He wanted to play in the worst way but he couldn’t. An upper body injury prohibited Andrew Bellant from playing in the Rebels divisional semi-final series opening weekend. Now he had his chance to play in last night’s game and he took full advantage of it. Bellant scored two goals to lead his teammates to a 6 – 1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights to complete a three game sweep and move the team into the divisional finals scheduled to begin on Friday, April 29 against the Johnstown Tomahawks.
The Knights came out strong for most of the first period as expected. In fact, they were outshooting the Rebels 15 – 5 with five minutes left in the first. The Knights tried to spread the ice but the Rebels completely shut down the neutral zone. The Rebels did a mastery job of limiting the Knights to mostly perimeter shots that were easily handled by Darion Hanson. Then the tide started to turn with the period winding down. First, Frank Spellman had a chance and then Dean Balsamo. Although they didn’t score, the momentum of the game was changing.
After a scoreless opening period, the Rebels continued their intensity in the second period. Balsamo made a nice move along the crease moving left to right and took a shot on Knights goalie Grant Valentine who made the save but the rebound was picked up by Bellant who tucked it in at the 6:03 mark to put the Rebels on the board.
Five minutes later, Gvido Jansons broke out of the Rebels zone and head manned the puck to Spellman. Spellman skated along the near side boards and took a shot at the top of the circle that went through Valentine’s right arm to give the Rebels a 2 – 0 lead.
There was a flurry of action with three minutes left in the middle stanza. Austin Swingle, who played an excellent all-round game throughout, intercepted a Knights pass and beat Valentine short side to give the Rebels a 3 – 0 lead. Then with a minute and 15 seconds left, the Knights crashed the net. Braden Brown picked up a rebound and beat a screened Hanson to cut the Rebels lead by two. Finally, Bellant scored his second goal of the game with forty seconds left when he intercepted a Knights pass and walked in on Valentine. Bellant moved from his left to his right and put the puck through Valentine’s five hole.
With five minutes left in the third period, WBS pulled Valentine for the extra attacker. Spellman picked off a Knights pass and fed the puck to Balsamo who put it into an open net. Three minutes later, Balsamo passed the puck to Kristofers Bindulis who passed it to his right to Ryan Solomon. Solomon took a cannon of a shot that beat Valentine high glove side for the Rebels sixth and final goal.
Balsamo had three points on the evening while Spellman had two. Valentine stopped 31 of 35 shots while Hanson, who made the saves he needed to make, turned aside 33 of 34 shots. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels now will play the Johnstown Tomahawks in the divisional finals which will begin on Friday, April 29. The Tomahawks scored with fourteen seconds left in the third period to tie New Jersey then the Hawks won it in overtime to sweep the series.