On a Thursday afternoon road game in Massachusetts, it’s entirely possible the Knights were feeling a little nostalgic, even if they didn’t like the reason as to why.
For two periods they watched as the Northeast Generals built a 2-0 lead and a strong case for their first victory in the NAHL. The veterans of both the Knights roster and coaching staff no doubt remember the clamor and struggle it took for their own program to achieve the same feat just under 13 months ago.
Still, as the third period started and time began winding down, the Knights didn’t lose sight of their focus in year two; win in all circumstances.
The context of the 2-0 hole they found themselves in wasn’t overly complicated. Generals captain Colin Bilek had found the back of the net twice in the first period and Central Scouting Watch List member Gabe Vinal had been perfect through 40 minutes of play.
He would remain that way through the first 12 minutes of the third. Finally at 12:22 the Middletown line that had spurred the Knights to victory on Sunday, initiated the comeback effort Thursday. Matt Kidney beat Vinal on assists from Mike Gelatt and Khristian Acosta.
The Gelatt name would be re-entered on the scoresheet twice more a minute and a half later as Mike then set up his brother Tim to tie the game at 2 at 13:52. The goal was Tim’s first on the season.
The score would hold for another six minutes, where again the memories of the Knights first NAHL victory had to be swimming somewhere in the consciousness of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton bench. It was in early October of 2015 that the Knights, winless for an extended stretch in their inaugural season in tier-II hockey, topped the Johnstown Tomahawks at home and in overtime to secure their first victory.
With 59 seconds to play, Sam Antonitsch snapped any chance at a deja vu, with a goal to put the Knights ahead for good with the assist off the stick of Jesse Anderson.
The Northeast first victory celebration will have to wait once again, despite the team getting closer and closer to surmounting that first major hurdle.
For the Knights, they earned a much needed road-win and two points. The win was their second straight and sets the table for another road face off with Northeast today at 1 PM EST.
Following a tough weekend against Aston, the Knights were looking for a bounce back with a late-morning contest against the New Jersey Titans Wednesday.
The Titans began with a quick start. They opened the first half of the first period controlling the early tempo and peppered shots on the net of Knights goalie Grant Valentine.
Valentine proved up to the task, and the Knights slowly began to turn the tide. Gaining momentum on sustained offensive zone time, the Knights finally broke through. Jimmy Elser, a natural forward playing defense this day, hopped on a loose puck in his own end and took it coast to coast before beating Harrison Feeney for the game’s first goal.
Following a New Jersey penalty at 13:58, Paul Maust sifted his way through the Titans slot before feeding a pass off to Mike Morrissey who powered a goal past Feeney at 14:52. The Knights would take the 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Titans would renew their efforts in earnest in the second period, but would continue to be turned away by Grant Valentine. The veteran netminder repeatedly stood on his head despite New Jersey outshooting the Knights 20-9 in the period.
Matt Kidney would chase Feeney, beating him on an odd man rush at the 6:18 mark of the second period. The breakout was started by Valentine, who poked a puck up the right wing where Kidney hopped on it before streaking up ice for the eventual score.
Brandon Bussi would replace Feeney and close out the second without allowing another goal.
Anthony Cusanelli got the Titans’ scoring started after his shot was deflected in front of Valentine, to cut the lead to 3-1 with just over a minute left in the period.
Khristian Acosta would respond early in the third, as at 1:54, he beat Bussi on feeds from Curtis Carlson and Sam Antonitsch.
The two teams would trade goals in a flurry of scoring a few minutes later. The first came from Dorian Dawson, who would add more insurance with a laser from the blue line at 5:48. Less than two minutes had passed before William Riedell would rip a shot, top-shelf to beat Valentine, making the score 5-2. Andrew Jackson would cap all scoring at 8:55 with on a tic-tac-toe passing play initiated by Khristian Acosta and Reed Robinson.
Grant Valentine closed the game out in strong fashion, finishing with 48 saves on 50 shots. With the win, the Knights improved to 6-8 and snapped the Titans 8-game winning streak.
The Knights will face off against the Aston Rebels in Aston on Friday, before playing a home/away, two-game series against the Titans again on Saturday and Sunday.
The Knights picked up after a short rest from a Tuesday win against the Rebels with a rematch on Friday.
Things got off to a quick start with newly acquired Khrisitan Acosta potting his first career goal just 1:20 into his NAHL career with a deflection that beat Aston netminder Jack Leavy.
The Rebels would respond midway through the period when Ryan Solomon’s point shot found it’s way through traffic and around Colt Hanks to knot the game at one at the 11:16 mark.
Not even a minute later, Ryan Patrick deflected another blue-line shot past Hanks to give the Rebels their first lead of the night.
Joseph Campolieto would answer emphatically when he collected a rebound to the left of Leavy with a perfect snipe that scorched over the 6-5 goalie’s glove shoulder to tuck neatly under the iron elbow at 16:36.
The Knights took it upon themselves to add more style points to the highlight reel in the period’s final minute when Paul Maust and Curtis Carlson executed and perfect give-and-go around Aston’s back-checking effort to give the lead back to the Knights to close out the first.
Instead of folding, the Rebels rebounded with a stellar second period, matching a skilled Knights forecheck shot-for-shot. The Aston forwards bookended the period with a goal in first 5:44 from Dustin Manz and another final three minutes from Evgeny Yakovlev, giving the Rebels a 4-3 advantage heading back to the dressing room.
In the 3rd, the visitors kept the pedal to the medal, answering with two insurance goals. The first came at 9:24 when Aston captain Dom Garcia beat Hanks. The second took a series of awkward bounces before Gianluca Esteves’ tap found pipe then twine.
With a 6-3 lead holding late into the 3rd and the Knights in the midst of a 38 minutes scoring drought, it appeared that the Rebels would seal the deal without too much resistance. Then, with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Sam Antonitsch spun loose in front of Leavy to bring his team within two.
The Knights game storming back, as on the very next shift Curtis Carlson ripped a rebound past the stick of Leavy to bring the game to 6-5 just 12 seconds later.
With an empty net in the final minute, the Knights dodged Andrew Bellant’s first bullet when he rang a puck off both posts, but Bellant would not miss a second time as he sealed the Aston win when he threw a puck out of his own zone into the vacant frame at 19:33.
The Knights had no time to dwell on the loss however as the very next night they welcomed 2016’s new kid on the block in the Northeast Generals. The Generals and the Shreveport Mudbugs are the NAHL’s two new team’s this season, a process the Knights went through less than a year ago.
As such, the Knights knew the danger of facing an 0-8 team. They won their first game in the NAHL in their ninth contest in 2015-16. Tom Kowal made a point of addressing the issue to his team throughout the week of practice.
His team got the memo. From the opening puck drop, the Knights dominated possession. The Generals did themselves no favors, taking four non-coincidental penalties in the first period, spending nearly half the opening stanza short handed. The Knights didn’t cash in on any of their advantages, thanks in large part to the stellar play of Northeast netminder and new NHL Central Scouting Watch List member Gabe Vinal. The East Syracuse native made seral lunging saves to rob the Knights on seemingly easy tap-ins.
Still, the Knights persisted and finally were rewarded when Jesse Anderson crashed the net-literally-and buried a puck past a sprawling Vinal to give the Knights a 1-0 lead at 18:04.
The Knights would revisit the twine again when, for the third consecutive game, Sam Antonitsch scored from the slot. The home team took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The second period was a better stanza for the Generals as they mounted a more furious forecheck, aided by their being short-handed just once. They outshot the Knights 13-9 in the period but could not solve Colt Hanks. An effective haymaker was landed when, on the penalty kill, Reed Robinson shot up the left wing and flicked a puck from the far corner of the offensive zone toward the talented Vinal. The puck took an awkward hop that bounced over Vinal’s skate and in for Robinson’s first NAHL goal, giving the Knights a 3-0 lead that would hold for the rest of the period.
In the third, the Knights re-established more control in the offensive zone, and despite both team’s taking a fair amount of penalties, the Knights maintained their focus and finish.
2:13 into the period, deep in his own zone, Matt Kidney threaded a perfect pass to a streaking Paul Maust for the breakaway goal.
Despite losing two players to misconduct penalties and another to bumps and bruises, the Knights pressed on. Mike Gelatt potted his second tally of the season at 11:22 from out in front and the defense did their part to uphold the shutout for Colt Hanks. It marked the rookie goalie’s third win of the season and his first NAHL shutout.
The Knights improved to 5-6 after going 2-1 in the 3-game week, collecting four points while maintaining their position in 4th place in the division. They’ll return to action at home again this Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th, with both games coming against the Aston Rebels.
Numbers to Know:
-The Knights have scored five goals in three consecutive games
-The WBS PP went 1-10, but the penalty kill went 6-7 and scored a shorthanded goal.
Sunday October 23rd will be no ordinary game day for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. As it will be their last home game in October, the team would like to take the opportunity to celebrate Halloween with their fans both on and off the ice!
Doors will open at 12:30 PM for fans to partake in pre-game Halloween games and festivities inside the Revolution Ice Centre. Come to the rink dressed in your best Halloween costume for our 2:00 pm match up with the New Jersey Titans and receive candy upon entering the rink. Wearing a costume will also allow fans in an intermission costume contest.
Following the game, the team will show their appreciation for their fans by hosting a “Skate with the Knights” from 4:45-6:15 pm. Use your ticket to get in for free and lace up and skate at Revolution Ice Centre with your favorite WBS Knights Hockey players.
Can’t make it to the game but still want to partake in the post-game skate? Skate Rentals will be available for $3.
Earlier in the week the Knights acquired Khristian Acosta from the New Jersey Hitmen program. The 5-9, 180 lbs skater is a 1998 birth year, who’s spent the past three years in the Hitmen organization. He arrives already committed to division one Quinnipiac University’s hockey program. Last year Acosta split his time between the USPHL Premiere and USPHL 18U levels, registering five goals and 15 assists in 30 games played.
“We brought in Khristian Acosta-he’s a division one commitment to Quinnipiac, said Knights head coach Tom Kowal of his new acquisition. “Hopefully he’ll be able to come in and add some offense. Most importantly, as a division one commitment, we’re looking for him to fit in well and make a positive impact within our system. We think he can help us go where we want to go in the 2016-2017 season.”
Acosta is yet another native of Middletown, New Jersey, joining Matt Kidney, Tim Gelatt and Mike Gelatt on the Knights roster. Acosta will get his first taste of NAHL action tonight, as he will dress for the tonight’s contest against the Aston Rebels. Acosta will wear the number 17.
Knights defenseman Joseph Campolieto has committed to Union College starting in the 2018-19 season. The long-time member of the Knights organization is the first Knights player to commit during the 2016-2017 NAHL regular season. He joins forward Aiden Beck as the second division one commit on the Knights current roster.
“I visited Union twice in April and May,” he said. “I just fell in love with the size of the campus, the academics and of course the hockey. They won the national championship in 2014. I just thought Union was a perfect fit for me.
As mentioned, the Union Dutchmen defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 7-4 in the 2014 NCAA Division 1 National Championship. They’ve produced alumni like Philadelphia Flyers phenom defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, Calgary Flames forward Josh Jooris, and New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid among many others. In Campolieto Union is getting a dynamic defenseman.
“I am an offensive defenseman,” he said when asked to describe his game. “I have good-skating ability, high hockey-IQ, I see the ice very well. I just try to make plays and play solid in the defensive zone.”
That skating ability is what really pops when watching Campolieto on film. It’s not uncommon to see him lead a rush into the offensive zone. Last week, at the NAHL’s annual player showcase, he flashed his speed on a penalty kill, breaking up a pass at center ice before taking it back the other way for a shorthanded, breakaway goal.
“I’ve worked really hard since a very young age, skating non-stop. I want to thank Besa Tsintsadze. He’s helped me improve a lot. I’ve skated with him and he’s coached me since I was little.”
Tsintsadze is a former competitive figure skater from the country of Georgia. Since his retirement he’s come to coach hockey players the art of power skating, working with both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. He now focuses on developing young hockey players like Campolieto in their ability to skate.
After playing 21 games in the NAHL last year, Campolieto has enjoyed a strong start to 2016-2017, leading the Knights in points with one goal and six assists through eight games.
“I’ve known and coached Joseph for many years,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “His improvement is evident. Yes, he’s an impressive skater, but he’s come a long way in developing the other elements of his game. He’s a tireless worker. At the end of the day he’s got a bright future. He’s been an asset for us at multiple levels of the organization and that continues to this day. I’m happy to have him on my team, and I’m excited to see him grow. It’s been a privilege coaching Joseph over the past couple years. I’m excited to have helped him reach his goals both on and off the ice. ”
In addition to adding a blend of offense and speed to the team’s defensive corps, Campolieto is one of the Knight’s leaders. The veteran blue-liner is not about to lose focus on his current season.
“I just want to keep working hard, keep getting better every day. I want to stay focused so that I’m able to do everything I can to help make this team better.”
Without a doubt, the team is happy to have him. As an organization, the Knights congratulate Joe on his commitment and continue to wish him the best of luck in his current and future endeavors.