By Patrick Ramsdale / USPHL.com
Seed: Mid-Atlantic Division #2
Seeding Round Schedule
All games at Utica University Nexus Center, Utica, N.Y.
Day 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Fort Wayne Spacemen, 12:30 p.m. EST
Day 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Hudson Havoc, 1:30 p.m. EST
Remaining schedule determined by results of seeding round
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is making is second consecutive trip to the USPHL National Championships after a hard-fought series with the Utica Jr. Comets.
The Knights dispatched the Elmira Jr. Enforcers in the first round of the Mid-Atlantic playoffs before taking on Utica. Wilkes-Barre dropped game one of the series 5-2, before turning around two convincing victories over the Jr. Comets to win the series.
Knights head coach Dom Manochio believed the Utica series to be vital to his team heading into Nationals.
“It was a hard-fought series,” Manochio said. “Utica pushed our group. We feel battle tested and ready to go. Our team depth was showcased in the three-game series.”
The Mid-Atlantic playoffs exposed the USPHL to the Knights depth, as 19 players found the scoresheet across five games.
“It was a full team effort that got us through our final series vs Utica,” said Manochio. “With them hosting nationals, we knew we were going to get their very best, and every player on our roster got a chance to prove themselves in the three-game set.“
The WBS Knights featured some of the Mid-Atlantic Division’s top scorers, including 73-point man Justin Ryan. Hunter Parker scored 53 points on the season (giving him an even 100 for his career), but was lost to injury in their first playoff game against Elmira. Aidan Darlington and Ethan Zupanc, who both crested the 40-point mark during the season, stepped up in Parker’s absence to lead the way in playoff scoring with nine points and six points, respectively, over five games. Geo’Marco Grano, Ryan and veteran blueliner Drake Reid (65 points in 79 regular season games) each had five points.
Goaltenders Luke Remenyi (1.75, fourth) and Tade Carman (2.01, 10th) were top 10 goaltenders in goals against average and their save percentages of .938 for Carman and .934 for Remenyi set the Knights as the only Premier team with Top 10 goaltenders in both categories.
Manochio believes the Mid-Atlantic to be one of the toughest divisions in the USPHL and thinks that has prepared his team for the pace of the postseason, but he also knows that teams will step up their games at Nationals.
“We expect the pace and skill to be similar to what we see often in the very tough Mid-Atlantic division,” Manochio said. “With that being said, we know everyone is going to be raising their compete and effort levels, and we will be prepared.”
With the success the team has had this season, Manochio does expect to make any drastic changes before Utica.
“As we prepare for Nationals, we will be putting a big emphasis on the finite details within the game,” said Manochio. “If we were able to win all of our battles, we will have team success.”
Manochio also expressed what it means for a team of Wilkes-Barre’s caliber to make Nationals.
“For our team, making it to this point was an expectation. We are coming to Utica to bring home a title!”