In their final game before their holiday break, the Knights went to work against the New Jersey Titans Wednesday afternoon. A season series just three games old, the pair of East division foes needed overtime in all but one tilt to come to a decision. Round four would again prove to be a contest that boiled down to the game’s final moments.
In the game’s opening shifts, it was made apparent that both starting goal tenders brought their A-games to the ice. Stingier than Scrooge, David Tomeo and Brandon Perrone took turns wiping would-be smiles off forechecking faces as each goalie sent quality chances anywhere but the net.
The Knights carried play for most of the first period to the tune of 16-10 shot advantage, but could not solve Perrone. In the period’s final two minutes, the Titans maintained pressure for consecutive shifts, culminating in an offensive zone draw in the final 20 seconds. Off a quick faceoff win and cycle, Hunter Alden took passes from Kyle Jeffers and Ryan Naumovski and fired a puck past Tomeo for a 1-0 Titans lead.
The late-period tally did not sit well with a Knights team that has been bugged by slow starts and uneven goal production in recent weeks. Out of the gate in the second came a continued blitz from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton offense as the team continued the prior period’s habit of putting shots on goal from in close.
Perrone’s sterling defense of his net held until 3:17. A sequence that started with Mike Morrissey setting up a heavy Blake Kryska shot ended with Adrian Danchenko showcasing his silky hands once again. The big forward weaved Kryska’s rebound through the crease and past Perrone for the game-tying goal, Danchenko’s sixth of the season.
The remainder of the middle frame evolved into a more aggressive version of the first. Both sides combined for 33 shots on goal, breaking down to a 17-16 New Jersey advantage. Despite this, the Titans could not figure out David Tomeo.
The goalie continued his December to remember with another stellar effort in net. After stopping 74/77 shots in two games in Johnstown last weekend, the New Jersey native backed it up with a 34/35 mid-week performance. In 2017’s final month Tomeo boasts a 1.33 goals against average and an absurd .973 save percentage in three starts.
His play kept the the game tied at one until the late second, when the Knights found themselves on the power play with just under 30 seconds remaining. The man-advantage has been a point of emphasis in Knights practice this week following a weekend in which the power play went 0-10 against the Tomahawks.
The message clearly sunk in. Off a clean faceoff win, Blake Kryska fed a puck to Anthony Firriolo. Just five seconds into the man-advantage, Mike Morrissey found a Firriolo rebound and put it home to take a 2-1 lead.
The third period brought both forechecks back down to Earth as each side found their shot totals dip into the single digits. Players like Knights forwards Tomas Koblizek and Jeffrey Bertrand and Titans veterans Zach Parrot and Ryan Naumovski imposed their physical will on both ends of the ice to slow the contest’s pace.
Most impressive was the Knights ability to weather the high-paced Titans final push to try and tie the game. While successful in getting pucks up the ice, New Jersey found it difficult to put together many extended shifts in the attacking zone, kept at bay by the Knights crisp exit passing and physical play. When the Titans did break through the defense, Tomeo was there to bail his team out.
As time wound down on the comeback, the Titans pulled Perrone with just over a minute to play in regulation. The Knights back check buckled down and spent much of the final 60 seconds outside their own end. Though they ultimately could not find the empty net, the team did well to skate out the clock and come away with their 18th win of the season.
Now 18-7-3 and for the moment a top the East division standings, the Knights will receive two weeks off before returning for a home series against he Kenai River Brown Bears on December 29th and 30th. Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and follow Knights social media for all news and updates!
On behalf of all players and staff, the Knights organization wishes all their fans the very best, healthiest, and happiest of holiday seasons!