For the first time in franchise history, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights’ Eastern Hockey League team will play in the EHL Frozen Finals. Of the 18 teams in the league, just four remain to play for the championship banner this week. For the second consecutive year, the EHL Frozen Finals will be held at Schneider Arena, home to the NCAA Division III-Providence College hockey team.
The Knights will be viewed as underdogs, given they’re the only team to make it that didn’t win their division during the regular season. So far, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has played five playoff games. They made their way through the New York Apple Core by sweeping the North Division foe in round one. Next, a decisive game three would go the way of the Knights against the division champion-New Jersey 87’s, taking the final game of the series by a 3-2 score.
With the other three finalists earning a bye through round one thanks to winning their division in seasonal play, the Knights have played at least two more games than the rest of the pack so far this postseason. Here’s the finalists and the regular season records of said teams:
Philadelphia Little Flyers: 40-3-1
New Hampshire Avalanche: 39-6
East Coast Wizards: 29-12-3
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights: 27-13-4
The Knights kicked off their regular season against the Wizards and finished the campaign facing the Avalanche. The grey and blue earned season splits in two game sets with both teams, while the Little Flyers got the better end of the Knights, taking both meetings the teams had back in December.
With the lowest record and only non-divisional winner in the finals being the Knights, it’s easy to say they are the “on paper” underdog. That said, Head Coach Josh Fusco’s group was able to find another gear toward the end of the season to catapult them this far.
After losing four in a row between late December and early January, the Knights haven’t lost consecutive games since. The club had a season-high 10 game winning streak that came to an end against New Hampshire at the end of the year. After that, they won four of five playoff games to make it to Providence.
In the last 20 games (including playoffs), the EHL Knights have gone
17-2-1. The team has dominated in scoring over that stretch, with a cushioned 83-47 differential. The returning Anthony Starzi was the heaviest contributor for that, scoring 13 goals in that stretch of play, while goaltender Thomas Walker contributed to the smaller number, thanks to a 2.55 goals against average and a .925 save percentage over the course of the season. Hunter Bersani led his team in points with 48 in 43 regular season games. He and Chatham University commit, Matt Mood have both scored three goals and six points in the playoffs thus far to lead their squad.
The journey took 49 games, but the Knights have arrived in Providence. Their first opponent comes Thursday night when they take on the defending EHL Champions, the New Hampshire Avalanche. The team will play three games in as many days, hoping to earn a berth in the championship game Sunday afternoon. Catch all of the Frozen Finals live on HockeyTV.