Quick Hits: NAHL Game 36 Preview

Friday, January 18th-1st Summit Arena @ 7:30pm 

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (13-20-2, 28ps.)
Johnstown Tomahawks (31-5, 62pts.)

Knights face-off with best team in the NAHL.

New week. New Opponent.
For the first time in 2019, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights will not be playing the Jamestown Rebels. After four consecutive meetings and six of their last seven games coming against Jamestown, the grey and blue won’t see them for two months, giving the Knights a chance to play the rest of their division until then.

Wilkes-Barre went out on a high note in the Empire State last Saturday with a 3-2 come-from-behind overtime win, capped off by Tyrone Bronte netting the extra session goal.  Jeffrey Bertrand and Davis Pennington scored less than a minute apart from each other in regulation. Zach Stejskal was in goal, making 29 saves for his 13th win of the season.

Was That A Typo? Is that Seriously Their Record?
It is. The Knights will have their hands full this weekend as they look to beat the undisputed best team in the NAHL this season. At 31-5, the Johnstown Tomahawks could theoretically clinch a playoff spot with around 18 games to go if they stay on par. They sit first in the East Division and the closest to them is second place-Jamestown, who trail by 16 points.

Earlier in the year, the Tomahawks had a franchise record 17 game winning streak. Since that streak ended, they’ve since won seven straight, including back-to-back shutouts of the Maryland Black Bears a weekend ago.

It’s Been A While
While the Rebels hold the claim to fame of ending that win streak, it looked like that streak would’ve been snapped at six against Wilkes-Barre back in these teams’ last meeting on November 2nd.

The Knights had a 3-1 and 4-2 lead in the game. After leading by two entering the third, Johnstown waved their magic wand to rally for three unanswered goals to take a 5-4 final at Revolution Ice Centre. Tyrone Bronte was the only player to have a multi-point game for the Knights, notching two assists in the game. The Knights struck for three power play goals, while the Tomahawks had two. Carson Briere had a three point game, including the game-winning-goal for Johnstown.

Being Realistic
You probably don’ have to tell the coaching staff or any of the players on either team this, but let’s put it in writing anyway. The New Jersey Titans have slipped up recently, but they still occupy third in the East Division by a half dozen points on the next closest team. Jamestown sits second ahead of the fourth place Northeast Generals by 16. The Tomahawks are practically an afterthought when it comes to chasing them in the standings.

Currently, the Knights sit two points back of the fourth spot in the east. They own a game in hand on the Generals, who occupy that playoff spot. With 24 games to go, it seems very realistic that the Knights, Black Bears, and Generals will be fighting for the fourth and final playoff seed. With Johnstown a mile up on everyone, that would mean that whoever gets fourth will play the Tomahawks in a best-of-five during the opening round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. The point being is the Knights should treat this weekend as if it is the playoffs. These teams are well aware of that possibility becoming a reality, and while the odds may seem stacked against the Knights, one must remember this team took out the first place Rebels last season in the playoffs on their way to the Robertson. Cup Finals. There have been close games between the Knights and Tomahawks this season. Wilkes-Barre just needs to find their way on the better half of the scoresheet.

For What It’s Worth
This is the seventh of 12 meetings between the clubs this season. The first six were all at Revolution Ice Centre, so the last half dozen will be in Johnstown at 1st Summit Arena. The Tomahawks lead the season series, 6-0.

Wilkes-Barre and Johnstown are the only East Division teams both in the top 10 for power play efficiency in the league. The Tomahawks field the second strongest uni, operating at 29.1%, while the Knights are 10th with a 20.2% success rate. Each club is also top 10 in penalty killing.

After this weekend, the Knights return home for a game on January 25th against New Jersey. After that, they’ll hit the road again for six straight games.