For the first time in franchise history, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (7-15-1, 15pts.) head to Piney Orchard Ice Arena, where they meet the Maryland Black Bears (7-13-5, 19pts.) for two games on the weekend.
We’re Talking About Playoffs?
Yes we are. The season isn’t even half way finished, but with the Johnstown Tomahawks, Jamestown Rebels, and New Jersey Titans occupying the top spots in the East Division by a significant margin, that leaves a single playoff spot to be fought for.
Not saying the top three can’t change, but the bottom three teams in the east are separated by just four points (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Maryland, Northeast).
“We hold our own destiny,” said NAHL Head Coach and General Manager Tom Kowal. “We’re excited. It’s a big weekend. If you don’t keep playoffs in your sight, then you lose perspective of the whole year. We head into Maryland and we are looking to get four points.”
After suffering a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season, forward Lincoln Hatten finally looks set to return to Wilkes-Barre. During the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, MN back in September, it was announced Hatten committed to play for Army (NCAA-Div. I).
Hatten played in 47 regular season games for the Knights during the 2017-18 campaign, scoring 10 points. The Texas native added to his stats with five points across seven NAHL playoff contests in last year’s Robertson Cup run for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Battered Black Bears
Headed into the weekend, Maryland has dropped three straight. Head Coach Clint Mylymok’s group has lost six of their last seven to add on to the tough times. In the past three losses, Maryland has been shutout once, and outscored 19-3. On the year, the team has allowed the second most goals against in the NAHL.
The Black Bears have come up short this season on special teams as well, ranking in the bottom fourth of the league on both the power play and penalty kill.
For What It’s Worth
Friday marks the third meeting ever between Maryland and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In the previous two, the Knights swept Maryland at Revolution Ice Centre with a pair of one goal wins, including an overtime finish where Tyrone Bronte scored the game winner.
Maryland is the only East Division opponent Wilkes-Barre has went past regulation against this season. The team did play an overtime session against the South Division’s Topeka Pilots in September at the NAHL Showcase.
Wilkes-Barre will be without the services of forward Gabe Temple for Friday. Temple will serve a one game suspension. The 18 year old leads his team in goals with 10 and has 17 points this year.
With a three point weekend last time out, Knights’ forward Jacob Badal has now cracked the top 15 list for scoring among rookies in the league. Badal has 14 points in 23 games.