Photo: Jessica Kovalcin
On Sunday, the Knights took the ice for the first time in 2018 at the Ice Line Quad Rinks against the Philadelphia Junior Flyers. With just three points separating third-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and the fourth-place JR. Flyers in the Mid-Atlantic, Sunday’s game carried plenty of weight and playoff implications.
In the first period, the Knights began with a solid tempo on the attack. The team carried play for much of the opening stanza, cracking Philadelphia’s goalie Albin Mulic and the scoreboard first at 9:26. Following a feed from Tyler Watungwa, Cody Rumsey centered a puck from under the goal line to the middle of the slot for a waiting Tyler Nielsen. Nielsen fired home his 12th goal of the season to give the Knights the early lead.
The Junior Flyers would respond shortly. Less than three minutes later, Philadelphia took advantage of the game’s first power play; Billy McDevitt flipped a pass to the blue line for Luca Pisani who pointed a shot to the front of the net. Parked in front, Justin Weinbrenner deflected the puck past Knights starter Jared Stahel to even the score at one.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would respond by maintaining their pressure through the end of the frame, out-shooting the Flyers 15-6, but they could not put another goal past Mulic.
Following a successful penalty kill to open the second, the Knights resumed their heavy forecheck. At 5:42, JP Natishan flipped a puck to Alex Morawski who threaded a pass to Nate Chuckran in front of the net. Chuckran flipped the puck over Mulic to regain the lead. Nick Peck would follow up with a snipe from the point at 11:35, his fourth tally in the last six games, to build the Knights a 3-1 advantage. Jake Fuss and Austin Weber were credited with the helpers.
Heading to the third, the Knights found themselves in control. They were dominating chances on goal and lead shots 25-11. Adding insurance to the cause in the early minutes of the third was Jake Fuss. The Knights captain pulled a Denys Arkhypenko pass in through traffic before turning and weaving his way around Mulic for the Knights fourth goal.
Fuss would strike again when Nick Peck stole a puck at the Philadelphia blue line, and fired it on net. Mulic made the initial save but the rebound was quickly corralled by Arkhypenko who found Fuss on the back door for the tap-in goal at 9:37.
Jared Stahel and the Knights defense buckled down in the last half of the period as the the Junior Flyer’s attack mounted a late surge. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton answered all challenges but one. On a power play in the game’s final minute, Kyle Harris, Luca Pisani and Connor Lenaghan cycled the puck through the top of the Knights zone before Lenaghan fired a top-shelf snipe past Stahel to cut the score to 5-2.
That would be all for the Philadelphia comeback effort as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton closed out the contest with the 5-2 victory, their fourth-straight. The active winning streak is the team’s longest on the season. The Knights currently hold the fourth seed in the South Conference, up one point over New York Applecore. The top six teams in each of the EHL’s two conferences advance to the postseason.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will try to keep their streak and their climb up the standings going when they host a home-and-home against the Central Division’s Connecticut Oilers on Saturday, January 13th and Sunday, January 14th at 2:30 pm and 10:30 am, respectively. Both games will be broadcast on hockeytv.com.
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