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Dawson Bradford Signs Tender with Knights

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

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

Bradford is no exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Knights Select Eight in 2018 NAHL Entry Draft

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

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

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

Round 1, Pick 13: Zach Stejskal, Goalie:

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

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

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

Round 2, Pick 37: Evan Orr, Defenseman:

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

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

Round 3, Pick 51: Davis Pennington, Defenseman:

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

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

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

Round 3, Pick 61: Mathew Kahra, Forward:

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

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

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

Round 4, Pick 76: Beck Moore, Forward:

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

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

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

Round 4, Pick 78: Samuel Vyletelka, Goalie:

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

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

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

Round 4, Pick 85: Will Otwell, Forward:

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

 

 

Round 5, Pick 109: Ross Bartlett, Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

 

 

Game 5: Knights Knock off Titans to Advance to Round 2

Sunday’s winner-take-all match up between the Knights and Titans lived up to its billing with high intensity from the opening puck drop. In hostile territory, the Knights aimed to advance with their first playoff series win in the organization’s short NAHL history.

The team received exactly the kick start it needed when Reed Robinson notched his first goal of the postseason just 5:39 into the first. Having played each other nine times over the last month, the Knights and Titans have become familiar with some of each other’s tendencies. Robinson, pressuring in the low right wing while the Titans attempted to coordinate a breakout, hawked a pass from behind the net at the front door, and proceeded to rip a shot through Titans goalie Matt Ladd for the 1-0 lead.

For much of the first, the Knights battled hard and succeeded in driving pucks and possession in the offensive zone, while executing fast, and crisp breakouts out of their own end. They were backstopped again by stellar play from Christian Stoever. Fresh off a 51-save shutout in game four, Stoever was tremendous in net once more, fending off a few early odd-man rushes from New Jersey, on his way to 14 saves in the first.

In the period’s final minute, the Knights top line moved out of their own zone on a quick rush up the left wing. Jack Olmstead flipped a puck ahead to Michael Morrissey who started a 2-on-1 with Matt Kidney over the Titans blue line. Kidney led Morrissey to the left circle, where the latter backhanded a perfect set up back to Matt Kidney who had looped back through the slot. Kidney, playing once again in his hometown, darted across the face of Ladd before putting home his first goal of the playoffs, moving the Knights up 2-0 with just 10 seconds left in the first.

Spurred on by their early success, the Knights picked up where they left off in the opening period with a swift attack that drew an early penalty in the second. Late in the ensuing power play, Reed Robinson fired into the offensive zone where he threw a puck back to a trailing Tyrone Bronte. After accepting a return pass, Robinson spotted a wide-open Blake Kryska at the top of the zone.  With ice in front of him, Kryska walked Robinson’s pass through the slot before burying a wrister by Ladd for the 3-0 lead at 6:09.

The Titans finally got on the board just prior to the halfway point of the second. Jimmy Dowd Jr. flipped a puck through center ice from the left side of his own blue line. A savvy move by Matt Cameron caused the Knights to over commit to the winger, while the speedy Ryan Naumovski took the puck in over the right wing of the attacking end. Beating the backcheck to the bottom of the zone, Naumovski flipped a puck off a body in front and past Stoever to cut the Knights lead to 3-1.

The flood gates opened in the second half of the period for New Jersey as the Titans began an onslaught of chances and shifts in the Knights end of the ice. Stoever stood tall as the Knights attempted to regroup, and the score remained 3-1 at the end of 40 minutes of play.

On a carryover stretch of 4-on-4 hockey to start the third, the Titans turned to their speed to take advantage of the extra space on the ice. Nick Boyagian started a breakout with a long pass from behind his own net to Ryan Wheeler. Wheeler criss-crossed behind the lightning-fast Wade Novak as the pair crossed the blue line. The defenseman had just enough room to bank a pass of the boards behind Stoever’s net, which pinballed perfectly to a crashing Novak. With his third goal of the playoffs, Novak beat Stoever to the back post, narrowing the score to 3-2 just 50 seconds into the period.

With the momentum reversed heavily against them, the Knights needed to come up with a fast response. On a sequence that appeared to be going the wrong way for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Joey Verkerke came up with a game-turning play.

After a Knights defender fell down to allow Ryan Naumovski a seemingly clear path to the net, Verkerke made a diving block through the low slot, pushing the puck into the corner. Regaining his feet, Verkerke pushed the puck back up the left wall to Justin Engelkes who laced a perfect home-run pass to the streaking Adrian Danchenko up the right wing. Danchenko received the puck just prior to the red line, and burned the Titans last back-checker to create a breakaway. In alone on Ladd, Danchenko ripped a perfect shot top shelf, stick-side to regain the two-goal lead just under three minutes into the third.

With the multi-goal advantage once more, the Knights quickly went into a defensive-mode, easing slightly off the attack and placing trust in their defense and their red-hot goaltender to seal the victory. They held the score through the bulk of the period to force the Titans hand late.

Down two with just over three minutes remaining, Matt Ladd left the crease for the extra attacker. The Knights were placed under siege as the Titans, who had already forced several icings just minutes prior, maintained the offensive zone on long shifts. Their shots made it to the net, but not by Stoever, who made one great stop  after another on his way to 49 saves for the evening, and finishing with 129 on the weekend.

The final highlight came after Stoever leapt out of his stance to knock a high shot away with the stick, with just under two minutes to play. Lincoln Hatten’s clearing effort just missed New Jersey’s open net, keeping tired Knights legs on the ice for another faceoff.

This time, Michael Morrissey won the puck cleanly off the draw and flipped it back to the corner for Thomas Farrell. Farrell lifted the puck up the side-wall to Hatten, who barreled his way out of the zone. Playing an expert game of keep-away through three poke-check attempts, Hatten skated the puck to just above the Titans blue line where he arched a backhanded shot perfectly into the open net.

The Knights fifth goal secured the game-five win, as well as their first series win in their Robertson Cup Playoff history. They will move on to take on the Philadelphia Rebels in the East Division Finals, another best-of-five series, beginning later this week. The schedule will be released shortly.

Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and Knights social media for all news and updates!

Game 4: Stoever Stuns Titans as Knights Force Game 5

Facing win-or-go-home circumstances, the Knights made a stand Saturday night. Christian Stoever summoned his finest performance of the year and Gabe Temple continued his tear through the Robertson Cup Playoffs on the way to a Knights 1-0 victory.

In game four, Stoever squared off against his game three counterpart, Matt Ladd. Ladd entered play with two victories in the series, looking to add a series-clinching third. He was strong in the pipes yet again, making 37 saves on the evening, but the lone shot that bested him proved to be costly.

The score came at the 12:59 marker of the first period. On the game’s first power play, Gabe Temple fired a puck on net. The rebound off of Ladd’s save kicked over to a crashing Jack Olmstead on the back door, who jarred the puck across to Curtis Carlson on the opposite post. Carlson’s shot was denied by Ladd as well before the rebound kicked back to Temple in the slot. Temple ripped home the game’s first and only goal, extending his goal streak to three-straight games.

For the remainder of play, the Knights and Titans exchanged hits, penalties, and grade-a saves. Things built to an especially chippy ending the final five minutes of play. Through a host of penalties, scrums, toe and glove saves by Stoever, the Knights fought off the Titans attempt to tie the game including a final 1:10 with the extra attacker on. When the dust settled, the Knights had evened the series at two games, forcing a game five this evening in New Jersey.

Puck drop for the winner-take-all affair will take place at 5:00 PM EDT. You can watch the game online at hockeytv.com, or follow along with Knights social media and www.nahl.com.

 

Game 2: Knights Storm Back to Even Series with Titans

Any postseason series in hockey is determined by momentum swings or lack thereof. Following a 5-2 loss to New Jersey in their East Division Semi-Finals opener, the Knights looked to reverse course on Sunday or face the risk of falling into a 2-0 deficit.

Neither the Titans nor the Knights found much momentum through the opening 20 minutes of game two. Though Wilkes-Barre/Scranton held a definitive advantage in offensive chances in the opening period, they could not solve Titans netminder Brandon Perrone while peppering him with 19, first-period shots.

For their part, the Titans offense mustered nine shots on the net of Christian Stoever, manning the pipes for his Knights postseason debut. The Northville, Michigan native stopped the first eight shots New Jersey put on goal, but early penalties finally caught up with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

While attempting to kill off a 5-on-3, the Knights were beaten on a swift passing from Nick Boyagian, who fed Kyler Head, parked to the right of Stoever. Head, who authored two power play goals in game one, pulled Stoever’s attention and motion to the right post. Head then threaded a back-door pass to a waiting  Hunter Alden, whose shot beat Stoever’s scramble to get back across with 8 seconds left in the period.

Down a goal heading into the middle frame for the second-consecutive game, the Knights would fire out of the first intermission with a blistering pace. Like the night before, they tallied the second period’s first goal to tie the game.

On an early power play, the Knights set up a strong cycle in the Titans zone. From the right circle, Michael Morrissey zipped a puck back to Thomas Farrell, who let a howitzer shot go from the point. Perrone made the initial save, only to see the rebound kick over to Gabe Temple in front. Temple buried the puck for the game-tying goal just shy of the 3:00 mark of the frame.

Temple’s tally set off an avalanche. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forecheck was unrelenting through much of the period. They were rewarded with their next score, just past the nine minute mark. Jake Fuss tangled and won a puck in the Titans far corner before driving from to the front of Perrone’s net. Fuss fired a shot off the goalie’s pads and the rebound glanced over back to the trailing Tomas Koblizek who ripped the puck over Perrone for the Knights first lead.

Farrell followed up with a goal of his own less than a minute later. Matt Kidney jarred a puck free with a check in the right corner of the attacking zone. Jack Olmstead found the biscuit and fired it to the top of the slot where Farrell ripped it through traffic, past Perrone for the 3-1 lead.

The Knights advantage was continually protected by an excellent outing from Christian Stoever. The 2000-born netminder neutralized New Jersey’s attempts to mount a rally with a bevvy of impressive saves.

In the period’s final minute, a forechecking Tomas Koblizek fought off two Titans before kicking the puck to Jake Fuss. From under the New Jersey goal line, Fuss, facing the glass of the end boards, flipped a perfect no-look pass to Tyrone Bronte streaking toward the net. Bronte pulled Perrone out of the crease with a fake, before dragging around the goalie for the highlight-reel goal.

In the third, the Knights didn’t sit on their lead, continuing their attack, despite facing resistance from the Titans always-dangerous transition game. Stoever stood tall throughout, making 11 saves in the game’s final frame, finishing with 29 on 30 shots on the evening.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s final insurance came on a delayed Titans penalty a little more than halfway through the third. On a play in which Blake Kryska was hit into his own end wall from behind, the big defenseman was able to steer the puck through the check and up the boards to Luke Robinson. After a brief survey, Robinson laced a long stretch pass to Justin Engelkes, waiting behind the Titans defense in neutral ice. Engelkes, moving in alone on Perrone, beat the savvy goaltender with flutter move from his backhand to the forehand to put the Knights ahead 5-1.

There the score would hold through the remainder of the contest, delivering the Knights a much-needed, series equalizer. The teams will meet again for game three at the Revolution Ice Centre in the best of five series this Friday, April 20th at 5:00 PM EDT. Stay tuned to Knights social media and www.wbsknights.com for all news and updates!

NAHL: Seven Knights Named To Top Prospects Tournament

On Monday afternoon, the NAHL announced the rosters for its annual top prospects tournament. Seven of the Knights players made the cut, tied for the second-highest mark in the league, with NAHL Head Coach Tom Kowal being named as assistant to the East Division’s team. That team will carry four Knights players while the at large  White team will have three.

“Our purpose has always been preparing and helping our players onto the next level of hockey,” said Kowal. “Sending seven guys this year feels good. It says a lot about the hard work and talent each of them brings to the rink every day, and it gives us an opportunity to showcase them to college and professional scouts. At the same time it provides a nice incentive to the rest of our guys who are eligible next year as well.”

Team East Division (Orange Color):
#2, Tom Farrell, Defenseman, 3-13-16, 40 GP:

Farrell is the Knights leading point-scorer along the blue line and has secured his place as a regular starter atop the team’s defensive pairs.

“Tom has walked into this organization and has proved to be every bit the player we hoped he was when he tendered with us last year,” said Kowal. “He brings great energy both on the ice and in our dressing room. His top-level skating makes him a really good puck-mover. He has really helped spark our offense this year while also being a steady player on our end of the ice.”

#11 Curtis Carlson, Forward, 15-13-28, 41 GP:

The Knights captain has been an asset to the team this season, using his rare speed to be a threat in all situations. The ‘97 has been present in all phases, particularly on special teams. Carlson leads the Knights, scoring five goals and four assists between the power play and penalty kill.

“Curtis is a guy who’s been here dating back a few years now, and it’s impressive how he continues to make strides as a player,” said Kowal. “His speed is obvious, but he’s a savvy veteran. His work ethic translates both on and off the ice and is a big reason why he’s developed into one of our best players. He’s our captain because he leads by example. He leaves it all on the ice.”

#12 Mike Morrissey, Forward, 9-11-20, 42 GP:

One of the Knights most tenured players is Bethlehem, PA native, Mike Morrissey. He’ll be heading to his first Top Prospects Tournament after putting together an impressive 42 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year.

“Mike Morrissey is a tone-setter,” said Kowal. “He’s a guy who plays with a lot of grit-he takes the blood and sweat part of playing hockey literally-and when we need a big shift or faceoff win, we’re comfortable calling his number. He’s a really smart center who’s worked his bag off to be one our most versatile players.”

#16 Matt Kidney, Forward, 13-24-37, 42 GP:

After leading the team in scoring last year, Kidney finds himself in a familiar position, tied atop the points list with Knights rookie phenom Jack Olmstead through just over two-thirds of the season. The 2018 tournament marks his second trip as an NAHL top prospect.

“We made Matt Kidney our first-round pick in 2016 because of what he brings with to the ice with his hockey sense,” recalled Kowal. “He’s a guy who gets our offense going. He’s quick, he’s got good hands and a knack to find the puck and create chances. He’s not the biggest guy, but he brings a good compete level to the game.”

Team Selects-White:

#7 Adrian Danchenko, Forward, 9-13-22, 36 GP:

Still one of the younger players on the Knights roster, Adrian Danchenko is one of the Knights more tenured players dating back to his 16U days. The dekes and dangles he’s compiled in his time with the program dot highlight reels, but he brings a well-rounded game to any roster.

“Adrian is a ‘99 who’s still just scratching the surface,” said Kowal. “He’s improved every year we’ve had him. He’s been a constant for us this season. He can grind out tough shifts but also pull off some truly special plays. He’s been a threat no matter who his line mates are or what the in-game situation is.”

#27 Luke Robinson, Defenseman, 0-14-14, 37 GP:

After playing in one game with the Knights last season, Luke Robinson returned full time to establish himself among the Knights talented group of defensemen.

“As a 2000, Luke has shown us a lot,” said Kowal. “He’s a big guy who’s steady for us in our own zone, but he’s done a nice job continuing to develop his offensive game. He’s distributing the puck well and consistently making smart plays. He’s added another reliable member to our blue line.

#28 Justin Engelkes, Forward, 8-8-16, 37 GP:

As a 17-year old, Justin Engelkes has broken into the NAHL with a solid rookie campaign. The forward was the Knights second-round draft pick and has already committed to the Miami University of Ohio.

“Justin has established himself as a two-way player who has the necessary toughness to play in this league and beyond,” said his head coach. “I think he’s come along nicely. He’s got good size and likes to go to work down low and on the boards. He’s a guy that’s tough to move off the puck, and he’s shown us the ability to score as well. He’s got even more to offer and it’s exciting to see him unlock his game.”

From NAHL.com

The number of players each NAHL team is sending to the tournament, in which four teams from the four NAHL divisions: Central, East, Midwest and South and two NAHL Selects teams, will each play in two game games, was based on each team’s winning percentage within their group as of February 5, 2018.
One of the things the NAHL does better than any other junior league is seeing their players earn an NCAA opportunity while playing and being showcased in the NAHL.

To date, 153 players have already made NCAA Division I commitments during the 2017-18 season. The NAHL Top Prospects Tournament plays a big role in that success, with over half of the players who played in last year’s Top Prospects Tournament, earning an NCAA Division I opportunity following their participation in the event. The event continues to provide the hundreds of NHL and NCAA scouts in attendance with a look at the best uncommitted players the NAHL has to offer, as well as, some potential NHL Draft picks.

2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament Schedule (subject to change, all times eastern)

Tuesday, February 27th
1:00pm: Midwest Division vs. NAHL Selects Red
4:00pm: South Division vs. East Division
7:00pm: Central Division vs. NAHL Selects White

Wednesday, February 28th
11:00am: NAHL Selects Red vs. South Division
2:00pm: Central Division vs. Midwest Division
5:00pm: NAHL Selects White vs. East Division

Can’t make the game? Catch your Knights on www.hockeytv.com where each game will be available via live broadcast! Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and Knights social media-Facebook: WBS Knights Hockey, Twitter: @WBSKnights-for all Knights Top Prospect Tournament Updates!

 

Knights Defenseman Anthony Firriolo Commits to Army

Photo: Jessica Kovalcin

Knights defenseman Anthony Firriolo has committed to the United States Military Academy West Point to play division one hockey starting in the 2019-20 season. The ’98 defenseman has chosen not only to play for a great hockey program but also to serve his country in the army.

“Just the brotherhood, the chance to serve my country,” said Firriolo of his interest in Army. “They came to me recently and I had the opportunity to visit the campus. It really felt like a perfect fit for me.”

The United States Military Academy has been a member of NCAA Division I hockey since the program’s beginning in 1903. For the past 15 years the Black Knights have competed in the Atlantic conference with former Brown University alum Brian Riley serving as head coach for the previous 14 seasons. Alumni of the Black Knights program include former NHL forward and Stanley Cup Champion Dan Hinote.

“Anthony is headed to a program that fits his personality and who he is,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “It tells you about his character. He’s a talented player, but a better person who not only wants to play hockey and work hard to earn an education, but wants to serve his country in doing so. We’re very proud of him.”

After being acquired in a trade with the Amarillo Bulls early in the season, Firriolo has settled in nicely as a potent offensive player on the Knights talented blue line. Through 22 games with the Knights and 11 with the Bulls, Firriolo leads all Knights defensemen in assists with 13 and has logged valuable time on the team’s power play, serving as one of its primary quarterbacks. Six of his 13 helpers have come while on the man-advantage.

“I feel I bring offense to a team’s defense,” said Firriolo of his playing style. “I bring some skill to the back end, I like to move pucks up the ice and create opportunities to score. I think I’ll fit at West Point because I like to challenge myself. I like to work hard and have a never-give-up attitude, and out on the ice I’m constantly looking to make myself and my teammates better.”

Through it all, the defenseman has kept an appreciation for playing in the NAHL and his team’s competition.

“The compete level, especially in our division, is special,” he said. “Every night is like a playoff game. You have to bring your a-game because it can go either way against the first-place team or last-place team. Everybody’s highly skilled.”

Firriolo has enjoyed his time playing as a Knight thus far, and credits all those who’ve been alongside him on the journey.

“The coaching staff here has been unreal,” he said. “They took me in after I arrived, a little after the beginning of the season. This group of teammates I think is the closest group I’ve ever been a part of. They way this place operates is perfect for me.”

With his commitment to the Black Knights, Firriolo becomes the seventh Knights NAHL veteran to commit to a division one school over the past year, the third to a team in the Atlantic Hockey.

“He’s a player we’ve had a need for this year,” said Kowal. “Him being an offensive-minded defenseman is an important piece to have on any hockey team, the way the game is being played now. He’s filled that role nicely for us. At the end of the day, we’re thrilled with what he’s brought to our program. I really look forward to rooting him on as he advances forward in his hockey career.”

“I want to thank Coach Tom and Coach Whiteside for all they’ve done for me,” said Firriolo. “I also want to thank all my previous coaches, my teammates, and my family for supporting me all the way.”

The Knights organization congratulates Anthony for his commitment and thanks him for his contributions to the program’s success!

RECAP: Knights Kick Off Second Half With Convincing Win

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!