Tag Archives: Aston Rebels

Knights Season Ends in Dramatic Game Three

Rebels rally in third period to take series

When the story is written about the Knights 2016-17 season, progress will be a prominent theme. Despite an unfavorable outcome, the same could be said about last night’s competition against the Rebels. In their 15th meeting of the year, the Knights had one of their best starts against their East Division foe.

After going 0-8 to start the playoffs on the power play, the Knights received an early boost when Paul Maust redirected a point shot from Joey Verkerke at 8:43. A period that was largely even in that neither team found much rhythm to their offense, the Knights goal allowed them to keep pace with Aston’s speed.

The Rebels finally found an answer late in the first period. Dustin Manz ripped a shot from the top of the offensive zone that bested Grant Valentine over his right shoulder.

To start the second period, the Knights would quickly find themselves on the power play again and kept their hot streak alive. Joe Schuler tipped home a point shot from Paul Cimilluca at 2:09, making their man advantage unit a perfect 2-for-2.

The goal ignited the Knights attack to a level unprecedented against the Rebels. Their attack pushed Aston’s normally stout defense into making errors in their own end. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forwards were aggressive on the boards and in front of the net as they began hemming the Rebels in for consecutive shifts. Mike Gelatt capitalized at 8:19 when he tipped another Paul Cimilluca point shot past Mitens, chasing the goalie midway through the second.

The onslaught continued but Aston backup netminder Jack Leavy kept the Knights off the board for the rest of the period. In the last few shifts before the second intermission, Aston finally pushed back. At 19:19, Drew Blackmun ripped a rebound past Valentine to bring the Rebels back within one.

The Knights would race out of the gate in the third period forcing yet another Aston penalty and parallel to their second period start, Paul Cimilluca fired a point shot through traffic where fellow defenseman Tim Gelatt tipped the puck home. A 4-2 lead appeared to have the Knights in the driver seat. The Rebels had other intentions.

At 6:56, Gianluca Esteves turned a loose puck in neutral ice into a 2-on-1 rush with Evgeny Yakovlev. A cross-ice pass from the former to the latter moved the Rebels back within one. On the fourth power play of the night for the Rebels, Gvido Jansons ripped a rocket past Valentine at 10:59 to tie the game at 4.

Their foot on the gas pedal, the Rebels didn’t relent. Jansons struck again at 14:34 to give his team a 5-4 lead. A minute later, on their fifth power play, the Rebels tallied goal number four of the period when Jansons buried a hat trick to build a 6-4 advantage.

The Knights would not let their season end quietly. On their fifth opportunity on the man advantage with Valentine pulled for the extra attacker, Mike Gelatt scored power play goal number four with under two minutes to go.

With the net empty again, the Knights came within inches of putting the puck past a falling Jack Leavy, but the big goalie sat on top of the puck to keep the score 6-5. On the next shift, Brennan Kapcheck found the puck and flipped it down the length of the ice for an empty-net goal.

The score put an end to a wild night of momentum swings and with it the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton season.

Though the it ended earlier than they wanted, the Knights can hang their hat on a hard-fought season of improvement.

Knights Drop Game Two in Battle with Aston

Penalties, staunch defense dictate outcome of game two

For the second consecutive night, the Knights and Rebels renewed acquaintances at the Aston IceWorks, vying for control of their opening round match up of the Robertson Cup Playoffs.

Much as they had the previous evening, the Knights started things quickly, pushing the puck deep into Aston territory in the game’s opening shifts. Though the first few minutes went without a high volume of shots making their way to either net, it was evident the speed and physicality from Friday had carried into Saturday’s action.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was first to generate solid looks on their target, as Michael Morrissey, Reed Robinson and Dorian Dawson all tested Mareks Mitens from open space in the Aston zone. The Latvian netminder didn’t blink and turned all three away.

Spurred on by the efforts of their goalie, the Rebels pushed back around the five minute mark of the first period, keeping the Knights out of the offensive zone for nearly four full minutes, while turning the shots tide against Grant Valentine.

The Knights netminder was also up to the early challenge as he did well to stone Aaron Maguyon from in close and fought through an Andrew Hart screen to stick away another puck. One strategy that quickly became evident was Aston’s goal of crashing straight to the net. The Knights early defensive efforts were strong in clogging up the middle of their own zone, diverting many cross-slot feeds out of danger’s way.

Dorian Dawson’s backchecking stood out on a play in which he raced back to poke a puck off the stick of Aston’s speedy forward Andrew Bellant as he tried to best Dawson one-on-one.

After being bogged down in their own end and neutral ice for a few shifts, the Knights awoke again just prior to the period’s halfway mark. Joe Schuler rung a puck off a post, Mike Gelatt dispensed checks liberally, and Mike Morrissey and Paul Maust buzzed around the net of Mitens to create two good, yet unsuccessful scoring chances.

It appeared at the 12:12 mark that the Knights were being given an early advantage when the Rebels were called for hooking. They were on the power play for 37 seconds before committing an infraction of their own as they tried to establish possession behind the net of Mitens.

In the 4-on-4 period that followed, the Rebels began to find more success in their efforts to crash the net. In one such instance, a Knight attempting to slow a Rebel forechecker barreling in off the rush collided with Grant Valentine. Play was stopped but Valentine would continue. Unfortunately the hit would be a precursor of more things to come for the Knights workhorse goalie.

Like his pairing mate Dawson, Markuss Komuls brought an impressive knack for disruption in his own zone Saturday night. Late in the Aston power play that followed the end of 4-on-4, Komuls raced back and took away a 2-on-1 rush for the Rebels when he dove to the ice to sweep away a connecting pass in front of Valentine. That effort allowed the Knights to return to even-strength unscathed on the scoreboard.

Mike Gelatt picked up where he left off throwing the body as he continued to open space on the ice with several more punishing hits. The Rebels responded with Gianluca Esteves very nearly scoring on a wraparound chance, only to be thwarted by Valentine’s quick, lateral movement.

The Knights had their own near-miss when Matt Kidney worked his way to the top of the Aston slot, made a quick deke and let a shot go that shaved the paint off the crossbar. The first 20 minutes came to a close without a score, largely due to stellar goaltending on both ends of the ice.

In the second, the Knights were in search of more established offensive possession. Most of their chances were still coming primarily off the rush. For their part, the Rebels seemed intent on getting bodies to the net of Grant Valentine. With both teams struggling to inflict their respective wills on each other, things turned chippy in a hurry.

The Rebels earned the better looks in the opening minutes of the second, as Carter Woolley and Jensen Zerban came up with quality chances, with Valentine stopping the first and Zerban missing just high on the second.

Jim Elser countered by streaking behind the Rebels last line of defense only to be denied by a spectacular, legal diving poke check by Ryan Solomon from behind the would-be breakaway.

Five minutes into the period, the Rebels took advantage of an awkward deflection in front of Valentine that allowed Andrew Hart to backhand the puck out of the air and into the twine.

The 1-0 lead flipped the swing of momentum to the Rebels attack. Shortly after Hart’s score, as another odd-man rush came crashing down towards Valentine, but Komuls added to the game’s growing list of defensive highlights with a diving block that disrupted the cross-ice pass to the otherwise open Gvido Jansons.

The path to the Knights net continued to attract Aston forecheckers, and with their presence came more bodies slamming into Grant Valentine. The first of the period came at 7:31, and in the ensuing post-whistle fracas, the Knights were assessed a cross-checking penalty.

Valentine would again rebound from contact quickly, turning away Jansons on a heavy slap shot and denying another from Esteves. The Knights penalty killers were quick to occupy shooting lanes that stopped would-be Aston shots through heavy screens.

Unluckily for the Knights, another kill would not provide needed relief as just two minutes after discarding their second penalty of the contest, they were back it again following an interference penalty. A combination of Morrissey killing clock with crafty possession in his own end, and Valentine making another flurry of saves would bring the Knights up to 3/3 on the shorthanded effort for the evening. They had little time to celebrate. At 14:09 they’d head right back to the box for high-sticking.

It would be deja vu all over again for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as individuals on the kill would make valiant plays to slow a potent Aston power play. Markuss Komuls and Mike Morrissey would again get low to block shots, Joe Schuler would tangle up and drag the puck to the boards to kill a large chunk of a time and Valentine stopped whatever got past those in front of him. The Knights appeared to finally gain reprieve as their fourth PK of the game was cut eight seconds short when Aston headed to the box for cross-checking.

That relief would be short-lived when just 49 seconds into the power play the Knights would again take a penalty, this time for boarding. On this occasion a battle-weary kill unit couldn’t quite fend off the Rebels.

Just 12 seconds prior to going a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill, the Knights saw Gianluca Esteves get behind the defense and quite literally crash the net. As Esteves let go a puck that crossed the goal line, he bowled over Grant Valentine. After seeing their goalie hit the ice yet again, the Knights had had enough. In the pile up around the goal, gloves were dropped and punches were traded between both teams.

When the dust settled, the officials ruled that the power play goal was scored before contact was made with the Knights netminder, and the penalties that were assessed for the events afterward were coincidental.

Still, the Knights couldn’t escape the frame without taking one more trip to the sin bin. With just 33 seconds left before second intermission, hooking was called and the Knights were sent to a penalty kill  that would ultimately carry over to the third.

Following the frustration of 40 minutes of playoff hockey, and absent the reward of a goal, the Knights were looking to get the final frame started on a high note. They did succeed in killing the penalty from the end of the second, bringing their total up to 5/6 on the evening. That said, neither team sustained much of any offense following an taxing middle frame.

It took nearly seven minutes of play for anyone to record an official shot on goal and it came when the Knights got in close and a threw a puck off the body of Mitens. Somehow, the Rebels goalie was able to go all the way down to the ice and keep the bouncing puck out, while a rain of bodies poured down on top of him.

Just seconds later the process would repeat itself, with Mitens again ending up at the bottom of a dogpile and again successful in his efforts to keep the Knights off the board.

The Rebels found their offensive execution shortly thereafter but were thwarted once more by the efforts of Dorian Dawson. The Brown University commit blocked back-to-back shots from Dom Garcia and Andrew Bellant with both having been taken directly from the middle of the slot. After the Knights and Rebels were assessed another pair of coincidental penalties, Dawson was a wall once more blocking another chance just over halfway through the third.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came back and forced a penalties first at 11:04 and a gain at 13:51. As they had all weekend, the Rebels penalty killers responded with a back-to-back cancellations of a Knights power play unit that had entered the playoffs red hot, converting 30 percent of their chances since the beginning of March.

Following a few close opportunities around Mitens’ net, the Knights were determined to find some kind of advantage to get back in the game. With just over two minutes to play in regulation, they began a shift in the offensive zone with their net empty. At 17:56, Joe Schuler found a Dorian Dawson offering in front, turned and fired it past Mitens to give the Knights hope in the game’s closing moments.

Down just 2-1, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would again pull Valentine in the game’s final 60 seconds. This time the Aston defense would hold, and at the horn, the Rebels found themselves in possession of a two-game lead.

A pivotal game three will be played Friday, April 21st at the Revolution Ice Centre. Faceoff is set for 7:30 pm as the Knights will fight to get back into the series with the benefit of home ice. Come out and support the team, or tune into hockeytv.com and follow on twitter @wbsknights for wall-to-wall coverage of all the action!

 

Knights Lose Hard-Fought Game One

Knights skate with speed and physicality but can’t solve Mitens in series opener

The atmosphere was a lively one inside the Aston IceWorks for game one of the division semi-finals for round one of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Facing a familiar and formidable foe in the Rebels, the Knights got off to a fast start in the first period.

With Aston’s focus in the first ten minutes on setting a physical tone with numerous open-ice hits, the Knights countered with fast skating and efficient passing. The result was an aggressive, yet flustered Aston attack and a buzzing Knights forecheck off the rush. Curtis Carlson generated a pair of strong chances, while Joe Schuler, Joey Kubachka and Reed Robinson all came within a few inches of each putting a goal on the board. Mareks Mitens anchored Aston’s defense from between the pipes and turned each away with a series of strong saves.

Around the 11:30 of the first period, the Rebels finally found their footing in the Knights zone. They began setting up and winning board battles directly behind the net and sending pucks to traffic in front. Their physical play began to bog down the Knights who had skated well and in quick for much of the period.

Still, Grant Valentine was sharp when pucks made their way to his net, and his sharpest save came as the first period was winding down. Rebels captain Dom Garcia found his way behind the Knights last line of defense and was floated puck to set up a breakaway. His rocket of a wrist shot was answered by an even faster snap of Valentine’s glove, as the netminder made a highlight reel save to rob Garcia of the game’s first score.

Not long after, the Knights were sent to the box for the game’s first penalty. Though Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stymied the Rebels first few attempts to gain the offensive zone-this included a timely clear by captain Tim Gelatt as a puck spun dangerously close to partially open net- the Rebels finally broke through when Drew Blackmun walked a puck through the right circle and placed it just under Valentine’s glove. At the horn, the Rebels took a 1-0 advantage into the dressing room, riding a strong finish to the period.

The Rebels parlayed their building offensive momentum into a fast start in the second, pressuring heavily in the Knights zone. Where Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had been sharp in sharp exit passes in the first, the Rebels were sharper in forcing turnovers in the offensive end to start the second. Still, odd bounces and a few more timely saves from Valentine kept Aston off the board.

One such bounce quickly turned the tempo of the period on its head. As Matt Kidney flipped a puck ahead from the middle of his own zone, it ricocheted off a Rebel forechecker and on to the stick of Curtis Carlson. Carlson, who had already generated a few scoring chances, exploded through neutral ice, and let go a snipe that beat Mitens over the shoulder, tying the game at 7:17.

With the goal came new life in the Knights legs. They flipped the ice and began to again generate chances off the rush as they did in the first. The speed of their attack began to force the Rebels to take penalties. The Knights would go to the power play three times in the period, but Aston’s top-ranked unit lived up to their reputation, allowing only a handful of shots on Mitens in 6:00 minutes of shorthanded play.

The Rebels offense came back to bite the Knights between the second and third penalty. At 14:10, Jensen Zerban maneuvered his way to the low left circle and fired a puck past a screened Valentine to re-establish a 2-1 lead. The Knights would finish the frame with a flurry of chances on Mitens, but the Latvian netminder was up to the task, stopping each of the heavy shots from Mike Morrissey, Reed Robinson, Dorian Dawson, and Tim Gelatt.

The effect of 40 minutes of fast, physical hockey took its toll to begin the third as both teams struggled to execute with their earlier efficiency. The Knights were given a fourth chance on the power play, and though Aston was again quick to clear the puck, Mitens stopped another chance from Curtis Carlson and fought through a screen to stick a puck wide.

Fresh off the kill, the Rebels created a few major chances of their own, having two shots shave the crossbar and another ring a post. The Knights weren’t short on opportunities either: Paul Maust drove hard behind the defense straight to the net, Vince Marino set up Joey Kubachka on a 2-on-1, and Jim Elser muscled his way through Aston’s last defenseman to get in alone, but all were stopped continued steady play from Mitens.

Grant Valentine was valiant in his efforts to go save-for-save, and the Knights, while allowing a few solid chances on their net, didn’t allow Aston to take control of the offensive zone. As time wound down, the Knights bench began to signal Valentine over to the bench, but twice as the netminder began to leave the crease, the Rebels collapsed on the puck in neutral ice and forced him back to the pipes. With 1:02 remaining on the clock, the Knights again tried to pull their goalie, but again were turned around, this time by Jensen Zerban. The Manitoba-native barreled through the defense and dragged a shot under Valentine’s pads as he crashed into the net.

The goal didn’t stop the Knights from finally pulling Valentine for the extra attacker in the game’s final minute, but the Rebels held Wilkes-Barre/Scranton out of the offensive zone to close out the remaining time.

With game one behind them the Knights head into a crucial game two tonight in Aston. The team skated with the Rebels for much of last night’s contest but will need to take greater advantage of power play and scoring opportunities. Faceoff is set for 7 pm. Tune in at hockeytv.com or follow @wbsknights on Twitter for live updates.

 

 

Knights Ready for Playoff Bout with Rebels

Stage is set for red-hot Knights and league-leading Rebels Friday Night

For the second-straight year, the Knights will travel to Aston, Pennsylvania for a best-of-five, first-round Robertson Cup playoff matchup with the Rebels. The latter finished with the league’s best record at 46-11-3, while the Knights improved on their inaugural season with a winning record of 30-25-5.

To a certain extent, tomorrow night will provide the Knights with an opportunity to conquer past demons. After splitting last year’s head-to-head with the Rebels at eight wins apiece (regular season) the Knights were swept out of the postseason by Aston in the first round of the 2015-16 Robertson Cup Playoffs.

This year the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton  struggles continued against the Rebels, dropping the season series in a 9-3 tilt. The Aston IceWorks-the location of at least games one and two of this series-has been a particular sore spot for the Knights. In 17 trips over their first two seasons in the NAHL they hold a 4-13 record. In the six games hosted by Aston in 2016-17 the Knights were outscored 24-7 and shut out three  times. They went just 1-5 in that stretch. Despite all of this, it would be a mistake to write the visitors off entering this weekend’s action.

Over their past ten games, the Knights have played some of their best hockey of the season, a stretch that was kicked off by a shootout win in Aston on March 10th. Since then, they closed out the season on a 7-2-1 tear, the third best record in the NAHL in that span and even better than Aston’s 6-3-1 record over that same period.

“We’ve been playing some solid hockey lately,” said head coach Tom Kowal. “It’s not perfect, but we’ve been getting better. We’ve had success and our offense has picked it up. We’ve been able to score and to win against some good teams.”

Since beating the Rebels in their first game of March, the Knights offense has led the way, averaging impressive 3.8 goals per game.

“We have guys up and down the roster starting to show up more regularly in the scoresheet,” said Kowal. “That’s really important at this time of year. You need your biggest point producers to show up to go anywhere in the playoffs.”

In the closing weeks of the regular season, the Knights were spurred on by a healthy balance between the usual suspects and secondary scorers elevating their production.

Matt Kidney was the East Division’s final star of the week for 2016-17 season, rounding out his season on a still-active five-game point streak. The Knights first round pick scored five goals and two assists in the last three games of the year, capped off by a hat trick on Monday.

Mike Gelatt has averaged just over a point a game since the first game of March (3-8-11, 10 GP), while Paul Maust (1-7-8, 9 GP), Mike Morrissey (2-6-8, 9 GP), and Sam Antonitsch (2-7-9, 10 GP) all came one point shy of accomplishing the same. Vince Marino’s four goals and three helpers, Reed Robinson’s two tallies and five assists and Adrian Danchenko’s active three-game point streak (one goal, two assists) have led the vital auxiliary scoring.

Perhaps the most stark turnaround was the performance of the team’s power play. In those ten games the Knights-who had been stuck at the very bottom of the league in power play success rate-converted 12 of their final 40 opportunities, a staggering 30 percent conversion rate.

“Our power play has picked up,” said Kowal. “We’ve found a better balance of passing and taking good shots. We’re not just cycling for effect. We’re making teams move their feet and chase us and the results are speaking for themselves.”

Given the opponent next on tap for the Knights, taking advantage of any Aston mistakes can’t be overstated. On the season, the Rebels held the league’s best penalty kill, shutting down 86.3% of their opponents’ chances. The Knights will counter with a power play that finished at an 18.3% success rate overall, a few ticks higher than what they accomplished against the Rebels in the regular season; six goals in 37 tries, or 16.2%.

Beyond the limiting catalog of high-volume scorers the Rebels bring to the ice each night, perhaps the biggest challenge for the Knights will be solving stalwart goalie Mareks Mitens. The recent Lake Superior State commitment and member of Latvia’s National U20 team, Mitens was stellar against the Knights all season. In nine starts he held a 7-2 record, receiving losses in only his first and final matchups of the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In that stretch he stopped just under 95% of shots sent his way and recorded a goals against average of 1.24.

The Knights will have to do better than the 24 shots a game they averaged against Mitens throughout the year. Without question, one of Aston’s greatest assets is the versatility of their blue line. Not only do they boast the league’s third and fourth ranked scoring defensemen in Gvido Jansons and Brennan Kapcheck, but they also do a tremendous job of stymying forechecks and keeping their netminder clean.

“It’s something we’ve stressed in in playing them in the past,” said Kowal. “We have to be able to control the perimeter. We can’t let them push us wide in the offensive zone and we can’t surrender the middle of the ice to them in ours.”

Too often in the losses to the Rebels, it felt as if the game was following the same script: an early score by Aston bolstered by the Wilkes-Barre offense being repelled time and time again by a near perfect Aston backcheck. With little time established in the offensive zone, the Knights would be caught chasing the puck back to their own end where eventually the Rebels would find space from which to score.

Peppering Mitens is not the only requirement for victory, but it’s a strong first step. He’s allowed four goals in each of his last two starts, a rare hiccup in the road for the NAHL’s leader in wins (31), goals against (1.63) and shutouts (11).

Much of what determines the rest of the matchup relies on the Knights 6th-ranked offense (3.22 goals per game) and red hot power play keeping their momentum against the NAHL’s best defense and penalty kill. Aston allowed the fewest goals of any team this season, surrendering just 106 in 60 games, good for a GAA of 1.77. No other team had a mark under 2.00.

Across the ice from Mitens will stand Grant Valentine, one of the NAHL’s premiere workhorse goalies over the past two seasons. Fresh off his own division one commitment to Miami of Ohio, Valentine, who was fourth in the league in minutes (2403) and games (42) played, 10th in wins (20), and 5th in shutouts (3) will need to have his A-game to the playoffs. Against an Aston team that ranked fourth in the league in goals scored with 214, Valentine and the Knights defense collectively struggled as he was able to win just two of eight starts against the Rebels.

His most recent performance against Aston was very likely his best, which came in the aformentinoed Knights shootout win in Aston on March 10th. In the victory, Valentine stopped 25 of 27 shots on goal and stoned three of four Rebels in the shootout. While the mandate extends to all 20 players dressed tomorrow, that kind of defensive effort will be necessary moving forward into the postseason.

“We know we’re playing a good team in this opening round,” said Kowal. “We think we’re a good team. It’s up to us to prove it. We had a nice finish to the regular season but that’s behind us now. In a best of five series there’s no room for error. We have to hit the ground running. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

Knights-Rebels Playoff Schedule Round 1:

Game 1: Friday, April 14th, 2017: @Aston IceWorks 7:00 PM

Game 2: Saturday, April 15th, 2017: @Aston IceWorks 7:00 PM

Game 3: Friday, April 21st, 2017: @Revolution Ice Centre, 7:30 PM

Game 4*: Saturday, April 22nd, 2017: @Revolution Ice Centre, 7:30 PM

Game 5*: Monday, April 24th, 2017: @Aston IceWorks, 7:00 PM

*If Necessary

Knights Win Shootout Thriller Over Aston

Knights back over .500 with dramatic win

Entering Friday, the Knights were in search of a strong start their March campaign-a month that will see them play three games this weekend before a two-week road trip for four games in Alaska. Being just the fourth game in the prior 26 days, the Knights entered their final regular season meeting with Aston on Friday night a well-rested roster. That didn’t mean things hadn’t been hard in recent games. Of the prior three, two were decided by shootout, and one by a three-goal rally by Johnstown in the third. All three ended in losses.

Their luck against Aston has not been much better. Heading into Friday night, the Rebels boasted a league-best 25 wins at home to go along with a just two regulation losses and one in OT. They were a perfect 5-0 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the Ice Works Skating Complex.

Things had a familiar feel when just six minutes into the first, Evgeny Yakovlev deflected a puck past Grant Valentine to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead. The Knights however, did not falter. Through a low-shot, back and forth period, the Knights were presented with a power play opportunity when Yakovlev was sent to the box with just over three minutes left in the frame. With 15 seconds left on the man advantage, Mike Gelatt would respond with the equalizer on his 10th tally of the season from Robinson and Dawson.

The second period would follow a similar script. Shot totals again failed to crack double digits for both teams as defense dictated the game’s tempo. The Knights penalty kill was able to fend off two power play chances in the period’s first six minutes, providing frustration to the Rebels 3rd-ranked power play unit. After being granted an opportunity on the man-advantage at 14:46, the Knights were again able to capitalize. Following a cycle and shot from Matt Kidney and Elijah Latimer, Curtis Carlson scooped up the loose change in front and beat Jack Leavy inside the post at 16:26.

Entering the third, the Knights found themselves with a rare lead over the Rebels. After being frustrated by Grant Valentine and the Knights defense and penalty kill, Aston finally broke through at 6:06 into the third when captain Dom Garcia scored off helpers from Brennan Kapcheck and Dustin Manz. The final 14 minutes saw each team fail on a power play and both goalies standing tall enough to force overtime.

Having already played a total of 10 minutes of overtime in two of their last three games, the Knights were no strangers to the prospect of 3-on-3. Perhaps that is why Aston managed just one shot in the extra frame, as the Knights did well to limit grade-A chances on goal. That being said, the Knights managed just one shot of their own, punctuated by a dramatic breakaway by Adrian Danchenko in the final seconds of OT. Though he was ultimately denied by a last-second hooking by Kapcheck, the resulting nine-second power play, also unsuccessful, provided the Knights a shot of momentum transitioning into the shootout.

Sam Antonitsch began Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s third shootout effort in their last four games by ringing a shot off the post. Carter Wooley responded with a goal to put the Rebels up 1-0. Paul Maust answered with his second shootout tally in as many tries. Grant Valentine’s stop of Andrew Hart set the score even at 1 heading into a pivotal round three. Both Valentine and Leavy stopped their challengers in Reed Robinson and Jensen Zerban, respectively to force a round four. Adrian Danchenko, given his second chance in alone and this time unencumbered by a trailing defenseman, drew Leavy out of the net and maneuvered around the falling goalie to flip puck home and the Knights ahead 2-1. Valentine then stoned Brennan Kapcheck to close out the regular season series against Aston with a dramatic win.

Now back over .500 at 24-23-1-3, the Knights will return to the Revolution Ice Centre Saturday for a home-and-home series with the Northeast Generals.

Knights Enter the Holidays with an Early Present

December has been a tough month for the Knights, and heading into a home match up with the Aston Rebels Saturday night offered little respite for a team coming off back-to-back shutout losses. Their opponent entered the night with an NAHL-best 47 points, and had rattled off eight-straight wins over the Knights.

With a shuffling of the Knights lineup things got underway true to Knight-Rebels form. The first twenty minutes was spent largely exchanging zones, with Aston possessing the bulk of the opportunities. The Rebels 16 shots were all turned away by an active Colt Hanks who got the start in net for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Aided by Hanks’ solid work and the continued success of their penalty kill, the Knights thwarted two Rebel power plays to build momentum heading into the first intermission.

The second period began with similar play its predecessor, but the Knights steadily began to build and sustain time in the offensive zone. They were rewarded for their efforts when Joey Kubachka surged down the wall on a zone entry and from deep in his offensive zone, flipped a puck perfectly in front of the oncoming Khristian Acosta. In alone on goal, Acosta put the puck past Mareks Mitens for the game’s first goal at 5:59.

While the iron was still hot, the Knights would strike again with Reed Robinson firing a perfect outlet pass to Andrew Jackson. Jackson would streak in over the right side of Aston territory and rip a perfect snipe under the crossbar to beat Mitens and build a 2-0 lead.

The Rebels would finally get one past Hanks when on a faceoff win, Adam Peck drove straight to the net with the puck, and in the process of falling to the ice flipped the puck up and over the shoulder of Mitens. Hanks would stop the remainder of the 14 shots sent his way and the Knights would hold a 2-1 lead heading to back to the dressing room.

The Rebels would enter the third with renewed vigor, peppering Hanks with another wave of shots, and were given three more chances on the man advantage. All opportunities were turned away. With the extra attacker on the ice with just under two minutes to play, the Rebels were held high in the zone long enough for Reed Robinson to jump a point-to-point pass and bring it back for the clinching, empty-net goal.

The win for the Knights snaps a five-game losing streak and brings them to 2-3 against the Rebels at home. Colt Hanks made 45 of 46 saves earning his fifth win of the year in what was his easily his biggest performance of the season. The Knights will head into the holidays with a big win and a boost of confidence. They will return on December 30th to play host to the Kenai River Brown Bears.

The entire Knights organization would like to wish all their fans, families, players and staff a very happy holidays and we look forward to meeting again for the new year!

 

Knights Drop Road Contest 4-0

The Knights took to the road on a frigid December evening, looking to warm up their season series against the Aston Rebels. After having been shut out twice and beaten three prior times at the Ice Works arena, the Knights looked to have taken a half-step in the right direction after a dramatic 5-3 loss last Friday.

As they had seven times prior, the Knights would again face the NAHL’s best goaltender in Mareks Mitens. The Latvian netminder will soon depart to represent his country in the World Junior Classic in Montreal. He showed why again on Friday.

Things began with a quick Aston strike when Jensen Zerban muscled his way through three Knights skaters in the offensive zone just three minutes into the first. Pulling the puck loose off the half-wall, the forward then cut to the net and ripped the rubber through the pads of Grant Valentine.

The first would see both teams fail to find the net on multiple powerplay opportunities. The Knights would serve one with six seconds left in the first, in a penalty that would carry over into the second stanza. The score after 20 minutes of play would hold at 1-0.

The second began with Aston taking a penalty 39 seconds into the period, for the first of three self-shortened penalties on the evening for the Rebels. The penalty kill would be the strongest element to the Knights performance, as they would ultimately go 7-for-7.

The second would take a decided Aston first at 6:07 when Gvido Jansons followed up a shot from Zerban and tapped it back for the rebound goal. On the very next shift, two Knights collided opening space for an Aaron Maguyon one-timer that would beat Valentine to the near post.

Through a muddle of penalties on both sides, the Rebels would tack on yet another score at 19:26 when on a 3-on-1, Andrew Bellant would rip a puck past Valentine for the Rebels 4-0 lead.

Heading into the third, the Knights would need a furious rally to surmount the deficit, but thanks to Mitens it never came. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton generated a few grade-a looks, but each was ultimately turned away. A late double-minor would keep the Knights short-handed for too long to sustain any offensive momentum, and despite Aston taking a late 5-minute major, time would run out.

The Rebels improved to 23-4-1 on the year and 8-1 head to head with the Knights. The Knights fell to 12-17-1-1, and 1-8 against Aston. Mitens picked up his 8th shutout of the season, stopping all 19 shots he faced.The Knights will have another meeting with the Rebels Saturday night at 7:30 pm at the Revolution Ice Centre. Fans are invited to take part in ugly sweater night, and wear their most festive threads to the rink.

Fans please be advised that the stretch of route 315 by the I-81 bridge will be closed until Monday. Please use an alternate to get to the arena.

Knights Drop Hard-Fought Game in Aston

Moral victories are absent from the mental dictionaries belonging to Knights players and coaches. Fans of the Knights can take heart that their team made some strides against the NAHL’s points leader last night.

The game started in a familiar fashion. The Rebels got on the board early when Gvido Jansons buried a puck past Grant Valentine on the game’s first powerplay. The Knights continued to struggle moving the puck cleanly out of their own end and through neutral ice for the majority of the first, and to that end they went into the intermission down 1-0.

Things got worse in the second when Drew Blackmun added his 5th goal of the season against the Knights just 30 seconds into play. The score, combined with an increase in physical play to end the prior period did seem to galvanize the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck. They began to create space and passing lanes and began mounting chances on stellar Aston goalie Mareks Mitens.

At 10:12, Mike Gelatt barrelled in alone, and rocketed a puck over Mitens’ shoulder to get the Knights on the board. The score snapped a scoring drought of over 197 minutes against the Rebels and Mitens.

Aided by a couple of close-quarter saves made by their Latvian netminder and a Knights penalty at 11:21, Aston responded quickly with Jansons netting his second goal of the evening, again on the powerplay. The period would end with the scored 3-1 in favor of Rebels.

The third period in Aston has been a nightmare for the Knights thus far this season. The team has seen close contests get away from them on more than one occasion in the final stanza at Ice Works. This game would be different.

The Knights came out of the dressing room with renewed purpose, and while on a penalty kill, they forced a pair of Aston penalties  to create an eventual 5-on-3. Dorian Dawson capitalized, walking into the top of the slot to whip puck by Mitens to cut the deficit to one. The second penalty would be successfully killed by Aston.

The result built momentum for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck, as the team began sustaining offensive zone time with physical play along the wall. What was a 22-14 shot tilt favoring the Rebels was quickly erased as the Knights pulled even. A third penalty of the period by Aston put the Knights and Curtis Carlson back on the man-advantage. Carlson rewarded them with a snipe across the face of Mitens to notch the game at three with 10:08 remaining.

Aston didn’t allow for much celebration. Andrew Bellant wheeled his way free and put the Rebels back in the lead at 12:08. A Knights penalty at 16:55 gave Aston the opportunity for insurance, and they didn’t pass it up. Just after the penalty expired, Brennan Kapcheck took advantage of his team’s strong shift in the offensive zone and found the back of the net to put the game away.

With the loss, the Knights dropped their seventh straight to Aston, and second in a row overall. On the evening they went 2-4 against what had been the league’s best penalty kill unit entering the evening. They scored three goals on a netminder who’s season GAA was 1.27 and 1.02 against the Knights.

The result wasn’t what the they wanted, but the Knights will have the opportunity to build on the positives from yesterday’s game in short order. They’ll play the Johnstown Tomahawks at 7:30 pm at home in the Revolution Ice Centre.

 

Knights Drop Another Contest to Rebels

It didn’t take long for Aston to set the tone of game two of the weekend. Three Rebels stuffed a puck at the Knight’s blue line, where Evgeny Yakovlev plucked up the loose rubber and moved straight to the net. With a flick of the wrist, the 6-3 210 Yakovlev pushed a puck through the five-hole of Grant Valentine to give Aston a 1-0 lead. All of this  occurred in the first 32 seconds of the contest.

Things didn’t get any better for the Knights, who entered the contest having been shut out the night before and having lost their previous five matchups with the Rebels. Most of those meetings were highly-contested and evenly-played for the majority of 60 minutes. This would not be the case on this evening.

Aston followed up Yakovlev’s goal with two more in the first. A hustle play by Adam Peck saw the puck flipped out from behind the net of Grant Valentine to the waiting Drew Blackmun who poked it home for the goal. The third score came on a Aaron Maguyon’s putback of a rebound to close out an Aston-controlled first period.

The second began with Colt Hanks placed in net in relief of Valentine. The Rebels would respond with an even quicker score than the one that began the first. Gianluca Esteves would finish the “line hat trick” on assists from Evgeny Yakovlev and Aaron Maguyon just 28 seconds into the period.

Peter Zhong followed that up with his third goal of the season less than five minutes later on a feed from Adam Peck. Brennan Kapcheck would provide another insurance goal on the power play after he swerved his way free into the middle of the slot to fire the goal home.

After a stagnant 40 minutes of play, the Knights would found some ground on which to stand. Their offensive attack sustained zone time and the team was able to mount of few scoring chances on a flurry of Aston Penalties. Still, despite the uptick in energy and opportunities, the away team could not solve Aston netminder Mareks Mitens.

At 12:20 into the third, Drew Blackmun would score his second goal and the game’s final tally on assists from Cherwalk and Solomon to put a cap on the both the game and the Knights progress in the period. The 7-0 Aston win was the second straight game in which the Knights have been  shut out.

Issues that reared their head Friday reoccurred Saturday, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton continued to shorten power plays by committing penalties twice more while on the odd-man advantage.

Sustained offense continued to elude the Knights against the Rebels, which is a credit to Aston’s continued strong defense (despite missing leader Gvido Jansons for both games this weekend) but also an indication of a need for the Knights to drive possession deeper into the offensive zone. They saw glimpses of that in the third, but will need to see more of it more often moving forward.

Looking ahead, the Knights will have the week off, with their next games coming on November 18th and 19th against the Johnstown Tomahawks.

 

Knights Shut Out by Rebels

Despite a strong showing by netminder Grant Valentine, the Knights dropped their fifth straight matchup with the Aston Rebels Friday. The most recent recipient of the East Division Star of the Week stopped 29 of 31 shots (.935) in a losing effort, but continued his strong play.

In each of his last four games, Valentine has registered save percentages north of 90 percent. This was the first loss in that stretch.

The early going was typical of a Knights and Rebels matchup this season.  The first twenty minutes were defined by a lot of zone exchanges and not too much established possession. For the Knights it was their best shots tilt of the contest, as they won the battle 9-5 but could not solve goalie Mareks Mitens.

The second period would see an increase in shot volume but the Knights luck would stay the same. It was Aston who would break the scoreless streak in the second during four on four play.

Set up on a Knights turnover in their own end, Evgeny Yakovlev would skate the puck under the goal line before flicking it out in front to a waiting Dustin Manz. Manz, unchecked would fire one past Valentine to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead at the 9:29 mark in the period.

A recurrent theme throughout the contest were self-inflicted wounds. Twice on the man advantage, the Knights cut their time on the powerplay short with penalties. It was one such occurrence that resulted in the Manz goal.

Down one heading into the third period, the Knights would try to turn around what had been a rocky frame in previous matchups with Aston. But on this night the drum beat would continue for the Rebels as in typical fashion they would close the game with a strong third period.

The Knights would muster just three shots on goal to Aston’s 12. Andrew Bellant would add insurance for the Rebels at the 6:01 mark on a quick power play cycle and shot that barely maneuvered on and past Valentine’s pads.

The score would remain the same for the rest of regulation, as Mitens fended off the last of the Knights efforts on his way to his fifth-straight shut out and the Rebels fifth-straight win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The pair will renew acquaintances Saturday night at 7 pm in Aston.