while Titans’ goalie Matt Ladd turned aside 26 shots for the shutout.
Friday marks the first of five games the Titans and Knights will clash before the end of the calendar year. Overall, there are 10 games left to be played between the former playoff opponents.
For What It’s Worth
In the midst of some tough losses, the Knights made two transactions earlier in the week.
First, they used a tender to sign forward Aaron Hamel out of the Meijer Hockey Program. They next traded for Johnstown forward Anthony Mastromonica Thursday morning (previous articles on both available on site).
New Jersey fields three of the top 10 scorers in the NAHL. Forwards Ryan Naumovski, Kyle Jeffers, and Zach Nazzarett all have 20 or more points this season. Naumovski has seven points in his last four games, while Jeffers brings a seven game point streak with him into play Friday.
Forward Sacha Guillemain has 11 points, tying him with Gabe Temple and Adrian Danchenko for tops in Knights’ scoring. The forward has three goals, with his last coming against the Titans nine games ago in October.
Puck drop is set for 3pm at Revolution Ice Centre.