Saturday marked game number 10 between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and Johnstown Tomahawks in the 2017-18 season. Following Friday’s contest that saw the Tomahawks grind out a 2-1 win, both teams entered play having collected 10 points against the other.
Much like the prior contest, Saturday’s affair took on a decidedly slow pacing as both sides struggled to find much consistency on the attack. In net again for the Tomahawks was Kade Phipps, countered by Christian Stoever for the Knights.
After a quiet start, the Knights offense awoke in the last quarter of the opening frame. On a power play that saw the Knights spend most of their 2:00 in the attacking end, Curtis Carlson capped off the man-advantage with a rocket from the top of the zone that found its way through Mike Gelatt and past Kade Phipps for the game’s first goal. Mike Morrissey and Tom Farrell picked up helpers on the tally at 14:21.
Exactly two minutes later, the Tomahawks responded by digging a puck from out of the corner in the Knights end and walking it down the goal line. On two prior shifts in the offensive zone, the Tomahawks had done the same, only to be denied the first time by an opportune poke check from Luke Robinson, and a pair of sprawling saves from Stoever on the second. On the third such occasion, Joe Kile made sure to bury the puck from point blank range, ripping it through the fiver to knot the score at one (Carson Brière). The period would end, gridlocked in a 1-1 tie.
Gridlock would be an apt way to describe the second and third periods. In the middle stanza, both teams took turns clogging up the center of the ice, while turning pucks over in the neutral zone. The result was few quality chances on net, while both goalies handled the shots that got to the net with relative ease.
After the Knights strong start to the power play in the first, the unit cooled off for their remaining four chances between the second and third. All told, the Tomahawks killed four of five opportunities for the Knights power play, while also being blanked on two of their own.
With the third came little change other than seeing an uptick in penalty minutes. Both teams had struggles standing up on the puck in the attacking end, resulting in scoreless stretch that ran a grand total of 46:02 from the end of the first to the game’s conclusion.
Just shy of the halfway point in 3-on-3 overtime, Carson Brière found himself in alone on an odd-man rush set up by Joe Kile and Karim DelPonte. The ’99 flipped the puck up and over the shoulder of Christian Stoever (41 saves in the loss) for the win, earning Johnstown a weekend sweep of the Knights.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will look to bounce back next week, starting with a home game against the New Jersey Titans at 2:30 pm EST. The game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Tune into Knights social media and visit www.wbsknights.com for all news and updates!
Coming off a 5-3 win Friday night, the Knights looked to travel to New Jersey for a weekend sweep of the Titans. They were welcomed rudely by Tyler Antonucci who pushed a goal past Knights starter Christian Stoever just 27 seconds into the first period (Tate Singleton, Wade Novak).
Knights first-round pick and Michigan Tech commitment, Gabe Temple responded under three minutes later when EHL affiliate player Tyler Nielsen fed him the puck to even the score and give Nielsen his first point in his NAHL career. Tomas Koblizek recorded the secondary assist.
A trade of saves between Stoever and Titans starter Matt Ladd lasted until 14:05, when Andrew Husted scored off the set up from Gavin Gulash and Jimmy Dowd Jr. to give the Titans back the lead. The teams headed to the dressing room with 20 combined shots on goal.
In the second, the shot count would climb to 22 as each side cracked double digits, but sound penalty-killing, and solid goaltending led to a scoreless 17 minutes. Ryan Wheeler would end the drought at 17:09 with Todd Goehring serving him up his third goal of the season, building the Titans a 3-1 advantage. Wade Novak wouldn’t let the period conclude quietly, scoring unassisted with 20 seconds remaining in the middle-stanza.
Entering the third, the Knights lost a key piece of their lineup after Reed Robinson was served a five minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind penalty just 4:21 in. The Knights would rally on the ensuing shift to score a shorthanded goal when Luke Robinson found Michael Morrisey for the score, trimming the deficit to two.
A Titans penalty halfway through the major would result in most of the remaining penalty time being spent playing 4-on-4. The Titans were able to push their fifth goal home at 7:27 when Jimmy Dowd Jr. scored via assists from Andrew Husted and Chris Garbe.
Jack Olmstead would keep the Knights afloat with his 17th goal of the season at 12:51, as Matt Kidney found his fellow winger for the duo’s fifth and sixth combined points of the weekend series.
The Titans would put any hopes of a comeback to rest less than a minute later when Kyle Jeffers scored to rebuild New Jersey’s three-goal lead (Hunter Alden, Holden Biebel).
The rest of regulation wound down without another score, handing the Knights their 11th regulation loss of the season. The team did go without allowing a power play goal on the evening, blanking a New Jersey power play unit that recorded a pair of scores the night prior. Jack Olmstead and Matt Kidney each extended their point streaks to three games, while Mike Morrissey has an active, two-game streak of his own.
The Knights will look to bounce back next weekend when they host the Johnstown Tomahawks at the Revolution Ice Centre starting Friday, January 26th at 7:30 pm for Scouts Night. Check out details for the evening devoted to the Boy Scouts of Northeast Pennsylvania here. The second game of the series will be Saturday, January 27th at 7:30 pm. Tune into both games on myhockeytv.com! Follow Knights social media and visit www.wbsknights.com to stay up to date on all news!
In their final game before their holiday break, the Knights went to work against the New Jersey Titans Wednesday afternoon. A season series just three games old, the pair of East division foes needed overtime in all but one tilt to come to a decision. Round four would again prove to be a contest that boiled down to the game’s final moments.
In the game’s opening shifts, it was made apparent that both starting goal tenders brought their A-games to the ice. Stingier than Scrooge, David Tomeo and Brandon Perrone took turns wiping would-be smiles off forechecking faces as each goalie sent quality chances anywhere but the net.
The Knights carried play for most of the first period to the tune of 16-10 shot advantage, but could not solve Perrone. In the period’s final two minutes, the Titans maintained pressure for consecutive shifts, culminating in an offensive zone draw in the final 20 seconds. Off a quick faceoff win and cycle, Hunter Alden took passes from Kyle Jeffers and Ryan Naumovski and fired a puck past Tomeo for a 1-0 Titans lead.
The late-period tally did not sit well with a Knights team that has been bugged by slow starts and uneven goal production in recent weeks. Out of the gate in the second came a continued blitz from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton offense as the team continued the prior period’s habit of putting shots on goal from in close.
Perrone’s sterling defense of his net held until 3:17. A sequence that started with Mike Morrissey setting up a heavy Blake Kryska shot ended with Adrian Danchenko showcasing his silky hands once again. The big forward weaved Kryska’s rebound through the crease and past Perrone for the game-tying goal, Danchenko’s sixth of the season.
The remainder of the middle frame evolved into a more aggressive version of the first. Both sides combined for 33 shots on goal, breaking down to a 17-16 New Jersey advantage. Despite this, the Titans could not figure out David Tomeo.
The goalie continued his December to remember with another stellar effort in net. After stopping 74/77 shots in two games in Johnstown last weekend, the New Jersey native backed it up with a 34/35 mid-week performance. In 2017’s final month Tomeo boasts a 1.33 goals against average and an absurd .973 save percentage in three starts.
His play kept the the game tied at one until the late second, when the Knights found themselves on the power play with just under 30 seconds remaining. The man-advantage has been a point of emphasis in Knights practice this week following a weekend in which the power play went 0-10 against the Tomahawks.
The message clearly sunk in. Off a clean faceoff win, Blake Kryska fed a puck to Anthony Firriolo. Just five seconds into the man-advantage, Mike Morrissey found a Firriolo rebound and put it home to take a 2-1 lead.
The third period brought both forechecks back down to Earth as each side found their shot totals dip into the single digits. Players like Knights forwards Tomas Koblizek and Jeffrey Bertrand and Titans veterans Zach Parrot and Ryan Naumovski imposed their physical will on both ends of the ice to slow the contest’s pace.
Most impressive was the Knights ability to weather the high-paced Titans final push to try and tie the game. While successful in getting pucks up the ice, New Jersey found it difficult to put together many extended shifts in the attacking zone, kept at bay by the Knights crisp exit passing and physical play. When the Titans did break through the defense, Tomeo was there to bail his team out.
As time wound down on the comeback, the Titans pulled Perrone with just over a minute to play in regulation. The Knights back check buckled down and spent much of the final 60 seconds outside their own end. Though they ultimately could not find the empty net, the team did well to skate out the clock and come away with their 18th win of the season.
Now 18-7-3 and for the moment a top the East division standings, the Knights will receive two weeks off before returning for a home series against he Kenai River Brown Bears on December 29th and 30th. Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and follow Knights social media for all news and updates!
On behalf of all players and staff, the Knights organization wishes all their fans the very best, healthiest, and happiest of holiday seasons!
It wasn’t pretty, but it was two points. The Knights can hang their hats on a gritty, albeit non-traditional win following their 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon. For the third-consecutive game, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton played host to the Philadelphia Rebels following last night’s 5-3 Knights victory.
The Rebels entered play Sunday having several regulars return along the blue line that had missed several games prior. The influence was apparent, as Philadelphia got off to a suffocating start. Their forecheck was again fast and physical as they hemmed the Knights in their own zone for much of the first period. In net for his second start of the three-game series was Christian Stoever, who was nothing short of spectacular on Sunday.
Mounting 18 shots on net in the first frame, the Rebels could only push one puck by the 2000 goalie, with that tally coming at 18:10 on the power play. The sequence was started by point play from Carson Moniz and Diarmad DiMurro before Moniz ripped a shot and rebound to Adam Peck, who promptly buried the goal to give the Rebels the 1-0 lead. Beyond that point, the Rebels simply could not solve Stoever.
The second period fell in line with the first, where the Rebels again controlled play and time of possession. Neither team found the twine in the middle frame, with Stoever stopping eight shots, and Rebels goalie Ryan Keane saving six. A late period surge by the Knights forecheck made the latter netminder make a few quality stops, but did set the table for things to come in the third.
Down 1-0 with 20 minutes to play, the Knights would again find themselves under heavy pressure from the Rebels attack. Though Philadelphia had the overwhelming majority of chances, the difference in the final period was that the Knights were able to finish on their own.
Around the 9:30 mark of the third period Jack Olmstead, Curtis Carlson, and Matt Kidney set up shop in the Philadelphia zone. With Luke Robinson and Tom Farrell on the back end, the Knights cycled effectively until Kidney put a shot on goal that pulled Keane out of the net and generated a heavy rebound that Carlson buried to tie the game at one.
The Rebels were quick to mount pressure in response, but Stoever continued to stand on his head, denying Philadelphia all 20 shots they put on his plate in the third.
In the final minute of regulation, the Knights again would again stand up on the puck in the attacking zone. This time it was Reed Robinson feeding a pass to Luke Robinson, who turned a shot in front which was re-directed to twine by a camped out Michael Morrissey.
Suddenly on the wrong end of the scoreboard in a game they largely controlled, the Rebels pulled Keane for an extra attacker. In the final 51 seconds, they could not solve Stoever as the Knights stole a game on Sunday to improve to 16-6-3. Their 35 points as a team give them a three-point advantage in the East Division standings heading into a weekend off. The total also moves them into a tie with the Shreveport Mudbugs for most points in the entire NAHL.
The Knights will be back in action on December 8th and 9th, when they travel to Johnstown for a pair of road games at the 1st Summit Arena. Stay up to date with all Knights news by following team social media and checking back at www.wbsknights.com.
Friday afternoon saw the Knights meet the Johnstown Tomahawks for the third-consecutive game. Following a Tomahawks shutout victory in the pair’s prior meeting, the Knights offense was hungry for a rebound.
Jack Olmstead found just that, only 1:06 into the first period of Friday’s contest. Off a shot from Curtis Carlson, set up by Luke Robinson’s pass, Olmstead flipped a loose puck past Tomahawks starter Britt League, the netminder who shut the Knights out last Saturday.
Less than 30 seconds later, Tyrone Bronte put the Knights up 2-0 with a shot from in front that just found its way past League. The assists came from Justin Engelkes and Anthony Firriolo at 1:33.
The Knights tacked on their third tally of the period when, on a power play, Tom Farrell hammered a laser to the twine for his third goal of the season. Helpers were credited to Michael Morrissey and Reed Robinson as the Knights took a commanding just shy of the halfway point of the period.
The Tomahawks, as they have in each game against the Knights in which they’ve trailed, clawed their way back, creating offensive pressure in the second half of the frame. Christian Stoever in net again for the Knights, stood his ground until Donovan Ott recorded his first goal since his return to the Tomahawks at 18:47. His first tally of 2017-18 came off a howitzer shot from the left circle, set up by Toby Sengvonxay and Ben Schmidling. The 3-1 score would hold through the end of the period.
The Knights began the second frame in much the same way as the first. The team started off well in transition, and on an odd-man rush in the first minute, Shay Donovan took a crisp pass from Mike Morrissey, fed by Adrian Danchenko and fired it past League, stick side for the 4-1 lead.
The Tomahawks answered a minute later when Carson Brière picked up goal number two of the season-his first with the Tomahawks-on a tip off Sengvonxay’s shot, with the secondary apple coming from Cade Groton. The goal spurred a back-and-forth stretch through the next 10 minutes of play with two unsuccessful power plays for the Knights and one for the Tomahawks.
Johnstown broke through at 13:15 when Ott jumped off the bench following the expiration of a penalty. Ott, assisted by Brière, walked in over the Knights line, and with space, ripped his second goal of the game to bring the Tomahawks within one, a margin that held through the end of the second.
The third period began with another fast Knights start. 2:30 into the frame, Matt Kidney, set up by Reed Robinson and Michael Morrissey on a great denial of a shorthanded breakaway, notched the Knights second power play goal of the game. On the ensuing faceoff a Johnstown slashing sent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton right back to the man-advantage. Kidney found the twine again at 3:22 for his team’s third power play strike, with assists coming Blake Kryska and Mike Morrissey.
The goal gave the Knights the insurance they needed as the third developed into both teams trading penalties through much of the remainder of regulation. Each kill solidified to not allow a goal until the game’s final minutes.
Following their taking of a five-minute major with 4:56 to play, the Tomahawks gained late life when Donovan Ott completed his hat trick with a short-handed goal at 17:24. The tally was set up by a solid exit pass from Karim DelPonte to Samuel Solensky. The latter drove to the Knights slot before turning the puck back to the trailing Ott who pushed it by Stoever.
Despite pulling within two, the Tomahawks kept League in net for the remainder of regulation. Despite a pair of shorthanded chances, Johnstown could not narrow their deficit any further, as the Knights skated to their 14th win of the season. Their 31 points are the league’s and the division’s highest total.
The two teams will rematch tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 pm EST. The game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Follow Knights social media and visit www.nahl.com for updates.
Reminder: help the Knights check hunger! To any fan attending tomorrow’s game, bring three canned goods or non-perishable items to exchange for one free ticket. There is no limit to how many free tickets can be earned.
In the rubber match of the three-game series between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and Northeast Generals, things promised to be exciting as the teams had each picked a win, and had scored nine goals each, through games one and two.
In contrast with the prior 48 hours, the game began in tight fashion, with both teams engaged in a transition game battle, but both failed to settle down into a consistent offensive rhythm. Through a scoreless first, both goalies-David Tomeo for the Knights, and Marko Sturma for the Generals-traded solid saves, while both power plays were held scoreless (Knights 0-1, Generals 0-3).
The second period picked up in pace, but the scoreless streak continued until Mike Morrissey drove hard to the net at 7:05 and put home a rebound generated by Tom Farrell and Reed Robinson. The Knights pressure following the score, would be continually denied by spectacular work in net by Sturma for the remainder of the period.
The Knights in turn, weathered the Northeast storm on the forecheck and power play, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton penalties continued to mount. The penalty kill remained perfect and Tomeo held strong until 15:30, when Louis Boudon received a Luke Perunovich drop pass, which he fired past Tomeo to tie the game at one. With 21 seconds remaining in the period, Colin Bilek found a loose puck to the left of Tomeo and flipped it through a host of bodies to take the 2-1 lead (Perunovich).
The third period brought with it an exchange of all-out offensive hockey. The Knights tied the game when Curtis Carlson scored on the power play at 3:26 (R. Robinson, Kidney). Hunter Canestra came back after an unsuccessful Generals man-advantage and scored even-strength off assists from Justin Kelley and Shawn Montgomery. Shortly thereafter, Tomeo was lifted following his second penalty of the contest, bringing in Christian Stoever off the bench.
After the Knights killed off the penalty, Mike Morrissey picked up his second goal of the game, put home off a rebound to tie the contest at three at 9:52. The goal was set up by Luke Robinson and Reed Robinson on the helpers. Knights nemesis Louis Boudon answered quickly as he buried his second tally of the game at 11:16, assisted by Bilek and Anthony Quatieri to again put the Generals ahead by one.
The Knights continued to be sent to the box, as they’d face two more penalties, staving off both, to go a perfect 9-9 on the afternoon on the kill, making them 14-14 in their last two games. Top it off, on the first of the two infractions, the Knights scored their third short-handed goal of the weekend when Tom Farrell crashed the net and flipped a puck past Sturma, assisted by Danchenko and Jack Olmstead.
Despite the offensive success shorthanded, the continued march to the box robbed the Knights of quality five-on-five time, forcing them to chase for much of the third period. Despite this, Adrian Danchenko found the go-ahead goal at 17:35 off assists from Reed Robinson and Gabe Temple. The 5-4 lead looked to be locked down, as the Generals were forced to pull their goalie with under a minute to go.
With 17.6 seconds left, the Knights called a timeout with a faceoff coming in their own zone. When play resumed, the Generals executed a perfect play to set up Boudon in the slot. The French forward notched the game-tying goal and the hat trick with just 12.6 seconds left in regulation.
Into overtime, the abundance of offensive chances continued. The Knights best opportunity came when Matt Kidney walked in on Sturma who was pulled out of position off an initial save. Somehow, the Slovakian net-minder made a lunging stick save from the opposite post to rob Kidney the of game-winning score. Back down the other way came Matt Demelis, and with a nifty move, he bested Stoever for the game-winning tally.
The tough loss for the Knights did come with the silver lining of one point in overtime, exceptional penalty killing, shorthanded scoring, and strong contributions from its offense. That in mind, the team will try to bounce back next week when they host the Johnstown Tomahawks for a home-home series on Friday and Saturday. Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and Knights social media through the week for updates on all Knights news!
As the NAHL welcomed in the 2017-18 regular season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and New Jersey Titans renewed their eastern division rivalry for the 29th time in their shared existence.
The game began with a high tempo attack from the Knights forecheck, aided by two early Titans penalties. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton quickly built a 12-4 lead but were kept off the scoreboard by New Jersey netminder Brandon Perrone. Just past the midway point of the first, the Titans began their push back, driving possession into the Knights zone and taking the shots lead by period’s end.
At 14:15, Titans forward Tyler Barrow fired a shot off the blocker of Knights goalie David Tomeo. The ricochet sent the puck straight into the air, before descending behind Tomeo and glancing it’s way into the net. Barrow’s first NAHL goal, assisted by Tate MacDonald, gave the Titans a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Entering the second down by one, the Knights received a boost in the early minutes of the period when Paul Cimilluca ripped a pass from his own zone to the Titans blue line. The pass found Mike Gelatt as he gained the zone, and then fired it ahead to Reed Robinson in fro0nt of the net. Robinson’s persistence through Perrone’s initial save paid off, as the power forward worked a rebound through the pads to even the game at one.
After a pair of Knights breakaways were stoned by Perrone, the Titans found one of their own. Forward Hunter Alden worked his way behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense to create a 2-on-1 break. As he barreled toward Tomeo, he slid the puck to Nick Yzaguirre who put rubber to twine, giving the Titans back the one-goal lead.
Tomeo wouldn’t allow the goal to haunt him as the ’99 birth year continually stood on his head to keep the Knights in the game. His first and second period efforts were highlighted by multiple diving saves with bodies stuck in the crease, eerily similar to saves he made against the Knights last season with the Northeast Generals.
Nearing the end of the second period, the Titans appeared to have bested him a third time off a Nick Boyagian redirect of an Eric Manoukian point shot. The goal was disallowed after the officials determined it was played with a high stick. The break gave the Knights momentum heading into the second intermission with the added bonus of an upcoming power play stemming from a 4-on-4 set to expire within the first minute of the third.
The power play, though abbreviated, would prove to be an important one to start the final frame of regulation. Though ultimately unsuccessful in finding the net, the Knights created chances and offensive momentum that quickly forced another New Jersey penalty.
On their fourth man-advantage of the game, the Knight finally broke through. At 3:54, Matt Kidney, the Knights first-round draft pick and leading scorer in 2016-17, pushed a Mike Morrissey pass through the five-hole to tie the game at two.
The remainder of the period was an intense exchange of rushes on both ends of the ice, and impressive saves from Perrone and Tomeo. Though both teams had quality opportunities to take the lead, neither was able to do so in the allotted 60 minutes. The first overtime contest for both benches came in their opening game, meaning both teams would leave the rink with at least one point on Friday night.
The beginning of the 3-on-3, five minute period saw New Jersey generate two quality chances within the first 90 seconds. The first was pulled just wide of the net on a shot from the top of the slot. The second was denied by Tomeo as the Titans entered the zone on an odd-man rush.
Matt Kidney had seen enough. On his first shift in overtime, the Knights veteran hovered in front of the Titans blue line as his teammates worked out of their own zone. Rookie forward Tyrone Bronte tangled in a 50/50 battle for the puck at center ice, and after emerging victorious, fed the wide open Kidney with a quick pass. The Middletown-native sped in over the line alone, and learning from Perrone’s earlier highlight-reel glove saves, ripped a shot low-stick side to send the Knights home with two points and their first win of the season.
The teams will meet again tonight at Middletown Ice World Arena for round two of the highly-entertaining, east division matchup. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm and the game broadcast can be found on hockeytv.com.
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.
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.
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.