A meeting of the leaders of the NAHL’s East and the Midwest divisions lived up the billing on Friday afternoon when the Knights played host the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The game got off to a blazing start as Tyrone Bronte netted the game’s first goal on a dart from the top of the zone to put the Knights up 1-0 just 33 seconds in. Tomas Koblizek picked up a helper for the second-straight game, while Adrian Danchenko pushed his point-streak to four with the secondary assist.
The Ice Dogs awoke five minutes later, when Jake Borgida tipped in his second goal of the season to knot the game at one off the set up from Tanner Schachle and Connor Chilton. Caleb Hite followed up with Fairbanks second goal at 12:55 when he found a loose puck behind Knights starter David Tomeo and backhanded it home (Noah Wilson, Daniel Haider). Schachle then added a goal of his own, served up on a late-period power play by Robert Blueger and Erkka Vanska to cap a strong first for Fairbanks.
The opening shift of the middle frame saw little relief for the Knights. Just 45 seconds in, the Ice Dogs extended their lead to three when Vanska powered a puck by Tomeo off assists from Nolan Schaeffer and Caleb Hite.
Down three, the Knights dug in. Grinding out their forecheck’s early sluggishness, the Olmstead-Carlson-Kidney line ignited for the Knights at 6:43. Matt Kidney fed Luke Robinson at the blue line who hammered a heavy shot off the pads of Ice Dog’s goalie Josh Benson. Pouncing on the rebound was Knights captain Curtis Carlson, who buried it for his 11th goal of the season.
Carlson followed that up just under two minutes later with another tally, this time supplied by Olmstead and Kidney to pull the Knights within one. On a power play that started at 9:10, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first of the contest, they appeared to have bested Benson for the game-tying goal through a scrum in front. Instead, the ’97 netminder made a show-stopping kick save to keep his team ahead by one.
Following the expiration of the power play, the Knights would again nearly tie the game on a Justin Engelkes feed to Gabe Temple off the rush, but again they would be robbed by a post-to-post save by Benson. The second would expire without further scoring and the Knights still trailing.
In the third, the period was mostly even, with both team’s trading zones but not initially an abundance of grade-a looks. A turnover in front of the Knights net in the later half of the frame presented the best opportunity of the afternoon. Hunter Wendt didn’t miss, burying a goal from the middle of the slot to build a 5-3 lead.
Josh Benson, on his way to a 29-save performance, closed out the contest with a third robbery of a Knights grade-a chance and then received help from the iron which stoned a laser from Reed Robinson. With a late power play and the extra attacker on, the Knights came up just short in their comeback efforts to fall in a 5-3 final. They’ll look to rebound tomorrow with a rematch against the Ice Dogs at 6:30 pm EST. The game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Follow Knights social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for in-game updates!