Photo: Jessica Kovalcin
On Monday, the Knights returned to Brewster Ice Arena to play high-stakes hockey against New York Applecore. For both sides, a victory meant moving on to the second round of the EHL postseason. A loss would mean the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
With that as the backdrop to the matinee affair, both teams came out with speed to begin Monday’s contest. No one had more than Knights forward Anthony Starzi. The lightning-quick skater-known around the league for his 26 goals and 26 assists in 52 games-scorched through every line of New York’s defense plus Benjamin Allard-Robitaille to give the Knights a 1-0 lead, 3:51 into the first.
The pace of play would keep up for both teams, as the pair traded quick rushes into the opposite zone, testing each Allard-Robitaille and Jared Stahel with snap shots and re-directs toward the net. Neither goalie would blink through the remainder of the first, as 18 of 19 combined shots never made their way home.
The second period followed suit, with both teams active and aggressive in transition. With a 1-0 lead, the Knights knew better than to sit back against Applecore’s potent offense. Their best efforts led them to slightly carry play and the shot count, but ultimately they could not solve the ever-challenging Allard-Robitaille. The Quebec native stopped all 14 shots he faced in the middle period, keeping his team alive and well.
The Knights first mistake proved to be a costly one, taking a 2:00 minor with just under three minutes to play in the period. After 1:56 of disciplined penalty kill, Applecore finally broke through with a heavy crash to the net. After Stahel made an impressive initial save, a rebound kicked out just enough through a scrum to find a waiting Joseph Verboys, who buried the puck for the game-tying goal (Eliot Friedow, Matthew Boring). Stahel would finish the period standing on his head to deny a surging Applecore attack.
Play remained even in the third. Stahel and Allard-Robitaille stood on their respective heads to continually turn away two humming forechecks. Through the 20 minutes, the Knights and Applecore each traded an unsuccessful power play, and at period’s end, the score remained locked at one.
Five-on-five, 20-minute, sudden-death overtime followed. A game that saw one shot separate the teams in each period continued on its even track in the extra time. Each side took heavy, fast rushes down the ice with excellent goaltending extending the game. Stahel (33 saves) and Allard-Robitaille (35) were both deserving of wins, but in the end there could of course only be one team moving forward.
Just shy of the 6:00 mark of overtime, Kyle Warren grabbed hold of a loose puck at his own blue line. Much as Starzi had done in the first, Warren burned through neutral ice, past the last line of defense, before cutting sharply in front of Stahel to put home the game-winning goal (Ryan Lieth, Daniel Fleischman).
The score brought about a tough end to the Knights hard-fought season. In the coming days ahead there will be time to process just how much was accomplished and how much growth was made between the starting and end points to the season. For now, the loss stings, cutting short what looked to be a special run for a special group, but it does not diminish what a strong return to the EHL the organization made.
The Knights would like to offer a sincere thank you to all our players, their families, our billet families, staff, volunteers, and all our fans for their hard work and support this season!