Tag Archives: Adam Peck

Weekend Preview: 5/5 – 5/7. Divisional Final round moves to New Jersey. Rebels one win away from advancing to semi-finals

The East Division finals will resume this weekend with the Rebels up two games to none against the New Jersey Titans in this best-of-five series. Game three will be played on Friday at Middletown’s Ice World at 7:30pm. Game four would be on Saturday at 7:30pm at Ice World if needed. Should the series go to a fifth and final game, it would be played on Sunday, May 7 at 7:00pm at IceWorks. The winner of this series will go onto the Robertson Cup semi-finals which begins on Thursday, May 11 in Duluth, MN.

Closing out the series is the hardest thing to do, and during the course of the regular season the Rebels had a losing record on the road against the Titans, winning only two of six games. This has been an extremely hard fought series – typical playoff hockey with excellent goaltending, physical and fast play.

“This has been a great series” stated Rebels head coach Joe Coombs. “Yes, we are up but don’t be fooled. Each game could have gone either way. I think Saturday night was an overall great game for both teams. New Jersey is very fast. Craig and his staff have done an outstanding job. We need one more win and it will be extremely tough. We can’t afford to make any mistakes or New Jersey will make us pay for it” concluded Coombs.

The Rebels have outscored the Titans eight goals to four in the two games. Max Andreev leads the Titans with two goals against Aston. Andreev and Oskar Stromberg each have two points in the series. The Titans are one for three on the power play (33%). Titans goalie Ryan Ferland has played in both games. He possesses a 3.50 goals against average and a .865 save percentage.

The Rebels have used a balanced attack in this series with all eight goals being scored by different players. In fact, six players (Andrew Bellant, Gianluca Esteves, Dom Garcia, Brennan Kapcheck, Aaron Maguyon and Adam Peck) have two points respectively. The Rebels are one for six on the power play (17%). Saturday night’s power play goal was the first power play goal allowed by the Titans during the playoffs. Mareks Mitens has played in both games in the series. He has a 2.00 goals against average and a .894 save percentage.

New Jersey Titans Overview
During the playoffs the Titans have been led by three players with three points each: Jordan Kaplan (3 goals), Todd Goehring (2 goals and 1 assist) and Stromberg (all assists). Kaplan has the most goals with three. Nick Boyagian has two game winning goals for New Jersey. Goehring leads the team in penalty minutes with 25 while Tyler Antonucci has a team best +3 +/- ratio.

The Titans have scored eleven goals in five playoff games which is last of the eight remaining teams in the playoffs. They have allowed eleven goals in the playoffs which is tied for second with the Rebels for least allowed. They have scored 13.3% of the time on the power play and have prevented the opposition from scoring with the extra attacker 95% of the time (third best in the playoffs).

Ferland had a 2.00 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He has played every minute in the playoffs for the Titans.

Aston Rebels Overview
The Rebels have been led by three players in the playoffs who each have five points: Esteves (2 goals and 3 assists), Jensen Zerban (2 goals and 3 assists) and Kapcheck (1 goal and 4 assists). Drew Blackmun and Gvido Jansons each have three goals. Jansons has a +8 +/- ratio during the playoffs while four players each have a team high four penalty minutes.

The Rebels have scored twenty goals in five playoff games (third best of the eight remaining teams). Aston is fourth in the playoffs on the power play converting on 27.8% of their chances while they are seventh of the remaining teams on the penalty kill with preventing the opposition from scoring 68.8% of the time.

Mitens possesses a 2.01 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Manz’s goal gives Rebels 3 – 2 win over Titans and a two-game lead in divisional finals

Dustin Manz’s goal with 9:37 left in the game gave the Aston Rebels a 3 – 2 win over the visiting New Jersey Titans. The victory gives the Rebels’ a two games to none lead in the Robertson Cup’s best-of-five Divisional Final Series. Should they win one more game next weekend the team will advance to the league’s semi-finals beginning on May 11 in Duluth, MN.

This was classic playoff hockey: fast paced, up and down action with both teams having excellent scoring chances countered by excellent goaltending. It was a game with limited penalties and the duration lasted only two hours and six minutes.

Using the same formula as Friday night the Rebels got on the board first very early in the opening period. Gvido Jansons brought the puck out of his own near side boards and passed it up to Andrew Bellant in the neutral zone. Bellant dumped the puck into the Titans zone where it went into their far side corner. Dom Garcia battled for the puck in the corner and passed it up slightly along the boards to Drew Blackmun. Blackmun would skate around the faceoff circle and took a wrist shot that beat New Jersey’s goalie Ryan Ferland short side to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 just 1:17 into the game.

Unlike Friday night, however, the Titans would counter roughly four minutes later. As the Titans started to bring the puck out of their zone there was a breakdown in the Rebels forechecking. Anthony Cusanelli would bring the puck out and passed it over to Tiernan Seningen on his right. Seningen would bring the puck up along the near side boards and into the Rebels zone on a two-on-one with Maxim Andreev. Andreev would go around Rebels defenseman Andrew Noel and passed the puck over an outstretched Adam Peck in the slot to Andreev who redirected it passed Mareks Mitens to tie the game at one at 5:04 into the opening period.

With 8:49 remaining in the first, New Jersey’s Tyler Antonucci would be called for slashing to put the Rebels on the power play. After an in-close save by Ferland a Titans defenseman dumped the puck all the way behind the Rebels net where it was brought up by Brennan Kapcheck. As Kapcheck exited his own zone he passed the puck up to Jensen Zerban As Zerban entered the Titans zone he passed it to Dom Garcia on his left. Garcia would make a reverse play and send the puck back to Kapcheck at the near side point. Kapcheck would pass it over to Gvido Jansons at the top of the point and he took a blast that beat Ferland short side to give the Rebels a 2 – 1 lead with 7:40 left in the period. It was Jansons’ third goal of the playoffs – all coming on the power play. It also happened to be the very first power play goal that New Jersey has allowed during the playoffs.

Just as the second period hit the midway point, Cusanelli would bring the puck up along his far side points into the Rebels zone on a three-on-three. As Cusanelli skated to the top of the faceoff circle he left a drop pass to Tyler Antonucci. Antonucci simply shot the puck on net but it was redirected by Andreev pasted Mitens to tie the game at two.

While the fans from both teams started to feel the anxiety of the tight play as the game headed to the middle of the third period, it was the Rebels second youngest player who would change its outcome.

As the Rebels dumped the puck into the Titans far side corner Peck went to dig it out and pass it up slightly to Ryan Patrick. Patrick would push the puck back to Manz who sent it back to Kapcheck at the point. Kapcheck took a shot on net that was blocked out in front by a Titans’ defenseman but the puck came out to Manz at the top of the slot. Manz would skate to his left and take a backhand shot that went passed Ferland up high to give the Rebels a 3 – 2 lead. It was the Vanderbilt, MI native’s second goal of the playoffs.

Mitens stopped 18 of 20 shots while Ferland turned aside 23 of 26. Click here for the box score.

With the win the Rebels are one victory away from advancing to their second straight league semi-finals. However, the series now shifts back to New Jersey next weekend where the Rebels only won two out of six games during the regular season. Game three is slated for Friday, May 5 at 7:30pm at Middletown’s Ice World.

Rebels win 5 – 2 to take game one of divisional finals

The Aston Rebels used a balanced scoring attack to earn a 5 – 2 win over the visiting New Jersey Titans to take a one game to none lead in this best-of-five divisional final series.

The Rebels completely dominated the first period, in terms of shots on goal (11 – 2) and, most importantly, on the score board.

The East Division champions got on the board early with Adam Peck scoring his first goal of the playoffs just two minutes into the game. All-NAHL First Team defenseman Brennan Kapcheck intercepted a Titans’ outlet pass along the far side boards and carried the puck into the New Jersey zone. As Kapcheck brought the puck deep in the zone he threw it towards the net where it was tipped out in front by Ryan Patrick. Kapcheck continued to circle behind the Titans net and picked up the loose puck. As he skated back to the top of the near side point he took a shot that was saved by New Jersey’s goalie Ryan Ferland but Peck picked up the rebound and put it behind Ferland to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead.

The Rebels then would take a 2 – 0 at the 6:04 mark of the opening period. Gianluca Esteves brought the puck out behind his own net and started to skate up towards center ice. Esteves head manned the puck to Kolby Vegara who carried the puck into the Titans zone on a three on two. As Vegara entered the offensive zone he passed the puck to his left to Evgeny Yakovlev at the top of the near side faceoff circle. The Belgorod, Russian native took a snap shot that was saved by Ferland but Aaron Maguyon was left all alone in the slot and tapped in the rebound past Ferland for his first goal of the playoffs.

The Rebels would make it 3 – 0 just thirteen seconds into the second period. Esteves would win the draw at the Titans far side faceoff circle. The puck was picked up by Maguyon at the boards and he made a drop back to Esteves. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native circled behind the Titans net and passed it out front to Yakovlev who tipped it passed Ferland to give the Rebels a three-goal lead.

But you can never underestimate the Titans. They are a very fast and well coached team and don’t give up. And they would get back into the game by playing gritty Titan hockey.

New Jersey’s Ryan Wheeler and the Rebels Andrew Bellant were called for coincidental penalties but the Titans would get the extra attacker when Drew Blackmun was assessed a slashing penalty with almost nine minutes left in the second period to put New Jersey on the power play. With time winding down with the man advantage, Danny Eruzione had the puck in the Rebels far side corner. He passed it back to the point to Hunter Alden who passed it over to his left to Oskar Stromberg. Stromberg took a one-timer that was redirected out front by Gordie Helmuth past Mareks Mitens to make it a 3 – 1 game with 7:23 left in the middle stanza. It was only the Titans six shot on goal in the game.

New Jersey would cut the deficit to one with 2:31 left in the period. After the puck was taken off of Esteves’ stick, it went to Stromberg at the top of his far side faceoff circle. The Rebels got caught on a bad line change and Stromberg passed it up to Dylan Healey who entered the Aston zone on a two on one with Jordan Kaplan. As Healey got to the faceoff circle he passed the puck to Kaplan on his left. Kaplan took a shot that went through Mitens five hole to make it a 3 – 2.

The third period was very fast paced and up and down play. With 2:37 left in the game Esteves would give the Rebels a 4 – 2 lead.  With New Jersey’s Zach Parrott looking to breakout of his own zone he tried to passed it one of his teammates but it was intercepted by Bellant at the blueline. Bellant immediately took a shot that was saved by Ferland but the deep rebound came right out to the trailing Esteves who beat Ferland to give the Rebels a two-goal lead.

Bellant would score an empty net goal with four second remaining to give the Rebels a 5 – 2 win.

Mitens would turn aside 16 of 18 shots while Ferland stopped 22 of 26 shots. Click here for the box score.

Game two of this best-of-five series is tonight at 7:00pm at IceWorks.

Rebels blank Tomahawks 2 – 0 to end regular season with 46 wins

The visiting Aston Rebels defeated the Johnstown Tomahawks last night 2 – 0 to conclude the 2016-17 regular season. The victory gave the Rebels 46 wins on the season, a 31% increase from the prior year for a team that went to the NAHL’s semi-finals.

The Rebels sat seven players plus their two regular goalies due to injuries. Head coach Joe Coombs rolled three lines and needed to play with two emergency goalies: Carter McPhail and Brooks DiMarino.

After a scoreless first period Aaron Maguyon put the Rebels on the board first with the eventual game winner. Michael Underwood dumped the puck deep inside the Tomahawks zone so the Rebels could make a line change. As a Johnstown defender retrieved the puck and sent a bounce pass off the boards it was intercepted right at the far side blueline by Carson Briere. Briere sent a feather pass up to Maguyon who went around a Tomahawks’ defenseman and took a shot that beat Vinnie Purpura short side to make it a 1 – 0 just 2:03 into the second period.

Briere, who had three points on the weekend, would play a prominent role in the Rebels second goal. After another block shot by a Rebels defenseman, the puck came out to Briere at his own nearside faceoff circle. Briere carried the puck all that way in the Johnstown zone and made a nifty pass from Purpura’s right to Adam Peck in the slot who redirected the puck passed Purpura for his sixth goal on the season with 5:03 remaining in the third period to make a 2 – 0 game.

The Rebels used stifling defense in front of McPhail to record the team’s seventeenth shutout on the season. McPhail turned aside all 19 shots he faced while Purpura stopped 23 of 25 shots. Click here for the box score.

The real season begins on Friday night when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knight visit IceWorks to begin a best of five, divisional semi-final series against the Rebels.

Photo Credit: The Rebels cannot thank Phil Andraychak enough for the great photos he has provided throughout the season while the Rebels are in Johnstown. Thank you Phil!

Rebels defeat Generals 9 – 1 to clinch East Division Championship

The Aston Rebels defeated the Northeast Generals 9 – 1 last night in Attleboro, MA. The win enabled the Rebels to clinch their second straight regular season East Division championship.

Gvido Jansons put the Rebels up 1 – 0 at the 7:18 mark of the first period. Andrew Bellant brought the puck into the Generals zone and made a cutback move to allow his line mates to set up. Bellant passed the puck down low to Dom Garcia in the near side corner. Garcia sent a centering pass to Jansons in the slot and the Rebels defenseman took a wrist shot that beat Northeast’s goalie Parker Swanson glove side for his nineteenth goal on the season.

Three minutes later Mareks Mitens, of all people, was called for tripping a Generals player behind the net putting Northeast on the power play. Bellant then was called for slashing giving the Generals a 5 on 3 for twenty seven seconds. As the Mitens penalty expired putting the Generals on a 5 on 4 the Rebels cleared the puck to center ice. Northeast dumped the puck behind the Rebels net where it was retrieved by Michael Underwood. The Rebels defenseman went to pass it behind the net to another Rebels defender but it was intercepted by Kohei Sato. Sato passed the puck to Joey Vingi in the Rebels farside corner. Vingi sent a pass to Christian Thomas in the slot and he redirected the puck past Mitens to tie the game at one with 7:13 remaining in the first period.

With 2:18 left in the opening period, Drew Blackmun won the draw deep inside the Generals near side faceoff circle. The puck went back to the point to Andrew Noel who took a shot that was saved by Swanson but Garcia picked up the rebound to give the Rebels a 2 – 1 lead. It was the Rebels captain’s fourteenth goal on the season.

The Rebels would break the game open in the second period by scoring four goals. First it was Aaron Maguyon at the 1:46 mark. Ginaluca Esteves brought the puck into the Generals zone along the near side boards. He went down low and circled around the net and passed the puck to Maguyon in the slot who put it through Swanson’s five hole to make a 3 – 1 game.

Brennan Kapcheck then would score his first of two goals in the game with a highlight goal. Andrew Hart had the puck behind the Generals zone and passed it to his right to Esteves in the near side corner. Esteves passed the puck to Kapcheck at the point. Kapcheck brought the puck along the boards and cut across the goal mouth. As he skated in front of Swanson Kapcheck put the puck through his own legs and then lifted it high passed Swanson into the top corner of the net to make it a 4 – 1 game with 13:36 left in the period.

Adam Peck would make it a 5 – 1 game.  After Peter Zhong battled for the puck along the near side boards he passed it to Kapcheck at the top of the point. The Rebels defenseman took a wrist shot that was deflected by Peck passed Swanson for his fifth goal on the season.

The Rebels then would receive additional goals from Bellant, Kapcheck, Dustin Manz and Auggie Moore. Jansons, Garcia, Bellant and Kapcheck would finish the night with three points each.

Mitens turned aside fourteen of fifteen shots while Swanson stopped 27 of 36 shots. Click here for the box score.

While the team has five tough regular season games remaining, securing first place guarantees the Rebels home ice advantage throughout the divisional series playoffs, which begin on Friday, April 14 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.

The Rebels last regular season home game will be held on Friday night against the New Jersey Titans. It is Fan Appreciation Night. All tickets are $5 dollars, and all fans will receive a FREE bag of Herr’s snack foods and a FREE player trading card set.

Perrone steals game for Titans in 3 – 2 win over Rebels

Every once in a while a goaltender is asked to steal a game for his team. Last night New Jersey’s Brandon Perrone did just that. The Titans’ netminder turned aside 32 of the 34 shot he faced while making several spectacular saves throughout to give his team a 3 – 2 win over the visiting Aston Rebels.

New Jersey would take the lead 9:50 into the opening period.  The Titans dumped the puck into the Rebels zone and it went behind goalie Mareks Mitens net and up along the near side boards. New Jersey’s Kyle Head picked it up and passed it back to the point to Ryan Wheeler who took a shot on net that was saved by Mitens. The rebound came out to Head. As Head was falling down he made a pass to Dylan Healey who beat Mitens on only the Titans second shot on goal of the game.

With time winding down in the first, the Rebels would knot the score at one. Andrew Bellant was battling a Titan defender behind the New Jersey net. Bellant tried to send a pass into the slot but it went back to the point to defenseman Brennan Kapcheck. Kapcheck brought the puck into the Titans faceoff circle and pass it to his left to Ryan Patrick. Patrick took a wrist shot that beat Perrone glove side with 2:02 remaining the period. It was Patrick’s fifth goal on the season.

All night New Jersey tried to spread the offensive zone by leaving a trailer up high. With 1:49 into the second period it worked. With the Rebels applying pressure in the Titans’ zone, Healy lobbed a high pass as Head was got behind the Rebels defense. Head picked up the bouncing puck and walked in all alone on Mitens and beat him through the five hole to put the Titans up 2 – 1.

The Titans would go up 3 – 1 on a power play goal in the middle period. First Kapcheck was called for slashing at 6:32. Twenty seconds later Dom Garcia was called for interference putting the Titans on a 5 on 3. With the faceoff inside the Rebels nearside circle, the puck went back to Anthony Cusanelli. He passed it to his left to Jordan Kaplan. After a couple of passes between Cusanelli and Kaplan, Kaplan passed the puck down low to Todd Goehring. Goehring sent a passed back to Kaplan at the point who took a one-timer that beat Mitens through a screen with 12:48 left in the second.

The Rebels would pull within one on a strange goal by Adam Peck. Auggie Moore brought the puck out of the Rebels zone along the farside boards. As he entered the Titans’ zone, he drop passed the puck to a trailing Peck. Peck would take a wide angle shot that was initially saved by Perrone. Jensen Zerban picked up the rebound and passed it behind the net to Peck. Peck had the wherewithal to bounce a shot off of the back of Perrone and into the net with 5:50 left in the second to make it a 3 – 2 game.

The Rebels essentially controlled the game and especially the third period but Perrone made key saves to keep his team in the lead. The Rebels had their chances to tie the game in the last period but Perrone made two spectacular windmill glove saves off of Garcia and Moore to thwart the Rebels comeback. The Rebels outshot the Titans 34 to 17. Click here for the box score.

It was the Rebels first back-to-back loss this season. After 40 games played, the Rebels lead in the division has been cut to two points over second place Johnstown who arrives next weekend at iceWorks. Howeveer, before the Rebels play them, they will travel to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to play the Knights at 12:30pm on Tuesday and then travel back to New Jersey for a 10:30am start on Wednesday morning.

Jansons hat trick leads Rebels to 3 – 0 victory. Mitens ties NAHL mark

Rebels defenseman Gvido Jansons scored a natural hat trick to lead the Rebels to a 3 – 0 victory over the visiting Kenai River Brown Bears. It also was the tenth shutout on the season for netminder Mareks Mitens which ties him for the most shutouts by a goalie in one season in the North American Hockey League.

The first period seemed to be more of a feeling out process between the two teams although it was physical throughout. While there were no goals in the first it did featured a fight between Rebels forward Adam Peck and Kenai’s Carter Wade. Wade was subsequently given a game misconduct for head contact on Rebels defenseman Andrew Noel.

It then became the Gvido Jansons show. With 8:26 left in the second period, Drew Blackmun won the draw deep inside the Brown Bears near side faceoff circle. The puck went to the boards where Dom Garcia was able to pry it loose and pass it to Jansons who was at the high slot. Jansons moved slightly to his left and took a wrist shot that beat Kenai’s goalie Robbie Goor high glove side to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead at the 8:13 mark of the middle stanza. It was Jansons’ eleventh goal on the season.

With 3:52 left in the second, Brown Bears forward Luke Radetic was called for unsportsmanlike conduct putting the Rebels on the power play. Jensen Zerban won the draw inside Kenai’s zone. Garcia retrieved the puck and passed it back to Brennan Kapcheck at the point. Kapcheck passed it over to Jansons at the top of the nearside faceoff circle and he took a one-timer that beat Goor through a screen to give the Rebels a 2 – 0 with 2:33 remaining in the second period.

Early in the third period, Kenai defenseman, and Willow Grove, PA native, Jordan Holmes was called for hooking. With time winding down on the power play, Zerban won the draw deep inside the Brown Bears zone. The puck went to his left to Andrew Bellant who passed the puck back to the point to Kapcheck. Kapcheck passed the puck over to Jansons who took another one-timer and beat Goor for his third goal of the evening to give the Rebels a 3 – 0 lead with 13:30 left in the game. It was Jansons thirteenth goal on the season. It was Jansons’ first hat trick in the NAHL. In addition to Jansons to three goals on the night, Garcia and Kapcheck had two points respectively.

Mitens turned aside all 20 shots he faced. The shutout now ties him with current University of Connecticut goalie Robby Nichols with ten on the season. Nichols set the record during the 2011-12 season with the Wenatchee Wild. It was the team’s twelfth shutout of the season. Click here for the box score.

The two teams will play again tonight at IceWorks at 7pm.

Rebels win 5 – 2 to sweep weekend series over Ice Dogs

Forward Evgeny Yakovlev had two points and goaltender Jack Leavy stopped 24 shots to lead the Rebels to a 5 – 2 win over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, which completed a weekend sweep over the defending North American Hockey League champions.

Like the traffic outside due to the inclement weather, the Rebels play in the first period wasn’t pretty. In fact, the team only had three shots on goal in the opening stanza. The Ice Dogs continued their neutral zone trap from the previous night and applied constant pressure throughout.

The Ice Dogs would score their first goal of the weekend at the 5:38 mark of the period. Fairbanks’ defenseman Dean Hewines brought the puck up the far side boards and passed it ahead to Nick Rogers. As Rogers was about to be hit at the boards he made a pass to his right across the goalmouth as Hunter Wendt got behind a Rebels defenseman and redirected Rogers pass into the net past Leavy to give the visitors a 1 – 0 lead.

Despite their lackluster play in the first, the Rebels were able to tie the game with nine minutes left in period. Carter Woolley intercepted an Ice Dogs pass at his own blue line and skated down the far side boards. He took a howitzer of a shot that hit the post and went behind Fairbanks goalie Joshua Sarlo. It was the Rebels first shot of the game.

While the Rebels play improved in the second period there was a lot of up and down play with minimal stoppages. With only thirty five seconds left in the period, Gianluca Esteves put the Rebels up 2 – 1 and the team never looked back. Esteves picked off a pass deep inside his own zone and passed it up to Aaron Maguyon. Maguyon skated the puck into the neutral zone and sent a bounce pass off the near side boards where it was picked up by Yakovlev. Yakovlev carried the puck inside the Fairbanks zone. He brought it out in front of the net and made a shot that was saved by Sarlo but the rebound came out to Esteves who put it past the Ice Dogs netminder for his eleventh goal of the season.

The Rebels would go up 3 – 1 at 2:55 of the third period. Ryan Solomon was at his own far side face off circle and sent a long pass up to Yakovlev. Yakovlev brought the puck behind the Ice Dogs net where he was promptly triple teamed. The puck was ultimately was picked up by an Ice Dogs’ defenseman. Drew Blackmun intercepted the breakout pass and sent the puck to Andrew Bellant. Bellant took a wrist shot that was saved by Sarlo but Yakovlev picked up the rebound and put the in the net for his eighth goal on the season.

Just like he did on Friday night, Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart pulled his goalie left with three minutes remaining in the game for the extra attacker. With the puck at the top of the far side point, Esteves slid across and blocked a shot from an Ice Dogs point man. The puck went back into the neutral zone where Ryan Patrick out muscled a Fairbanks’ defender for the puck and put it into the empty net for a 4 – 1 Rebels lead with a minute and seventeen seconds remaining.

The game wasn’t over.

The Ice Dogs would make it interesting sixteen seconds later. Immediately following the face off, the puck went deep inside the Rebels zone where it was picked up by Solomon. Solomon, who leads the NAHL with the best plus/minus ratio, went to clear the puck. It was intercepted by Nolan Schaeffer at the top of the circle. Schaeffer walked in on Leavy and but a backhanded shot past the Rebels goalie to make it a 4 – 2 game.

With Fairbanks applying pressure, Adam Peck would put the game out of reach with a minute remaining by scoring an empty net goal to give the Rebels a 5 – 2 lead.

In addition to Yakovlev, Bellant had a two point game. Leavy, who made several key saves throughout, turned aside 24 of 26 shots while Sarlo saved 16 of 19 shots. Click here for the box score.

The Rebels now will travel to New Jersey on Wednesday for a 7:45pm game against the Titans.

Rebels at the midway point: sitting atop the NAHL

The Rebels return to the ice on New Year’s Day to begin preparing for the second half of the season. The team will play a four game home stand against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Kenai River Brown Bears. And then the schedule works against them as they will play eighteen of their next 26 games on the road, including a two week trip to Alaska in mid-January. While the task will be daunting, the Rebels, at the moment, are sitting pretty after the first 30 games of the year: possessing the best record in the North American Hockey League.

This time last year at the break the Rebels had a 19-11 record for 38 eight points and were in second place. This year the Rebels have a 24-5-1 record for 49 points, which is tops in the NAHL. The team has scored 112 goals which are third most in the league while they have allowed the least: 51. They are currently in first place in the East Division five points ahead of the New Jersey Titans (although the Titans have played three more games).

Before the season began head coach Joe Coombs and new assistant coach Nick Peruzzi (Josh Brown left to become the head coach of Arizona State University’s ACHA team), felt confident in its returning players. After all, the team did have ten players (including Affiliate Player Jensen Zerban) returning from last year’s division championship team. They felt the leadership would be there with Dom Garcia and Drew Blackmun, and they felt returning blueliners Brennan Kapcheck, Gvido Jansons, Ryan Solomon and Michael Underwood would be the team’s anchor.

Coombs, Peruzzi and the scouting department took a calculated change in the makeup from last year’s team: it became younger and drastically faster. The team added Gianluca Esteves, Dustin Manz, Aaron Maguyon, Adam Peck, Brendan Cherwalk, Joey Abel, Peter Zhong, Shane McMahan, Andreas Maier, Ryan Patrick and others to the front line while it added Justin Smith, Kolby Vegara, Martino Picariello and Reid Miller (who is the youngest on the team) to the backend.

The question for the team, however, was between the pipes. Trevor Micucci was traded to the Minnesota Wilderness while Darion Hanson went to the United States Hockey League. As the team began the season sweeping the Northeast Generals, the picture in the nets became very clear at the league showcase in Blaine, MN: welcome Mareks Mitens.

Mitens, 18, from Ventspils, Latvia, probably has had one of the best starts as a goalie in the history of the NAHL. Currently playing for Lativa’s World Junior team (along with Jansons), Mitens leads almost every positive goalie statistic in the league: most wins (18), best goals against average (1.32), save percentage (.945) and most shutouts (8). He is tied for first with most games played (22) and second in minutes played (1,270). He has been the backbone of the team’s success. He was the league’s goaltender of the month for October and November and runner up in September.

The team had a very successful showcase going 3 – 1 with their lone loss against the Bismarck Bobcats (in which the team started poorly and were down 3 to 1 before ultimately losing 5 – 3). They beat current Midwest division leader Janesville Jets 4 – 0 (Mitens first shutout of the season) in the first game. Shane McMahan (the team’s first round draft pick) scored in overtime to beat the Minnesota Magicians, and then Miten’s earned his second shutout as the Rebels defeated the Wichita Falls Wildcast 3 – 0.

Since the Showcase, the Rebels, so far, have never looked back despite losing two key players: Shane McMahan (he went back to play in the USHL) and Andreas Maier (health reasons – two concussions). However, the team has added veteran defenseman Andrew Noel and forward Auggie Moore to the mix.

Andrew Bellant leads the team in points with 29 (16 goals and 13 assists). He is the team’s leading goal scorer as well. Garcia is second on the team with 28 points (9 goals and 19 assists) while Esteves has 27 points (9 goals and 18 assists). Kapcheck and Jansons each have 26 points and are tied for first in the league for most points by defensemen. Blackmun and Maguyon have 22 points while Evgeny Yakovlev has 20 points.

Bellant leads the team in penalty minutes with 97 while Solomon has the best +/- percentage of 25.  The Rebels are eighth in the league on the power play converting 22% of their chances into goals while they are second in the league on the penalty kill preventing their opponent from scoring 85.4% of the time.

Jack Leavy, Mitens goalie partner, has played well when called upon. He has appeared in seven games and has a 5-1-1 record with a 2.41 goals against average and .909 save percentage with one shutout.

After their four home games in the beginning of January, the team will travel to Alaska for four games, then return home but play away games divisional opponents. In fact, after their four games in the beginning of the month, the Rebels only play eight home games for the rest of the regular season. The Rebels have a 6 – 0 record against the Generals; they are 3 – 1 against the Johnstown Tomahawks, 8-2 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and 4 – 2 against the New Jersey Titans.

With very strong divisional opponents, the Rebels have their work cut out for them in order to repeat as East Division champions. However, Coombs is constantly stressing to the team one game at a time and don’t look back. Hopefully, the team will repeat last year’s team by advancing to the league’s final four but having a different outcome: winning the Robertson Cup.

Knights’ and Hanks top Rebels 3 – 1 to split weekend series

Goaltender Colt Hanks turned aside 45 shots last night as he and his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights’ teammates defeated the Rebels 3 – 1 at the Revolution Ice Centre giving the teams a split during their weekend series.

The Rebels picked up where they left off on in Friday night’s game by pressuring the Knights throughout the entire game, particularly in the first and third periods. However, Hanks played exceptionally well, making several key saves to keep the Rebels off the board.

Despite being outshot 16 – 8 after the first period and no score, the Knights were still in the game heading into the second period because of Hanks. WBS’ got on the board first at the 5:43 mark of the second period. Keenan Sabatini was deep in his zone and he banked the puck high off the glass into the neutral zone where it was picked up by Joey Kubachka. Kubachka brought the puck deep into the Rebels zone and made a nice seam pass to a wide open Khristian Acosta who redirected the shot passed Mareks Mitens for his eighth goal of the season.

The Knights would take a 2 – 0 lead at the 12:09 mark of the middle period. After the Knights won the faceoff deep inside their own zone, the puck came back to defenseman Dorian Dawson. Dawson passed the puck around the boards to the top of the faceoff circle to Reed Robinson. Robinson made a nice saucer pass to a breaking Andrew Jackson who skated into the Rebels zone and took a wrist shot that beat Mitens high short side for his fifth goal of the season.

The Rebels would cut the deficit in half with five minutes remaining in the period. Joey Abel won the drawl deep inside the Knights zone. The puck was picked up by Carter Woolley by the boards and he made a centering pass to Adam Peck who beat Hanks on a backhander for this second goal of the season.

The Rebels were unrelenting in the third only to be denied by Hanks. With timing winding down, head coach Joe Coombs pulled Mitens for the extra attacker. Reed Robinson intercepted a pass at his own blueline and skated into the Rebels zone and hit the open net to finish the scoring at 3 – 1. It was only the second time out of ten chances the Knights have defeated the Rebels.

Mitens turned aside 26 of the 28 shots while Hanks stopped 45 of 46. Click here for the box score.

The Rebels will finish this weekend at home playing the New Jersey Titans at 5pm today.