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Game three in the Knights-Titans East Division Semi-Finals brought the competition to the Revolution Ice Centre with the series even at one. Friday’s contest saw the Titans surge out to an early lead.
After hemming the Knights in on a long shift early, the Titans fired a flurry of shots at Knights starter Christian Stoever. After he made saves on the initial Titans offerings, a rebound kicked out to Gavin Gulash on the short side. Gulash buried the puck for the game’s first goal at 2:56. Ryan Naumovski and Nick Boyagian tallied assists in the score. Andrew Husted added to the Titans lead after he deflected Chris Garbe’s shot past Stoever just three minutes later.
The Knights had no shortage of opportunities to respond. The team was stymied on all 12 of their first period shots, in addition to a few quality chances that missed the net of Ladd. In one instance, Ladd denied Jack Olmstead alone in close and then made a diving save to rob Matt Kidney of the would-be rebound goal.
The Titans would rally behind the efforts of the goaltender and their power play late in the period. With just six seconds remaining in their first man-advantage, Tate Singleton notched his first goal of the postseason after re-directing a Ryan Naumovski shot. Tyler Antonucci recorded the secondary assist on the tally, giving the Titans a commanding 3-0 lead with under five minutes remaining in the first.
The second period saw the game’s pace slow significantly as neither side found much success moving the puck. Turnovers, icings, and pucks put out of play dominated the early going, leaving little in terms of quality chances.
As had been the case for Wilkes/Barre-Scranton in game two, Gabe Temple was able to provide a spark. The Knights first-round draft pick scored his team’s first goal for the second-consecutive game, teed up by Jake Fuss and Tomas Koblizek on a rush down the ice at 12:01.
With the deficit trimmed to two, the Knights carried momentum into the third period. After beginning the frame on a carryover power play, the Knights quickly saw the advantage evaporate when they were penalized for hooking on a failed breakaway. Undeterred, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would a penalty 48 seconds later, pushing the game to 4-on-4 and an eventual Knights power play.
Shortly after the second power play’s expiration, Gabe Temple threw a puck to the slot where Jack Olmstead fired it to the netfront. Ladd and a host of bodies piled on the puck in the low slot, with the effort kicking it over to right post. There, lying prone on his back, Curtis Carlson shoveled the puck through Ladd to bring the Knights within a single score.
Wade Novak winded the comeback effort just over a minute and a half later. The explosive skater tore up the ice on a 3-on-2 rush. As Stoever moved to mirror his effort, Novak buried a shot top-shelf over Stoever’s glove to re-establish a two-goal lead (Kyle Jeffers).
In what can be described as an all-world counter punch, Michael Morrissey swung momentum back in the opposite direction less than a minute later. As the Titans attempted a breakout, Morrissey, pressuring alone in the offensive zone, pick-pocketed a Titans defenseman on the right circle before streaking in on goal. He ripped a shot past Ladd to narrow the score to 4-3.
Momentum on their side, the Knights re-doubled their efforts and managed to create another handful of quality chances as time ticked away in the third. Still, they struggled to break through against Ladd.
Their best chance came on a 2-on-1 with time dwindling, when Adrian Danchenko found Justin Engelkes with a cross-slot pass just after the pair gained the Titans zone. Engelkes lifted a heavy shot on goal, only to be denied by a sprawling Ladd.
Off the back of his efforts, the Titans fended off the last of the Knights comeback attempt, including 1:30 of facing an extra attacker, securing themselves a 2-1 series lead heading into game four.
Game four will be played tonight at the Revolution Ice Centre at 6:00 PM EDT. Admission is $5 at the door, and the game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Follow along on Knights social media and at NAHL.com!
Any postseason series in hockey is determined by momentum swings or lack thereof. Following a 5-2 loss to New Jersey in their East Division Semi-Finals opener, the Knights looked to reverse course on Sunday or face the risk of falling into a 2-0 deficit.
Neither the Titans nor the Knights found much momentum through the opening 20 minutes of game two. Though Wilkes-Barre/Scranton held a definitive advantage in offensive chances in the opening period, they could not solve Titans netminder Brandon Perrone while peppering him with 19, first-period shots.
For their part, the Titans offense mustered nine shots on the net of Christian Stoever, manning the pipes for his Knights postseason debut. The Northville, Michigan native stopped the first eight shots New Jersey put on goal, but early penalties finally caught up with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
While attempting to kill off a 5-on-3, the Knights were beaten on a swift passing from Nick Boyagian, who fed Kyler Head, parked to the right of Stoever. Head, who authored two power play goals in game one, pulled Stoever’s attention and motion to the right post. Head then threaded a back-door pass to a waiting Hunter Alden, whose shot beat Stoever’s scramble to get back across with 8 seconds left in the period.
Down a goal heading into the middle frame for the second-consecutive game, the Knights would fire out of the first intermission with a blistering pace. Like the night before, they tallied the second period’s first goal to tie the game.
On an early power play, the Knights set up a strong cycle in the Titans zone. From the right circle, Michael Morrissey zipped a puck back to Thomas Farrell, who let a howitzer shot go from the point. Perrone made the initial save, only to see the rebound kick over to Gabe Temple in front. Temple buried the puck for the game-tying goal just shy of the 3:00 mark of the frame.
Temple’s tally set off an avalanche. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck was unrelenting through much of the period. They were rewarded with their next score, just past the nine minute mark. Jake Fuss tangled and won a puck in the Titans far corner before driving from to the front of Perrone’s net. Fuss fired a shot off the goalie’s pads and the rebound glanced over back to the trailing Tomas Koblizek who ripped the puck over Perrone for the Knights first lead.
Farrell followed up with a goal of his own less than a minute later. Matt Kidney jarred a puck free with a check in the right corner of the attacking zone. Jack Olmstead found the biscuit and fired it to the top of the slot where Farrell ripped it through traffic, past Perrone for the 3-1 lead.
The Knights advantage was continually protected by an excellent outing from Christian Stoever. The 2000-born netminder neutralized New Jersey’s attempts to mount a rally with a bevvy of impressive saves.
In the period’s final minute, a forechecking Tomas Koblizek fought off two Titans before kicking the puck to Jake Fuss. From under the New Jersey goal line, Fuss, facing the glass of the end boards, flipped a perfect no-look pass to Tyrone Bronte streaking toward the net. Bronte pulled Perrone out of the crease with a fake, before dragging around the goalie for the highlight-reel goal.
In the third, the Knights didn’t sit on their lead, continuing their attack, despite facing resistance from the Titans always-dangerous transition game. Stoever stood tall throughout, making 11 saves in the game’s final frame, finishing with 29 on 30 shots on the evening.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s final insurance came on a delayed Titans penalty a little more than halfway through the third. On a play in which Blake Kryska was hit into his own end wall from behind, the big defenseman was able to steer the puck through the check and up the boards to Luke Robinson. After a brief survey, Robinson laced a long stretch pass to Justin Engelkes, waiting behind the Titans defense in neutral ice. Engelkes, moving in alone on Perrone, beat the savvy goaltender with flutter move from his backhand to the forehand to put the Knights ahead 5-1.
There the score would hold through the remainder of the contest, delivering the Knights a much-needed, series equalizer. The teams will meet again for game three at the Revolution Ice Centre in the best of five series this Friday, April 20th at 5:00 PM EDT. Stay tuned to Knights social media and www.wbsknights.com for all news and updates!
Series openers can set a tone, and if yesterday’s competition is any indication, the Knights and Titans first round will have no shortage of fireworks. Though Saturday’s score reflected a one-sided affair, the contest was hardly lopsided, as shots and penalty minutes flew abundantly from both sides.
The biggest separator between the Knights and Titans was New Jersey’s fast start in the first period, Saturday. With the benefit of home ice and a lively crowd behind them, the Titans controlled play through much of the first frame. David Tomeo earned the start in game one, and was tested early and often. In an otherwise sterling period, the West Caldwell backstop was bested twice on 23 shots.
Just past the 7:30 marker, a Titans combination of Nick Boyagian and Ryan Naumovski, swept in over the Knights blue line. Boyagian passed over to Naumovski on the right wing, where he centered the puck back to the top of the slot for the crashing Jimmy Dowd. The defenseman’s heavy shot rang off the pads of Tomeo who had charged to the top of the crease. The rebound kicked right back to Dowd, whose second try was denied by Tomeo sprawling forward and directing the puck to the side of the net, losing his stick in the process. Boyagian sat in waiting on the near goal post, but his effort to put the loose change home behind the fallen Tomeo missed through the crease. It kicked fortuitously back to Naumovksi, who circled his way to the top of the zone. Narrowly avoiding a shot block effort by Justin Engelkes, Naumovski flicked a quick wrister on goal, beating Tomeo to the back post for the 1-0 lead.
On the Knights third penalty kill of the period, the Titans struck again. The first shot coming from Ryan Wheeler off the cycle was turned aside by Tomeo. The rebound could not be cleared, as Boyagian climbed down the right boards to sift the puck back to the original point man, Wheeler. This time, he connected with Hunter Alden on a crisp pass to the middle of the slot, just past the stick of Reed Robinson. With space in the middle of the ice, Alden pulled Blake Kryska to the bottom of the slot in an attempt to block a shot that never came. Instead, Alden found the now-open Kyler Head at the bottom of the right circle, where the forward ripped a puck through, short side for the 2-0 lead at 18:36.
Resilient, the Knights ended an otherwise quiet period with a bang. After seeing limited action through much of the first, Titans starter Matt Ladd was beaten by the speed of the Knights transition offense. With about 20 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Matt Kidney sent an exit pass up the left wing boards to Jack Olmstead. Olmstead turned and curled a puck through neutral ice to Tyrone Bronte. Bronte gave the puck back to Olmstead as the pair gained the Titans line. From out wide on the left circle, Olmstead sent a perfect centering pass to the crashing Shay Donovan on the back door, where he deflected the rubber home, cutting the lead to one goal with 14 seconds left in the first.
The catalyst of a late-period goal bolstering them into the second, the Knights started the middle stanza with an explosive attack. Just past a minute in, on a seemingly innocent face-off win and charge up the left wall, the Titans were foiled once more by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s transition offense. Luke Robinson shut off Nick Boyagian just after he left his own zone. The loose puck was corralled and swung back to the Knights blue line by Reed Robinson. His pass found Blake Kryska who took a pair of strides before firing a stretch pass off the blade of Lincoln Hatten for what looked to be a routine tip-in. Hardly anything is routine when Curtis Carlson is skating into the attacking zone. Using his speed, the Knights captain plucked the puck off its fortuitous bounce off the side boards. He then blew past both Spencer Stanley and Ryan Wheeler, and with a quick flick of the wrists, ripped a shot across the face of Ladd for the game-tying goal.
From there, the Knights continued their siege of Ladd’s crease. Over the first half of the period, Ladd stood down a flurry of Knights shots, keeping the game even at two. As the Knights chances on goal mounted, so too did the tension and physicality of play.
Tomeo answered Ladd’s steady netminding with strong saves of his own. As the Titans weathered the early Knights surge, they began to create chances back the other way in the form of rushes down the ice. Twice Tomeo robbed the Titans on breakaways. The momentum slowly began to swing back to New Jersey’s effort as they began to breakout more cleanly and more often.
The turning point came just after the 13:00 mark of the second. After fending off shots from Tate Singleton and Zachary Farmeouth, Tomeo was beaten when Faremouth’s rebound was sent back to him from the corner by Hunter Alden. The centering feed allowed Faremouth to tee up a one-timer that was altered by a stick as he connected. The bad-luck puck came up high and off a Knights body in front of Tomeo, completely changing course in mid-air. The arching shot floated over the outstretched stick of the Knights goaltender and into the twine. Just after the puck crossed the goal line, Tomeo was knocked flat by Singleton, prompting a major scrum in the crease. Penalties were handed to each side to create a 4-on-4.
The Titans added a second man to the box after they were caught with too many men on the ice during a line change. The abbreviated Knights 4-on-3 and then 5-on-4 power play was cut just short on a high-intensity sequence of events with just seconds remaining on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton advantage. As the Knights circled the net of Ladd, Tyrone Bronte was laid out by Tate Singleton in the low slot as the Titans regained possession of the puck. On the ensuing clearing effort, Blake Kryska leveled Hunter Alden as he fielded the puck at the center ice logo. Kryska was penalized with a 5:00 major for kneeing.
After an initially neutralizing the first 3:51 of the extended Titans power play, the Knights penalty kill finally buckled. With 7.5 seconds left in the period, Hunter Alden and Ryan Wheeler played catch at the top of the Knights zone before Alden let a shot go that was re-directed through a screen in front by Kyler Head. The puck tucked its way through, giving the Titans a 4-2 lead.
In the third, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton killed off the remainder of the major penalty, but neither side could resist the urge to extend chippy exchanges beyond the whistle. All totaled, the teams combined for 54 penalty minutes-seven minor penalties, three misconducts-sapping five on five hockey, and ultimately working to preserve the two-goal lead for New Jersey.
The Titans added one more goal to their ledger at the halfway point of the third. Kyle Jeffers raced in over the line, and handed a puck to the just-onside Ryan Wheeler. Wheeler alertly found the wide-open Wade Novak crashing through the back side of the zone, where he buried the puck for the 5-2 lead.
Time ran out on the Knights comeback effort as the Titans took game one on the back of physical, emotional effort. A pivotal game two takes place today again in New Jersey at 5:00 PM EDT. Tune in on hockeytv.com and follow along on Knights social media!
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!