Tag Archives: Joey Verkerke

Knights Announce End of Season Player Awards

Annual Team Awards Honored At Season’s End

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: The player judged to be most valuable to the Knights during the regular season.
Winner: ZACH STEJSKAL

 
Season stats: 25-17-5/6 SO/2.47 GAA/.935%

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: First year player judged to be most valuable to the Knights during the regular season.
Winner: JORDAN STRAND

Season stats: 56GP: 5G-23A= 28pts.

MOST IMPROVED: The player that has shown the most development and additional contribution to the Knights throughout the regular season.
Winner: GABE TEMPLE

Season stats: 57GP: 18G-18A= 36pts.

THE LANCELOT KNIGHTS AWARD: The player from the team that the coaching staff feel best exhibits hard work, mental toughness, competitiveness, passion, and a team first mentality.
Winner: JOEY VERKERKE

Season stats: 59GP: 2G-6A = 8pts.

Knights Win In Dramatic Fashion To End Season

Strand performs OT heroics for Knights to finish year with 26 wins

On the final day of the regular season, a back-and-forth affair ended in the final minute of overtime with Jordan Strand rifling home the game winner in a 5-4 Knights’ win over the Maryland Black Bears.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton not only swept the weekend, but also the season series, going 8-0 against the NAHL’s newest team. It marks the first time in franchise history that the Knights swept a season series against an East Division team. Overall, the Knights ended their 2018-19 campaign with a 26-29-5 record.

In their final game as well, Maryland put up a fight. After an 8-1 win for the grey and blue Friday, the Black Bears were in no way looking for a repeat come Saturday afternoon. Though the Knights struck first, courtesy of Jake Fuss, it was Maryland who would take a lead going into intermission. With just over two minutes to play in the first period, the Knights were granted a power play that had less than ideal results. Lukas Ljungblom scored two shorthanded goals in 1:40 to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Tom Kowal’s group would make up for their special teams blunder in the second period, as both Adrian Danchenko and Tyrone Bronte scored power play goals to give the Knights a 3-2 edge. Wilkes-Barre also blistered Maryland’s David Tomeo, a former Knights’ goalie, in the second period by outshooting the Black Bears, 21-5. The club entered the third period with a lead for the 18th time this season. They had gone 15-1-1 in the previous situations.

Fuss applied the two goal cushion when he scored his team-best 20th goal of the season and second of the game early in the frame. Like the two goals in the second, his was also on the power play. Fuss finished the year and his junior hockey career at a torrent pace. The ’98 scored 18 of his 20 goals since January 19th, and had 28 points in his last 29 games.

Mayland’s Marek Wazny pulled the team within one with 13 minutes to play. From there, the Knights continued to hold Maryland off until the dying minutes. As the Black Bears continued to apply pressure, Head Coach Clint Mylymok elected to pull the goalie for an extra attacker, resulting in a game tying goal from Luke Mountain with 1:08 to play. Perhaps even more disastrous for the Knights was when Markus Cook was called down for tripping with five seconds left in regulation. This gave Maryland a power play to operate with in overtime.

Fortunately, the Knights penalty kill continued its marvelous play, and with less than a minute until a shootout would be needed, defenseman Jordan Strand took a burst of speed down the ice for a breakaway. Strand would roof the shot to the right side of the net, and the party began as the Knights dealt with adversity in the face one more time this year, and they came out on top, 5-4. Zach Stejskal picked up his 25th win of the season making 22 saves in the contest. His opposite, Tomeo, took the loss in a 36 save effort.

The team put themselves in position to still have playoff hopes following game 60, but the Northeast Generals won later on Saturday night, thus eliminating the Knights from playoff contention. It is the first time in the team’s NAHL tenure that a playoff berth was not secured.

Because it is their age-out year, this indefinitely ends the junior hockey careers of Joey Verkerke, Jake Fuss, and Captain Shay Donovan. On behalf of the entire Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights organization, we want to wish Joey, Jake, and Shay the absolute best of luck as they move forward in their careers, and thank them for their incredible amount of service given to this hockey club.

Quick Hits: NAHL Game 60 Preview

Knights look to keep playoff hopes alive in regular season finale

Saturday, April 6th- Revolution Ice Centre @3:30pm

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (25-29-5, 55pts.)
vs
Maryland Black Bears (16-37-6, 38pts.)

Last Friday Night
Jake Fuss scored a hat trick, Gabe Temple had two goals, and the Knight smashed Maryland in an 8-1 win. Several career highs were posted. Not only did Fuss have a hat trick, but the forward also recorded five points in the game. Beck Moore delivered his first three point game with a trio of assists, while Markus Cook scored a goal in his NAHL debut. Defensemen Shay Donovan and Blake Kryska each finished the game with a +4, establishing a new career best for Kryska and a season high for the captain.

It’s The Final Countdown
Entering Saturday, the NAHL has seen 15 of its 16 openings filled for the Robertson Cup Playoffs. The Corpus Christi Ice Rays locked up the final seed in the South Division, meaning there now exists just one opening yet to be claimed. This battle is between the Knights and Northeast Generals.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will need at least one point in the game against Maryland to have a shot at making the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. A standings point would tie them with Northeast, but because the Knights own the tiebreaker in wins, they would advance into the postseason. A win of any kind for the grey and blue would force Northeast to get a win this weekend or have to lose in overtime both games against New Jersey. The Knights have yet to miss the playoffs since arriving in the NAHL in 2015.

Black and Yellow
Though the outcome is uncertain for Wilkes-Barre, the Black Bears know this will be the final time they wave their flag in the 2018-19 campaign. With the team being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, Head Coach Clint Mylymok is looking to help his club finish out strong in their inaugural season in the league. The team has lost three straight and has given up 15 goals in the last two games. After being on the wrong side of an 8-1 score Friday, it can be expected that there will be some emotional response from the team in search of their 17th win of the year.

This will also be the final junior hockey game for ’98 forward and Captain, Connor Pooley, along with defensemen Bradley Jenion and Karim Del Ponte. Expect big efforts from those three.

For What It’s Worth
15 of Wilkes-Bare’s 25 wins this season have come against Maryland (7) and Northeast (8). The Knights have yet to lose against Maryland, and a win today would mark the first time in franchise history that the Knights would sweep a season series against an East Division opponent.

With playoffs up in the air, this will at least be the final regular season junior game for Jake Fuss, Joey Verkerke, and Shay Donovan, who are all 98’s. Additionally, forward Adrian Danchenko and goaltender Zach Stejskal have signed their letters of intent, meaning this will also be the curtain call for them.

This will be the 240th regular season game for the NAHL Knights. Including playoffs, it is the 256th in team history.

Danchenko, the team’s all-time leader in games played, will play in his 158th regular season game for the Knights.

Knights Tie Franchise-High Goal Total In Rout Of Maryland

Jake Fuss scored a hat trick to go with a five point night, helping the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights keep their playoff hopes alive with a decisive 8-1 win over the Maryland Black Bears Friday night.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 7-0 against the Black Bears this season. The two clubs wrap up the regular season Saturday afternoon. The Knights will need at least one point to mathematically stave off playoff elimination while they wait for the Northeast Generals to finish their weekend.

After a lopsided loss to Johnstown a week earlier, the grey and blue were ready to come out guns blazing. Defenseman Joey Verkerke banged home the game’s first goal 1:27 in. Three minutes later, Jake Fuss scored the first of his three to make it 2-0. Luke Posner would make it a 2-1 game after tucking home a rebound through Zach Stejskal midway through the first period.

That goal proved to be the only one for Maryland. The Knights opened the floodgates in the second period, putting together a three goal frame. Gabe Temple re-established a two goal lead, followed by Markus Cook scoring his first NAHL goal in his debut with the Knights. Already down by three, the Black Bears were hoping to get to intermission at that, but Adrian Danchenko fired a buzzer beater home at the last second of the period to undoubtedly put the game out of reach.

Maryland turned to David Tomeo in net to start the third after Anthony Del Tufo surrendered the first five goals on 24 shots. Tomeo helped get the Knights into the Robertson Cup Playoffs a season ago and was plucked from the team in the expansion draft for the Black Bears. On this night, however, the Knights would get the best of their former net minder. Three goals were scored within 3:57 of one another to start the third period. Gabe Temple’s second of the game was sandwiched between two more goals from Jake Fuss, who earned his first career hat trick. Fuss sprinkled in two assists as well for his first five point game, and has 26 points in his last 28 games.

Temple and Fuss each have 18 goals, standing as most on the team. The goal scoring outburst was only the third time in Knights’ franchise history that the team had compiled eight goals in a game, which is a franchise-best as well. It’s also the second time the Knights have won a game by an 8-1 score. They dispatched of the New Jersey Titans on March 30th of last year by the same score.

Other Notes

– Adrian Danchenko had a three point game and is now up to 79 career points with the Knights. He surpassed Curtis Karlson (77) for second in all-time scoring for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

– Evan Orr was assessed a five-minute penalty and a 10 minute misconduct in the third for attacking Bradley Jenion after a dangerous hit on Cook. The Knights killed all five minutes.

– 10 different Knights registered at least a point. Beck Moore had a three assist game (career high), and Shay Donovan registered two assists and was a +4.

– Zach Stejskal finished with 31 saves for his 24th win of the year. The Knights are 25-29-5 heading into the regular season finale.

Verkerke Bound For Amherst College

For the last three seasons, defenseman Joey Verkerke has been a mainstay on the back end for the NAHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. In the ’98 blue liner’s final year of junior eligibility, Verkerke has made the decision to trade in his blue jersey for a purple one, as he’s committed to Amherst College for the fall of 2019.

“I place a high value on academics as well as hockey, and Amherst is one of the top schools in the country when looking at both of those things,” said Verkerke. The coaching staff at Amherst has been welcoming from day one, and the campus was an excellent fit for me when I went on my visit. I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to continue my athletic and academic careers at Amherst. It’s an honor to be able to continue the tradition of such a storied program.”

The Amherst Mammoths are an NCAA-Division III hockey team that plays in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference).  The team most recently completed a campaign that saw them win 15 games and make it all the way to the championship game against Trinity.

In Verkerke’s time with the Knights, the Plymouth, MI native has compiled more games played than any other defenseman in the program’s history. In a win over the Northeast Generals Sunday afternoon, Verkerke skated in his 130th regular season game for the grey and blue.

“Joey has been a top four defenseman for the Knights since he arrived,” said Knights Head Coach and General Manager, Tom Kowal. “We are very proud Joey has chosen Amherst College to continue his hockey career and get a great education. Joey has dedicated himself and worked extremely hard to get to the level he is playing at, as he is the type of player that is the hardest worker in the locker room on and off the ice.”

In last season’s playoff run, Verkerke helped the Knights with five assists on their way to becoming East Division Champions and making an appearance at the Robertson Cup. Joey arrived at Revolution Ice Centre in 2016 and credits the entire hockey operations staff for helping him reach this new plateau.

“I’m very grateful to Coach Kowal, Coach Whiteside,  Coach Fusco, and Athletic Trainer Paul Celona for bringing me into this organization 3 years ago and helping me develop as a player ever since. It’s been an honor to play alongside so many great players that have come through the Knights organization. They have taught me many lessons over the past few years not only as a player, but also as a person.”

With 12 games left in the Knights regular season, the defenseman will continue to work hard and do everything he can to help bring the Knights back to the playoffs. Verkerke may be leaving the Knights when the season concludes, but the impression left on the coaching staff led by Tom Kowal will remain.

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to coach and develop Joey the last several years. We wish him the best of luck in his future at Amherst College.”

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.”

Knights Can’t Fend off Tomahawks in Game 2

Trying to avoid a sweep on opening weekend, the Knights met the Tomahawks for the second straight afternoon inside the Revolution Ice Centre.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton jumped out to an early start, applying a few quick chances on Johnstown netminder Cooper Lukenda in the game’s first six minutes. In his first NAHL start, the Canadian goalie was up to the task, stopping each of the Knights early offerings.  Like the Knights the day before, the Tomahawks went on to strike on their very first shot of the game.

Just shy of the six minute mark, Alex Wilkins zipped a pass to Christian Gorscak who found a wide open Oliver Benwell in front, where the latter ripped a puck past Knights starter Samuel Vyletelka, who was just inches from making the save.

The 1-0 lead kicked off an avalanche of Johnstown pressure. The Tomahawks added quickly to their shot total, peppering Vyletelka and drawing penalties.

On the third Knights infraction, Johnstown made them pay. With the man advantage, Carson Brière fed a puck to Cameron Hebert, who fired one across to Samuel Solensky. Solensky, a thorn in the Knights side throughout his NAHL career, ripped a shot past his fellow Slovak in Vyletelka for the 2-0 Johnstown lead.

In the second, the Knights would begin the period in earnest, again picking up pressure in the offensive zone. They were finally rewarded at 4:44. Set up by Joey Verkerke and Zak Currie, Jacob Badal ripped a sharp-angle laser from the bottom of the right circle that bested Lukenda to cut the Johnstown lead in half.

The Tomahawks would take less two minutes to answer. Following another Knights penalty, the Johnstown power play struck again when Carson Brière found some space on the left circle. The ’99 forward juggled the puck around a block attempt and ripped it home for the 3-1 lead. Samuel Solensky and Cameron Hebert  picked up helpers on the score.

Under three minutes later, Brière and Solensky would strike again, when the former found the latter on a 2-on-1 for Johnstown’s fourth goal. Dominick Posta was credited with the secondary assist that sprung the odd-man rush, giving the Tomahawks a 4-1 lead heading into the third.

In the game’s final stanza, penalties dominated the pace of play. During a four-on-four play just three and a half minutes into the period, Christian Gorscak found a turnover after a Knights player lost an edge in his own zone. Walking in with pressure right on his heels, Gorscak fired the puck over Vyletelka’s shoulder to create a 5-1 advantage.

The score would hold up through a slew of penalties committed by both sides through the remainder of play. At the final horn, Johnstown would head home with four points in their first two games. In the win, his first in the NAHL, Cooper Lukenda stopped 21 of 22 shots on goal for the Tomahawks. Samuel Vyletelka made 42 saves in the loss.

The Knights will look to bounce back when they head to Blaine, Minnesota later this week for the NAHL Showcase. Their first game will take place Wednesday, September 19th at 1:00 pm CDT against the Topeka Pilots. Catch that game on www.hockeytv.com, and stay tuned to Knights social media for all Knights news on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube!

Knights Fall to Shreveport to End Great Season

Photo: John Elftmann/NAHL

On Saturday, in their 70th game of the year, the Knights were faced with their third contest with win-or-go home stakes. Wins in the first two such games gave them confidence heading into their battle with the Shreveport Mudbugs. 

Out again for a stone-cold goalie showdown was Christian Stoever for the Knights and Jaxon Castor for the Mudbugs. Their game one meeting produced the third star for Stoever and top star for Castor following Shreveport’s 2-0 victory Friday. 

In front of both skated 18 teammates hungry to advance to the first Robertson Cup Championship in their respective teams’ short histories.

After being battered through the third period in their game one loss, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton erupted off of game two’s opening puck drop, taking speed and physicality to Shreveport in the game’s first eight minutes. Taking six of the game’s first seven shots, the Knights had the Mudbugs on their heels through much of the first 10 minutes. Castor withstood the early push to allow his team early room for error. 

Just shy of the 9:00 mark, the Mudbugs awoke. Their response was their trademark, grinding forecheck trapping the Knights for consecutive shifts in their own zone. 

Though the tables had suddenly turned, Christian Stoever did not. The netminder maintained his steady play, turning away nine-straight shots before the Knights dug out of their own zone late in the period. 

On a late push back into the attacking zone, Curtis Carlson and Reed Robinson nearly found the game’s first goal, just left of the Shreveport net. Castor reached back just enough to bat away the puck. At the end of of a see-saw first, the game was locked in a scoreless tie.

Carlson, Robinson, and Hatten, slighted by their near miss at the end of the first, hit the ice hard in the opening minute of the second frame. On the forecheck Reed Robinson forced a puck up the left wing boards, back to Joey Verkerke at the point. Verkerke fed Carlson in the middle of the slot, where the Knights captain dragged his way around a man, freeing himself in front of the net. With his final move in the effort to beat Castor, Carlson’s handle on the puck came free to Lincoln Hatten. The Texas winger scooped up the loose puck and buried it for his second goal of the postseason, just 53 seconds into the period. 

With the boost of an early strike and their first lead of the series, the Knights hit the gas pedal. Over the course of the next 15 minutes, the team took command of the pace of play, drawing three penalties and spending ample time over the offensive blue line. 

Castor stood tall, keeping the puck out of the net through eight more Knights shots. The vaunted Shreveport penalty kill did their part in keeping the Knights power play off the board. 

With just over two minutes remaining, the Mudbugs pushed back. Roberts Baranovskis put a shot on net from the right circle, pulling Stoever out of the crease in the process of making the save. The rebound kicked over to Brendan VanSweden on the left circle. Taking a shot at a seemingly open net, VanSweden was robbed by a sprawling Thomas Farrell, negating the Mudbugs best chance of the period.

At 18:43 in, the Knights took their first penalty to set up a stretch of 4-on-4 play.

In the waining minute of the period, they took advantage of the extra space and drove into the offensive zone. On the left half-wall Curtis Carlson poked a puck down low to Jack Olmstead in the corner. Olmstead centered the puck to the slot for a crashing Shay Donovan. In alone, Donovan was robbed when Castor stacked his pads in a sprawling kick save, robbing the Knights of a 2-0 lead. Through 40 minutes they would instead have to settle for a one-goal advantage. 

In the third, Shreveport finally began to break through. A centering pass from the right wing corner off the stick of Jordan Fader was poked by a crashing Ryan Burnett through the save attempt of Stoever. The tying score at 5:02 brought juice to the Shreveport attack. 

On their second power play of the game, the Mudbugs cashed in on a mad scramble in front of Stoever’s net after the goalie made a quick stick save. Gueorgui Feduolov found the bouncing puck and squeezed it inside the right post to take a 2-1 lead at 7:14. 

A five-minute major assessed to the Knights for a boarding at 7:39 touched off a series of costly penalties. For seven minutes and 44 seconds the Knights were shorthanded, as they were given four penalties over the span. They killed them all, including two stretches down 5-on-3. 

Emerging without allowing a goal, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton still had life down just one with 4:37 remaining in the third. Their final push included over a minute with the extra attacker on, but they could not solve Castor and Shreveport’s defense. 

At the horn, the Knights season ended with a 2-1 defeat. A great season ended two games too soon, but in the coming days the Knights will reflect on a hard-fought year that won accolades, respect, and most importantly advancement to the next level in both college and junior hockey.

The team will return home one last time Tuesday following the conclusion of the NAHL’s Robertson Cup. To all Knights fans, players, families, and staff, thank you for a fantastic season! 

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!