This past weekend the Rebels hosted their second-straight weekend of home games. This time though it was against a team that was out of a playoff spot by one point. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights came to the Empire State for the final regular season meeting against the Rebels. Jamestown led the season series 8-1-1. When 2018 ended, the Rebels had won six-straight versus Wilkes-Barre. When the calendar turned so did the Knights. These two teams played their first four games of 2019 against each other with both weekends resulting in a split series.
Friday’s game was a chess match. The Knights had won seven of their last ten games and were certainly not going to back down against the fourth best team in the league. For the first time in five games the Rebels had a new goalie between the pipes. It was Ryan Keane’s first game since February 23rd, not only that but, it was also his 21st birthday. All the way down the other end of the ice was Zach Stejskal. He was playing in his fourth-straight game which also marked 13 of the last 14 for his squad. Due to him playing so frequently he came into the weekend ranked as the 15th best goalie with a 2.46 goals-against-average. Also, he led all goalies in saves (1394) and save percentage (.937%). It took more than 50 minutes for someone to break the scoreless game. Knights’ forward Tyrone Bronte scored 11:24 into the final period of regulation. After their goal, the Knights kept applying pressure which resulted in Jake Fuss scoring on the power play. With time winding down in the game the Rebels threw everything they could at Stejskal but were unable to beat the, 6’4” 210lb net-minder from Grand Rapids, MN. Resulting in the third time the Rebels have been shutout this season. It also ended their five-game point streak and put Wilkes-Barre into a playoff spot.
The following night, Jamestown was out for revenge. Both teams played the same goalies giving us another goaltending battle. In the 1st period it was Jake Fuss putting his team up 1-0 with under two minutes left in the period. That was also his third-straight game with a goal. With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner the Rebels were hoping to get some luck on their side. As the Knights attempted to clear their zone the puck hit the referee’s skate keeping it onside for the Rebels. Due to the confusion the Rebels were able to catch the Knights off guard by getting the puck to Hunter Johannes (13) as he went in one-on-one with Stejskal and scored to tie the game at 1-1. The 3rd period started tied at 1-1 but the Rebels were determined to gain their first lead of the weekend. Before the halfway point in the final period, Jake Felker (17) crashed the night to put home a rebound giving the Rebels a 2-1 lead. Keane made a spectacular save late in the game to keep the Rebels up 2-1. It was a cross-ice pass that set a Knight player up for a good shot on Keane, but he was robbed by the 2nd best goalie in the league. With under a minute to go in regulation Stejskal was pulled to put an extra attacker out for the Knights in hopes they could tie the game and at least gain three points on the weekend. Jamestown would not let that happen as Jim Glynn (9) was able to bring the puck out of his zone and score on the empty net. Giving the Rebels a 3-1 victory when the horn sounded. It also was Keane’s first win since February 13th. Over the weekend Nick Stuckless and Jim Glynn played in their 100th NAHL game.
With their win, Jamestown can now look ahead to having home ice advantage in the first round of the 2019 Robertson Cup Playoffs. The Rebels do not know who they will be playing in the first round of the playoffs but if it started today, they would face the team they play this weekend, the New Jersey Titans. While the Titans are eight points ahead of 4th place Northeast, the Generals play 5th place Wilkes-Barre this weekend for a three-game series which will have huge playoff implications on the line. Since the Knights did not pick up a point on Saturday, they were knocked out of a playoff spot due to Northeast splitting the weekend with Johnstown. The East Division could look a lot different come Monday depending on how this weekend plays out for the 3rd to 5th place teams.