Tag Archives: NAHL

Christian Stoever Commits to Merrimack College

When the Knights selected Christian Stoever in the third round of the 2017 NAHL Draft, they knew they had found an asset between the pipes.

“Christian is a super-talented, young goaltender that will be able to jump in and play juniors right away,” said Knights assistant GM Justin Schreiber following the Knights final pick. “We are very excited about Christian’s future and his time in the Knights crease.”

The 2000-born netminder went on to win 21 total games through his rookie campaign and proved to be a linchpin for the Knights NAHL postseason run. His body of work earned him a spot on the NAHL’s All-East Division Rookie team and a pair of games in the USHL.

“I’d describe my style of play as aggressive,” said Stoever. “I like to play the puck a lot. I get into playing and helping out my teammates. I’m definitely a competitive kid on the ice. I’m on the big side at 6-2. I can stand my ground when I need to. I like to assert my game around my angles and my positioning.”

“Christian played a big part in winning the East Division in playoffs this past season, and going to the Robertson Cup Final Four,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He’s the type of player that steps up when the lights shine the brightest and when the stage is the biggest. He’s the type of goalie that can steal a game or backstop a winning streak. He did both for us this year.”

On Tuesday, Stoever announced his commitment to Merrmiack College, an NCAA Div. I program that competes in the Hockey East Association. The Massachusetts-based college won a division II national championship in 1977-78 before jumping to division I in 1984. Since then, the college has produced a number of alumni that went on to play in the NHL, including journeymen like defensemen John Jakopin and Steve McKenna, among others.

Stepping into the role of head coach for the Warriors this season is Scott Borek, an alumni of Dartmouth with years of division one coaching experience, something that stuck with Stoever during the recruiting process.

“I really was impressed with the coaching staff,” he said. “They made me feel wanted. They have  a lot of experience at the division one level and they let me know they wanted me to play for Merrimack. I’m excited to develop my game there. Hopefully that leads to getting an opportunity to one day signing a pro contract somewhere and fulfill my dream of playing pro hockey.”

2017-18  was a first for Stoever as well, as the 2017-18 was his first season of junior hockey. After playing in 43 regular and postseason games, the goalie has gained an appreciation for what the North American Hockey League has done for his development.

“Having played one year in the NAHL, I’d definitely recommend it to future junior players. “I feel like it has gotten me ready for the USHL and ready to make that jump, and then after that make another jump to college hockey.

His well-documented performance in the playoffs this past season goes down as the best in the Knights brief NAHL history, as Stoever moves forward as the organization’s all-time  NAHL leader in playoff minutes (539), games played (9), wins (6), GAA (1.89), and save percentage (.949).

“It definitely raised my confidence a lot, just showing what we could do as a team,” said Stoever of the Knights postseason effort. “I’m not sure if I’d be in this situation right now if not for that run. I’m thankful for it, thankful for the teammates, and how we all played and stepped up. It was definitely a good last month and a half with everyone.”

When asked to describe his favorite part of being a Knight, Stoever echoed the sentiment of others players moving on this summer in his appreciation for the chemistry his teammates shared.

“Probably the guys,” he said of what he’d miss most. “Even though it was only one year, I think we made too many memories just to pick one favorite. It had to be my teammates. We all still talk every day. I definitely love those guys.”

Through it all, Stoever understands who’s helped him along the way, particularly those who have been in his corner since day one.

“My dad,” he said. “He’s been around my entire hockey career. He’s definitely spent a lot of money on me over the years, moving from Florida to Michigan just for hockey. He made a lot of sacrifices along with my whole family so I could play hockey.”

“We’re here to move all our players onto the next level of hockey, but they can also help move your program forward,” said Kowal. “Christian was a big part of a big step forward for our organization in the playoffs this past season. He’s an incredibly talented goalie who has the potential to add even bigger things to his resume as he continues to develop. I’m proud of what he’s accomplished for us and for himself. I wish him the best of luck at Merrimak and I can’t wait to see where his career takes him.”

The Knights thank Christian for the time and effort he contributed to the team, and wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward in his career and education!

Reed Robinson Gets the Call from Niagara

Knights veteran Reed Robinson is heading off to school. The ’98 forward will lace up the skates for the Niagara Purple Eagles after the university offered him a spot for the 2018-19 season.

“They called me the other day, I was actually at work,” said Robinson. “I picked it up at work just because it’s the coaches so I always answer. Coach Lammers called me and told me he’s coming down to Dallas this Friday for the NHL Draft. He asked me about getting breakfast on Friday, and that he had a bigger question for me and asked if I wanted to come in this year and of course I said yes. It was a really exciting combo.”

A native or Rockwall, Texas, Robinson has been a cornerstone for the Knights in Pennsylvania since he came aboard in 2015 at the 18U level. After affiliating with the NAHL team that season, Robinson went on to score 36 goals and 42 assists through his NAHL career. He ends his Knights career tied for third in points in the team’s NAHL history.

“Reed Robinson is a great example of what we look for in our organization and our league,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He came in a couple years ago from the youth level, and continually proved to us that he was capable of taking on bigger roles and bigger minutes. He took advantage of the opportunities he was given each season, and developed into one of our best players and one of the leaders in our locker room.”

“I think the speed of the game at the NAHL level, really made me a faster player,” said Robinson. “It made me make decisions a lot quicker. I think as far as the whole mental side of the game, I’ve learned a lot. It kinda teaches you how to be a college athlete with the time you have to put in and the time management for the work you have to do. I think it really prepared me.”

Robinson heads to a Niagara program that plays in the competitive Atlantic Hockey Conference at the NCAA Division I level. He’s eager to get started.

“I’m just excited to play at the next level,” he said. “I think playing at that level brings your game to that level. I think I’m only going to improve as a hockey player there, so I think that’s a big part of it. Obviously playing in those college hockey rinks won’t be too bad either. That’ll be a lot of fun.”

After playing a program record 138 games in a Knights NAHL sweater, Robinson has too many fond memories to single out just one favorite, but he’ll never forget the people who were apart of his junior hockey journey.

“Certainly the Robby Cup has to be my top moment,” he said. “It was a great experience to go out there-the boys really enjoyed it. I think I’m just going miss my teammates the most I think. I just made so memories, I can’t really pick one. All the guys in Wilkes-Barre were great-it was a good group we had. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. I have to thank the Knights for everything they’ve done. I think everyone helped me to get to college and the Knights organization was a big part of that.”

“I consider Reed as one of those original guys for our program at this level,” said Kowal. “He’ll always be remembered as a big part of what got us started in the NAHL. Those guys hold a special place with me and with our team. I thank him for all the work he’s put in, all the goals he’s helped us achieve, and just for being a quality member of our program. I’m excited for him as he starts his Div. 1 career, and I know he’s going to do well at Niagara. I wish him nothing but the best of luck.”

From ownership on through every member of the organization, the Knights thank Reed for his contributions and will be eagerly rooting him on as embarks on his college career and beyond!

Knights Trade for Tendered Defenseman, Jordan Strand

Shortly after their 2017-18 season came to a close, the Knights made a trade for 2018-19, acquiring tendered defenseman Jordan Strand in a trade with the Chippewa Steel (formerly the Coulee Region Chill).

The 19-year old spent most of 2017-18 as a key presence for a Sioux Falls JR. Stampede U18 team that went to the NAPHL’s playoffs this past February. After a regular season that saw him record a goal and eight assists in 15 games, Strand produced at a point-per-game rate on the biggest stage, scoring two goals and four points in four playoff games. Offense however, is his not his primary focus.

“I’m more towards a two-way defenseman, he said. “I take care of the d-zone first. That’s my main goal; to shut down the other team’s top line and then chip in on the offense too. I go into every game with the mentality that I really, really enjoy playing the good teams and shutting down their top players. Coming from Minnesota high school hockey, we had a bunch of top-notch players and that was my favorite thing. Going against these guys that get drafted in the NHL or are going division one, and I go against those guys and shut them down. When I’m on the ice, I just want to make sure those top guys don’t get points. For the offensive side, I guess I go into every game hoping to get a point or at least help my buddy or my line mate get a point, but I like to be a shutdown d, that’s my main thing.”

“Jordan is a steady shutdown defenseman that has the ability to log big minutes on the back-end,” said Knights assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “We are excited to add Jordan to the right side of our defensive core.”

Strand has already had a taste of NAHL hockey, after playing a pair of games with the Minot Minotauros in 2017-18.

“Last year I was kind of going in blind,” he said. “I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. From my high school, I’m one of the first players to go on to play junior in quite some time. Now I know what I’m getting into. Playing in Sioux Falls this past year has gotten me way more prepared to go into it. Seeing the NAHL practices with Minot, playing in games, you realize how fast it is. That’s prepared me for this offseason training and going into next season.”

So what does the Cottage Grove, Minnesota native know about a junior hockey team from Pennsylvania? The Knights most recent trip to the State of Hockey grabbed his attention.

“I heard a little bit,” he said of the Knights. “The teams that made it to the Robertson Cup final four, I was looking up. Being with Minot, I knew about Wilkes-Barre. I knew that they were a good team, a talented team. I didn’t know about the coaching staff, or where they were located, before I was traded, but I knew they were good.”

“Nowadays you can’t have enough skill on the blue-line,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We wanted to add a player with Jordan’s ability to play good defense in his own zone, while also having the ability to transition into a playmaker up the ice. Bringing him into the fold helps not only our defensive depth, but continues to add versatility to our team as a whole. It was an easy trade to make.”

In trading for Strand, the Knights believe the benefits extend beyond just the ice. A former captain for Park High School, Strand leads by example.

“I’m not really a big talker, I like to show it on the ice,” he said. “That’s my big thing, my work ethic. I like to go in and try to motivate guys on my team to work harder because of my work ethic. I do less talking and more working. Some guys are good at the talking part, but I’m more of the work-hard, guys notice it, and then they work hard as well.”

With the opportunity to secure a place on an NAHL roster, Strand is motivated to achieve not only his personal ambitions, but to help continue the Knights ascent, heading into their fourth season in the NAHL.

“Team goals-obviously you want to go to the Robertson Cup and win the Robertson Cup. That’s my big thing, I love winning. Coming from a team this past year that made it to nationals for U18 and made it a good, successful year. I really loved it. I want more, so I’m hoping to win that Robertson Cup. Personally, I want to start talking to colleges. Get a college offer, and if that doesn’t come this next year, than the year after. I’d also like to get 30 points or so this year, play on the power play, be a good team player. That’s my goal.”

The Knights will get their first chance to see Strand at their rink, when the organization holds their main camp on July 20th at the Revolution Ice Centre. Strand will have the opportunity to make a team that shares his aspirations of winning a Robertson Cup.

“I’m just really looking forward to it,” said Strand. “I’ve heard really good things about the coaching staff, really good things about Wilkes-Barre. I’m really excited to get out there and get going.”

Jason Stachelbeck Signs Tender with Knights

Last week, the Knights added another member to their tender class following forward Jason Stachelbeck’s signing of a 2018-19 tender. A native of Brampton Ontario, Stachelbeck played last season in the OJHL where he split 52 games between the Aurora Tigers and Whitby Fury.

“Jason is a power forward with a terrific skill-set,” said Knights assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “He has experience at the junior A level and we are excited to add him to our group of forwards.”

“I like to think I’m a power forward,” said Stachelbeck. “I have a good shot and pretty good hands around the net and I’m pretty good at making plays. I bring some energy. Hopefully a couple of big hits every game to get the boys fired up, some goals scored, and putting up some points with my teammates.”

The right-handed forward was adept at both scoring and making plays last season, recording 24 goals and 11 assists in 2017-18.

“Jason is a player that checks a lot of our boxes,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We like to have a good blend of size and skill in our forward group and he has both. His  previous experience playing junior hockey in Canada should help him adjust. We’re excited to bring him into camp to see how he can help our team.”

After playing over 100 games of junior hockey in Canada, the right-handed shot is ready and eager to make the move to the NAHL.

“I heard the NAHL’s a good league and that it’s high-paced,” he said. “Obviously I want to do well with the team, but I’m also looking to get a scholarship this year. I’m looking to put up quite a few points if I can. I’m looking to go far in the playoffs and hopefully win a championship. I’m looking forward to getting started. I think I’ll do well there.”

The Knights recent run to the final four of the Robertson Cup Playoffs is the new standard in the organization. Stachelbeck took notice of the team’s efforts this past spring, and it helped bring him around to the idea of signing a tender with the Knights.

“It just struck me as a good organization,” he said. “I saw they did really well last year, and that there was good coaching there. That really sold me on coming to the team.”

Stachelbeck will have his chance to join the Knights cause this July at Main Camp, which is set to kick off on July 20th at the Revolution Ice Centre. To stay up to date on all Knights tender signings click here.

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Dawson Bradford Signs Tender with Knights

The Knights added another player to their offseason roster last week with forward Dawson Bradford agreeing to a tender for the 2018-19 season. Bradford is a prospect from the Dallas Stars U16 program out of the T1EHL. The Stars are the same program that produced Knights veterans Reed Robinson and Lincoln Hatten, along with William Otwell, a Knights draft pick last Tuesday, a teammate of Bradford’s.

“We have some really great players, and they do a great job bringing in guys early at the 14, 15, and 16-year old levels,” said Bradford of the Stars program. “I’ve had really great coaches here, and they’ve come in and have really helped me develop. Everything about Dallas is about hockey, and they continue to bring in some really talented players.”

Bradford is no exception.

“Dawson plays a very heavy game, especially for a player that is on the smaller side,” said Knights assistant GM Justin Schreiber. “He is one of those guys you hate to play against.”

“I’d say I play tough and hard,” said the forward who has recorded 24 goals and 37 assists over the course of his last 65 regular-season games. “I’m not the biggest guy-I’m pushing 5-9, 160 pounds. I try to play bigger than I am. I like to play a rough game, get in front of the net, get in the corners and battle out, throw the body around and try to be a presence out there that’s hard to play against.”

“He plays a hard-nosed North-South style and is able to fill multiple roles throughout a lineup,” added Schreiber. “We are excited to add a player of Dawson’s ability to our organization.”

A native of Flower Mound, Texas, a town just outside of Dallas, Bradford is no stranger to the Knights.

“I really started gaining interest in the Knights with Coach Kowal coming down to Top Notch in Dallas the last few years,” said Bradford. “One of my good buddies and former teammates is Lincoln Hatten, who’s already on the Knights. I’ve stayed in touch with him. He’s told me how it’s been there-we hang out when he’s back-he said it was awesome. You get to go up there and really get the junior hockey experience. I’ve really heard nothing but great things.”

“There’s a lot of good hockey players that come out of the Stars program,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We’re happy to have had a few on our roster over the years. We’ve seen enough of Dawson to know that he’s a guy that shares a lot of traits we look for in our players. He’s a younger guy, but he plays with the toughness and tenacity needed in our league.”

With Bradford comes the aforementioned William Otwell, a Knights fourth-round pick in the 2018 NAHL draft. The pair combined for 25 goals and 41 assists in 2017-18 for the Stars U16 team.

“He’s actually one of my closest buddies on the team,” said Bradford. “We’re always hanging out. We skate together during the week and workout on the other days. We talked about it. We’re both super-excited. Once Coach Kowal offered me the tender and I accepted it, I knew he was talking to Will at the same time, telling him he had some potential draft interest in him. Once he got picked it was a pretty cool thing. We’re actually going to be coming up to camp together. I think it’s pretty cool, especially if we make it on the same team, to have that familiar face to start with.”

“As an organization, we make it a priority to move our players onto college and higher levels of hockey,” said Kowal. “We  jump at the chance to bring in guys who might be younger and new to junior, but have a skill set we can help develop. It’s a win-win when we can put a talented young player in front of scouts while also knowing that player is going to help us win hockey games.”

With a little over a month before Knights main camp, Bradford is excited to get started on carving out his role on a Knights team that is fresh off it’s best finish in its NAHL history.

“I think the ultimate goal is ultimately to get to the Robertson Cup,” said Bradford. “I think coming up short this year will ultimately add some fuel to the fire for the returners. I just want to come in and give it my all and prove to everyone that I want to be there and that I want to take the next step in my career. I want to try and do everything that I can to help the team move on and reach that end result which is winning the Robertson Cup.”

The Knights report to main camp at the Revolution Ice Centre on July 20th. To stay up to date with all Knights news, notes, and transactions, follow the team on the social media:

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Knights Select Eight in 2018 NAHL Entry Draft

12 college commitments, six USHL Draft Picks, one East Division Championship; it’s a mantra that is repeated inside the Knights organization nowadays. The 2017-18 NAHL campaign ended a month ago. The group that left the Revolution Ice Centre in May set the bar higher than any previous group.

“Any time you have a team as talented as we did last season, you have to anticipate replacing a lot of players,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “Our staff did a great job scouting, recruiting and drafting last season. The challenge is to do it again. I’m confident in our ability to reload our roster and build a team that will allow us to not only make another run at the Robertson Cup, but also move a lot of players on to higher levels.”

With eight picks in Tuesday’s NAHL Entry Draft, the Knights believe they’ve added eight players that will help raise the bar even higher in 2018-19.

Round 1, Pick 13: Zach Stejskal, Goalie:

Draft day 2018 began with the selection of Zach Stejskal, an 18-year old goalie from Minnesota. Fittingly, the Knights trip to Skejstal’s home state for the Robertson Cup Final Four came thanks in no small part to stellar goaltending.

“We had a chance to take an established junior hockey goaltender that has already committed to a very good Division I school,” said Knights assistant GM Justin Schreiber. “With both of our goalies being drafted to USHL teams we felt like that was an area we needed to address early in the draft.”

Standing at a towering 6-4, Stejskal boasts an impressive resume complete with 32 games played in the USHL plus the aforementioned NCAA DI commitment. Last year he announced his commitment to the eventual 2017-18 NCAA National Champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

Round 2, Pick 37: Evan Orr, Defenseman:

Orr joins the Knights from a Little Caesars program that has produced an abundance of successful players for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The puck-moving blue-liner produced seven points in 11 games playing at the U16 level last season. For the past two years, Orr has also spent summers participating in Team USA development camps, most recently playing five games in the Selects 16 age group. Now 17, he’s already committed to a DI program in his home state, where he’ll one day join Michigan Tech.

“Evan has one of the best shots for a younger defenseman that our staff has ever seen,” said Knights assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “His poise with the puck and ability to run a power play make him one of the top ’01 born defensemen out of Michigan. We are very happy to have Evan part of the Knights organization.”

Round 3, Pick 51: Davis Pennington, Defenseman:

With their first selection in the third round, the Knights went right back to the well for another left-handed defenseman from Michigan. Davis Pennington hails from the Detroit Honeybaked youth program after spending prior seasons with Belle Tire.

“Davis is a solid two-way puck moving defensemen who likes to join the rush offensively,” said Whiteside. “He’s been a big piece of the puzzle for every youth team he has skated for in Michigan. We are excited to add Davis to our already offensive blue line.”

Like Orr, Pennington has spent time developing at USA Hockey Camps in each of the past two summers. Playing for Honeybaked in the HPHL last season, Pennington picked up an impressive five goals and nine assists in 16 games played.

Round 3, Pick 61: Mathew Kahra, Forward:

With their second third round pick, the Knights added their first forward of the 2018 draft class, Mathew Kahra.

“Mathew is a pugnacious, yet skilled forward who is always around the puck,” said Whiteside. “His high compete level and playmaking ability makes him a threat in all three zones. He will provide us with the depth needed at the center position next season.”

The ’99 from Brighton, Michigan snipes well with his left-handed shot as he recorded 13 goals as a part of a 30-point season for his high school in 2017-18. Also playing in the Michigan Developmental Hockey League, Kahra averaged over a point per game, scoring 3-7-10 in nine contests for MDHL White last season.

Round 4, Pick 76: Beck Moore, Forward:

Advancing through the age brackets of the Colorado Thunderbirds hockey program over the last several years, Moore has made a name for himself with his well-rounded play.

“Beck is a physically imposing winger who has good size and moves really well,” said Schreiber. “He’s your typical power forward that plays a little bit of a heavier game but he has shown the ability to score and set teammates up as well.”

After being a member of a Thunderbirds roster crowned T1EHL U16 champions in 2016-17, Moore was named assistant captain of his 18U team in 2017-18. He went on to record nine goals and 25 points in 34 games before being drafted by the Knights.

Round 4, Pick 78: Samuel Vyletelka, Goalie:

After seeing both goaltenders from their 2017-18 roster drafted into the USHL last month, the Knights made it a point to restock their crease with premium talent. After adding Stejskal in round one, the Knights picked up their second goalie and second Little Caesars player of the draft.

“Samuel is an extremely athletic goaltender with quick reflexes and a tremendous ability to track pucks,” said Whiteside. “His experience at the international level with Slovakia will do nothing but help him at the NAHL level.”

A native of Slovakia and a past participant on their U18 roster in the Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Vyletelka brings size and skill between the pipes. In 30 games at the AAA level for Little Caesars last season, he kept his GAA to a sterling 2.03, while also maintaining a save percentage north of 90% at the T1EHL level.

Round 4, Pick 85: Will Otwell, Forward:

Otwell joins Reed Robinson and Lincoln Hatten as another player from the Dallas Stars hockey program to be recruited by the Knights.
“William is a very similar player to Lincoln Hatten who we drafted out of the Dallas Stars U16 program a year ago,” said Schreiber. “He has the power forward frame but is very skilled and can skate. He has a ton of potential as a late 2001 birth year.”
Already north of six-feet tall as a 16-year old, Otwell used his impressive size and talent to notch 11 goals and 13 assists in 36 games for the Stars last season.

 

 

Round 5, Pick 109: Ross Bartlett, Forward

With their final pick in the draft, the Knights added forward Ross Bartlett. A true veteran of junior hockey, Barlett comes to the Knights with plenty of experience. Over the past four years, the Florida native has played in 140 games across multiple junior leagues.

“Ross is an extremely skilled forward who has a ton of junior hockey experience,” said Schreiber. “His 100+ points in the Western States Hockey League last season speak for themselves.”

In 51 games in the WSHL this past season, Bartlett recorded 41 goals and 63 assists for the Ogden Mustangs.

Adding four forwards, two defensemen, and two goalies, the Knights have taken another significant step toward building their next contender.

“We came into the draft with a list of names we believed would help make our team better,” said Kowal. “We left the draft with those names on our roster heading into main camp.  We’re excited to get to work.”

Knights Captain Curtis Carlson Commits to Nichols Bison

The Knights return home from Minnesota this week marked an end to an era of sorts, as the team will see five 97-born players move onto college next season. All five have been instrumental to the program’s growth in the NAHL since the team’s arrival in 2015-16. One of the longest-tenured Knights among that group, and the most recent captain, Curtis Carlson, has announced he will attend Nichols College in the Commonwealth Coast Conference to play NCAA DIII hockey.

Carlson, who was briefly a member of the Knights inaugural 2015-16 NAHL roster, returned to the team full time in 2016-17 after developing in the NA3HL. He improved each year to become a centerpiece to a Knights team that just earned its first trip to a Robertson Cup Semifinals. Carlson’s next step will be to join the Nichols Bison, a DIII school located in Massachusetts this fall. The Bison are fresh off an NCAA Quarterfinals finish, their fourth NCAA tournament berth in the last ten years.

“They’re very family-oriented,” said Carlson of his future home. “Through the recruiting process, they reached out to my mom as well as myself, and that really gave me the feeling that they’re very family-oriented, and you know, that’s a great fit for me, as I’m family-oriented as well.”

The Bison are led by head coach Parker Burgess, a St. Thomas alum who has guided Nichols to a record of 50-10-8 in his first two seasons on the job. Carlson is excited to lend his talents to the program.

“I bring dynamic offense, and a lot of speed to the table-a fan favorite right? he said laughing. “I just bring a lot of offense and a lot of speed to the team. Hopefully, in a few years, I can bring leadership as well.”

Leadership is a role Carlson has become familiar with this season, after rising to the captaincy in his second full season with the Knights at the NAHL level. He was voted captain for 2017-18 by his teammates and was joined by long-time Knights veteran Michael Morrissey (Colby College), and NAHL journeyman Mike Gelatt (Skidmore College) as assistants.

“Curtis is a lead-by-example guy,” said Kowal. “He’s a highly competitive player and someone who’s committed to doing things the right way.  He won a lot of respect in this locker room and from our staff with the amount of effort he puts into improving his game and the type of teammate he is. He’s the guy that will do just about anything to help improve his team.”

“It’s helped me look at things from a different perspective,” said Carlson of wearing the chief letter on his sweater this season. “You get a lot of different points of view from other people. Most importantly it’s developed me into a better person, mainly for that same reason. Being the older guy that everyone can come talk to with their problems, whether its on the ice, at home, and whatnot. It made me grow up more off the ice.”

On the ice, Carlson excelled in creating big plays in the Knights push to the Roberston Cup semifinals this year. He recorded a career-high 24 goals through the regular season and playoffs, to go along with 20 assists. His hockey IQ led him to be a fixture on both sides of special teams play, recording one short-handed goal and five power play tallies and four assists in 2017-18. His impressive play resulted in his naming to the NAHL’s Top Prospects Tournament where he recorded two goals in two games with the East Division’s team.

“With his experience, his nose for the puck, and his speed, we felt comfortable putting Curtis out there in all situations,” said Kowal. “He’s a versatile player who consistently delivered big plays in big moments for us and that’s exactly what we want and expect from our veterans.”

Playing 135 games in the North American Hockey League over the past three seasons has given Carlson plenty of opportunities to showcase his talent while building his game. He attributes this time to sharpening his focus.

“Playing at this level has prepared me by teaching me what you need to do to become an impact player in the North American Hockey League,” he said. “The North American Hockey League is one of the best junior leagues in the country. It teaches you to show up every day and try to get better. If you’re not getting better, there’s always somebody else getting better that’s trying to take your spot, whether it’s in your locker room or in another team’s locker room. Knowing that really helped me keep the right attitude and focus coming into work every day.”

Carlson’s competitiveness did not prohibit his ability to take in and appreciate the finer moments of his journey. Through his many games, he made his fair share of memories.

“I’ll give you my two favorites,” he said. “My first one was obviously winning the East Division and sweeping the Philly Rebels this year. We got swept by them the year before, so to return the favor was unbelievable. I know for a fact it was a great feeling the older guys, the guys that have been a year or two. That same feeling was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had playing junior hockey.

“The other I think would be all the road trips I’ve had with the guys, especially going to Alaska two years in a row. You kind of form together as a team in Alaska. You gel a little bit, whether it’s on the ice, or at the hotel by the river in Kenai, or taking a walk in Fairbanks. It’s just about how the guys gel and I felt guys really connected with each other, so that’s I think a really cool second to go along with the first.”

His fondness for his team extended to his head coach. In each of the past two seasons, Kowal was the head man from which Carlson absorbed what he felt were the most valuable lessons.

“TK has really made me the man I am today,” he said. “Without him I don’t think I’d be going to this school. He believed in me when nobody else did. He’s been my mentor the last two and a quarter years here.”

“Curtis Carlson is a great example of what we’re here for, and what the NAHL is here for,” said Kowal. “He was one of our original NAHL guys. He’s a player who was given an opportunity to play high-level junior hockey. He worked for it, he earned his place here, and not only that, he became a great player at this level. We’re happy we were a part of his journey, and we’re proud of how far he’s come. I wish him nothing but the best of luck.”

The Knights congratulate Curtis on his commitment and join coach Kowal in thanking him for all his hard work and upholding the Knights standard. The Knights wish Curtis the best of luck in all his future endeavors!

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 Drop Game 1 to Mudbugs

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goalie Christian Stoever kicks out the point blank attempt of Shreveport’s Jack Jaunich Friday night, game 1 of the Knights semifinal series against the Mudbugs. Photo by Jeff Lawler/Courtesy of NAHL.

On Friday, the Knights took the ice against the Shreveport Mudbugs in game one of the Robertson Cup semifinals. The game marked the second meeting between the teams after the pair tangled last September at the Blaine Showcase. In the first-ever meeting of the organizations, Shreveport came away with a 2-1 victory in a defensive struggle. Last night’s rematch-the first either team has played representing their division in the Robertson Cup Final Four-would serve a heavy dose a deja vu.

The Mudbugs took off to a faster start following an opening shuffle of zones. Off a Knights face off win and clearing effort up the wall, Jordan Fader leveled a heavy hit on the right wing boards to free the puck from a Knights winger. Nikolai Jenson flipped the loose biscuit down the boards for Ryan Burnett. Getting under a backchecking Knight, Burnett, a forward with two previous NAHL seasons under his belt, drove to the net from the half boards. In front of Christian Stoever, he tucked a backhand through to take the 1-0 lead at 3:04.

The Knights efforts at a response were stymied by the Mudbugs ability to block shots as well as limit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s time in the offensive zone. When shots made it to the Shreveport net, especially during and immediately after a Knights power play seven minutes in, goalie Jaxon Castor was ready, denying all offerings in the first.

To begin the second, the Knights would fire out of the dressing room with renewed intensity, doubling their shot total in the first three minutes of the period. Again Castor responded, stopping each chance the Knights were able to muster. Shreveport would grab momentum back just prior to the halfway point of the frame, extending consecutive shifts in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton zone. Christian Stoever continued to answer the bell, making nine saves on nine second-period shots.

The Knights would slow the Shreveport pace, and push back late in the period, but could not put a puck past Castor. At the end of 40 minutes, the score remained close, with the Mudbugs in possession of the 1-0 lead.

In the third, Shreveport found insurance early, when they caught the Knights in a change heading into the attacking zone. Roberts Baranovskis fed Brendan VanSweden above the Knights slot, where the ’97 forward ripped a laser past Stoever for the 2-0 lead.

Through the remainder of play, the Mudbugs worked hard on the walls to wear down the Knights and their comeback effort. Long shifts continued in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton end, with shots mounting on Stoever. The goalie made a game-high 12 saves in the third, but Castor stayed even in the opposite crease, blanking the Knights in their efforts to get on the board.

At the final horn, Shreveport secured game one with a 2-0 victory.

“We obviously didn’t play 60 minutes tonight,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We just told our guys it’s a best two out of three. We threw away an opportunity tonight, but if we learn from it and we come back ready to go tomorrow night, we can get right back in it with a win.”

The Knights will look to bounce tonight at 7:30 PM CDT/8:30 PM EDT. Tune in on hockeytv.com on the “Away Auido” stream or follow along on Knights social media and at www.nahl.com/