December begins in Maryland for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (8-15-1, 17pts.) where they finish off a two game weekend against the Black Bears (7-14-5, 19pts.) at Piney Orchard Ice Arena.
Last Night Was Fun
It felt like playoff hockey in the Old Line State, with the Knights looking up at the Black Bears in the NAHL East Division standings. Wilkes-Barre was quick to inch closer to closing that gap in what was a 6-3 Knights win Friday.
Both teams exchanged goal after goal in the first two periods until Wilkes-Barre was able to pull ahead late in the second with goals from Zak Currie and Joey Verkerke. The club also scored a pair of power play goals, keeping their man advantage ranked eighth in the league. Zack Stejskal made 33 saves for the Knights. Expect him to get the start again Saturday.
Head Coach and General Manager Tom Kowal is on the bench for every game. He saw the young forward Zak Currie struggle some in the first third of the season, but when Currie buried his first NAHL goal a week ago, Kowal believed things would change.
“Hopefully this is a new beginning for Zak Currie,” Kowal said on this past week’s Coach’s Corner. “We were hoping once he got that first one, then two, three, four, five, and six would come.”
So far, Currie has lived up to expectations. The 19 year old carries a three game scoring streak into Saturday, scoring four goals in this stretch. He notched two in the Friday win over Maryland, including the first goal for Wilkes-Barre less than four minutes into the game.
Badal On Fire
Like Currie, the scoring of Knights’ rookie Jacob Badal has been putting together a nice stretch of play, though his comes over a longer span.
At just 17 years of age, Badal carries 17 points across this season for his NAHL club. Last night, the Michigan native scored a goal and two assists for his second three point game of the season. Badal also has 12 points in his last 11 games.
“Jacob Badal has been a 200 foot player,” said Coach Kowal. “His offense brought him to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. He hasn’t had to waste time being stuck defending or chasing a guy. He’s been able to improve his game defensively, and that’s led to more chances on the side of the red line he likes to be.”
For What It’s Worth
The Knights and New Jersey Titans are the only teams in the East Maryland has yet to beat. New Jersey is 4-0, while Wilkes-Barre holds a 3-0 advantage over the newest NAHL franchise.
Friday’s six goal output ties Wilkes-Barre’s highest goal total this season. They scored six earlier in the year against New Jersey in an 8-6 loss.
Tyrone Bronte leads all Knights players in points against the Black Bears. In three games, Bronte has four goals and one assist against Maryland. Last night, the second year forward scored his first goal in nine games.
The Maryland Black Bears have accrued more penalty minutes (557) than every team in the league except for Shreveport. Last night they gave Wilkes-Barre seven power plays.