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.
Game one of three for the Knights on the weekend saw them host the Philadelphia Rebels for their third-straight contest. The game began where last weekends’ left off-the Rebels scoring.
A long first period was kicked off by Brandon Stanley, who scored for the second-consecutive game, besting Knights starter David Tomeo off assists from Jimmy Glynn and Diarmad Dimurro.
The Knights would answer on their first power play of the evening, when Blake Kryska crashed down from the blue line to collect a Michael Morrissey rebound which he then put past Rebels goalie Ryan Keane. Tom Farrell picked up a secondary assist on a goal that snapped Keane’s impressive 149:05 shutout streak.
The Rebels would respond quickly. 17 seconds after their score, the Knights found themselves shorthanded for slashing. 1:21 into the man advantage, Ryan Patrick found Carson Moniz for the power play goal.
Philadelphia hit the gas after re-gaining the lead. From the top of the right circle, Aaron Maguyon fired a wrist shot by Tomeo at 9:56 to build a 3-1 advantage (Ryan Patrick, Carson Moniz). Auggie Moore duplicated the feat from the opposite circle a minute and a half later off a quick set up from Eric Olson.
Down 4-1, the Knights would re-gain their footing in the final six minutes of the period. Led by the Reed Robinson-Curtis Carlson-Lincoln Hatten line, the Knights offense bullied their way around the base of the Rebels zone to close the opening frame. Before the horn, Carlson set up Hatten in close, where the latter ripped a shot off the pads of Keane. The rebound found it’s way to a hard-charging Reed Robinson, who buried the rebound, bar down to cut the Rebels lead in half.
The Knights took the momentum into the middle period, a stretch of play in which they dominated chances on goal, but could not solve Ryan Keane. All totaled, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton out-shot Philadelphia 19-8 in the second, but could not add to their end of the scoreboard. Instead, Aaron Maguyon chased Tomeo on a power play shot that found its way through traffic just 6:22 into the second (Jensen Zerban, Dimurro).
Christian Stoever was welcomed rudely to the contest at 14:53 when Chase Hamstad buried the Rebels sixth goal off helpers from Dimurro and Jimmy Glynn.
Trailing by four to start the third, the Knights, to their credit, did not roll over. They were able to add ten more shots on goal, while holding the Rebels in check for over 19 minutes of the period. Curtis Carlson would again trim the deficit to three after the Knights captain beat Keane (42 saves) following Paul Cimilluca’s mad dash to the net, assisted secondarily by Reed Robinson.
The Rebels wouldn’t let the game go quietly however, as in the final seconds of play, Alex Frye cycled the puck to Luke Radetic, who found Carson Moniz crashing on the back door for the Rebels third power play goal of the game.
The 7-3 final was more lopsided than the balance of play, but the loss still counts as the Knights third-straight defeat. They will look to bounce back tonight at home against the Rebels once more with puck drop at 7:30 pm EST. Tune in on www.hockeytv.com and follow along on Twitter and Instagram at @wbsknights.
Knights defenseman Paul Cimilluca committed to the Wilkes University Colonels on Monday. The 97-born defenseman will start his college career next year with the Colonels in their inaugural season in NCAA division III.
“I like that it was close to home,” said Cimilluca of Wilkes’ nearby campus. “It’s a college community, there are something like 10 schools around the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and a lot of life. It’s a good place for a school, especially in division three. They’re a small school, investing in itself and their sports programs.”
The Colonels will be coached in their first season by Brett Riley, a former forward for Hobart College.
“Coach Riley is a young up-and-comer,” said Cimilluca. “He’s got an impressive history-he turned Albany Academy around in his last job. He comes from a great hockey family with a lot of ties to Army and the collegiate level. His father coached at Army and his grandfather coached both there and Team USA to a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. Needless to say Coach Riley knows his hockey. He’s 100% all-in. That really was the biggest reason I committed to Wilkes.”
Cimilluca is in his second season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights after being a second-round selection in the Knights 2016 NAHL draft class. The New Jersey native has compiled 15 points in 82 games with the team, playing minutes in all situations.
“Paul has been a great competitor for us from day one,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He brings a steady, physical game to our blue line and he enjoys challenging the other teams’ top players. That’s the attitude we want from our defensemen. As a veteran he’s also done a nice job introducing younger guys on our team to the style of play and toughness that is needed to play in the NAHL.”
“I owe it all to the NAHL,” said Cimilluca. “They’re arguably one of the best leagues in junior hockey. The top-end teams can compete with teams in the USHL. You have a lot of older junior players that are going to be division one or high-end division three guys. I think that really helps me heading into college, having competed against guys who will be playing at the same or higher levels of hockey. Battling against D-I guys like Jack Olmstead, Tyrone Bronte, Reed Robinson, Justin Engelkes, Anthony Firriolo, Gabe Temple every day in practice-that’s been the best thing for me. It gives me a lot of confidence, knowing I’ve prepared myself against that level of talent.”
Cimilluca will finish out his final months as a junior hockey player with the Knights, a team hungry for success in their third year in the NAHL. He is committed to helping them achieve the highest of their goals.
“I want to be a Robertson Cup Champion, plain and simple,” he said.
“I’m proud to see Paul commit to Wilkes,” said Kowal. “They’re getting a strong player and leader for their first NCAA season and beyond. With him going to school just a few minutes away, it won’t be hard to root for Paul. I look forward to following his college career!”
“I’d really like to thank all the coaches that helped me get to this point in my career, especially Hockey Essentials, The New Jersey Avalanche organization, Bloodline Hockey, and the WBS coaching staff,” said Cimilluca. “I’m looking forward to making an impact at Wilkes University.”
The Knights organization is happy to congratulate Paul on his commitment and thank him for his years of hard work and play on the ice. They are excited to root for him throughout his collegiate career!
On Saturday night the Knights traveled to play the Rebels to attempt to gain ground on their first-place division rivals. A quiet first period saw each side combine for just one penalty, 14 shots, and a single goal.
The tally wasn’t registered until the 17:31 mark when Aaron Maguyon put his tenth goal of the season past David Tomeo off assists from Ryan Patrick and Jensen Zerban.
In the second the Rebels offense took over, mounting a heavy dose of chances on Tomeo while limiting the Knights offerings on starter Ryan Keane. Outshooting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 15-9 in the middle frame, Philadelphia picked up a goal from Andrew Bellant (Alex Frye, Brandon Stanley) at 6:51, a shortie from Ryan Patrick (Bellant) at 9:11, and a power play goal from Frye at 15:07 (Diarmad Dimurro, Maguyon) at 15:07.
The commanding 4-0 lead only grew in the third. Jensen Zerban notched his 13th goal of the year off Ryan Patrick’s second primary assist of the night and Maguyon’s second, secondary. Kolby Vegara added the Rebels sixth goal at 8:55 when Frye found him following a nice set up from Bellant.
Following a change in net to Christian Stoever, the Knights spoiled Keane’s shutout when Matt Kidney fired his 12th tally to twine on the power play, off helpers from Jack Olmstead and Paul Cimilluca.
The game would who see no further scoring as the Knights dropped their third-straight contest, while the Rebels moved out to a six-point lead in the NAHL’s East Division. The pair will resume Friday night’s suspended contest at a date later to be determined.
The Knights will next take the ice on Friday, January 19th at home against the New Jersey Titans at 7:30 pm. Tickets will be $5 at the door and the game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and Knights social media for all news and updates!
Fresh off Christmas and holiday festivities, the Knights returned to home ice on Friday to take on the Kenai River Brown Bears. The first of four meetings between the pair kicked off quickly in favor of the home team.
Just 3:37 into play, Matt Kidney notched his 10th goal of the season when he fired a Jack Olmstead rebound past Brown Bears starting goalie Artur Pavliukov. Paul Cimilluca picked up a secondary assist for his third helper of the season.
The Knights kept their foot on the gas pedal largely dictating play through the opening 20 minutes. The back check limited quality chances on starting goaltender David Tomeo, while the forecheck spent ample time in the attacking end.
Curtis Carlson capped off the strong period when off a faceoff win, the Knights captain fed a pass to Matt Kidney waiting in the middle of the slot. Kidney flipped his second goal of the night past Pavliukov to send the Knights to the first intermission with a multi-goal lead.
Three minutes into the second, during a stretch of 4-on-4 play, Gabe Temple followed Carlson’s example, immediately flipping a face off win to Justin Engelkes in the slot. Engelkes hammered a one-timer to the twine for his seventh goal of the season and a 3-0 Knights lead.
Tomeo and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense weathered the Brown Bears push-back in the second half of the period before the Knights drew a penalty at 15:52. 16 seconds into the team’s third power play of the evening, Reed Robinson fired a puck home to build a 4-0 lead. Adrian Danchenko and Blake Kryska registered the assists.
The final frame of regulation kicked off with the Knights on the penalty kill. The Brown Bears, owners of one of the NAHL’s most potent power plays, capitalized on their third turn on the man advantage, when Gil Garcia ripped a shot from the slot by Tomeo for Kenai River’s first goal (Sacha Guillemain, Cameron McDonald).
The goal swung momentum to the Brown Bears forecheck, as they drew three more penalties in the first five minutes of the third. The Knights penalty kill and Tomeo combined to erase the remainder of the penalties taken, but Kenai River continued to force Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to chase in their own zone.
At 6:59, Gabriel Wahl fed former Knight Markuss Komuls whose rebound found Connor Fedorek pinching down from the blue line. Fedorek picked the puck up in the slot and weaved it around Tomeo to narrow the deficit to two.
Determined to squash the comeback effort, the Knights offense found a renewed rhythm and resumed their offensive on Artur Pavliukov’s crease. The Lithuanian netminder stood tall in a gritty effort that even saw him briefly leave the ice after sustaining a minor injury in the second.
Despite Pavliukov’s best efforts, including 42 total saves and one robbery of Jack Olmstead, Curtis Carlson put the game to bed at 13:56. Set up by Lincoln Hatten and Luke Robinson, Carlson fired a puck from the right circle through traffic and Pavliukov to put the Knights ahead by three.
Despite multiple penalties being assessed to both sides through the final five minutes of play, the 5-2 score held through the final horn. With the win, the Knights improve to 19-7-3, placing them just one point behind the Philadelphia Rebels for first place in the East Division. They’ll have the opportunity to regain the top spot in round two of Knights-Brown Bears today at 2:30 pm. The game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com, with live updates being posted to Knights Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
KNIGHTS ALUMNI: SPRONG RECALLED TO PITTSBURGH
Former Knights forward and current Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong was recalled to the NHL from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins roster today. Sprong played for the Knights Bantam Major team in the 2011-12 season, helping them to a national championship title. Through 29 games in the AHL this season, the 2015 NHL second-round pick has scored 18 goals and 10 assists. The Knights are happy for Daniel and wish him the best of luck in Pittsburgh!
As the NAHL welcomed in the 2017-18 regular season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and New Jersey Titans renewed their eastern division rivalry for the 29th time in their shared existence.
The game began with a high tempo attack from the Knights forecheck, aided by two early Titans penalties. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton quickly built a 12-4 lead but were kept off the scoreboard by New Jersey netminder Brandon Perrone. Just past the midway point of the first, the Titans began their push back, driving possession into the Knights zone and taking the shots lead by period’s end.
At 14:15, Titans forward Tyler Barrow fired a shot off the blocker of Knights goalie David Tomeo. The ricochet sent the puck straight into the air, before descending behind Tomeo and glancing it’s way into the net. Barrow’s first NAHL goal, assisted by Tate MacDonald, gave the Titans a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Entering the second down by one, the Knights received a boost in the early minutes of the period when Paul Cimilluca ripped a pass from his own zone to the Titans blue line. The pass found Mike Gelatt as he gained the zone, and then fired it ahead to Reed Robinson in fro0nt of the net. Robinson’s persistence through Perrone’s initial save paid off, as the power forward worked a rebound through the pads to even the game at one.
After a pair of Knights breakaways were stoned by Perrone, the Titans found one of their own. Forward Hunter Alden worked his way behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense to create a 2-on-1 break. As he barreled toward Tomeo, he slid the puck to Nick Yzaguirre who put rubber to twine, giving the Titans back the one-goal lead.
Tomeo wouldn’t allow the goal to haunt him as the ’99 birth year continually stood on his head to keep the Knights in the game. His first and second period efforts were highlighted by multiple diving saves with bodies stuck in the crease, eerily similar to saves he made against the Knights last season with the Northeast Generals.
Nearing the end of the second period, the Titans appeared to have bested him a third time off a Nick Boyagian redirect of an Eric Manoukian point shot. The goal was disallowed after the officials determined it was played with a high stick. The break gave the Knights momentum heading into the second intermission with the added bonus of an upcoming power play stemming from a 4-on-4 set to expire within the first minute of the third.
The power play, though abbreviated, would prove to be an important one to start the final frame of regulation. Though ultimately unsuccessful in finding the net, the Knights created chances and offensive momentum that quickly forced another New Jersey penalty.
On their fourth man-advantage of the game, the Knight finally broke through. At 3:54, Matt Kidney, the Knights first-round draft pick and leading scorer in 2016-17, pushed a Mike Morrissey pass through the five-hole to tie the game at two.
The remainder of the period was an intense exchange of rushes on both ends of the ice, and impressive saves from Perrone and Tomeo. Though both teams had quality opportunities to take the lead, neither was able to do so in the allotted 60 minutes. The first overtime contest for both benches came in their opening game, meaning both teams would leave the rink with at least one point on Friday night.
The beginning of the 3-on-3, five minute period saw New Jersey generate two quality chances within the first 90 seconds. The first was pulled just wide of the net on a shot from the top of the slot. The second was denied by Tomeo as the Titans entered the zone on an odd-man rush.
Matt Kidney had seen enough. On his first shift in overtime, the Knights veteran hovered in front of the Titans blue line as his teammates worked out of their own zone. Rookie forward Tyrone Bronte tangled in a 50/50 battle for the puck at center ice, and after emerging victorious, fed the wide open Kidney with a quick pass. The Middletown-native sped in over the line alone, and learning from Perrone’s earlier highlight-reel glove saves, ripped a shot low-stick side to send the Knights home with two points and their first win of the season.
The teams will meet again tonight at Middletown Ice World Arena for round two of the highly-entertaining, east division matchup. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm and the game broadcast can be found on hockeytv.com.
Part one of two looks at the veterans coming back to Knights training camp
In their second year in the NAHL, the Knights took significant steps forward toward establishing themselves in one of the best junior leagues in the United States. Moving ahead to year three, Knights head coach Tom Kowal is making no bones about his program’s end goal for the upcoming season.
“We’re in our third year now,” he said. “Our goal isn’t just to make the playoffs. Our goal isn’t to get through round one or round two of the playoffs. Our goal is to win a Robertson Cup. Anything short of that, we’re not envisioning it right now.”
To make a run at a title at any level of any sport, experience and leadership are necessary. Bolstering the Knights chances is a strong nucleus of returning veterans.
“They’re the ones that set the tone, they set the bench mark; it’s their job right now,” Kowal said. “I told them veterans have to be veterans. They’re not rookies any more. They’re the ones that have to lead the charge. I’m pretty happy with the way they look right now.”
Returning to training camp are forwards Matt Kidney, Mike Gelatt, Curtis Carlson, Mike Morrissey, Reed Robinson, Mike Gelatt, Andrew Jackson and Adrian Danchenko.
“I think there’s a lot of speed up front,” said assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “We have a strong, returning group of forwards there.”
Matt Kidney was the Knights first round draft pick in 2016 and lived up to high expectations. The righty forward led the team in points, with 20 goals and 24 assists in 45 games.
“I think it’s the same as last year but I have more experience now,” said Kidney of his role this year at main camp. “I just need to get in touch with younger guys and be a positive influence in our locker room.”
Fellow Middletown, NJ native Mike Gelatt spent many games on a line with Kidney, and looks to build off a solid season in which he tallied 12 goals and 25 helpers in 49 games.
Curtis Carlson was one of the Knights strongest performers down the stretch of the 2016-17 season. He wowed at Knights Main Camp, flashing his trademark speed on his way to generating a high volume of offensive chances. As a veteran with experience in the NAHL dating back to the 2015-16 season, Carlson is in line to be an even bigger contributor this season.
“I hope to play more of a leadership role in the locker room,” Carlson said. “That being said, I don’t need a letter on my chest, just more of a guy to look up to, and if someone has problems they can come to me. I’m looking for guys on my team, for guys that are particularly good in the locker room. That’s the first part, you want good character. Then of course you want skilled guys, but guys that can play a role. You never know where you’re going to end up in the lineup. One night you can be on the first line, the next night you can be on the fourth. You just need to be consistent in your role.”
Carlson is one of the veterans buying into the potential he’s seen from the group competing for to make the roster.
“I want us to go to the Robbie this year,” he said. “Of course, that’s every team’s goal, but I’m a firm believer in that it starts in the first game of the year. You have to set the tempo there and then take it one game at a time. If you’re doing that, you’re doing it right and playing consistently, you’re going to make your way up there.”
The gritty Mike Morrissey is among the Knights organization’s most-tenured players and, like Carlson, stood out at main camp as one of its leaders. Last year he regularly drew opponents’ most-skilled forwards, some that are now playing division one hockey. His role moving in his second year at the NAHL is expected to grow.
Reed Robinson played his most productive hockey down the stretch of the 2016-17 season, scoring four goals and seven assists in his final 13 games. The gifted power forward has a knack for penalty-killing, and with his speed, was a consistent source of shorthanded scoring chances.
“I think we’re really fast, there’s a lot of work ethic out there,” said Robinson after main camp. “I think the biggest thing is going to be consistency. If we’re consistent we have the ability to be a really good team. You definitely have to take on a little bit of a leadership role. There’s a lot of new guys so you have to get them to loosen up, to play their games.”
Rounding out the returners to training camp are Andrew Jackson and Adrian Danchenko. The duo combined to play 94 games last season. The pair have size and speed that can’t be coached and showed versatility in filling multiple roles throughout the lineup over their past two years in the NAHL.
Familiar faces returning on the blue line are veterans Markuss Komuls, Paul Cimilluca and Joey Verkerke.
Komuls is a solid puck-mover who made a strong transition from tier-III to tier-II with the Knights last season. The Latvian’s ability to skate the puck and dictate possession in the offensive zone placed him second in scoring among Knights defenders last year.
A second-round pick in last year’s NAHL entry draft, Paul Cimilluca will look to take the next step this season. The right-handed defenseman developed a solid two-way game, eating a lot of minutes in his first junior season. He brings both size and strength with his game and showed off a powerful shot in camp.
“I’ve just been working out, trying to get stronger in the gym,” he said of his offseason goals. “On the ice, I’ve been working on my skating, trying to get faster and quicker, and just working on handling the puck better so I can make more plays.”
Now a seasoned junior hockey player, Cimilluca is eager to share lessons he’s learned.
“My advice to the guys here has been to just to go out and play your game, do what you do best, don’t try and do something you’re not used to doing,” he said. “If you’re a goal-scorer, go out and put a few in the net, if you’re a grinder, go out and make a few plays and do what comes naturally to you and what you’re comfortable with. It’s a trial for everyone, we’re all trying to make this team.”
Joey Verkerke joined the Knights roster after the start of the season last year and represented himself well in his junior hockey action. The Michigan-native had a busy offseason, playing in a summer league with names like Detroit Red Wings star Dylan Larkin. The agile defenseman will look to complement a Knights blue line that’s been bolstered by bigger bodies this offseason.
Two Knights veterans are currently pushing for USHL spots after being selected in this year’s USHL Entry Draft. Should either be released from their USHL teams, the Knights retain their rights and thus can add them back to their NAHL roster.
Paul Maust has been a mainstay in the Knights NAHL lineup for the past two years. Even after joining the team following the first month of last season, Maust still finished second on the roster with 43 points. He was selected 75th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2017 USHL Entry Draft. At Knights main camp, he helped introduce rookies to grind of playing against junior hockey players.
“As an older guy, you just have to keep the locker room loose, make sure they’re not too nervous-just go out there and have some fun,” Maust emphasized. “I mean the biggest thing for me is don’t get outside your game, do what you’re good at. I think I saw a group that’s going to be able to go on some streaks and sweep consecutive opponents.”
Dorian Dawson has spent the past two seasons ascending to the top spot on the Knights blue line. The Canadian import was deployed in all situations last season, using his size and speed to overwhelm opponents up and down the ice. He was rewarded for his 9-25-34 line and steady defense by being taken in the 7th round of the draft by the Fargo Force.
The Knights report to training camp at the beginning of September and will open their season against the New Jersey Titans at the Revolution Ice Centre at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 15th. Tickets can be pre-ordered by calling (570)-883-1100.