Tag Archives: North American Hockey League

Knights to Face US National Team Development Program in Blaine Showcase

In September, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights will make their annual trip the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota to compete in the NAHL’s annual Blaine Showcase. This year comes with a unique and exciting opponent. The Knights will be playing the US National Team Development Program’s 17-team in an exhibition on Saturday, September 22nd at 7:00 PM CDT | 8:00 PM EDT.

The USNTDP is made up of the most elite junior hockey players in the Untied States. The program competes both at home as well as international tournaments every year. Among the scores of their impressive alumni are Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Cam Fowler, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Brady and Matthew Tkachuk. Jack Hughes was the 17-team’s captain a year ago before jumping to the 18-team last season. He is an early favorite to be selected at the top of the 2019 NHL Draft.

“To have the opportunity to represent the NAHL in a game against the US National Development Program is an honor,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “It’s as strong of a measuring stick as any team could ask for. We feel that by having our team compete against some of the best under 17 players in the world, we give them an opportunity to showcase their skills against elite talent. We’re very excited for the challenge.”

Prior to their showdown with the USNTDP, the Knights will play the Topeka Pilots on Wednesday, September 19th at 1:00 pm CDT | 2:00 pm EDT and the Brookings Blizzard on Thursday the 20th at 1:30 pm CDT | 2:30 EDT. They will not play Friday in lieu of their game against the 17-team Saturday.

The Knights will attempt build on last year’s Showcase winning percentage after they finished 3-1. The team is just over a month and a half away from the start of the he regular season.

For the full Blaine Showcase schedule, click here

For all Knights news and happenings, follow @WBSKnights on Instagram and Twitter, Like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Hockey on Facebook, and visit www.wbsknights.com!

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.

For all other Knights news and info follow:

WBS Knights Hockey on Facebook

@wbsknights on twitter and Instagram

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on YouTube

and visit www.wbsknights.com

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:

Facebook: WBS Knights Hockey

Instagram: wbsknights

NAHL Twitter: @wbsknights

EHL Twitter: @wbsknightsEHL

Youtube: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights

 

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 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/

 

Knights Enter Final Four Looking to Extend Torrid Run

Written By: Nicholas Marotta

Photo: Steve Yakimowicz

The Knights touched down in Minnesota Wednesday to enter the final stages of their pursuit of a Robertson Cup. Today they will face the Shreveport Mudbugs in a best-of-three series to determine which of the pair will play for the Robertson Cup on Monday.

After a gritty 3-2 series win over the New Jersey Titans, the Knights swept their way through the Philadelphia Rebels to win the right to represent the East Division in the Final Four. Less than two weeks have passed since the team punched their tickets to Blaine, but how did they earn the trip?  

Not only was the journey carried by a complete team effort, but this postseason run has come off of the back of many strong individual performances.

One key player that immediately stands out is goalie Christian Stoever.  Number 31 has been a wall in the playoffs. In his seven playoff starts, he has allowed less than three goals in five games, including a shutout in a 1-0 victory against the Titans in game four of the first round.  

In the team’s more recent series against Philadelphia, Stoever had a save percentage of 94%.  Even more impressive is that Stoever has had a knack for stepping up in big spots during both series. In round one, facing consecutive elimination games, he produced a shutout in game four, followed by a 49-save effort to win the series.

Rookie forward Jack Olmstead has also been a major contributor during the Knights’ playoff run.  Olmstead has had a point in every Knights playoff game this season, and scored two goals in the team’s second game of their series against Philadelphia. The line of Olmstead, Michael Morrissey, and Matt Kidney are three of the top four scorers in the 2018 playoffs for the Knights.  Olmstead, however, leads the team in points with ten.

Other new faces on the Knights NAHL roster for this season include Gabe Temple, who has three goals in the playoffs, and Tyrone Bronte, who’s notched three goals and three assists so far.  

Even in a season highlighted by great rookie performances, veterans like Reed Robinson and Curtis Carlson have been a strong base for the newer members of the team to rise to the forefront.  

Robinson scored the fourth and final goal in the first game of the team’s series against Philadelphia, while Carlson was able to put the team up 2-1 in their eventual 5-4 victory against the Rebels in game two.  Carlson has scored three other goals in the playoffs, and Robinson another goal and assist.

The Knights defensive end has been equally impressive throughout the postseason. Led by veteran Joey Verkerke and All-East blue-liner Thomas Farrell, the group of rookies has helped the team keep their average goals against at 2.25 throughout the playoffs.  Verkerke, who’s had a keen eye for passing and a knack for blocking shots, has an active four game point streak via four assists.

Tonight’s puck drop against Shreveport will be the team’s first appearance in the Final Four and their second meeting on the season with Shreveport. With a staunch defense and a potent offense, the team is poised for to make a run toward Robertson Cup.

Tune into tonight’s game on www.hockeytv.com and follow along through Knights social media and at www.nahl.com.

 

Recap: Knights Complete Sweep, Punch Ticket to Minnesota

On Monday, the Knights had a chance to check off a lot of team firsts. First-ever Final Four birth in the Robertson Cup Playoffs was chief among their goals, but to do it, they’d have to sweep a team they’d never advanced beyond in the postseason.

The Philadelphia Rebels have been the team to eliminate the Knights in each of the past two seasons, completing sweeps in both years. To return the favor would not only be poetic, but a huge step forward for a Knights team that has hit their stride at the perfect time.

Monday’s action was slow-building. The tension of an elimination game hung heavy as both teams began the evening in an extended test of each other’s ability to trade space up and down the ice. Through the first period starters Ryan Keane and Christian Stoever faced a combined 20 shots.

An early test was stopped by Stoever in an eerily similar play to the  Patric Hornqvist’s no-goal controversy in Sunday’s Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins playoff game. Like the Penguins did the day before, the Rebels drove around the back of the net on a wraparound. Playing the part of both Sidney Crosby and Hornqvist, Alex Frye found himself alone on the right post trying to fire the puck to the net. Instead, Stoever’s left skate slid over and stopped the puck on the goal line. Unlike it’s NHL counterpart, there was no debate as Stoever’s stretch clearly kept the puck from crossing the goal line, robbing the Rebels of a grade-A chance.

Around a minute and a half later, the Knights made Philadelphia pay for the missed opportunity. Down low in the offensive zone, Jeff Bertrand shouldered a puck out of the right corner to Adrian Danchenko. Curling back-handed to the top of the slot, Danchenko fought through a poke check before flipping the puck to his forehand and finding Tyrone Bronte in front of the net. The Aussie center found the puck with his back turned to Keane. While the Rebels attempted to check him out of the crease, Bronte let go a  perfect backhand under the crossbar to beat the sliding Keane to put the Knights up 1-0 at 15:32.

The Rebels pushed back and earned a power play in the final minute of the first. The Knights, after being gashed nearly 40 percent of the time by the Rebels man-advantage during the regular season, entered play without having allowed a single power play goal in games one and two. The streak nearly came to an end in the final seconds of the period, where Stoever was pulled out of the net to the left post, making a save through a screen. The rebound kicked straight down in front of an open right side of the cage. As two Rebels converged to try and bury the equalizer, Thomas Farrell came crashing down, diving and driving the puck clear to the corner to end the period.

Farrell’s heroics were crucial as the Rebels channeled the frustration into a fast start in the second. After each team failed to capitalize on a power play, Philadelphia tilted the ice. From around the 5:00 mark on, the Rebels consistently won board battles, forced mistakes, and extended long shifts in the offensive zone.

Just past six and a half minutes into  the frame, on their second power play of the game, Alex Frye took an entry pass from Ryan Patrick around a defenseman, right to the netfront where he was stoned on a pad save by Stoever. The rebound kicked right to a crashing Patrick who was miraculously robbed on a lounging save by Stoever’s glove to preserve the Knights 1-0 lead.

The goalie was finally bested on a shot from Carson Moniz at 13:36. Hemming a puck in at the left point of the Knights zone, Brandon Stanley tossed a puck to a pinching Nicolas Appendino on the left half wall. Appendino ripped a pass to the top of the slot for a waiting Moniz. With a screen in front, the defenseman fired a puck under the crossbar to even the game at one.

Weathering the Rebels blitz that continued through nearly the rest of the period, the Knights finally broke loose in its final minute. Coming over the red line, Joey Verkerke dropped a puck in deep to the left wing corner of the Rebels zone. Jack Olmstead beat his man to the puck before turning back up ice and cutting to the slot. There a backhand shot attempt was deflected right back to Olmstead. His spinning, second try found Matt Kidney parked to the left of Keane, where he shoveled the puck to the twine to retake the lead.

The surge of a late-period, go-ahead goal refueled the Knights attack. After being hemmed in their own zone for most of the second period, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton grew stronger as the third period wore on. Ryan Keane kept them at bay, making several grade-A saves, robbing the likes of Curtis Carlson and Tyrone Bronte on chances in close. The Rebels counter attack was limited by a steady Knights back check that refused a repeat of the second period.

With just under two minutes remaining, the Rebels pulled their netminder following their timeout. A Rebels icing forced Keane back in the net while the Knights ate more time off the clock. In the period’s final minute, Keane (27 saves on the evening) was able to trade his services for an extra attacker. Following Joey Verkerke hitting the empty net’s post on a long shot down the ice, the Knights ended up icing the puck on an ensuing try down the sheet. A late push in the Knights zone by Philadelphia never created the grade-A look they needed, and the Knights held on to earn the sweep and a ticket to the final four.

Christian Stoever’s stellar efforts on a 39-save night, plus an opportunistic Knights offense are emblematic of how hot the team has become after facing elimination in round one. They will await the winners of the remaining three playoffs series, plus a re-seeding of the last four teams before knowing their opponents. You can follow the remaining games this weekend on hockeytv.com, or by following NAHL.com. Stay tuned to Knights social media and www.wbsknights.com for all news and updates!

 

Game 2: Knights Ride Offense to Wild Win

The second meeting of the Knights and Rebels in the East Division Finals saw the Knights attempting to hand Philadelphia only their second home losing streak of the year. A win would send the Knights back home for game three and four needing one win to advance to the Final Four of the Robertson Cup Playoffs.

Things got off to rocky start for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton cause. The Rebels entered the game on a mission, and imposed with physicality their presence in the offensive zone. It was never more apparent than at four minutes into the competition, when Eric Olson and Adam Peck maintained a bruising shift below the Knights goal line. The pair kept the puck low through heavy board battles, while the Rebels began to make line changes behind the play. Konur Peterson joined in after Peck fed him the puck and left the ice with Olson to complete the change. Peterson kept the puck for an extended period and fought along the wall through multiple Knights before finally curling out in front of the net and ripping a shot at Christian Stoever. Stoever knocked away the offering but the rebound kicked back to Jimmy Glynn who buried the puck for the 1-0 lead.

The Knights responded. Just past the halfway point of the period, after minutes of quick rushes up the ice, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton capitalized on their building momentum. After Blake Kryska tangled for Luke Robinson rebound, Michael Morrissey corralled the loose puck at the top of the offensive zone and found Jack Olmstead on the left half wall. Olmstead skimmed the puck to Matt Kidney on the bottom of the left circle before Kidney sent the return pass back to Olmstead in the slot. Seeing traffic in front, Olmstead wheeled beneath the right side of the cage and swung back to the bottom of the left circle. There, he turned and fired a sharp-angle shot that found the mere inches of space between Rebels goalie Eli Billing and the post, burying the tying score at 11:23.

Channeling the momentum, the Knights came storming back with just under three minutes later. Joey Verkerke flipped a puck through center ice to Lincoln Hatten just above the Rebels blue line. Hatten chipped it perfectly to the oncoming Curtis Carlson to his left, where Carlson picked it up and drove to the net wide, around a back-checking Bryant Gunn. As Carlson one-handed the puck to the front of the net, Billing threw a poke check on the puck, freeing it from the blade, but kicking it right off the skate of Gunn and back through the five-hole for the Knights first lead.

It would take Philadelphia several minutes of near-escapes from a suddenly humming Knights attack to re-gain their footing. With about three minutes to play in the period, they dug in. The Knights, pressured heavily in their own zone, took to icing the puck consecutively to limit more opportunities from developing. As time ticked away in the first, they found themselves being backed up into their own zone repeatedly, extending long shifts. The Rebels made them pay with just under 26 seconds left in the period.

From behind the net, Rebels postseason points leader Brandon Stanley flipped a puck to the left side of Stoever’s cage. From there, Luke Radetic pushed the puck to the netfront for Alex Frye who jarred it between Carlson, Luke Robinson and Blake Kryska until it popped awkwardly over the shoulders of Stoever, landing in front of the the right post. At this point Stanley had looped back from behind the net and to the bottom of the slot, where he located and popped the loose change home to even the score at two.

Backed by the late-period tally, Philadelphia began the next frame on a hot streak. They pushed possession and drew two penalties in the opening minutes of the second. The Knights responded with two successful penalty kills and several more solid saves by Stoever.

With the Rebels momentum spurned, the Knights suddenly re-gained their own, just prior to the halfway point of the stanza. In a play for the season highlight reel, Adrian Danchenko cleared a puck through traffic on his own right half wall by hammering a puck high off of the glass. Soaring through the air, it came down to the stick of Tyrone Bronte, hitting him in stride, allowing him to settle it just before gaining Rebels blue line. As he fired into Philadelphia territory, Bronte fed Jeff Bertrand on his left wing to finish a 2-on-1 rush. Bertrand let go a shot that scorched through the pads of Billing to give the Knights a 3-2 lead at 9:56.

Two and a half minutes later Bronte would return, this time off the efforts of Blake Kryska to rattle a puck around the board of his own end, followed by Bertrand who chopped it free to Bronte exiting the zone. Bronte would weave his way over the left side of the Rebels line before firing a shot off the body of Kolby Vegara on a rebound that came right back to the Australian forward. With the puck re-gathered, Bronte moved in and ripped a puck inside the right post to build a 4-2 lead, chasing Billing in favor of game one starter Ryan Keane.

The Rebels pushed back down two, forcing their way to their third power play of the period just shy of the 15:00 mark. The penalty came off a failed Knights breakout. Off a turnover, Eric Olson walked in on Stoever. Michael Morrissey raced back and hooked Olson to hinder his shot, but the chance still made it’s way to Stoever who made a crucial save falling forward.

The penalty kill continued its solid work on the penalty that followed, but Stoever would rise again as it’s best member. With under 30 seconds left in the Rebels man-advantage, Alex Frye fired a shot at Stoever that kicked over to an open Carson Moniz on the left circle. Stoever sprawled forward to meet him, sending Moniz tumbling to the ice, but not before he impressively centered a pass to Olson in the slot. Olson flipped a wrister on, only to be robbed by Stoever jumping back the opposite way.

Boosted by their third kill, the Knights pushed back into the final minute of the frame. Just prior to the 19:00 mark, the Rebels attempted to catch Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a change with a home run pass out of their zone that missed an open Konur Peterson. Out of the net, Stoever turned the puck back up ice to Michael Morrissey who lofted a long pass from his blue line to Matt Kidney hovering above the Rebels zone. Kidney’s centering effort to a crashing Luke Robinson was denied by the Rebels back check, but Kidney hopped back into the right wing corner to pressure the puck back up the wall to Morrissey. Morrissey returned the puck to Kidney down low who laced a perfect pass to Jack Olmstead on his off-wing in the low, right side of the slot. Olmstead fired his second goal of both the game and the postseason  across Keane to build a three-score advantage.

Placed in a significant hole to start the third, the Rebels fought tooth and nail to claw their way back-and they very nearly did. As Wilkes-Barre/Scranton moved to protect their lead, the Rebels got their offense rolling again.

The first goal of the period was recorded by the largely the same personnel that scored the Rebels second goal of the game. Through a center ice exchange with Jimmy Glynn, set up by Luke Radetic, Brandon Stanley raced in over the right side of the Knights blue line. Turning in front of the back-checking Joey Verkerke, Stanley launced an absolute rocket, even losing his balance after he let it go with such force, that beat Stoever inside the left post trimming the Knights lead to two just 4:05 in.

The fourth Rebels goal game eight minutes later, when Aaron Maguyon used his speed to give his team’s rally even more fuel. Following a nice save by Keane, Ryan Patrick cleared the puck up the left wing to a racing Aaron Maguyon. Maguyon turned it back to the trailing Patrick on the left side of Knights ice. Playing keep away through a check and an extended tie up on the left circle, Patrick handed it back to Maguyon who just beat Curtis Carlson back to the net, opened the pads of Stoever with a move, and squeezed just under the pads to bring the Rebels back within one.

The Knights, shaken but not beaten, responded with defense. Their backcheck combined with Stoever forced the Rebels back, even drawing a penalty in their own zone which they used to eat two more minutes off the clock. Following timeout with just under two minutes remaining, the Rebels pulled Keane for the extra attacker. The Knights dug in. With the clock ticking all the way down to 13 seconds left, they iced the puck just wide of the open net.

After another timeout, the Knights prepared for one last Rebels push. Morrissey wong the ensuing faceoff and played it to his right wing, but the clearing effort to the top of the zone was intercepted by Carson Moniz. The owner of a deadly shot and plenty of space, Moniz lined and fired a slap shot that Joey Verkerke dove down and blocked out of the slot. The puck came up to the left half-wall, where the Rebels took a second shot that was blocked to the corner by Morrissey. Thomas Farrell found and cleared the puck down the ice to secure the team their wild game-two victory.

The Knights will return home to face the Rebels tomorrow, April 30th at 5:00 PM EDT up 2-0 in the series. A single win will send the Knights to Minnesota for the Final Four of the Roberts Cup Playoffs. Tune in on hockeytv.com and stay up to date with the Robertson Cup Playoffs by following Knights social media, and visiting both www.wbsknights.com and www.nahl.com!