Tag Archives: Tier-II Junior Hockey

Knights to Face US National Team Development Program in Blaine Showcase

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

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

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

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

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

For the full Blaine Showcase schedule, click here

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

Knights Trade for Tendered Defenseman, Jordan Strand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knights Captain Curtis Carlson Commits to Nichols Bison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knights Enter Final Four Looking to Extend Torrid Run

Written By: Nicholas Marotta

Photo: Steve Yakimowicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Paul Cimilluca Commits to Wilkes University

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!

Knights Agree to Tender with ’01 Defenseman Greg Japchen

Greg Japchen became the latest in a line of talented prospects to sign on for the Knights 2018-19 campaign. The 2001-born defenseman agreed to a tender that was finalized today. Already committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA DI-NCHC) Japchen has drawn the attention of the hockey world for his highly-valued skillset.

“I’m a puck-moving defenseman,” said Japchen of his playing style. “I can skate the puck up ice and and I have the speed to make plays.”

“Greg is a highly-skilled defenseman that sees the ice extremely well,” said Knights assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “His stick and mobility make him one of the top 2001 birth year defensemen in the nation. We are very excited to have Greg part of the Knights organization.”

A native of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Japchen has already given the Knights a preview of his high-ceiling. The left-handed defenseman joined the team for a road contest against the Philadelphia Rebels in mid-January. He didn’t disappoint.

“I thought he played well,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “I think he showed us why he’s such a sought-after talent. In a game against one of our better opponents, it was exciting to see that he didn’t look out of place out there.”

“Playing with the Knights, it was easy to see they’re a quick, skilled team,” said Japchen. “They have some really fast forwards up front, and strong goal tending. The Rebels were a fast team too. They skate to the puck hard, they play a good game. Being able to play junior hockey has given me a good idea of the pace of that level. You have to be able to pick your head up and make decisions with the puck quickly. It’s helped me to get faster and improve my overall skillset.”

Japchen will finish 2017-18 with the Philadelphia Junior Flyers 16U program before preparing for next season. Through 31 games, he has recorded three goals and six assists. That does not include his game with the Knights, as well as one game in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers. The 16-year old is confident he’ll be ready for whatever opportunity comes his way.

“Over the summer I plan on getting bigger, stronger, and faster,” said the 5-11, 175 lbs defenseman. “I want to focus on skill and stick-handling-things of that nature as I work to improve my game.”

The Knights are excited to welcome Greg to the organization and look forward to following his hockey career!

Recap: Knights Comeback Falls Short Against Fairbanks

A meeting of the leaders of the NAHL’s East and the Midwest divisions lived up the billing on Friday afternoon when the Knights played host the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The game got off to a blazing start as Tyrone Bronte netted the game’s first goal on a dart from the top of the zone to put the Knights up 1-0 just 33 seconds in. Tomas Koblizek picked up a helper for the second-straight game, while Adrian Danchenko pushed his point-streak to four with the secondary assist.

The Ice Dogs awoke five minutes later, when Jake Borgida tipped in his second goal of the season to knot the game at one off the set up from Tanner Schachle and Connor Chilton. Caleb Hite followed up with Fairbanks second goal at 12:55 when he found a loose puck behind Knights starter David Tomeo and backhanded it home (Noah Wilson, Daniel Haider). Schachle then added a goal of his own, served up on a late-period power play by Robert Blueger and Erkka Vanska to cap a strong first for Fairbanks.

The opening shift of the middle frame saw little relief for the Knights. Just 45 seconds in, the Ice Dogs extended their lead to three when Vanska powered a puck by Tomeo off assists from Nolan Schaeffer and Caleb Hite.

Down three, the Knights dug in. Grinding out their forecheck’s early sluggishness, the Olmstead-Carlson-Kidney line ignited for the Knights at 6:43. Matt Kidney fed Luke Robinson at the blue line who hammered a heavy shot off the pads of Ice Dog’s goalie Josh Benson. Pouncing on the rebound was Knights captain Curtis Carlson, who buried it for his 11th goal of the season.

Carlson followed that up just under two minutes later with another tally, this time supplied by Olmstead and Kidney to pull the Knights within one.  On a power play that started at 9:10, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first of the contest, they appeared to have bested Benson for the game-tying goal through a scrum in front. Instead, the ’97 netminder made a show-stopping kick save to keep his team ahead by one.

Following the expiration of the power play, the Knights would again nearly tie the game on a Justin Engelkes feed to Gabe Temple off the rush, but again they would be robbed by a post-to-post save by Benson. The second would expire without further scoring and the Knights still trailing.

In the third, the period was mostly even, with both team’s trading zones but not initially an abundance of grade-a looks. A turnover in front of the Knights net in the later half of the frame presented the best opportunity of the afternoon. Hunter Wendt didn’t miss, burying a goal from the middle of the slot to build a 5-3 lead.

Josh Benson, on his way to a 29-save performance, closed out the contest with a third robbery of a Knights grade-a chance and then received help from the iron which stoned a laser from Reed Robinson. With a late power play and the extra attacker on, the Knights came up just short in their comeback efforts to fall in a 5-3 final. They’ll look to rebound tomorrow with a rematch against the Ice Dogs at 6:30 pm EST. The game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Follow Knights social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for in-game updates!

Knights Sign Jeffrey Bertrand to NAHL Tender Agreement

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights are happy to announce they’ve signed forward Jeffrey Bertrand to a tender agreement. Bertrand, a 2001 birth year from Anchorage, Alaska already owns an impressive hockey resume.

“I’m a skilled, power forward,” said the 6-2, 170 16-year old. “I like to play a very intense style of hockey: fast and aggressive. I like skating down deep, putting pucks on net, and setting up my teammates.”

After standing out for the Alaska Oilers U15 AAA Midget program in 2016-17 (10-19-29 in 32 GP), Bertrand landed a roster spot with USA Hockey’s U17 team for their Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic this past August. Jeffrey was a key part of a gold-medal finish for the U.S. in the tournament.

“To play for team USA, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I was proud to play for my country. They took really good care of us. We had a good group. It was a different experience playing in the Czech Republic. The game’s played a little bit differently there. They have different street signs and handshakes, but it was really special.“

Bertrand continues to play for the Alaska Oilers in 2017-18 at the U16 level of their organization, but he’ll have his chance to preview junior hockey.

“We’re happy to have Jeffrey as a tender for our NAHL program,” said head coach Tom Kowal. “Keep an eye on the roster, as he’ll have an opportunity to be an affiliate player for us later on this season. We’re excited to see what he brings to the NAHL level.”

The role of affiliate player will allow Bertrand the opportunity to play in a select number of games for the Knights in their 2017-18 NAHL campaign.

“I’m just excited,” he said on his feelings following his tender. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Knights. I’m pumped to play for them and I’m looking forward to playing junior hockey.”

Having scouted and evaluated the forward personally, Knights Assistant GM Justin Schreiber is fully aware of the potential Bertrand brings to the table.

“Jeff is one of those rare players that can take over a game with his high-end skill and physicality,” said Schreiber. “He’s consistently one of the hardest workers on the ice, a guy you hate to play against. He is an exciting addition to our organization.”

 

WBS Knights Pre-Draft Camp Preview

With both the NAHL and EHL having concluded their 2016-17 seasons, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights are focused on building their rosters for 2017-18. With Pre-Draft Camp set to begin Friday and end Sunday, this weekend will be the organization’s first look at a group of prospects hoping to join the Knights program fielding NAHL and EHL rosters in 2017-18.

“This is a big weekend for us,” said Knights NAHL Head Coach and GM Tom Kowal. “We’ve been busy scouting and tendering future players for months, but that only gives us an idea of what part of the roster will look like. The next three days will give more players a chance to prove that they belong here too.”

The three day camp allows prospects the opportunity to distinguish themselves in front of Knights staff who are preparing to build two teams over the coming months.

“We’re in search of guys who are not only talented, but who possess the grit and character to play through the grind of a season of junior hockey,” said Knights NAHL assistant coach and EHL Head Coach Josh Fusco. “We play 48 games in the EHL in the regular season alone. The NAHL plays 60 before their postseason. Either way, that’s a serious commitment.”

With the NAHL Entry Draft just three weeks away, an open camp scheduled for June, and Main Camp scheduled for July, this is a prime opportunity for potential players to familiarize themselves with how the Knights organization operates.

“Our main goal has and will continue to be getting our players ready for college and higher levels of hockey,” said Kowal. “A great way to do that is by building winning hockey teams. Hosting camps is a great way to measure players of different ages and skill sets. It gives the participants an idea of where they’re at as a player, where they can improve, and how we can help them do that. It’s a growing process for them as developing players.”

Now in full swing, the offseason looks to be as promising as it is crucial for the Knights as each day brings them closer to 2017-18. They’re excited to get to work.

 

Knights Lose in Shootout to New Jersey

In their continuing quest to narrow the gap between their third place standings neighbors, the Knights entered Tuesday with the goal of also building on their 5-4 head-to-head record against the New Jersey Titans. To do so they’d need to overcome the lack of six healthy defensemen for the fourth consecutive game.

Things started well enough. Joey Verkerke appeared to have secured his first career NAHL goal mid-way through the first, but the tally was disallowed due to contact having been with Titans new goalie Ryan Ferland.

On his team’s third power play opportunity of the period, Sam Antonitsch reclaimed the Knights goal-scoring lead when he ripped a shot past Ferland at  18:09. Tim Gelatt’s primary assist extended his four-game point streak and Joey Kubachka’s secondary helper gave him his fourth assist since the calendar turned to 2017.

After a disjointed start to the second period, the Titans took over halfway through. Following a hooking call against the Knights at 8:05, an open Nick Boyagian beat Matteo Esposito on a smooth set up from Ryan Wheeler and Greg Malafronte to tie the game.

A minute and 10 seconds later Kyler Head won a board battle on the right wall of the Knights zone and flipped the puck to Jordan Kaplan. Kaplan toe-dragged his way through the slot and slipped a puck through the five-hole to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead.

After an elbowing call sent the Knights to their fourth power play, Sam Antonitsch would rise to the occasion once again. The scoring sequence was kicked off after Joey Verkerke wrestled a puck free deep in his own corner and tossed it across to paring mate Elijah Latimer. Latimer skipped a pass perfectly from deep in his own far corner to a streaking Reed Robinson on the right side of neutral ice. With Paul Maust riding sidecar as the pair gained the New Jersey line, Robinson deftly filtered a pass forward to Maust as he crashed through the right circle. With a flick of the wrist, Maust backhanded a no-look pass to the middle of the slot for a suddenly materialized Antonitsch, who slammed it home to knot the game at two.

The 3rd period opened with Curtis Carlson taking a Matt Kidney feed and serving Joey Kubachka a one-timer goal on a silver platter.  Kubachka’s second point of the game gave the Knights back the lead, one they’d hold into the game’s final minute.

A back and forth third period came to a head when, with under a minute to go, the Titans swapped Ferland for an extra attacker. After a prolonged shift in the Knight’s zone, a puck deflected off a skate settled in the middle of the slot. Oskar Stromberg found the rubber and flipped his first goal of the season over the shoulder of Esposito to tie the game in regulation’s closing seconds.

3-on-3 overtime came and went in blazing fashion. Both teams generated their fair share of chances, and Ferland and Esposito traded one spectacular save for another. Late in the added frame, Matt Kidney found himself in alone on goal, but great pressure from Ryan Wheeler closing in from behind caused him to go just wide of the mark.

With no resolution found from the overtime period, the game found its way into the shootout. Nick Boyagian led things off for the Titans with a score as his left-right-left-right dangle of a puck that just leaked its way through. After Curtis Carlson’s close-quarters wrister was turned away by Ferland, Greg Malafronte responded with a sharp backhand-forehand cut to beat Esposito to the glove side. Ferland responded by stoning Antonitsch’s last-chance backhand-to-forehand move in front to seal the Titans victory.

With the win, the Titans improved to 27-15-1-1 on the season. The shootout loss did salvage the Knights (23-22-1-2) a point, but they now trail the Titans by seven in the east standings. They’ll get a needed, eight-day rest period before traveling to Johnstown February 24th and 25th. The Titans will continue their east division slate when they take on the Tomahawks this weekend at the War Memorial on the 17th and 18th.