Tag Archives: Jeffrey Bertrand

Preview: As they Arrive in Blaine, Veterans Look to Lead Knights to New Heights

Photo: Jessica Kovalcin

The Knights opened their regular season this past weekend with a pair of contests against the Johnstown Tomahawks. Neither game went the way the team wanted, but the experience each game provided will serve the team well moving forward.

According to eliteprospects.com, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s roster is the youngest the NAHL when considering the average age of their players. Of the 25 that make up their team, six made their junior hockey debut last weekend. Another six have played in 20 games or less, meaning all would be “rookies,” by NHL standards. In stark contrast, the other half of the roster has combined to play a staggering 947 games in junior hockey. Many of these veterans nearly tasted Robertson Cup glory and few months ago. They’re eager to not only go back, but to bring their young teammates with them.

“You want to be a leader,” said defenseman Luke Robinson. “You want to fill the leadership role. It’s definitely an adjustment period. There’s some younger players with us this year. I can relate to what they’re going through. In practice if they have a bad pass or if they’re nervous going into a drill, I can kind of just talk to them and say ‘Hey, I was in the same situation and I was nervous doing that also. Just work through it and it’ll work out. There’s a reason you’re here-you’re talented enough to be here.’”

Robinson was third on the blue line last year, picking up a goal and 16 points in his first full season with the Knights.

”I want to be some one they can look to. I want to make sure that when I’m on the ice, I’m doing the right things so they pick up on that and realize how to be successful at this league, or how to work your way up the lineup, you have to be doing these things. Working out, stretching, warming up, taking shots after practice, things like that. I want to be that  leader, someone they can look up to, just being a good example.”

Robinson is joined by fellow right-hander Shay Donovan on the blue line, whose resume includes 105 games played in the NAHL.

“Yea I plan on it,” said Donovan on stepping into the role of a leader. “I plan on setting a tone early on, leading the young guys, showing them how you prepare for the season, how you handle yourself in the weight room, on the ice, however that may be. The older you get, the more games you have played and the more that becomes important.”

Lincoln Hatten is a 2000-born forward with more than just a powerful build. In his first season, the forward would join fellow rookies in becoming a catalyst for last year’s postseason run. The Texas-native scored a goal in the semi-finals against the eventual Robertson Cup Champion Shreveport Mudbugs.

“We just have to stay focused throughout the season,” said Hatten. “The grind never stops. You’re going, going, and going, but I think when we got to the Robertson Cup last year, we kind of took our eye off the prize a bit. We sat back that first game we were there and they brought it to us. We just gotta keep our foot on the gas pedal, keep moving forward, keep doing what we’re doing and get there. I think this year, being there last year, all the vets have thoughts in their heads about going back, things to differently so we help ensure that we can get it done.”

As far as the advice he offers to those following in his footsteps, Hatten refers them to his coach’s message for guidance.

“I tell them to listen to TK on the ice,” he said. “He just keeps repeating to stay mentally tough. It’s a mental sport. If you let a kid get in your head, like if you’re on the boards as a winger you can’t the puck out, and if you let that start affecting you, you’re not going to get the job done. Just staying mentally strong, just working hard every shift, making sure you get the fine details-making sure you get every little thing done right, that’s how you become successful.”

On a similar note, Robinson stressed that harnessing adrenaline and the mental aspect of the game is crucial to a fast start.

“Honestly, I think it’s feeling those nerves and use that to your advantage on your first shift,” said Robinson. “Just feel nervous, go out and move your legs, get a hit, get a shot on goal, just kamikaze it. Just know there’s a reason you’re here, you should be confident in that, and go play your game.”

“I think the biggest thing, looking around the division, not knowing what everyone else has coming back, but I’d say experience is going to be our biggest asset,” said Donovan. “Just having four guys who are veterans back, that makes a huge difference in bringing the young guys along. It helps everyone grow up really fast. Just heading into games, everyone is so much more experienced. I think we have a lot of skill as well, especially from our draft picks. We added some size and skill, some guys who can really skate with it. I think something that we’re really going to have to work on a bit is the physical aspect of the game. It’s something hopefully us older guys can show the younger guys. TK always stresses clearing the front of the net, being tough in our own end, getting pucks up-we have some really good forwards to go along with it.”

“I’m excited to see what we have in store,” said Hatten. “Practices have been great, high-tempo, a lot of body, and just a lot of grit down in the corners. We’ve put a lot of hard work in.”

“I’m gonna bring the same style, focus more on scoring  goals this year, and getting in a few opponents’ heads,” said Gabe Temple, the team’s newest captain. “I just want to help lead the team back to the Robertson Cup playoffs and hopefully win this year,”

KNIGHTS BLAINE ROSTER:

Forwards:
#9 Zak Currie, RHF
#10 Beck Moore, LHF
#11 Jake Fuss, LHF
#15 Lincoln Hatten, RHF
#16 Sacha Guillemain, RHF
#17 Anthony Starzi, RHF
#19 Jason Stachelbeck, RHF
#22 Gabe Temple, RHF
#23 Mathew Kahra, LHF
#24 Tyler Nielsen, RHF
#25 Brett Postula, LHF
#26 Jacob Badal, LHF
#28 Jeffrey Bertrand, RHF
#29 Will Otwell, RHF

Defensemen:
#2 Greg Japchen, LHD
#4 Davis Pennington, LHD
#8 Blake Krkyska, LHD
#12 Evan Orr, LHD
#14 Joey Verkerke, RHD
#20 Shay Donovan, RHD
#21 Jordan Strand, RHD
#27 Luke Robinson, RHD

Goalies:
#1 Samuel Vyletelka
#35 Zach Stejskal

  • Notes:
    “I think our speed,” said Donvan of what he felt is his team’s most impressive skillset. “To make this team-I think everyone skates really well. I think as a d-corps we skate really well, and that’ll help transition the play up to the forwards. If we can play fast in transition, we should be the fastest team in our division. I think that’d really help us and that’s something that TK and Whitey really look for.”

 

  • “Our ability to transition,” Robinson agreed. “Being able to join the rush, to make it instead of a 3-on-2, a 4-on-2 and just have the confidence that we can even get back if we have a turnover and cover for d. We have guys who are very good skaters on the blue line. If we can beat that first forechecker as a defenseman and move it to an open guy, head-man the puck, we can hopefully join the rush.”

 

  • The Knights most experienced tender from last year is also one of their youngest, as Alaskan standout Jeff Bertrand returns in 2018-19. The future Nittany Lion cut his teeth in the NAHL in the best possible way, playing in a handful of regular season games before joining the roster for the entirety of the 2018 playoffs. The big right-handed shot scored his first goal with the Knights against the then-named Philadelphia Rebels en route to the Knights sweep of one of their arch rivals last postseason. This year, Bertrand scored the Knights first goal of the season on their first shot in their home opener Friday.

 

  • Jacob Badal is one of the few players younger than Bertrand on the Knights roster this season. He scored his first goal of junior hockey on Saturday night against Johnstown on a sharp-angle snipe.

 

  • Three graduates of the Knights EHL roster combined for a goal on Friday. Anthony Starzi and Jake Fuss fed Tyler Nielsen for his first goal of the season.

 

  • Zach Stejskal, the Knights most recent first-round pick, comes to the team following a year in the USHL with the Central Illinois Flying Aces. From the moment he steps on the ice, Stejskal can’t be missed. The hulking netminder stands at 6-5 but moved with the quickness of a smaller goalie at Knights main camp. The team is excited about the Minnesota-native’s arrival.

 

  • “He just has a great mentality in net. It’s the type of mentality you need in net to say ‘Screw this I’m not getting scored on’ type of mentality. He’s super calm-no freak outs-he’s always supportive of his guys, and he’s got some really good experience to go along with that.”

Penalties Spoil Opener for the Knights in Close Loss to Johnstown

The 2018-19 NAHL season kicked off for the Knights on Friday afternoon, as the team welcomed the Johnstown Tomahawks to the Revolution Ice Centre. Game one of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s East Division title defense began with the Tomahawks jumping out to a fast start, as their high-paced forecheck quickly established a physical presence.

Knights 2018 first round pick Zach Stejskal was tested early and often, but responded with a flurry of impressive saves, using his 6-5 frame to dismiss Johnstown’s initial chances.

Following the expiration of the game’s first penalty just minutes into the first, Jeffrey Bertrand hopped out of the box and into an interception as the Nittany Lion commit plucked an exit pass off the Johnstown blue line before starting in on Tomahawks goalie Kade Phipps. Alone in front, Bertrand ripped a shot through to give the Knights their first goal and lead of the season (unassisted).

Stejskal and the Knights penalty kill would withstand Johnstown’s steady barrage through the remainder of the period, leaving the ice with a 1-0 lead.

The second period followed a similar pattern; Johnstown controlling the pace, while Stejskal and the defense stood tall. A disallowed goal in the period only motivated Johnstown as their forecheck redoubled their efforts to solve Stejskal.

The Tomahawks would finally break through just shy of 37 minutes of being held off the board. After Stejskal fought through a pair of screens, he lost his balance trying to make a save on a blocked shot from Anthony Mastromonica. A falling Mitchell Hale found and poked the loose puck into the open net for the game-tying goal. Chris Trouba tallied the secondary assist on the score.

Heading into the third, penalties continued to sap any rhythm from the Knights forecheck, with Johnstown continuing to win the 200-foot battle.

Finally, the Knights found their stride four minutes into the third period. In transition, Anthony Starzi found Jake Fuss streaking through the Johnstown slot on an odd-man rush. Alone in front, Fuss waited for Phipps to commit to moving forward, before handing a quick pass off to Tyler Nielsen. Nielsen buried the open-net goal to complete the Knights EHL-alumni trifecta, re-establishing the one-goal lead.

The lead held through more Johnstown pressure, as the Knights protected their advantage well into the second half of the period. One Tomahawks near miss came when Chad Merrell rang a shot off the crossbar, missing the equalizer by mere millimeters. Not to be deterred, Merrell tried going high again at the 13:21 mark and was rewarded, as his perfectly placed snipe beat Stejskal to again even the score (Colin Price, Alex Wilkins).

Another Knights penalty would prove costly in the game’s final four minutes. After going a perfect four of four on the kill through 56 minutes of play, the Knights kill team was finally bested for the Tomahawks first lead. Off of a Hunter Toale pass, Samuel Solensky found himself parked in the middle of the slot with the puck. Waiting until Stejskal moved to answer the challenge, Solensky slid a perfect backdoor pass to a waiting Cameron Hebert, who ripped the puck home for the Tomahawks first lead with just under four to play.

The Knights attempted rally saw a few chances and an extended time in the attacking end after Stejskal was pulled for the extra attacker, but Johnstown held on to secure the 3-2 win.

In the loss, Zach Stejskal was excellent, stopping 51 of 54 shots on goal. On the opposite end, Kade Phipps was steady in the win, making 16 saves for Johnstown on his way to his first victory of the 18-19 season.

The pair of teams will rematch today at 3:30 pm EDT. The game will be broadcast on www.hockeytv.com. Follow Knights Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for in-game updates!

 

 

Knights Enter Final Four Looking to Extend Torrid Run

Written By: Nicholas Marotta

Photo: Steve Yakimowicz

The Knights touched down in Minnesota Wednesday to enter the final stages of their pursuit of a Robertson Cup. Today they will face the Shreveport Mudbugs in a best-of-three series to determine which of the pair will play for the Robertson Cup on Monday.

After a gritty 3-2 series win over the New Jersey Titans, the Knights swept their way through the Philadelphia Rebels to win the right to represent the East Division in the Final Four. Less than two weeks have passed since the team punched their tickets to Blaine, but how did they earn the trip?  

Not only was the journey carried by a complete team effort, but this postseason run has come off of the back of many strong individual performances.

One key player that immediately stands out is goalie Christian Stoever.  Number 31 has been a wall in the playoffs. In his seven playoff starts, he has allowed less than three goals in five games, including a shutout in a 1-0 victory against the Titans in game four of the first round.  

In the team’s more recent series against Philadelphia, Stoever had a save percentage of 94%.  Even more impressive is that Stoever has had a knack for stepping up in big spots during both series. In round one, facing consecutive elimination games, he produced a shutout in game four, followed by a 49-save effort to win the series.

Rookie forward Jack Olmstead has also been a major contributor during the Knights’ playoff run.  Olmstead has had a point in every Knights playoff game this season, and scored two goals in the team’s second game of their series against Philadelphia. The line of Olmstead, Michael Morrissey, and Matt Kidney are three of the top four scorers in the 2018 playoffs for the Knights.  Olmstead, however, leads the team in points with ten.

Other new faces on the Knights NAHL roster for this season include Gabe Temple, who has three goals in the playoffs, and Tyrone Bronte, who’s notched three goals and three assists so far.  

Even in a season highlighted by great rookie performances, veterans like Reed Robinson and Curtis Carlson have been a strong base for the newer members of the team to rise to the forefront.  

Robinson scored the fourth and final goal in the first game of the team’s series against Philadelphia, while Carlson was able to put the team up 2-1 in their eventual 5-4 victory against the Rebels in game two.  Carlson has scored three other goals in the playoffs, and Robinson another goal and assist.

The Knights defensive end has been equally impressive throughout the postseason. Led by veteran Joey Verkerke and All-East blue-liner Thomas Farrell, the group of rookies has helped the team keep their average goals against at 2.25 throughout the playoffs.  Verkerke, who’s had a keen eye for passing and a knack for blocking shots, has an active four game point streak via four assists.

Tonight’s puck drop against Shreveport will be the team’s first appearance in the Final Four and their second meeting on the season with Shreveport. With a staunch defense and a potent offense, the team is poised for to make a run toward Robertson Cup.

Tune into tonight’s game on www.hockeytv.com and follow along through Knights social media and at www.nahl.com.

 

Recap: Knights Complete Sweep, Punch Ticket to Minnesota

On Monday, the Knights had a chance to check off a lot of team firsts. First-ever Final Four birth in the Robertson Cup Playoffs was chief among their goals, but to do it, they’d have to sweep a team they’d never advanced beyond in the postseason.

The Philadelphia Rebels have been the team to eliminate the Knights in each of the past two seasons, completing sweeps in both years. To return the favor would not only be poetic, but a huge step forward for a Knights team that has hit their stride at the perfect time.

Monday’s action was slow-building. The tension of an elimination game hung heavy as both teams began the evening in an extended test of each other’s ability to trade space up and down the ice. Through the first period starters Ryan Keane and Christian Stoever faced a combined 20 shots.

An early test was stopped by Stoever in an eerily similar play to the  Patric Hornqvist’s no-goal controversy in Sunday’s Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins playoff game. Like the Penguins did the day before, the Rebels drove around the back of the net on a wraparound. Playing the part of both Sidney Crosby and Hornqvist, Alex Frye found himself alone on the right post trying to fire the puck to the net. Instead, Stoever’s left skate slid over and stopped the puck on the goal line. Unlike it’s NHL counterpart, there was no debate as Stoever’s stretch clearly kept the puck from crossing the goal line, robbing the Rebels of a grade-A chance.

Around a minute and a half later, the Knights made Philadelphia pay for the missed opportunity. Down low in the offensive zone, Jeff Bertrand shouldered a puck out of the right corner to Adrian Danchenko. Curling back-handed to the top of the slot, Danchenko fought through a poke check before flipping the puck to his forehand and finding Tyrone Bronte in front of the net. The Aussie center found the puck with his back turned to Keane. While the Rebels attempted to check him out of the crease, Bronte let go a  perfect backhand under the crossbar to beat the sliding Keane to put the Knights up 1-0 at 15:32.

The Rebels pushed back and earned a power play in the final minute of the first. The Knights, after being gashed nearly 40 percent of the time by the Rebels man-advantage during the regular season, entered play without having allowed a single power play goal in games one and two. The streak nearly came to an end in the final seconds of the period, where Stoever was pulled out of the net to the left post, making a save through a screen. The rebound kicked straight down in front of an open right side of the cage. As two Rebels converged to try and bury the equalizer, Thomas Farrell came crashing down, diving and driving the puck clear to the corner to end the period.

Farrell’s heroics were crucial as the Rebels channeled the frustration into a fast start in the second. After each team failed to capitalize on a power play, Philadelphia tilted the ice. From around the 5:00 mark on, the Rebels consistently won board battles, forced mistakes, and extended long shifts in the offensive zone.

Just past six and a half minutes into  the frame, on their second power play of the game, Alex Frye took an entry pass from Ryan Patrick around a defenseman, right to the netfront where he was stoned on a pad save by Stoever. The rebound kicked right to a crashing Patrick who was miraculously robbed on a lounging save by Stoever’s glove to preserve the Knights 1-0 lead.

The goalie was finally bested on a shot from Carson Moniz at 13:36. Hemming a puck in at the left point of the Knights zone, Brandon Stanley tossed a puck to a pinching Nicolas Appendino on the left half wall. Appendino ripped a pass to the top of the slot for a waiting Moniz. With a screen in front, the defenseman fired a puck under the crossbar to even the game at one.

Weathering the Rebels blitz that continued through nearly the rest of the period, the Knights finally broke loose in its final minute. Coming over the red line, Joey Verkerke dropped a puck in deep to the left wing corner of the Rebels zone. Jack Olmstead beat his man to the puck before turning back up ice and cutting to the slot. There a backhand shot attempt was deflected right back to Olmstead. His spinning, second try found Matt Kidney parked to the left of Keane, where he shoveled the puck to the twine to retake the lead.

The surge of a late-period, go-ahead goal refueled the Knights attack. After being hemmed in their own zone for most of the second period, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton grew stronger as the third period wore on. Ryan Keane kept them at bay, making several grade-A saves, robbing the likes of Curtis Carlson and Tyrone Bronte on chances in close. The Rebels counter attack was limited by a steady Knights back check that refused a repeat of the second period.

With just under two minutes remaining, the Rebels pulled their netminder following their timeout. A Rebels icing forced Keane back in the net while the Knights ate more time off the clock. In the period’s final minute, Keane (27 saves on the evening) was able to trade his services for an extra attacker. Following Joey Verkerke hitting the empty net’s post on a long shot down the ice, the Knights ended up icing the puck on an ensuing try down the sheet. A late push in the Knights zone by Philadelphia never created the grade-A look they needed, and the Knights held on to earn the sweep and a ticket to the final four.

Christian Stoever’s stellar efforts on a 39-save night, plus an opportunistic Knights offense are emblematic of how hot the team has become after facing elimination in round one. They will await the winners of the remaining three playoffs series, plus a re-seeding of the last four teams before knowing their opponents. You can follow the remaining games this weekend on hockeytv.com, or by following NAHL.com. Stay tuned to Knights social media and www.wbsknights.com for all news and updates!

 

Knights Tender, Alaska Oilers Forward Jeffrey Bertrand Commits To Penn State

The Knights would like to congratulate tendered forward Jeffrey Bertrand who has committed to Penn State University for the 2020-2021 season. The Anchorage, Alaska native has impressed through six games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, joining the team for games against Fairbanks, Kenai River, Johnstown and New Jersey.

“Jeffrey has been a steady player for us in the time we’ve been able to have him on our team,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He comes as advertised-he’s a strong, two-way player with a lot of size, speed and grit to his game and he’s applied that well in his brief time with us in the NAHL.”

When not with the Knights, Bertrand continues to develop his game with the Alaska Oilers U16 AAA program, having  recorded nine goals and 25 points in 29 games this season. Bertrand’s play both with the Oilers and in the NAHL have earned him recognition as one of top 2001-born prospects.

“We’re thrilled Jeffrey’s earned a commitment to Penn State, an elite college hockey program,” said Kowal. “Having seen his habits on and off the ice, along with his talent, it comes as no surprise. We are excited for his future there and within our own organization and we can’t wait for him to come aboard full-time.”

The Knights congratulate Jeffrey on his commitment and look forward to assisting his development as he moves forward with his hockey career!

 

Knights Sign Jeffrey Bertrand to NAHL Tender Agreement

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights are happy to announce they’ve signed forward Jeffrey Bertrand to a tender agreement. Bertrand, a 2001 birth year from Anchorage, Alaska already owns an impressive hockey resume.

“I’m a skilled, power forward,” said the 6-2, 170 16-year old. “I like to play a very intense style of hockey: fast and aggressive. I like skating down deep, putting pucks on net, and setting up my teammates.”

After standing out for the Alaska Oilers U15 AAA Midget program in 2016-17 (10-19-29 in 32 GP), Bertrand landed a roster spot with USA Hockey’s U17 team for their Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic this past August. Jeffrey was a key part of a gold-medal finish for the U.S. in the tournament.

“To play for team USA, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I was proud to play for my country. They took really good care of us. We had a good group. It was a different experience playing in the Czech Republic. The game’s played a little bit differently there. They have different street signs and handshakes, but it was really special.“

Bertrand continues to play for the Alaska Oilers in 2017-18 at the U16 level of their organization, but he’ll have his chance to preview junior hockey.

“We’re happy to have Jeffrey as a tender for our NAHL program,” said head coach Tom Kowal. “Keep an eye on the roster, as he’ll have an opportunity to be an affiliate player for us later on this season. We’re excited to see what he brings to the NAHL level.”

The role of affiliate player will allow Bertrand the opportunity to play in a select number of games for the Knights in their 2017-18 NAHL campaign.

“I’m just excited,” he said on his feelings following his tender. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Knights. I’m pumped to play for them and I’m looking forward to playing junior hockey.”

Having scouted and evaluated the forward personally, Knights Assistant GM Justin Schreiber is fully aware of the potential Bertrand brings to the table.

“Jeff is one of those rare players that can take over a game with his high-end skill and physicality,” said Schreiber. “He’s consistently one of the hardest workers on the ice, a guy you hate to play against. He is an exciting addition to our organization.”