Tag Archives: Main Camp

Knights Roster Breakdown I: Knights Veterans Ready to Lead the Way

Part one of two looks at the veterans coming back to Knights training camp

In their second year in the NAHL, the Knights took significant steps forward toward establishing themselves in one of the best junior leagues in the United States. Moving ahead to year three, Knights head coach Tom Kowal is making no bones about his program’s end goal for the upcoming season.

“We’re in our third year now,” he said. “Our goal isn’t just to make the playoffs. Our goal isn’t to get through round one or round two of the playoffs. Our goal is to win a Robertson Cup. Anything short of that, we’re not envisioning it right now.”

To make a run at a title at any level of any sport, experience and leadership are necessary. Bolstering the Knights chances is a strong nucleus of returning veterans.

“They’re the ones that set the tone, they set the bench mark; it’s their job right now,” Kowal said. “I told them veterans have to be veterans. They’re not rookies any more. They’re the ones that have to lead the charge. I’m pretty happy with the way they look right now.”

Returning to training camp are forwards Matt Kidney, Mike Gelatt, Curtis Carlson, Mike Morrissey, Reed Robinson, Mike Gelatt, Andrew Jackson and Adrian Danchenko.

“I think there’s a lot of speed up front,” said assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “We have a strong, returning group of forwards there.”

Matt Kidney was the Knights first round draft pick in 2016 and lived up to high expectations. The righty forward led the team in points, with 20 goals and 24 assists in 45 games.

“I think it’s the same as last year but I have more experience now,” said Kidney of his role this year at main camp. “I just need to get in touch with younger guys and be a positive influence in our locker room.”

Fellow Middletown, NJ native Mike Gelatt spent many games on a line with Kidney, and looks to build off a solid season in which he tallied 12 goals and 25 helpers in 49 games.

Curtis Carlson was one of the Knights strongest performers down the stretch of the 2016-17 season. He wowed at Knights Main Camp, flashing his trademark speed on his way to generating a high volume of offensive chances. As a veteran with experience in the NAHL dating back to the 2015-16 season, Carlson is in line to be an even bigger contributor this season.

“I hope to play more of a leadership role in the locker room,” Carlson said. “That being said, I don’t need a letter on my chest, just more of a guy to look up to, and if someone has problems they can come to me. I’m looking for guys on my team, for guys that are particularly good in the locker room. That’s the first part, you want good character. Then of course you want skilled guys, but guys that can play a role. You never know where you’re going to end up in the lineup. One night you can be on the first line, the next night you can be on the fourth. You just need to be consistent in your role.”

Carlson is one of the veterans buying into the potential he’s seen from the group competing for to make the roster.
“I want us to go to the Robbie this year,” he said. “Of course, that’s every team’s goal, but I’m a firm believer in that it starts in the first game of the year. You have to set the tempo there and then take it one game at a time. If you’re doing that, you’re doing it right and playing consistently, you’re going to make your way up there.”

The gritty Mike Morrissey is among the Knights organization’s most-tenured players and, like Carlson, stood out at main camp as one of its leaders. Last year he regularly drew opponents’ most-skilled forwards, some that are now playing division one hockey. His role moving in his second year at the NAHL is expected to grow.

Reed Robinson played his most productive hockey down the stretch of the 2016-17 season, scoring four goals and seven assists in his final 13 games. The gifted power forward has a knack for penalty-killing, and with his speed, was a consistent source of shorthanded scoring chances.

“I think we’re really fast, there’s a lot of work ethic out there,” said Robinson after main camp. “I think the biggest thing is going to be consistency. If we’re consistent we have the ability to be a really good team. You definitely have to take on a little bit of a leadership role. There’s a lot of new guys so you have to get them to loosen up, to play their games.”

Rounding out the returners to training camp are Andrew Jackson and Adrian Danchenko. The duo combined to play 94 games last season. The pair have size and speed that can’t be coached and showed versatility in filling multiple roles throughout the lineup over their past two years in the NAHL.

Familiar faces returning on the blue line are veterans Markuss Komuls, Paul Cimilluca and Joey Verkerke.

Komuls is a solid puck-mover who made a strong transition from tier-III to tier-II with the Knights last season. The Latvian’s ability to skate the puck and dictate possession in the offensive zone placed him second in scoring among Knights defenders last year.

A second-round pick in last year’s NAHL entry draft, Paul Cimilluca will look to take the next step this season. The right-handed defenseman developed a solid two-way game, eating a lot of minutes in his first junior season. He brings both size and strength with his game and showed off a powerful shot in camp.

“I’ve just been working out, trying to get stronger in the gym,” he said of his offseason goals. “On the ice, I’ve been working on my skating, trying to get faster and quicker, and just working on handling the puck better so I can make more plays.”

Now a seasoned junior hockey player, Cimilluca is eager to share lessons he’s learned.

“My advice to the guys here has been to just to go out and play your game, do what you do best, don’t try and do something you’re not used to doing,” he said. “If you’re a goal-scorer, go out and put a few in the net, if you’re a grinder, go out and make a few plays and do what comes naturally to you and what you’re comfortable with. It’s a trial for everyone, we’re all trying to make this team.”

Joey Verkerke joined the Knights roster after the start of the season last year and represented himself well in his junior hockey action. The Michigan-native had a busy offseason, playing in a summer league with names like Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin. The agile defenseman will look to complement a Knights blue line that’s been bolstered by bigger bodies this offseason.

USHL
Two Knights veterans are currently pushing for USHL spots after being selected in this year’s USHL Entry Draft. Should either be released from their USHL teams, the Knights retain their rights and thus can add them back to their NAHL roster.

Paul Maust has been a mainstay in the Knights NAHL lineup for the past two years. Even after joining the team following the first month of last season, Maust still finished second on the roster with 43 points. He was selected 75th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2017 USHL Entry Draft. At Knights main camp, he helped introduce rookies to grind of playing against junior hockey players.

“As an older guy, you just have to keep the locker room loose, make sure they’re not too nervous-just go out there and have some fun,” Maust emphasized. “I mean the biggest thing for me is don’t get outside your game, do what you’re good at. I think I saw a group that’s going to be able to go on some streaks and sweep consecutive opponents.”

Dorian Dawson has spent the past two seasons ascending to the top spot on the Knights blue line. The Canadian import was deployed in all situations last season, using his size and speed to overwhelm opponents up and down the ice. He was rewarded for his 9-25-34 line and steady defense by being taken in the 7th round of the draft by the Fargo Force.

The Knights report to training camp at the beginning of September and will open their season against the New Jersey Titans at the Revolution Ice Centre at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 15th. Tickets can be pre-ordered by calling (570)-883-1100.

Knights Conclude Main Camp with Goals Both on and off the Ice

The Knights wrapped up their final day of main camp with a pair of all-star games Friday. The team is now moving into the final stages of finalizing their roster, and setting their expectations high.

“We grind pretty hard throughout the year to get campers here,” said Knights scout Justin Schreiber. “Getting guys together we feel that are non-roster invites that could make our team on top of guys we draft and tender-that’s the fun part. Starting with eight teams of 20 guys and whittling them down to the last two teams; it’s a painstaking process but it’s not without it’s fun too.”

In the first game of the day, Navy and White rosters were largely comprised of the most impressive camp invites. Friday’s first goal came from defenseman Paul Luebke as he took a pass from Sean Detloff and let go a dart from the high slot.  Luebke wasn’t done. Before the end of the frame, he gave White a 2-0 lead with his second goal of the game.

JP Natishan and Jake Putnam were catalysts for team Navy as with crisp passing, they set up Alex Morawski’s perfect snipe to make it a 2-1 game in the early second. White’s lead held for the rest of period as both the goaltenders and defense stood their ground.

The trend would continue into the third period before finally Sean Detloff set up Jared Lombardi to give White a 3-1 lead. That score would hold until the final horn.

The day’s second match up featured the best performers from game one matched with the remaining camp standouts. Team Navy made an immediate splash behind the skill of their Knights NAHL veterans. Tic-tac-toe passing from Dorian Dawson and Mike Morrissey allowed Adrian Danchenko to flip a puck inside the post for the team’s first goal.

Navy didn’t relent. Camp invite Jake Sandomeno drove down from the blue line to hammer home his team’s second goal of the period with apples credited to Josh Fricks and Cory Ellerton. Not long after, Curtis Carlson flashed through the offensive zone to create a rebound that Jack Olmstead ripped through to build a 3-0 advantage

Late in the first, White snapped Navy’s momentum with a Lincoln Hatten rebound goal, set up by a shot from Bobby Freiling and a pass from Paul Cimilluca.

Reed Robinson capitalized on another juicy rebound a few shifts later on assists by Jake Goldowski and Matt Kidney to bring White within one at the end of the first.

Veterans Mike Gelatt and Andrew Jackson set up Goldowski, a Penn State commit, who’s wrister from the slot brought White even at three mid-way through the second frame. A failed power play for Navy and Lincoln Hatten’s near-goal, spurned only by a great Navy save were the closest efforts to finding another score before period’s end.

The tie was finally broken in the third, as the line of Gelatt-Jackson-Goldowski took over. Their first tally of the period came when the wingers found Jackson open on the back door off a rush. The second was a product of St. Thomas commit Elijah Latimer sending a puck to Jackson, who then fed it on to Goldowski who skipped the puck to the twine.

Off the back of five unanswered goals, team White skated to a 5-3 victory to close out Knights Main camp. With Friday’s games concluded, the Knights have their best idea yet of what talent they’ll bring to 2017-18 season.

“I think we have a lot of speed up front with our forwards, along with a strong returning group of veterans there,” said NAHL assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “One thing we’ve wanted to work on is beefing up our blue line and adding some size, and we’ve been happy with that. The goal-tending has been really consistent as well.”

The Knights next step in the offseason will be when the team reports to training camp in early September. Head coach Tom Kowal is excited for the season to get started.

“The message we’re gonna send to our guys once they make it is that the hard part starts now,” he said. “We come back in a month, and Blaine’s only two months away. That’s the Super Bowl of the North American Hockey League besides the Robertson Cup. We’re hoping that motivates them to be better. Like I said a couple days ago, our goal isn’t to get to the playoffs. Our goal is to get out of playoffs and get the Robertson Cup. Anything shy of that, we’re not envisioning it right now.”

Knights Open Main Camp Excited by Prospects

With eyes ahead, team enjoys productive, competitive opening to camp

The Knights took the Pennsylvania heat to the ice Wednesday afternoon as they forge ahead to write their next chapter in the NAHL. The talent that took the ice on Wednesday mixed speed and grit with NAHL tenure and fresh legs.

“It’s very evident that our assistant coach Andrew Whiteside and head scout Justin Schreiber, two guys who head our scouting program and our recruiting, along with all the others that have helped us, that they’ve really done a great job this past year,” said Knights NAHL head coach Tom Kowal. “They pounded the pavement. We have eight teams with a lot of great talent and that’s a good problem to have.”

Over the course of the past year, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton staff has been scouring the hockey world for talent to bring to the 2017-18 season and beyond. Main Camp not only brings together the subjects of their search, but tests their scouting through competition.

“It is big week for us,” said Knights head scout Justin Schreiber. “Andrew Whiteside and I spent a ton of time on the road, and this week is kind of the culmination of everything. It all comes together-draft picks, tenders, and returners. This week is big. That being said, the games today were really high-paced. I’m pretty impressed with the level of play. I’m excited to see what carries over to day two.”

Formed from a massive pool of Knights veterans, tenders, draft picks, and invitees, eight teams played four games this afternoon. They’ll play eight more games tomorrow before the camp roster is trimmed into two all-star teams. Those teams will fill out the remaining available spots on the Knights roster.

“We want guys who play with grit, said Schreiber.” It’s important for us to find forwards that mix that skill and grit together and defenseman that are both gritty and mean-guys that have a little gravel in their gut. We want guys who bring the lunch pail and their boots to work every day and at the end of the day, we want our team to be really hard to play against. I think that showed itself here on day one.”

Returning veterans wasted little time in making an impression. As last season’s leading scorer, it only was only fitting that Matt Kidney would punctuate his team’s game one victory by burying a shot top shelf from just inside the blue line. Mike Gelatt rattled the boards down low, Paul Cimilluca potted a goal off a 2-on-1 rush, Mike Morrissey consistently inhabited his opponent’s crease, Curtis Carlson blazed through back-checkers to create chances, while Paul Maust and Reed Robinson took turns putting pucks in the twine. When they weren’t on the ice, the same players were engaged off of it, attentively following each game, eagerly surveying each potential new team mate.

“They’re the ones that get us going,” said Kowal. “They set the bench mark. It’s their job right now. I told them, that veterans have to be veterans. They’re not rookies anymore. Those are the guys that have to lead the charge. If we don’t have good leaders, we’re not going to have a good hockey team. I’ve really been pretty hard on my veterans this past summer to make sure they’ve been working out, to make sure they’re ready. So far I’m pretty happy with the way they are looking right now. Even walking in, they look bigger. They’re buying into the organization’s standard right now. Just making the playoffs isn’t good enough anymore. We’re going into our third season-round one isn’t good enough. We need a round two-we need a round trip to have a successful season.”

While the veterans set an early tone, newer players made their impacts known. Tendered defenseman Blake Kryska notched two goals in his first game. Tom Farrell, a big blue-liner who, like Kryska, spent a few games with the Knights last season, tallied a goal in his first game as well. Goalie Dave Tomeo, once a Knights opponent, was calm and steady in between the pipes.

Draft pick Lincoln Hatten showed off an impressive combo of size and speed, creating a few odd-man advantages by streaking past the last defender. First round pick Gabe Temple displayed impressive stick handling as he appeared unrelenting in attacking the offensive zone.  Christian Stoever, the lone goalie selected by the Knights in this year’s draft, impressed with several acrobatic saves.

All newcomers and veterans will get another chance tomorrow to make an impression as the Knights take further stock of their new roster. For the players that in camp only by invitation, Kowal offered encouragement.

“They should just be who they are,” said Kowal, “We can only draft and tender so many guys. There’s a lot of great hockey players out there. It seems like every year-and I’ve been doing this for 15 years-a kid that we didn’t draft, didn’t tender, a kid who hasn’t played a game for me in his life makes the team. It’s just that blue-chipper that no one knows who slips through the cracks, that comes out here and has a really good weekend, impresses our staff, and ends up being a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knight.”

Game one begins at 8:30 am as Navy takes on Purple.