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!