Tag Archives: Hockey Commitments

Matt Kidney Commits to Salve Regina

When the Knights took Matt Kidney in the first round of the 2016 NAHL Entry draft they knew they were getting an important piece for their future. This week, Kidney committed to Salve Regina University, a member of the NCAA division III Coastal Commonwealth Conference. The Seahawks are coming off a banner year that included a DIII National Championship appearance.

“I think what sold me was Coach Klann,” said Kidney of Salve Regina’s  now second-year head coach. “I’ve heard a lot of good things through the people I talk to and in his first year with Salve, he took them to a national championship. Going to college, a big thing for me is winning and getting a good education, and I think Salve has both of those things.”

Zech Klann was named DIII coach of the year by USCHO.com, guiding the Seahawks to their fourth-consecutive winning season in his first at the helm. In 2017-18, Salva won the CCC regular season title before making a stellar postseason run that came up just short of its ultimate goal. In the past four seasons, Salve Regina is 65-35-10, with two trips to national tournament.

For his part in recording impressive numbers, Kidney led the Knights in scoring in his rookie season, notching 20 goals and 46 points in 48 total games. He followed that up in 2017-18 with 22-31-53 in 67 games played. A two-time NAHL Top Prospects participant,  Kidney saved some of his best hockey for the 2018 Robertson Cup push, where he recorded three goals and three assists in 10 games. All totaled, the right-handed forward leaves Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as its all-time leading NAHL scorer with 42 goals and 99 points in 115 games.

“We drafted Matt Kidney understanding that we were getting a really skilled player,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We had just come off our first season, looking to build a team that would compete for a Robertson Cup. Matt stepped in early and hit the ground running. He was a tone-setter for us. When he was rolling, we were playing some of our best hockey. He was a huge piece in our playoff run this past season, and I think that really showed what kind of player he’s capable of being.”

Kidney’s choice to attend Salve Regina came from advice.

“I talked to Danny Eruzione a lot recently,” Kidney said of his friend, a former New Jersey Titans forward. “He just kept saying ‘Dude you have to come, you have to come.’ I know he’s a good guy and he’d be straight up with me and he told me ‘This is the place to be.'”

With over 100 games played in the League of Opportunity, Kidney credits the NAHL for preparing him for the physical challenges college hockey is known for.

“From hearing a lot of opinions about DIII, it’s a lot of bigger, older guys,” he said. “My first year in the NAHL, it was a lot of bigger guys and that kind of prepared me and help me play a more physical game. I think this year it’s really helped me a lot with the speed. I think it increased my speed-I know I got faster this year. I think going to school next year is going to be really good.”

After enjoying a deep postseason run in his final year of junior hockey, Kidney wants to help put the Seahawks over the top, following their double-overtime loss in the 2017-18 National Championship.

“I think I come there to win each and every day,” he said. “I feel like I proved that in this year’s playoffs. Our playoff run was spectacular and wasn’t really expected by most and not a lot of people saw it coming. I think I come with a winning attitude and a lot of hard work.”

The Knights run to the Final Four of the Robertson Cup will forever stick with Kindey as one of his all-time favorite memories with the organization.

“It had to be,” he said. “Your last year you go out to Minnesota, play in front of 200 scouts and play against some of the best players in the league. There’s nothing better than that.”

In parting with the Knights, Kidney was sure to thank those who helped him along the way.

“I gotta give thanks to my coaches, Tom Kowal and Andrew Whiteside and the Knights organization for giving me this opportunity,” said Kidney. “Craig Doremus too. I’ve known him a long time, and he’s always looked out for me over the years, and always was honest with me. And of course my family. I think my family played a big role in keeping me honest and supporting me.”

“Matt will always be thought of as a player that helped move our organization in the direction we want it to go,” said Kowal. “In our team’s NAHL history, he holds a lot of our records. He’s earned that with his talent and effort. I thank him for all he’s contributed and wish him the best moving forward in hockey and life.”

The Knights echo coach Kowal’s thoughts and join him in wishing Matt nothing but the best as he moves on to college and beyond!

Tyler Watungwa Commits to Finlandia University

Another day and another Knight is heading off to college. Tyler Watungwa, a crucial mid-season addition to the EHL team, and an elemental piece to the Knights second-half run has committed to Finlandia University. The Lions compete in the highly-competitive NCHA Conference in NCAA Division III hockey.

“First off, it came highly recommended by coach Fusco, him being an alumni of their program and a former player for its head coach Joe Burcar,” said Watungwa. “He had nothing but good things to say about both Finlandia and the coaching staff there. That was a huge part of it. Once I was started looking into it a little more, they had the program that I was looking for. It’s called physical therapist assistant and that’ll lead me down a path of exercise science, hopefully allowing me to be an athletic trainer once hockey is all done.”

“I was just doing my job as a coach and reaching out to other coaches at the college level to talk about my 97’s,” said Fusco. “One of the schools I talked to was my alma mater Finlandia. Coach Joe Burcar, was my coach. I know what what he likes and what he demands out of his players. I wanted to help him out and ultimately help Tyler. Burcar wants hockey players and he’s getting one in Tyler.

The Ottawa native came to the Knights in mid-December, while the team was still finding their footing in the Eastern Hockey League. After returning from a two-year absence, the roster was filled with talented, but young players, many that were still new to the junior level of hockey. Watungwa saw through that and reached out to a place he felt he could help.

“He actually reached out to me,” said Fusco. “We were playing the Boston Junior Rangers and East Coast Wizards and I got an email from Tyler expressing an interest in playing for us. He wanted to come to an organization with a good reputation and some prestige while getting some exposure to scouts. I took a look at some clips of him, talked to his coach, and even had the benefit of having Austin Weber, one of his former teammates, already on our roster. Web backed up what I saw and that was that Tyler was a good hockey player who worked hard, was strong and hard to move off the puck. At the end of the day, he was a ‘97 who wanted to be here, who wanted to be a Knight and that worked out perfectly.”

“Where I was before, I wasn’t really sure if I was getting these looks,” explained Watungwa. “I came back to the EHL, where the goal is getting looked at as much as I could. I knew coming in, this is the spot to do it. The league showcases are amazing in terms of all the scouts that are there. The team and the league as a whole put a whole a lot of effort into moving guys up, which is awesome.”

Once aboard with the Knights, Watungwa immediately made his presence known as an explosive and gritty playmaker. In his first seven games, he scored five goals and two assists while installing himself as crucial piece in all situations.

“He came in, and I thought he was going to be a middle six forward, a kind of a grinder guy, but right off the bat he proved he could be a goal-scorer,” said Fusco. “It let me put him on a line with Tyler Nielsen and Cody Rumsey for a good portion of the season, and that was a really solid combination for us. On the ice, his best skill to me, is his puck handling. He’s a skilled guy and a really strong player. He’s hard to push off the puck. He makes a lot of good plays with his vision. Ultimately his ability to move the puck, to get down low and win possessions for us, and keep it on his blade made him a really essential forward in our lineup.”

“I think I just bring compete level,” said Watungwa. “That’s what I tried to bring to the Knights program, just working hard every shift. Whether it’s making a hit, blocking a shot, making a play offensively or defensively, I’m always going to try to do it at 100%.”

Beyond the stat sheet, leadership is another trait Tyler exudes. It wasn’t lost on his coach or his teammates.

“That early production really grabbed the attention of our locker room,” said Fusco. “His work ethic, his habits, his effort in practice, that all combined to create a really positive influence for our guys. He was the prime example of leading by example. He brought the same effort and enthusiasm every day and really that’s exactly what you want from one of your veteran players.”

With his junior career now over, Watungwa is preparing for his next team, and like his entrance to the Knights, he’s thrilled for the opportunity.

“They (Finlandia) are in a rebuild year, but they are definitely really excited about where the program’s going,” he said. “I was really happy to get in when I could to help be a part of that rebuild. Honestly the big thing I’m excited about is that I get to play hockey for another four years. Obviously I’m excited to go to school, to get that part of my life started, but I get to do a thing I love for another four years, and I think that’s just awesome.”

Under Coach Burcar, the Lions program is looking to get back to its earlier success in his first stint as the team’s bench boss. In the last four seasons of that stretch, Burcar guided Finlandia to a 57-43-7 record, including an MCHA postseason conference championship in 2006-07.

“Finlandia is a tight knit community that loves and is passionate about their hockey,” said Fusco. “They have strong support from the school. Coach Burcar is back there rebuilding the program in a very strong conference and it’s very exciting to send one my players there. It means a lot that I can help move a player to his goal of division III college hockey, but also exciting and sentimental to send him to coach Burcar and Finlandia. It’s a great fit, Joe is excited and Tyler is excited-it’s a perfect fit.”

In parting, Watungwa isn’t going without fond memories. The season may have ended a few games earlier than he had hoped, but he’s happy to have been on for the ride.

“Making 20 new friends,” he said of his favorite part of wearing the Knights sweater. “Every team you go to, you’ve got 20 guys you’re going to war with every night. All those guys in our locker room, I consider brothers. I’d say the relationships that I made over the last three and a half months were pretty awesome.”

His gratitude was not limited to just those he skated with.

“First and foremost, I want to thank my mom,” he said. “She’s been a big part of getting me into sports. She drives me to all these crazy places in the middle of nowhere just to play hockey. She’s been a real inspiration for me. A huge thank you to coach Fusco and the whole Knights organization for giving me the ability to play at a level where I could be in front of all of these scouts and giving me the right coaching and the tools I needed to get to the next level. I want to thank all the teammates that I had this year and past years who helped make me a better player and a better person.”

Fusco shared the sentiment but reversed its direction.

“I want to thank Tyler for being a part of this year with us,” he said. “It takes a special type of player to accomplish what he did in our dressing room and on the ice. He’s an incredibly ward worker, and a great person. I’ll be following his career eagerly, and I wish him only the best in hockey and in his life beyond.”

The Knights join coach Fusco in thanking Tyler and wishing the best of luck at Finlandia and in all his pursuits in life!

Mike Gelatt Commits to Skidmore College

Just 217 miles separate Middletown, New Jersey and Saratoga Springs, New York, but Mike Gelatt’s hockey career has taken him much farther. Over 140 games played in the NAHL have sent him to destinations as far as Minnesota and Alaska, but have also allowed him the benefit of developing his game in and around his hometown. At the start of this week, the 1997-born forward committed to Skidmore College where the Thoroughbreds play NCAA DIII hockey in the NEHC conferrence.

“It’s a really nice area,” said Gelatt. “The town the school’s in, Saratoga Springs, is beautiful. It’s an awesome school academically, and they take their hockey seriously. That’s everything I wanted in a school.”

Gelatt will enter the college ranks after completing his 2017-18 season with the Knights, a team that’s been his home for the past two years.

“Mike Gelatt is a guy we brought in in our second season in the NAHL,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We had his brother on our blue line so we were familiar with the family, and Mike had played us a number of times with the New Jersey Titans. We saw a big-bodied, hard-working forward that could score. Mike’s been that for us over the past two years while growing into a strong leader in our locker room.”

“I would say I’m a big, power forward,” said Gelatt. “I like to hit, I like to get in deep and get involved on the forecheck. I’m maybe not the most skilled player, but I am a hard worker, and I think that allows me to be a good player.”

Gelatt grew up in Middletown, New Jersey, the home of the New Jersey Junior Titans hockey organization. When the program added a team in the NAHL in 2015, Gelatt quickly established himself as a regular, scoring seven goals and 20 points in his first 43 games. The following offseason he joined his older brother Tim with the Knights as a part of a draft day trade.

“It’s been fun place to play,” said Gelatt of his impression of the Knights. “It’s a great organization with a great group of players and staff. You get treated well as a player and you’re given freedom here.”

In two seasons, Gelatt has been a consistent source of grit and production, logging minutes on the power play and penalty kill, while upping his scoring to 26 goals and 35 assists in 96 games. He credits the NAHL for helping him grow as a player.

“The North American Hockey League is one of the top developmental leagues in the country,” he said. “I’ve grown so much here. It’s a league that makes you work hard for everything. There’s so much skill and really good players on every roster. You have to earn everything.”

“Mike’s a guy who’s sets a tone for our team,” said Kowal. “I think naturally you have our younger guys looking up to him, knowing that he’s logged a lot of games at the junior level. Mike’s a versatile guy, we’ve been able to pair him with a lot of other guys and get positive results. That’s a valuable player and person to have in your building, and we’re happy that he’s been a Knight for the past two years. I’m excited for him, and look forward to rooting him on as he progresses through college and life.”

With the final month of the regular season underway, Gelatt and the Knights are looking to finish the year out strong as they prepare for a playoff run.

“I want to see each and every one of the rest of our ’97’s commit to a division-I program,” he said. “Of course on the ice, our goal is to win a Robertson Cup, and to do that we have to carry the way we played this past weekend the rest of the way. I’m excited.”

With such a strong family and support team that have helped him throughout his journey, Gelatt was sure to acknowledge those closest to his journey.

“First and foremost I want to say thank you to my family,” he said.  “I’d also like to thank Coach Tom, Coach Whiteside, Dr. DeNaples, the Titans organization that I grew up with, and Mr. Randy Walker, who all made this possible.”

The Knights would like to congratulate Mike for his commitment and all the hard work he has put into his Knights career. As he advances forward in his career and beyond, the Knights will be rooting for him each step of the way!

 

JP Natishan Commits to King’s College

Photo: Jessica Kovalcin

Knights EHL forward JP Naitshan has announced his commitment to King’s College of the NCAA’s DIII UCHC conference. As a ’97 birth year, he will suit up for the Monarchs next season as King’s continues to grow its new hockey program.  For Natishan, the acclimation period should be a short one.

“I felt like I was at home,” said Natishan of his experience visiting the King’s campus. “I’m from this area. The campus is beautiful. I know what they’re about as a school and I’m excited to be a part of that.”

The Wyoming, Pennsylvania native is a long-tenured veteran of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights program, dating back to his youth hockey days. His familiarity and impressive resume made him a more than logical choice for the Knights when the team was building a roster for their return to the EHL this year.

“JP is the hardest worker out there,” said Knights EHL head coach Josh Fusco. “He’s a leader who sets the tone for our guys on the ice, in workouts, and in the locker room. He’ll run through a wall for you.”

Natishan will join the Kings Monarchs in their second year playing NCAA division three hockey. The team has played hard even through the growing pains of their inaugural season, a fact that has not escaped their newest recruit.

“I’ve seen Kings play this year, they’re a great group of guys,” Natishan said. “They’re a really hard-working team. I think I fit that. I work hard, I like to play penalty kill, I block a lot of shots. I know I can bring that to their line up.”

Through 33 games, Natishan has three goals and three assists for the Knights in 2017-18 and his presence in his own zone, killing penalties, and matching up with the opposition’s skill lines has been invaluable.

“I lose count of how many shots JP gets down in front of each game,” said Fusco. “He’s a player we turn to in big moments. He grinds out every shift. He’s a guy you love to have on your roster.”

“JP has been a Knight for a long time,” added Knights NAHL head coach Tom Kowal. “He’s been here longer than I have, but I’ve seen him in games, in practice, off the ice. It’s great to see his tremendous effort pay off with him going to play college hockey. We’ll  be rooting for him every step of the way.”

With just a few months remaining in his Knights career, Natishan looks back favorably on his time within the organization.

“It’s tough, but I’d have to say my favorite memory was winning an AYHL U16 championship,” he said of his 2012-13 season. “That was pretty special. I want to thank all my family, friends, teammates, my current and former coaches, and Coach Mallaro at Kings for helping me through this process.”

The Knights are proud of JP’s accomplishments and are excited for him as he moves forward in his college career. The organization will be rooting for him each step of the way!

 

 

Former Knights Forward Paul Maust Commits to Mercyhurst

Photo: NAHL.com 

Paul Maust, a member of the Knights inaugural NAHL roster, and two-year veteran of the organization’s junior hockey program has committed to Mercyhurst University.

In 119 career games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the NAHL, Maust recorded 31 goals and 47 assists. He was named to the NAHL’s All-Rookie team in 2015-16 before representing the Knights and the East Division in the Top Prospects Tournament in 2016-17. The Butler, Pennsylvania native has spent the 2017-18 season in the USHL playing for the Green Bay Gamblers.

Maust will be heading to a Mercyhurst program that has a proud history playing in the Atlantic Hockey Conference at the NCAA DI level. Since their first DI season at the turn of the century, the Lakers, behind bench boss Rich Gotkin, own a .535 winning percentage and have placed in the NCAA Finals on three separate occasions. Their alumni dot professional hockey rosters across North America and Europe.

In the 17 prior seasons they’ve played at the DI level in either the MAAC (2000-2003) or Atlantic Hockey (2003-present) Mercyhurst has won a regular season conference title as well times as a postseason conference championship three times apiece.

“After coaching Paul for two years, I am very happy to see he will have an opportunity play at the next level,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He’s a tough, versatile hockey player who plays bigger than his size. He plays with the edge needed at the DI level. He was an impact player for us in his time with our program. I look forward to cheering for him throughout his career at Mercyhurst University.”

The Knights would like to congratulate Paul on his well-deserved commitment and wish him the best of luck moving on in his hockey career!

Tyrone Bronte Commits to Bemidji State University

On Monday evening Knights forward Tyrone Bronte announced his decision to commit to Bemidji State University, an NCAA division one hockey program out of the WCHA conference. Bronte, a ’99 forward, has been a key part of the Knights success this season tallying five goals and seven assists in 13 games.

“We’re very proud that Tyrone had made his commitment to play for Bemidji State,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He has worked very hard to turn into a gifted forward with and without the puck and maximizes his talent with his effort on and off the ice. He’s a smart and skilled player who consistently elevates the play of his teammates. Our numbers and our record this year are a lot better with him than without him.”

In the 13 games that Bronte has played for the Knights, the team is 11-1-1. They’re 1-2-2 without him.

“Tyrone’s heading to a good program with a history of winning hockey. He’s going to help continue that trend. Bemidji is getting a good one.”

The Bemidji State Beavers are coming off a season in which they won the MacNaughton Cup, awarded to the team that finishes with the best record in the WCHA conference at the end of the regular season.  The program has made several long runs in the NCAA tournament since jumping up to Division I level in the 1999-2000 season. Notable program alumni include current Philadelphia Flyers forward Matt Read along with former NHL players like Calgary Flames standout and US Olympian Joel Otto, forward Andrew Murray,  and defenseman Gary Sargent.

“Bemidji’s hockey program is exquisite,” said Bronte of his future home. “They have really great facilities. Their rink is gorgeous, the locker room is as well. From the beginning, their coaching staff was up front and honest with me about their interest. They made it a point that they really wanted me. They came to me after only the first few games to let me know. Their interest in me sparked my interest in them.”

A native of Australia, Bronte has transitioned well since coming to the US. His play at the midget and junior level has consistently turned heads, enough to earn him the right to play at the highest level of college hockey.

“It’s a dream for me. I came to America to play division one hockey,” he said. “My goal is to one day play in the NHL. Playing DI is a step in that direction. It helps me and helps my family.”

As for the rest of the current season, Bronte is focused on continuing the Knights recent success and continuing to develop his own game.

“Right now we’re doing well. We’re playing well as a team and as individuals. My motto has always been to put the team first, because I believe that team success brings about individual success.”

Through all his success, Bronte hasn’t lost sight of those who’ve helped him along his way.

“I’d like to thank my parents and my brother for their support through this,” he said. “I’d like to thank God for granting me my talents and blessing me on this journey.”