The Aston Rebels took game one of the best-of-five divisional semi-final series by a score of 3 – 1 over the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights behind two goals from Air Force Academy commit Jensen Zerban.
The first period was going very fast with each team playing tight checking and forcing the other to take perimeter shots. Then with 2:55 remaining Elijah Latimer was called for interference putting the Rebels on the power play. With time running down with the extra attacker, Ryan Solomon brought the puck out from deep inside his own zone. He passed it up to his right to Drew Blackmun. As Blackmun skated through the neutral zone he passed to it Gianluca Esteves along the far side boards. As Esteves entered the zone, he made a cut-back move at the top of the faceoff circle and passed the puck down low to Blackmun in the corner. Blackmun brought the puck slightly up the boards and cut across the faceoff circle and took a wrist shot that beat Knights’ goalie Grant Valentine high, short side to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the opening period.
The Knights would tie the game at 7:17 into the second period. With the Rebels applying pressure in the Knights Zone, Andrew Bellant had the puck in the far side corner and passed it back to the point to Gvido Jansons. Jansons went to take a shot but essentially whiffed on it and the puck went to Matt Kidney who passed it up to Curtis Carleson. Carleson skated with a burst of speed through center ice and into the Rebels zone. He skated to his right to the top of the far side faceoff circle and took a shot that beat Mareks Mitens high, short side to make it a 1 – 1 game.
Zerban then would score his first of two goals.
Andrew Hart and Carter Woolley were battling for the puck with two Knights in the far side corner. Woolley would come out with it and then he passed it back to Hart. As Woolley skated towards the slot, Hart passed the puck up the boards to Zerban. Zerban then passed it to Woolley who made a nice touch-pass back to Zerban at the top of the crease and Zerban beat Valentine to make it a 2 – 1 game 5:51 remaining in the middle stanza.
The third period was extremely tight with limited shots but Mitens and Valentine had to make key saves to keep the other team from scoring. With a minute left in the game the Knights set up behind their own goal. As the Knights’ defender brought the puck into the neutral zone he was stripped of the puck by Zerban. Zerban raced into the Knights zone with a defender on him. As he got to the top of the crease Valentine attempted to poke check the puck. Before he could, Zerban put the puck behind him to make it a 3 – 1 game.
Both goaltenders played well. Mitens turned aside 22 of 23 shots by Valentine stopped 23 of 26. Click here for the box score.
The second game of the divisional semi-final series between these two teams will be at tonight at 7pm at IceWorks.