In round two of Knights-Ice Dogs, Fairbanks would again prove to be a tough test for a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team trying to keep pace with first place in the East.
As they did the day before, the Knights drew first blood Saturday on a beautiful set up by Tyrone Bronte. Off a pass from Blake Kryska, the Australian forward drove into the offensive zone 13 minutes into an evenly-fought first. As he approached the net of Ice Dogs goalie Josh Benson, Bronte faked a backhand before reversing course and flipping a puck back into the slot. A trailing Adrian Danchenko buried a snipe top-shelf to put the Knights ahead 1-0.
The first period wound to its final minute with the score intact, in what appeared to be a strong start for the Knights. With 53 seconds remaining, Sam Ruffin won an offensive zone draw to Jack Johnston, who fed the puck to a waiting Jax Murray in front. Murray buried his sixth goal of the season to knot the game at one.
Not content with the tie, the Ice Dogs would again take an offensive faceoff with under 10 seconds left in the frame. Off the draw, the Knights were able to muscle a puck to the wall, but Grayson Gavin and Connor Chilton combined to win the puck and push it to the net, where through a scrum, Hunter Wendt pushed it through Christian Stoever with one second left on the clock.
The quick leapfrog on the scoreboard didn’t result in the Knights collapsing; in the ensuing second, the team would again go toe-to-toe with the Ice Dogs, only to be foiled time and again by netminder Josh Benson. After helping fend off the Knights comeback on Friday with several grade-A saves, the Minnesota native duplicated his performance on Saturday, stonewalling all challengers through the final 40 minutes in what turned out to be a 31-save performance.
Before the second period’s conclusion, the Ice Dogs would build their lead to two when Noah Wilson and Grayson Gavin setup Connor Chilton, who weaved his way through the slot and past Stoever for a tally at 14:03.
The 3-1 advantage would hold firm well into the third, where the Ice Dogs defense limited the Knights to short stretches in the attacking zone. The chances that built toward the end of the period were nullified by Benson’s stellar play.
Tanner Schachle put any hopes of a late rally to rest at 16:13 when off a half-wall feed from Errka Vanska, the wide-open Schachle bested Stoever for the Ice Dog’s fourth goal. John Stampohar was credited with the secondary assist.
Time ran out on the Knights, as the team dropped its second-straight decision. They will look to rebound and take back ground in the East with a two-game road series against the Rebels next weekend. Stay tuned to Knights social media and www.wbsknights.com for all news and updates!