Biggest games to date.
Thursday, January 31st- Ingalls Rink @8:45pm
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (13-22-4, 30pts.)
Northeast Generals (14-19-7, 35pts.)
Big Rink For Big Games
The Northeast Generals regularly call New England Sports Village their home rink, but on this weekend due to other scheduled activities, the Generals will host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at historic Ingalls Rink on the campus of Yale University. The Whale-shaped structure that has stood the ground for over half a century plays host to arguably the most important games of the season for both Wilkes-Barre and Northeast.
In a rink with a capacity of 3,500, the Knights and Generals will engage in two meetings where playoff implications are magnified. Northeast leads Wilkes-Barre by five points in the standings. That number could shrink to one, or increase to nine. Good play will be imperative for head coach Tom Kowal’s group to stay in the race as the team finishes the middle part of their schedule and heads to the final 20 games of the season.
“We can see daylight or we can see a dark hole,” said Kowal. “It won’t make or break playoffs, but a good weekend could put us in a much better position to have a chance at defending our East Division Championship.”
After a weekend without three core players, coach Kowal announced that two should be expected back.
Tyrone Bronte has been cleared to play, as has defenseman and captain Shay Donovan after both sat out last weekend’s games against the New Jersey Titans. Bronte sits third in points on the Knights roster, so having him back could help jolt the offense while Donovan’s veteran presence on the blue line and leadership in the locker room is always a contribution to this hockey club.
Unfortunately, Blake Kryska’s services are still unavailable as he nurses a hand injury. Last weekend, Caden Lewandowski and Matt Passaretti were called up to supplant the injured defensemen. The latter of which will remain with the grey and blue for their pair of road games.
Passaretti saw his shot tipped in last week on Friday against New Jersey for his first NAHL point, being an assist on what was a Jake Fuss goal. The SUNY Canton commit played well in each game against the Titans, and coach Kowal said he looked like he was up at the NAHL level all season long. That vote of confidence has given the 20-year-old another set of games to showcase his talents and hopefully bring points to the Knights, both in his column and in the standings.
Not Your General Opponent
With Northeast being the team Wilkes-Barre has their eyes set on chasing, you could say that playing them eight times in the remaining 21 games is a good thing.
The bad news, however, is that Northeast is coming off a sweep over the Johnstown Tomahawk, giving the NAHL’s best team their first set of consecutive losses since the NAHL Showcase in September. Prior to that, the Generals picked up a win over the Titans in a weekend that saw the teams split. Northeast has points in seven of their last 10, which has helped them create a gap between themselves and the two clubs behind them (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Maryland).
The Generals are led by forward Louis Boudon who has 51 points and sits 5th in league scoring. With 16 goals, the Lake Superior State commit has already set records for the Generals in scoring and serves as a huge threat whenever found on the ice.
For What It’s Worth
Wilkes-Barre holds a 4-2 edge in the season series. Over a third of their remaining games are against Northeast. They’ll play the Generals more times than any other team down the stretch.
Knights forward Adrian Danchenko is a Generals killer. The ’99 winger has 19 points in 18 games against Northeast over his career in the league of opportunity. Danchenko scored a goal in each of the first three games of the year against the Generals, including a shorthanded goal.
Jake Fuss enters Thursday with a three game goal streak, having scored four in that stretch, with a trio in the pair of games against New Jersey last week.
With the Knights trading Samuel Vyletelka to Corpus Christi, the team announced that EHL Knights goalie Thomas Walker would be called up for the road trip to serve as the emergency back-up to Zach Stejskal. Walker has backstopped the Eastern Hockey League affiliate club to a playoff berth with a 17-13-2 record, coupled with a .922 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average.