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!
Saturday brought with it the Knights final game of the 2017 calendar year. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton entered the tilt with the opportunity to gain sole possession of first place in the NAHL’s East Division with a win. Their opponent for the second straight day was the Kenai River Brown Bears.
After a strong offensive showing in a 5-2 win, the Knights looked to their forecheck to lead the way again on Saturday. After a quiet first seven minutes in which each side traded an unsuccessful power play, the Knights awoke.
At 7:25 Adrian Danchenko kicked off an impressive outing when he fired a shot through a screen to best Kenai River goalie Gavin Enright. Anthony Firriolo picked up his 12th assist, while Gabe Temple added his sixth to set up the game’s first score.
31 seconds later Temple would fill in the goal column as well as the Knights first-round pick willed a puck through Enright on a wraparound set up by Danchenko and Tomas Koblizek. The 2-0 lead held through the end of the period as Christian Stoever, fresh off a stint in the USHL, coupled with the Knights defense to hold the Brown Bears off the board.
A quiet opening to the second frame gave way to a penalty parade featuring 11 combined infractions. Both power plays were stymied by steady penalty kill play on each side of the ice, holding the score in place at 2-0. A fight between Michael Morrissey and Michael Spethmann kicked up the intensity in what had already proven to be a chippy weekend just past the halfway point of play.
As the second wound down, 4-on-4 play ensued at 16:49 following a Kenai River penalty. With added space on the ice, Tom Farrell and Luke Robinson set up an Adrian Danchenko deke and drive to the net where he bested Enright for his eighth goal of the year, his second of the day.
Leading 3-0 to start the the third, the Knights penalties finally came back to bite them, as former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton blue-liner Markuss Komuls cashed in a perfectly placed power play goal at 5:46 (Zach Krajnik, Filip Karlsson).
The Knights would bounce back, capitalizing on a power play of their own when Curtis Carlson fired a puck home at 11:29 from Jack Olmstead to re-gain a three-goal lead. Olmstead would combine with Matt Kidney to put the game to rest a few minutes later. Just past 17:40, Kidney executed a brilliant poke check in neutral ice before carrying the puck back the other way to create an odd-man rush. In front of the net, Kidney faked to Curtis Carlson before passing back to Jack Olmstead in the slot where the latter buried the puck for a 5-1 lead.
Christian Stoever would close out the contest with a stellar 32 saves on 33 shots in his first game back, on his way to his 11th win of the season. Gavin Enright was solid, despite the five goals allowed, making 36 stops on 41 shots. The Knights and Brown Bears both went 1/7 on the power play and 6/7 on the penalty kill on the afternoon. The win and subsequent two points puts the Knights ahead of the Philadelphia Rebels in the East by one point.
The Knights will look to continue building on a three-game winning streak with a two-game series against the midwest-leading Fairbanks Ice Dogs next weekend. The first will take place on Friday, January 5th and 1:00 pm. The second will be played on Saturday the 6th at 6:30 pm. Both games will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and Knights social media for all news and updates!
On behalf of the entire organization, the Knights would like to wish all their fans, players, families, and staff a very healthy and happy New Year and look forward to bringing you more wins in 2018!
Fresh off Christmas and holiday festivities, the Knights returned to home ice on Friday to take on the Kenai River Brown Bears. The first of four meetings between the pair kicked off quickly in favor of the home team.
Just 3:37 into play, Matt Kidney notched his 10th goal of the season when he fired a Jack Olmstead rebound past Brown Bears starting goalie Artur Pavliukov. Paul Cimilluca picked up a secondary assist for his third helper of the season.
The Knights kept their foot on the gas pedal largely dictating play through the opening 20 minutes. The back check limited quality chances on starting goaltender David Tomeo, while the forecheck spent ample time in the attacking end.
Curtis Carlson capped off the strong period when off a faceoff win, the Knights captain fed a pass to Matt Kidney waiting in the middle of the slot. Kidney flipped his second goal of the night past Pavliukov to send the Knights to the first intermission with a multi-goal lead.
Three minutes into the second, during a stretch of 4-on-4 play, Gabe Temple followed Carlson’s example, immediately flipping a face off win to Justin Engelkes in the slot. Engelkes hammered a one-timer to the twine for his seventh goal of the season and a 3-0 Knights lead.
Tomeo and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense weathered the Brown Bears push-back in the second half of the period before the Knights drew a penalty at 15:52. 16 seconds into the team’s third power play of the evening, Reed Robinson fired a puck home to build a 4-0 lead. Adrian Danchenko and Blake Kryska registered the assists.
The final frame of regulation kicked off with the Knights on the penalty kill. The Brown Bears, owners of one of the NAHL’s most potent power plays, capitalized on their third turn on the man advantage, when Gil Garcia ripped a shot from the slot by Tomeo for Kenai River’s first goal (Sacha Guillemain, Cameron McDonald).
The goal swung momentum to the Brown Bears forecheck, as they drew three more penalties in the first five minutes of the third. The Knights penalty kill and Tomeo combined to erase the remainder of the penalties taken, but Kenai River continued to force Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to chase in their own zone.
At 6:59, Gabriel Wahl fed former Knight Markuss Komuls whose rebound found Connor Fedorek pinching down from the blue line. Fedorek picked the puck up in the slot and weaved it around Tomeo to narrow the deficit to two.
Determined to squash the comeback effort, the Knights offense found a renewed rhythm and resumed their offensive on Artur Pavliukov’s crease. The Lithuanian netminder stood tall in a gritty effort that even saw him briefly leave the ice after sustaining a minor injury in the second.
Despite Pavliukov’s best efforts, including 42 total saves and one robbery of Jack Olmstead, Curtis Carlson put the game to bed at 13:56. Set up by Lincoln Hatten and Luke Robinson, Carlson fired a puck from the right circle through traffic and Pavliukov to put the Knights ahead by three.
Despite multiple penalties being assessed to both sides through the final five minutes of play, the 5-2 score held through the final horn. With the win, the Knights improve to 19-7-3, placing them just one point behind the Philadelphia Rebels for first place in the East Division. They’ll have the opportunity to regain the top spot in round two of Knights-Brown Bears today at 2:30 pm. The game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com, with live updates being posted to Knights Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
KNIGHTS ALUMNI: SPRONG RECALLED TO PITTSBURGH
Former Knights forward and current Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong was recalled to the NHL from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins roster today. Sprong played for the Knights Bantam Major team in the 2011-12 season, helping them to a national championship title. Through 29 games in the AHL this season, the 2015 NHL second-round pick has scored 18 goals and 10 assists. The Knights are happy for Daniel and wish him the best of luck in Pittsburgh!
It wasn’t pretty, but it was two points. The Knights can hang their hats on a gritty, albeit non-traditional win following their 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon. For the third-consecutive game, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton played host to the Philadelphia Rebels following last night’s 5-3 Knights victory.
The Rebels entered play Sunday having several regulars return along the blue line that had missed several games prior. The influence was apparent, as Philadelphia got off to a suffocating start. Their forecheck was again fast and physical as they hemmed the Knights in their own zone for much of the first period. In net for his second start of the three-game series was Christian Stoever, who was nothing short of spectacular on Sunday.
Mounting 18 shots on net in the first frame, the Rebels could only push one puck by the 2000 goalie, with that tally coming at 18:10 on the power play. The sequence was started by point play from Carson Moniz and Diarmad DiMurro before Moniz ripped a shot and rebound to Adam Peck, who promptly buried the goal to give the Rebels the 1-0 lead. Beyond that point, the Rebels simply could not solve Stoever.
The second period fell in line with the first, where the Rebels again controlled play and time of possession. Neither team found the twine in the middle frame, with Stoever stopping eight shots, and Rebels goalie Ryan Keane saving six. A late period surge by the Knights forecheck made the latter netminder make a few quality stops, but did set the table for things to come in the third.
Down 1-0 with 20 minutes to play, the Knights would again find themselves under heavy pressure from the Rebels attack. Though Philadelphia had the overwhelming majority of chances, the difference in the final period was that the Knights were able to finish on their own.
Around the 9:30 mark of the third period Jack Olmstead, Curtis Carlson, and Matt Kidney set up shop in the Philadelphia zone. With Luke Robinson and Tom Farrell on the back end, the Knights cycled effectively until Kidney put a shot on goal that pulled Keane out of the net and generated a heavy rebound that Carlson buried to tie the game at one.
The Rebels were quick to mount pressure in response, but Stoever continued to stand on his head, denying Philadelphia all 20 shots they put on his plate in the third.
In the final minute of regulation, the Knights again would again stand up on the puck in the attacking zone. This time it was Reed Robinson feeding a pass to Luke Robinson, who turned a shot in front which was re-directed to twine by a camped out Michael Morrissey.
Suddenly on the wrong end of the scoreboard in a game they largely controlled, the Rebels pulled Keane for an extra attacker. In the final 51 seconds, they could not solve Stoever as the Knights stole a game on Sunday to improve to 16-6-3. Their 35 points as a team give them a three-point advantage in the East Division standings heading into a weekend off. The total also moves them into a tie with the Shreveport Mudbugs for most points in the entire NAHL.
The Knights will be back in action on December 8th and 9th, when they travel to Johnstown for a pair of road games at the 1st Summit Arena. Stay up to date with all Knights news by following team social media and checking back at www.wbsknights.com.
The Knights are riding high entering this weekend’s competition with the Johnstown Tomahawks. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has won four-straight games and has recorded a point or better in nine consecutive contests. Following last weekend’s sweep of the division-leading Generals, the Knights are one point behind Northeast for first place in the East and the highest point total in the NAHL.
Across the ice this weekend stand the Johnstown Tomahawks. The blue-collar team may be in the midst some early season struggles, but that does not diminish their talent nor their competitive, physical style of play. Following two, one-goal defeats and an overtime point earned in their last two meetings with the Knights, the Tomahawks went on to beat the Philadelphia Rebels and New Jersey Titans in two of their next five games.
“Half our team are newcomers-getting in there and getting into that first period is a main goal of the staff right now,” said head coach Tom Kowal in the latest edition of Coach’s Corner. “It’s that first road trip to Johnstown. You can tell all your players all about the atmosphere and the rink, the history of Slapshot being there, but until you get there and get them into the first period-I think the staff will relax a little after the first period Friday night. Even when Johnstown is struggling, they’re tough to play against.”
In order to succeed this weekend, the Knights will have to slow down Sam Solensky and Joe Kile, the Tomahawks top two scorers this season. Solensky and Kile have each scored a single goal in both of the prior two meetings between the teams. Johnstown is also bolstered by the East Division’s second-best power play, converting chances at a steady 21.3%.
For their part, the Knights would like to bolster a power play that has been inconsistent this season. While it has improved of late, it currently ranks last in the division at 16.1%. It will be faced by a Johnstown penalty kill that nullifies 70.9% of its penalties.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has had few issues scoring in all other circumstances, as the team is tied for the lead league in goals for per game at 3.61, and is third in shorthanded scores with 4.
Leading the Knights offense is Jack Olmstead, fresh off being named Eastern Division Star of the Week for his five points in three games against the Generals last weekend (2-3-5, 1 GWG). His 10 goals and 11 assists in 16 games played is tied for the fifth-most points scored in the league. His 1.31 points-per-game and +/- of +15 are best in the NAHL among qualified skaters.
He’s joined in the pont-per-game or better club by Reed Robinson, who’s second on the Knights with nine goals and 10 assists in 18 games. Matt Kidney is close behind with 5-12-17 in 18 games, as are Curtis Carlson 7-9-16 in 18 gp and new Bemidji State commitment Tyrone Bronte with 5-7-12 in 13.
Along the blue line, the Knights will continue to look for offense from Tom Farrell, who leads Knights defenders with nine points in 16 games, and Anthony Firriolo, who has seven assists in as many games since being traded to the Knights.
In goal, the Tomahawks can turn to recently acquired, East Division veteran Jack Leavy, or long-tenured Tomahawk Britt League. The duo have combined for 44 games played and record of 24-8-6 over their past two seasons in the NAHL.
The Knights will have a choice between 2017 third-round draft pick Christian Stoever and 2017 tender David Tomeo. Stoever went 2-0 last weekend, stopping 52 of 56 shots on goal against the other top-ranked offense in the NAHL. He’s 2-0 against Johnstown this year with an overtime victory. Tomeo’s numbers have been steady when in the net this year as the 18-year old has a 4-1 record to go along with a 2.56 goals against and a .918 save percentage.
The Eastern Division clash will start tonight at 7:30 pm EST. :The game can be viewed at hockeytv.com. Stay tuned to Knights social media and www.wbsknights.com for updates!
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.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights kicked off their regular season in thrilling fashion, winning 3-2 over the Titans in overtime Friday night. Entering Saturday’s road rematch, they were in search of two points that would move them into first place in the East.
Things started off quickly; just one 1:01 into the first, Lincoln Hatten buried his first goal of his NAHL career on assists from Tyrone Bronte and Tom Farrell.
Just under two minutes later Jack Olmstead picked up his first tally of the year and second of his Knights career on an assist from Lincoln Hatten.
New Jersey would not waste much time with their response. 16 seconds after Olmstead’s goal, Hunter Alden pitched in one of his own (Nick Boyagian) to cut the lead in half. Despite a slew of penalties to close the period, the game would remain 2-1 at the end of the first 20 minutes of play.
Tiernan Seningen would open the second by tying the game at two just 52 seconds in, set up by Ryan Naumovski and Matthew Cameron. The Knights were back in the lead 48 seconds later when Tyrone Bronte notched his first career NAHL goal on assists from Jack Olmstead and Paul Luebke.
17:15 into a pitched period that saw a both teams combine for 26 shots, Jack Olmstead added his second goal of the night to regain the two-goal lead (Bronte).
Keeping the theme of early-in-the-period scoring, the Titans cut the Knights lead to one after Matthew Headland added his first goal of the season at the 3:44 mark in the third period, set up by Tyler Barrow.
Like it’s predecessor, the third period saw 26 combined shots between forechecks. Goalies Kevin Lake (37/40) for the Knights and Brandon Perrone (32/36) held their own in between the pipes to keep the game at a 4-3 tilt.
In the contest’s dwindling moments, New Jersey pulled their goalie in an effort to tie the game with the benefit of the added attacker. Instead, Tom Farrell and Adrian Danchenko slid the puck up ice to Curtis Carlson for the game-sealing empty net goal.
With the victory, the Knights earned a weekend sweep of the Titans and move into a tie with the Northeast Generals for first place in the East Division. All totaled, Knights rookies combined to score four goals and five assists on the evening.
Their next contest will come Wednesday in the team’s first game of the NAHL Showcase, held in Blaine, Minnesota. Face off against the Amarillo Bulls will take place at 2:15 pm eastern time and can be watched on hockeytv.com.
Part one of two looks at the veterans coming back to Knights training camp
In their second year in the NAHL, the Knights took significant steps forward toward establishing themselves in one of the best junior leagues in the United States. Moving ahead to year three, Knights head coach Tom Kowal is making no bones about his program’s end goal for the upcoming season.
“We’re in our third year now,” he said. “Our goal isn’t just to make the playoffs. Our goal isn’t to get through round one or round two of the playoffs. Our goal is to win a Robertson Cup. Anything short of that, we’re not envisioning it right now.”
To make a run at a title at any level of any sport, experience and leadership are necessary. Bolstering the Knights chances is a strong nucleus of returning veterans.
“They’re the ones that set the tone, they set the bench mark; it’s their job right now,” Kowal said. “I told them veterans have to be veterans. They’re not rookies any more. They’re the ones that have to lead the charge. I’m pretty happy with the way they look right now.”
Returning to training camp are forwards Matt Kidney, Mike Gelatt, Curtis Carlson, Mike Morrissey, Reed Robinson, Mike Gelatt, Andrew Jackson and Adrian Danchenko.
“I think there’s a lot of speed up front,” said assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “We have a strong, returning group of forwards there.”
Matt Kidney was the Knights first round draft pick in 2016 and lived up to high expectations. The righty forward led the team in points, with 20 goals and 24 assists in 45 games.
“I think it’s the same as last year but I have more experience now,” said Kidney of his role this year at main camp. “I just need to get in touch with younger guys and be a positive influence in our locker room.”
Fellow Middletown, NJ native Mike Gelatt spent many games on a line with Kidney, and looks to build off a solid season in which he tallied 12 goals and 25 helpers in 49 games.
Curtis Carlson was one of the Knights strongest performers down the stretch of the 2016-17 season. He wowed at Knights Main Camp, flashing his trademark speed on his way to generating a high volume of offensive chances. As a veteran with experience in the NAHL dating back to the 2015-16 season, Carlson is in line to be an even bigger contributor this season.
“I hope to play more of a leadership role in the locker room,” Carlson said. “That being said, I don’t need a letter on my chest, just more of a guy to look up to, and if someone has problems they can come to me. I’m looking for guys on my team, for guys that are particularly good in the locker room. That’s the first part, you want good character. Then of course you want skilled guys, but guys that can play a role. You never know where you’re going to end up in the lineup. One night you can be on the first line, the next night you can be on the fourth. You just need to be consistent in your role.”
Carlson is one of the veterans buying into the potential he’s seen from the group competing for to make the roster.
“I want us to go to the Robbie this year,” he said. “Of course, that’s every team’s goal, but I’m a firm believer in that it starts in the first game of the year. You have to set the tempo there and then take it one game at a time. If you’re doing that, you’re doing it right and playing consistently, you’re going to make your way up there.”
The gritty Mike Morrissey is among the Knights organization’s most-tenured players and, like Carlson, stood out at main camp as one of its leaders. Last year he regularly drew opponents’ most-skilled forwards, some that are now playing division one hockey. His role moving in his second year at the NAHL is expected to grow.
Reed Robinson played his most productive hockey down the stretch of the 2016-17 season, scoring four goals and seven assists in his final 13 games. The gifted power forward has a knack for penalty-killing, and with his speed, was a consistent source of shorthanded scoring chances.
“I think we’re really fast, there’s a lot of work ethic out there,” said Robinson after main camp. “I think the biggest thing is going to be consistency. If we’re consistent we have the ability to be a really good team. You definitely have to take on a little bit of a leadership role. There’s a lot of new guys so you have to get them to loosen up, to play their games.”
Rounding out the returners to training camp are Andrew Jackson and Adrian Danchenko. The duo combined to play 94 games last season. The pair have size and speed that can’t be coached and showed versatility in filling multiple roles throughout the lineup over their past two years in the NAHL.
Familiar faces returning on the blue line are veterans Markuss Komuls, Paul Cimilluca and Joey Verkerke.
Komuls is a solid puck-mover who made a strong transition from tier-III to tier-II with the Knights last season. The Latvian’s ability to skate the puck and dictate possession in the offensive zone placed him second in scoring among Knights defenders last year.
A second-round pick in last year’s NAHL entry draft, Paul Cimilluca will look to take the next step this season. The right-handed defenseman developed a solid two-way game, eating a lot of minutes in his first junior season. He brings both size and strength with his game and showed off a powerful shot in camp.
“I’ve just been working out, trying to get stronger in the gym,” he said of his offseason goals. “On the ice, I’ve been working on my skating, trying to get faster and quicker, and just working on handling the puck better so I can make more plays.”
Now a seasoned junior hockey player, Cimilluca is eager to share lessons he’s learned.
“My advice to the guys here has been to just to go out and play your game, do what you do best, don’t try and do something you’re not used to doing,” he said. “If you’re a goal-scorer, go out and put a few in the net, if you’re a grinder, go out and make a few plays and do what comes naturally to you and what you’re comfortable with. It’s a trial for everyone, we’re all trying to make this team.”
Joey Verkerke joined the Knights roster after the start of the season last year and represented himself well in his junior hockey action. The Michigan-native had a busy offseason, playing in a summer league with names like Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin. The agile defenseman will look to complement a Knights blue line that’s been bolstered by bigger bodies this offseason.
Two Knights veterans are currently pushing for USHL spots after being selected in this year’s USHL Entry Draft. Should either be released from their USHL teams, the Knights retain their rights and thus can add them back to their NAHL roster.
Paul Maust has been a mainstay in the Knights NAHL lineup for the past two years. Even after joining the team following the first month of last season, Maust still finished second on the roster with 43 points. He was selected 75th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2017 USHL Entry Draft. At Knights main camp, he helped introduce rookies to grind of playing against junior hockey players.
“As an older guy, you just have to keep the locker room loose, make sure they’re not too nervous-just go out there and have some fun,” Maust emphasized. “I mean the biggest thing for me is don’t get outside your game, do what you’re good at. I think I saw a group that’s going to be able to go on some streaks and sweep consecutive opponents.”
Dorian Dawson has spent the past two seasons ascending to the top spot on the Knights blue line. The Canadian import was deployed in all situations last season, using his size and speed to overwhelm opponents up and down the ice. He was rewarded for his 9-25-34 line and steady defense by being taken in the 7th round of the draft by the Fargo Force.
The Knights report to training camp at the beginning of September and will open their season against the New Jersey Titans at the Revolution Ice Centre at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 15th. Tickets can be pre-ordered by calling (570)-883-1100.
With eyes ahead, team enjoys productive, competitive opening to camp
The Knights took the Pennsylvania heat to the ice Wednesday afternoon as they forge ahead to write their next chapter in the NAHL. The talent that took the ice on Wednesday mixed speed and grit with NAHL tenure and fresh legs.
“It’s very evident that our assistant coach Andrew Whiteside and head scout Justin Schreiber, two guys who head our scouting program and our recruiting, along with all the others that have helped us, that they’ve really done a great job this past year,” said Knights NAHL head coach Tom Kowal. “They pounded the pavement. We have eight teams with a lot of great talent and that’s a good problem to have.”
Over the course of the past year, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton staff has been scouring the hockey world for talent to bring to the 2017-18 season and beyond. Main Camp not only brings together the subjects of their search, but tests their scouting through competition.
“It is big week for us,” said Knights head scout Justin Schreiber. “Andrew Whiteside and I spent a ton of time on the road, and this week is kind of the culmination of everything. It all comes together-draft picks, tenders, and returners. This week is big. That being said, the games today were really high-paced. I’m pretty impressed with the level of play. I’m excited to see what carries over to day two.”
Formed from a massive pool of Knights veterans, tenders, draft picks, and invitees, eight teams played four games this afternoon. They’ll play eight more games tomorrow before the camp roster is trimmed into two all-star teams. Those teams will fill out the remaining available spots on the Knights roster.
“We want guys who play with grit, said Schreiber.” It’s important for us to find forwards that mix that skill and grit together and defenseman that are both gritty and mean-guys that have a little gravel in their gut. We want guys who bring the lunch pail and their boots to work every day and at the end of the day, we want our team to be really hard to play against. I think that showed itself here on day one.”
Returning veterans wasted little time in making an impression. As last season’s leading scorer, it only was only fitting that Matt Kidney would punctuate his team’s game one victory by burying a shot top shelf from just inside the blue line. Mike Gelatt rattled the boards down low, Paul Cimilluca potted a goal off a 2-on-1 rush, Mike Morrissey consistently inhabited his opponent’s crease, Curtis Carlson blazed through back-checkers to create chances, while Paul Maust and Reed Robinson took turns putting pucks in the twine. When they weren’t on the ice, the same players were engaged off of it, attentively following each game, eagerly surveying each potential new team mate.
“They’re the ones that get us going,” said Kowal. “They set the bench mark. It’s their job right now. I told them, that veterans have to be veterans. They’re not rookies anymore. Those are the guys that have to lead the charge. If we don’t have good leaders, we’re not going to have a good hockey team. I’ve really been pretty hard on my veterans this past summer to make sure they’ve been working out, to make sure they’re ready. So far I’m pretty happy with the way they are looking right now. Even walking in, they look bigger. They’re buying into the organization’s standard right now. Just making the playoffs isn’t good enough anymore. We’re going into our third season-round one isn’t good enough. We need a round two-we need a round trip to have a successful season.”
While the veterans set an early tone, newer players made their impacts known. Tendered defenseman Blake Kryska notched two goals in his first game. Tom Farrell, a big blue-liner who, like Kryska, spent a few games with the Knights last season, tallied a goal in his first game as well. Goalie Dave Tomeo, once a Knights opponent, was calm and steady in between the pipes.
Draft pick Lincoln Hatten showed off an impressive combo of size and speed, creating a few odd-man advantages by streaking past the last defender. First round pick Gabe Temple displayed impressive stick handling as he appeared unrelenting in attacking the offensive zone. Christian Stoever, the lone goalie selected by the Knights in this year’s draft, impressed with several acrobatic saves.
All newcomers and veterans will get another chance tomorrow to make an impression as the Knights take further stock of their new roster. For the players that in camp only by invitation, Kowal offered encouragement.
“They should just be who they are,” said Kowal, “We can only draft and tender so many guys. There’s a lot of great hockey players out there. It seems like every year-and I’ve been doing this for 15 years-a kid that we didn’t draft, didn’t tender, a kid who hasn’t played a game for me in his life makes the team. It’s just that blue-chipper that no one knows who slips through the cracks, that comes out here and has a really good weekend, impresses our staff, and ends up being a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knight.”
Game one begins at 8:30 am as Navy takes on Purple.