This past weekend the Rebels hosted the Maryland Black Bears for the first time this regular season. Two days before the Rebels played them, the Black Bears were in Johnstown and lost 8-2. They trailed the Rebels by five points to start the weekend and the series was split going into this weekend 2-2 with neither team getting a sweep yet. During both games the Rebels looked sharp whereas the Black Bears seemed to have too much to eat for Thanksgiving.
On Black Friday, the Rebels started out hot as not even five minutes into the game they were already on the scoreboard thanks to Niki Jasko scoring his first goal as a Rebel. Just past the halfway point in the period Auggie Moore ripped a shot off the post and in to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead. After Jasko got called for slashing the Rebels went on the penalty kill but Alex Frye got the defense sleeping and was able to go on a breakaway. As he was one-on-one with Black Bears’ goalie David Tomeo, he sniped it top shelf knocking off his water bottle and gave his team the 3-0 lead. His goal was also the first shorthanded goal the Rebels have scored this season. With just eight seconds left in the first period the Rebels were not done as Antonio Venuto scored putting the Rebels up 4-0 after the first 20 minutes. When the 2nd period started the Black Bears tried to put up a fight by throwing the puck towards Ryan Keane every chance they got. It did not remain 4-0 for long as Nick Stuckless scored on the power play before the half-way point of the game giving the Rebels a five-goal lead and tying their season-high in goals. The Black Bears were able to get one past Keane though as their captain scored on the power play to pull his team within four. With 45 seconds left in the middle period it was Noah Finstrom that scored putting his team up by five again and making it the highest scoring game for the Rebels this season. Though they would not stop at six as Alex Frye scored top shelf again, although this time he knocked the cap off the water bottle spilling all the water onto the ice. With a dominant 7-1 win on Friday the Rebels were now on a three-game winning streak but still two points behind New Jersey for 2nd place. Friday’s win was also the eighth time this season the Rebels have won a game and only allowed one goal. Also, throughout the 60 minutes on Friday there was a plethora of penalties, scrums, and big hits. All of this resulted in a combined 86 penalty minutes, Rebels still had the fewest in the division whereas the Black Bears were now second in the league in PIMS.
On Saturday, the Black Bears decided to start Tomeo again after he let in seven goals on 35 shots. While he is their number one goalie it sure was surprising to not see backup netminder Kevin Lake get the nod for Saturday to try to split the weekend series for the third time this season. The Rebels have won all their games against the Black Bears on Friday but then have lost the next day in extra hockey. With them having home ice advantage and coming off their biggest game of the season they were determined to change the narrative. Rebels did change their goalies though as Noah West got the start. The Rebels were riding a huge wave of momentum when the puck was dropped on Saturday to start thee first period. They put up 16 shots through the first 20 minutes and only gave up six shots to Maryland. Two of those 16 shots found the back of the net thanks to Jake Felker (PP) and Jim Glynn. Their goals were scored less than a minute apart. With almost half of the game gone it was Antonio Venuto that scored on the power play to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead with just about 10 minutes left in the 2nd. A few minutes later Colin Schmidt scored to now give the Rebels a 4-0, his goal was also on the power play. The Rebels went 3/6 on the man-advantage on Saturday. The Black Bears tried their hardest to get one past West before time expired, but it was too little too late as the horn sounded giving the Rebels their first shutout this season along with putting them on a four-game winning streak, their longest this season.
Noah West had this to say about getting the first shutout for the Rebels this season “It felt really good, we have been playing some of our best hockey lately”. He also had this to say when asked about their match-up with New Jersey this weekend “It should be a playoff series and a battle for the next spot, it should be interesting”. When asked about this past weekend and how he felt about how the team played Head Coach Joe Coombs states “I thought it was the best 120 minutes of hockey we have played all season”. He also added this about the two big games against New Jersey this weekend “We are going to try to work our process and prepare like we do for any other weekend”. The Knights beat the Titans Saturday giving the Rebels a tie with New Jersey for second place in the East. This Saturday’s game between the Rebels and Titans will also be the NAHL Game of the Week as puck drop is scheduled for 7:30pm. Tune in on HockeyTv for the free coverage of the battle for second place. For any ticket information call 716-484-2624.