#USPHLNationals Premier Team Preview: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


They’re batting a thousand! Since the 2021 inception of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights USPHL junior organization, both their USPHL Premier and USPHL Elite teams have been able to qualify for the National Championships at each level. 

“It’s a great feeling, and we hope that it keeps going for many more years,” said Premier Knights Head Coach Eric Brule.

The Knights, who won the Premier regular season title in their inaugural season, are hoping that last year’s Knights Elite team trip to the Elite National Championship is only the beginning of a good run for the Knights organization in the final tournament of the year. It takes a lot to make that work, and the Knights Premier team was working over the roughly 10-day break between games to play it smart.

“It’s a mix of everything from complete rest to a hard skate,” added Brule. 

The Elmira Impact gave the Knights a little bit of a hard skate early on in their series. After the Knights had earlier dispatched the Jersey Hitmen, they faced an Impact team that had won on the road against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders in two close games. They got two more close ones against the Knights, who won 3-2 in overtime in two games to advance to Nationals. An even better sign for the Knights is they came back from 1-0 and 2-0 deficits in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Adversity handled, check. 

“We faced a solid Elmira team in the second round. We stuck to our game plan and with a little patience it paid off,” Brule said.

So far in the postseason, Landon Bechtolt has seven points to lead the team over their four games. Teito Ishigaki and regular season leading scorer Zackary Chouinard each had six points as well. Ishigaki and fellow Japanese countryman Koichiro Matsuduraira scored the OT winners in Games 2 and 1, respectively. 

Iannico Amaranto has been in net for every minute of Knights playoff hockey (247 total), and he’s stopped 85 of 93 for a .914 save percentage. 

During the regular season, the Knights only faced the Atlantic Division (and USPHL Premier overall) regular season champion Connecticut Jr. Rangers twice, falling 5-3 in both games. They defeated the Islanders Hockey Club at the IHC Showcase in November, and in their trip to the USPHL Tampa Showcase in January, WBS fell to the Florida Eels in a shootout and to the Charlotte Rush in regulation. 

Brule is expecting that Connecticut will fare very well at Nationals, and could be the team to beat. 

“We haven’t played all the top teams this season but based on the opponents we have faced this season CJR has shown a very strong and consistent high level of play,” said Brule.