Tag Archives: Round 1

Slow Start, Chippy Finish too Much for Knights to Overcome in Game 1

Series openers can set a tone, and if yesterday’s competition is any indication, the Knights and Titans first round will have no shortage of fireworks. Though Saturday’s score reflected a one-sided affair, the contest was hardly lopsided, as shots and penalty minutes flew abundantly from both sides.

The biggest separator between the Knights and Titans was New Jersey’s fast start in the first period, Saturday. With the benefit of home ice and a lively crowd behind them, the Titans controlled play through much of the first frame. David Tomeo earned the start in game one, and was tested early and often. In an otherwise sterling period, the West Caldwell backstop was bested twice on 23 shots.

Just past the 7:30 marker, a Titans combination of Nick Boyagian and Ryan Naumovski, swept in over the Knights blue line. Boyagian passed over to Naumovski on the right wing, where he centered the puck back to the top of the slot for the crashing Jimmy Dowd. The defenseman’s heavy shot rang off the pads of Tomeo who had charged to the top of the crease. The rebound kicked right back to Dowd, whose second try was denied by Tomeo sprawling forward and directing the puck to the side of the net, losing his stick in the process. Boyagian sat in waiting on the near goal post, but his effort to put the loose change home behind the fallen Tomeo missed through the crease. It kicked fortuitously back to Naumovksi, who circled his way to the top of the zone. Narrowly avoiding a shot block effort by Justin Engelkes, Naumovski flicked a quick wrister on goal, beating Tomeo to the back post for the 1-0 lead.

On the Knights third penalty kill of the period, the Titans struck again. The first shot coming from Ryan Wheeler off the cycle was turned aside by Tomeo. The rebound could not be cleared, as Boyagian climbed down the right boards to sift the puck back to the original point man, Wheeler. This time, he connected with Hunter Alden on a crisp pass to the middle of the slot, just past the stick of Reed Robinson. With space in the middle of the ice, Alden pulled Blake Kryska to the bottom of the slot in an attempt to block a shot that never came. Instead, Alden found the now-open Kyler Head at the bottom of the right circle, where the forward ripped a puck through, short side for the 2-0 lead at 18:36.

Resilient, the Knights ended an otherwise quiet period with a bang. After seeing limited action through much of the first, Titans starter Matt Ladd was beaten by the speed of the Knights transition offense. With about 20 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Matt Kidney sent an exit pass up the left wing boards to Jack Olmstead. Olmstead turned and curled a puck through neutral ice to Tyrone Bronte. Bronte gave the puck back to Olmstead as the pair gained the Titans line. From out wide on the left circle, Olmstead sent a perfect centering pass to the crashing Shay Donovan on the back door, where he deflected the rubber home, cutting the lead to one goal with 14 seconds left in the first.

The catalyst of a late-period goal bolstering them into the second, the Knights started the middle stanza with an explosive attack. Just past a minute in, on a seemingly innocent face-off win and charge up the left wall, the Titans were foiled once more by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s transition offense. Luke Robinson shut off Nick Boyagian just after he left his own zone. The loose puck was corralled and swung back to the Knights blue line by Reed Robinson. His pass found Blake Kryska who took a pair of strides before firing a stretch pass off the blade of Lincoln Hatten for what looked to be a routine tip-in. Hardly anything is routine when Curtis Carlson is skating into the attacking zone. Using his speed, the Knights captain plucked the puck off its fortuitous bounce off the side boards. He then blew past both Spencer Stanley and Ryan Wheeler, and with a quick flick of the wrists, ripped a shot across the face of Ladd for the game-tying goal.

From there, the Knights continued their siege of Ladd’s crease. Over the first half of the period, Ladd stood down a flurry of Knights shots, keeping the game even at two. As the Knights chances on goal mounted, so too did the tension and physicality of play.

Tomeo answered Ladd’s steady netminding with strong saves of his own. As the Titans weathered the early Knights surge, they began to create chances back the other way in the form of rushes down the ice. Twice Tomeo robbed the Titans on breakaways. The momentum slowly began to swing back to New Jersey’s effort as they began to breakout more cleanly and more often.

The turning point came just after the 13:00 mark of the second. After fending off shots from Tate Singleton and Zachary Farmeouth, Tomeo was beaten when Faremouth’s rebound was sent back to him from the corner by Hunter Alden. The centering feed allowed Faremouth to tee up a one-timer that was altered by a stick as he connected. The bad-luck puck came up high and off a Knights body in front of Tomeo, completely changing course in mid-air. The arching shot floated over the outstretched stick of the Knights goaltender and into the twine. Just after the puck crossed the goal line, Tomeo was knocked flat by Singleton, prompting a major scrum in the crease. Penalties were handed to each side to create a 4-on-4.

The Titans added a second man to the box after they were caught with too many men on the ice during a line change. The abbreviated Knights 4-on-3 and then 5-on-4 power play was cut just short on a high-intensity sequence of events with just seconds remaining on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton advantage. As the Knights circled the net of Ladd, Tyrone Bronte was laid out by Tate Singleton in the low slot as the Titans regained possession of the puck. On the ensuing clearing effort, Blake Kryska leveled Hunter Alden as he fielded the puck at the center ice logo. Kryska was penalized with a 5:00 major for kneeing.

After an initially neutralizing the first 3:51 of the extended Titans power play, the Knights penalty kill finally buckled. With 7.5 seconds left in the period, Hunter Alden and Ryan Wheeler played catch at the top of the Knights zone before Alden let a shot go that was re-directed through a screen in front by Kyler Head. The puck tucked its way through, giving the Titans a 4-2 lead.

In the third, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton killed off the remainder of the major penalty, but neither side could resist the urge to extend chippy exchanges beyond the whistle. All totaled, the teams combined for 54 penalty minutes-seven minor penalties, three misconducts-sapping five on five hockey, and ultimately working to preserve the two-goal lead for New Jersey.

The Titans added one more goal to their ledger at the halfway point of the third. Kyle Jeffers raced in over the line, and handed a puck to the just-onside Ryan Wheeler. Wheeler alertly found the wide-open Wade Novak crashing through the back side of the zone, where he buried the puck for the 5-2 lead.

Time ran out on the Knights comeback effort as the Titans took game one on the back of physical, emotional effort. A pivotal game two takes place today again in New Jersey at 5:00 PM EDT. Tune in on hockeytv.com and follow along on Knights social media!

Knights Drop Game Two in Battle with Aston

Penalties, staunch defense dictate outcome of game two

For the second consecutive night, the Knights and Rebels renewed acquaintances at the Aston IceWorks, vying for control of their opening round match up of the Robertson Cup Playoffs.

Much as they had the previous evening, the Knights started things quickly, pushing the puck deep into Aston territory in the game’s opening shifts. Though the first few minutes went without a high volume of shots making their way to either net, it was evident the speed and physicality from Friday had carried into Saturday’s action.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was first to generate solid looks on their target, as Michael Morrissey, Reed Robinson and Dorian Dawson all tested Mareks Mitens from open space in the Aston zone. The Latvian netminder didn’t blink and turned all three away.

Spurred on by the efforts of their goalie, the Rebels pushed back around the five minute mark of the first period, keeping the Knights out of the offensive zone for nearly four full minutes, while turning the shots tide against Grant Valentine.

The Knights netminder was also up to the early challenge as he did well to stone Aaron Maguyon from in close and fought through an Andrew Hart screen to stick away another puck. One strategy that quickly became evident was Aston’s goal of crashing straight to the net. The Knights early defensive efforts were strong in clogging up the middle of their own zone, diverting many cross-slot feeds out of danger’s way.

Dorian Dawson’s backchecking stood out on a play in which he raced back to poke a puck off the stick of Aston’s speedy forward Andrew Bellant as he tried to best Dawson one-on-one.

After being bogged down in their own end and neutral ice for a few shifts, the Knights awoke again just prior to the period’s halfway mark. Joe Schuler rung a puck off a post, Mike Gelatt dispensed checks liberally, and Mike Morrissey and Paul Maust buzzed around the net of Mitens to create two good, yet unsuccessful scoring chances.

It appeared at the 12:12 mark that the Knights were being given an early advantage when the Rebels were called for hooking. They were on the power play for 37 seconds before committing an infraction of their own as they tried to establish possession behind the net of Mitens.

In the 4-on-4 period that followed, the Rebels began to find more success in their efforts to crash the net. In one such instance, a Knight attempting to slow a Rebel forechecker barreling in off the rush collided with Grant Valentine. Play was stopped but Valentine would continue. Unfortunately the hit would be a precursor of more things to come for the Knights workhorse goalie.

Like his pairing mate Dawson, Markuss Komuls brought an impressive knack for disruption in his own zone Saturday night. Late in the Aston power play that followed the end of 4-on-4, Komuls raced back and took away a 2-on-1 rush for the Rebels when he dove to the ice to sweep away a connecting pass in front of Valentine. That effort allowed the Knights to return to even-strength unscathed on the scoreboard.

Mike Gelatt picked up where he left off throwing the body as he continued to open space on the ice with several more punishing hits. The Rebels responded with Gianluca Esteves very nearly scoring on a wraparound chance, only to be thwarted by Valentine’s quick, lateral movement.

The Knights had their own near-miss when Matt Kidney worked his way to the top of the Aston slot, made a quick deke and let a shot go that shaved the paint off the crossbar. The first 20 minutes came to a close without a score, largely due to stellar goaltending on both ends of the ice.

In the second, the Knights were in search of more established offensive possession. Most of their chances were still coming primarily off the rush. For their part, the Rebels seemed intent on getting bodies to the net of Grant Valentine. With both teams struggling to inflict their respective wills on each other, things turned chippy in a hurry.

The Rebels earned the better looks in the opening minutes of the second, as Carter Woolley and Jensen Zerban came up with quality chances, with Valentine stopping the first and Zerban missing just high on the second.

Jim Elser countered by streaking behind the Rebels last line of defense only to be denied by a spectacular, legal diving poke check by Ryan Solomon from behind the would-be breakaway.

Five minutes into the period, the Rebels took advantage of an awkward deflection in front of Valentine that allowed Andrew Hart to backhand the puck out of the air and into the twine.

The 1-0 lead flipped the swing of momentum to the Rebels attack. Shortly after Hart’s score, as another odd-man rush came crashing down towards Valentine, but Komuls added to the game’s growing list of defensive highlights with a diving block that disrupted the cross-ice pass to the otherwise open Gvido Jansons.

The path to the Knights net continued to attract Aston forecheckers, and with their presence came more bodies slamming into Grant Valentine. The first of the period came at 7:31, and in the ensuing post-whistle fracas, the Knights were assessed a cross-checking penalty.

Valentine would again rebound from contact quickly, turning away Jansons on a heavy slap shot and denying another from Esteves. The Knights penalty killers were quick to occupy shooting lanes that stopped would-be Aston shots through heavy screens.

Unluckily for the Knights, another kill would not provide needed relief as just two minutes after discarding their second penalty of the contest, they were back it again following an interference penalty. A combination of Morrissey killing clock with crafty possession in his own end, and Valentine making another flurry of saves would bring the Knights up to 3/3 on the shorthanded effort for the evening. They had little time to celebrate. At 14:09 they’d head right back to the box for high-sticking.

It would be deja vu all over again for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as individuals on the kill would make valiant plays to slow a potent Aston power play. Markuss Komuls and Mike Morrissey would again get low to block shots, Joe Schuler would tangle up and drag the puck to the boards to kill a large chunk of a time and Valentine stopped whatever got past those in front of him. The Knights appeared to finally gain reprieve as their fourth PK of the game was cut eight seconds short when Aston headed to the box for cross-checking.

That relief would be short-lived when just 49 seconds into the power play the Knights would again take a penalty, this time for boarding. On this occasion a battle-weary kill unit couldn’t quite fend off the Rebels.

Just 12 seconds prior to going a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill, the Knights saw Gianluca Esteves get behind the defense and quite literally crash the net. As Esteves let go a puck that crossed the goal line, he bowled over Grant Valentine. After seeing their goalie hit the ice yet again, the Knights had had enough. In the pile up around the goal, gloves were dropped and punches were traded between both teams.

When the dust settled, the officials ruled that the power play goal was scored before contact was made with the Knights netminder, and the penalties that were assessed for the events afterward were coincidental.

Still, the Knights couldn’t escape the frame without taking one more trip to the sin bin. With just 33 seconds left before second intermission, hooking was called and the Knights were sent to a penalty kill  that would ultimately carry over to the third.

Following the frustration of 40 minutes of playoff hockey, and absent the reward of a goal, the Knights were looking to get the final frame started on a high note. They did succeed in killing the penalty from the end of the second, bringing their total up to 5/6 on the evening. That said, neither team sustained much of any offense following an taxing middle frame.

It took nearly seven minutes of play for anyone to record an official shot on goal and it came when the Knights got in close and a threw a puck off the body of Mitens. Somehow, the Rebels goalie was able to go all the way down to the ice and keep the bouncing puck out, while a rain of bodies poured down on top of him.

Just seconds later the process would repeat itself, with Mitens again ending up at the bottom of a dogpile and again successful in his efforts to keep the Knights off the board.

The Rebels found their offensive execution shortly thereafter but were thwarted once more by the efforts of Dorian Dawson. The Brown University commit blocked back-to-back shots from Dom Garcia and Andrew Bellant with both having been taken directly from the middle of the slot. After the Knights and Rebels were assessed another pair of coincidental penalties, Dawson was a wall once more blocking another chance just over halfway through the third.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came back and forced a penalties first at 11:04 and a gain at 13:51. As they had all weekend, the Rebels penalty killers responded with a back-to-back cancellations of a Knights power play unit that had entered the playoffs red hot, converting 30 percent of their chances since the beginning of March.

Following a few close opportunities around Mitens’ net, the Knights were determined to find some kind of advantage to get back in the game. With just over two minutes to play in regulation, they began a shift in the offensive zone with their net empty. At 17:56, Joe Schuler found a Dorian Dawson offering in front, turned and fired it past Mitens to give the Knights hope in the game’s closing moments.

Down just 2-1, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would again pull Valentine in the game’s final 60 seconds. This time the Aston defense would hold, and at the horn, the Rebels found themselves in possession of a two-game lead.

A pivotal game three will be played Friday, April 21st at the Revolution Ice Centre. Faceoff is set for 7:30 pm as the Knights will fight to get back into the series with the benefit of home ice. Come out and support the team, or tune into hockeytv.com and follow on twitter @wbsknights for wall-to-wall coverage of all the action!

 

Knights Lose Hard-Fought Game One

Knights skate with speed and physicality but can’t solve Mitens in series opener

The atmosphere was a lively one inside the Aston IceWorks for game one of the division semi-finals for round one of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Facing a familiar and formidable foe in the Rebels, the Knights got off to a fast start in the first period.

With Aston’s focus in the first ten minutes on setting a physical tone with numerous open-ice hits, the Knights countered with fast skating and efficient passing. The result was an aggressive, yet flustered Aston attack and a buzzing Knights forecheck off the rush. Curtis Carlson generated a pair of strong chances, while Joe Schuler, Joey Kubachka and Reed Robinson all came within a few inches of each putting a goal on the board. Mareks Mitens anchored Aston’s defense from between the pipes and turned each away with a series of strong saves.

Around the 11:30 of the first period, the Rebels finally found their footing in the Knights zone. They began setting up and winning board battles directly behind the net and sending pucks to traffic in front. Their physical play began to bog down the Knights who had skated well and in quick for much of the period.

Still, Grant Valentine was sharp when pucks made their way to his net, and his sharpest save came as the first period was winding down. Rebels captain Dom Garcia found his way behind the Knights last line of defense and was floated puck to set up a breakaway. His rocket of a wrist shot was answered by an even faster snap of Valentine’s glove, as the netminder made a highlight reel save to rob Garcia of the game’s first score.

Not long after, the Knights were sent to the box for the game’s first penalty. Though Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stymied the Rebels first few attempts to gain the offensive zone-this included a timely clear by captain Tim Gelatt as a puck spun dangerously close to partially open net- the Rebels finally broke through when Drew Blackmun walked a puck through the right circle and placed it just under Valentine’s glove. At the horn, the Rebels took a 1-0 advantage into the dressing room, riding a strong finish to the period.

The Rebels parlayed their building offensive momentum into a fast start in the second, pressuring heavily in the Knights zone. Where Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had been sharp in sharp exit passes in the first, the Rebels were sharper in forcing turnovers in the offensive end to start the second. Still, odd bounces and a few more timely saves from Valentine kept Aston off the board.

One such bounce quickly turned the tempo of the period on its head. As Matt Kidney flipped a puck ahead from the middle of his own zone, it ricocheted off a Rebel forechecker and on to the stick of Curtis Carlson. Carlson, who had already generated a few scoring chances, exploded through neutral ice, and let go a snipe that beat Mitens over the shoulder, tying the game at 7:17.

With the goal came new life in the Knights legs. They flipped the ice and began to again generate chances off the rush as they did in the first. The speed of their attack began to force the Rebels to take penalties. The Knights would go to the power play three times in the period, but Aston’s top-ranked unit lived up to their reputation, allowing only a handful of shots on Mitens in 6:00 minutes of shorthanded play.

The Rebels offense came back to bite the Knights between the second and third penalty. At 14:10, Jensen Zerban maneuvered his way to the low left circle and fired a puck past a screened Valentine to re-establish a 2-1 lead. The Knights would finish the frame with a flurry of chances on Mitens, but the Latvian netminder was up to the task, stopping each of the heavy shots from Mike Morrissey, Reed Robinson, Dorian Dawson, and Tim Gelatt.

The effect of 40 minutes of fast, physical hockey took its toll to begin the third as both teams struggled to execute with their earlier efficiency. The Knights were given a fourth chance on the power play, and though Aston was again quick to clear the puck, Mitens stopped another chance from Curtis Carlson and fought through a screen to stick a puck wide.

Fresh off the kill, the Rebels created a few major chances of their own, having two shots shave the crossbar and another ring a post. The Knights weren’t short on opportunities either: Paul Maust drove hard behind the defense straight to the net, Vince Marino set up Joey Kubachka on a 2-on-1, and Jim Elser muscled his way through Aston’s last defenseman to get in alone, but all were stopped continued steady play from Mitens.

Grant Valentine was valiant in his efforts to go save-for-save, and the Knights, while allowing a few solid chances on their net, didn’t allow Aston to take control of the offensive zone. As time wound down, the Knights bench began to signal Valentine over to the bench, but twice as the netminder began to leave the crease, the Rebels collapsed on the puck in neutral ice and forced him back to the pipes. With 1:02 remaining on the clock, the Knights again tried to pull their goalie, but again were turned around, this time by Jensen Zerban. The Manitoba-native barreled through the defense and dragged a shot under Valentine’s pads as he crashed into the net.

The goal didn’t stop the Knights from finally pulling Valentine for the extra attacker in the game’s final minute, but the Rebels held Wilkes-Barre/Scranton out of the offensive zone to close out the remaining time.

With game one behind them the Knights head into a crucial game two tonight in Aston. The team skated with the Rebels for much of last night’s contest but will need to take greater advantage of power play and scoring opportunities. Faceoff is set for 7 pm. Tune in at hockeytv.com or follow @wbsknights on Twitter for live updates.