Photo Credit: NAHL.com
Led by Steady Stoever, Knights withstand Bulls to improve to 3-0
The NAHL Showcase kicked off Wednesday, and in the Knights third trip to the event, they looked to stay undefeated on the young season.
Their first opponent, the Amarillo Bulls, also entered competition without a loss. Things started quickly for the Bulls. At 5:48, Michael McPherson put a pass from the corner on a line back to the top of the slot to find an open Marcus Chorney who fired a shot past Knights goalie Christian Stoever.
Stoever, in his first start with the Knights, didn’t blink. A third-round pick in this year’s NAHL Entry Draft, the ’00 goaltender made a slew of impressive saves throughout the afternoon to keep Amarillo flustered, even during their heaviest shifts of offensive pressure.
The Knights attack got its start in the second half of the opening frame. After minutes of sustained offensive pressure, Tyrone Bronte continued his stellar start to the season. The Australian import extended his point streak to three games after he ripped a Jack Olmstead offering off the doorstep and past Amarillo goalie Jason Grande.
34 seconds later, Matt Kidney led Curtis Carlson to the net where Carlson slipped his way around Grande for the 2-1 lead.
Fueled by their physicality and improved puck possession, the Knights continued to apply pressure in the game’s middle frame. They were rewarded in the period’s first minute when Mike Morrissey and Reed Robinson drove hard to the and planted a rebound beyond the reach of Grande to build a Knights 3-1 lead.
Robinson was credited the goal while Morrissey collected the primary assist, with the secondary serving as Blake Kryska’s first point of the season. Robinson and Morrissey’s battling was a staple of the Knights consistent attack through the second, with both players displaying their size and veteran status by winning up and down the ice.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense, in-step with its quick-paced forecheck, won puck battles, made exit passes quickly, and kept the middle of the ice clear. Only in the second period’s final five minutes was the unit heavily tested in the form of two power plays in which they held Amarillo scoreless. Though they did not find the net, the Bulls power play pressure would be set the table for the third period.
In the final 20 minutes of regulation, Amarillo would regain the speed and pacing that enabled them to score the game’s opening goal. The Bulls consistency on the attack built as the clock wound down, while the Knights struggled to clear their own zone.
The culmination of Amarillo’s pressure and earlier power play efforts would converge at the 11:27 mark of the third period. Colin Price and Alex Truscott would combine to generate a loose puck in front of Stoever that was ultimately squeezed through by Jon Russell for the power play goal.
The score brought the Bulls within one, and the momentum fully to their cause. Despite this, the Knights defense and goaltending made plays when they had to, keeping their lead into the game’s final two minutes.
It was as the Bulls began to contemplate pulling their goalie for the extra attacker that they took a late penalty for head contact. In the game’s final minute, down by one, they had no choice but to trade their goalie for just a fifth skater.
With the crease vacant, Amarillo fought valiantly to tie the game. They were largely successful in keeping play in the offensive zone for the remainder of regulation, but the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense, coupled with Stoever withstood Amarillo’s rally long enough to secure the win.
Stoever earned his first victory in his Knights regular season debut, stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced. Though he has had a head start on most of the league, Knights forward Tyrone Bronte is third in the NAHL in scoring with two goals and three assists through three games played.
The Knights will take their 3-0 record into a contest with the Shreveport Mudbugs tomorrow at 12:30 pm EST. The game can be viewed at HockeyTV.com. For real-time updates, follow @WBSKnights on Twitter and visit www.nahl.com/scores.