The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (6-15-1, 13pts.) play their last home game for three weeks Saturday night against the New Jersey Titans (14-9, 28pts.) in a rematch from Friday’s loss.
Black Friday Indeed
After a brief thanksgiving break, the Knights hit the road to start their weekend pair of games with the Titans, falling 5-3 at Middletown Ice World Arena. After Shay Donovan and Zak Currie helped the team reach a 2-1 lead in the early part of the middle period, New Jersey responded with three goals in period two, taking a lead they wouldn’t look back on. Jacob Badal got the Knights back to within one early in the third, before Titans’ forward Gavin Gulash banged home the fifth goal for New Jersey (his second of the game) to serve as the final tally.
Samuel Vyletelka took the loss for Wilkes-Barre in goal. The Slovakian made 35 saves, but fell to 0-8 this year. The team as a whole has not found a win on the road this season. Both Wilkes-Barre and Corpus Christi represent the only teams in the North American Hockey League to have played fewer than eight games on the road. Each team has played only six, but the Knights remain the sole team without an away win across the 24 club league. They’ll have to find an answer soon, because a five game road trip awaits them following Saturday’s contest.
Penalties = Problems
In five games against the Titans, a power play goal has been scored against the Knights in four of the games, with the only exception coming in a 1-0 win on November 9th. Overall, New Jersey has potted a whopping seven power play goals against the grey and blue.
New Jersey’s power play ranks 18th in the NAHL operating under 16%, but in the last two meetings between the clubs they’ve sported an even 50%, scoring five goals on the man advantage in the past two games. On the season, New Jersey’s power play clocks in at 25% across five games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Slow and Steady
When you lose four straight and 11 of your last 12, moral victories tend to go out the window. That said, the current losing streak may indicate the potential of this team to not only get out of it, but string together a few wins.
In the previous losing skid, Wilkes-Barre failed to score more than one goal in six of their seven consecutive losses. On this current spin, the team has managed 12 goals in four games.
Friday’s loss also saw a three goal effort, plus rookie contributions. Zak Currie scored his first NAHL goal early in the second, while Jacob Badal notched his sixth later in the tilt. The Knights’ also sent Aaron Hamel into the lineup, who got his first NAHL point with an assist on Currie’s goal. Hamel was the first tender the Knights used this season.
Despite not having a power play goal in the las two games, Wilkes-Barre still sits eighth in the league on the man advantage.
When you add it up, the conclusion is this team is scoring and producing offense; something they didn’t do in their previous losing streak. What they were able to do before was stop shots that needed stopped and have a penalty kill near the top of the league. When they had that, they didn’t score. Now they score, but they miss the defense. If the two can come together, this is a winning formula the Knights could use to jump back into the playoff race.
For What It’s Worth
New Jersey leads the season series 3-2, but their two losses against Wilkes-Barre came when playing at Revolution Ice Centre.
The Titans have the league’s seventh best penalty kill on the road. Wilkes-Barre has the fourth best home power play.
Aaron Hamel became the 23rd Knights’ player to register a point this season. Every player on the active roster has registered a point in the 2018-19 campaign (minus goaltenders).
Game time is set for 7:30pm at Revolution Ice Centre, with broadcast coverage beginning then on HockeyTV.