Rebels Do Enough In Shutout

Coach Says Team Must Be Better Tonight

Jamestown’s Antonio Venuto (23) scores the Rebels’ first goal past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Samuel Vyletelka (1) during Friday’s NAHL game at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

The result and every statistical category was in the Jamestown Rebels’ favor following their Friday night tilt with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights at Northwest Arena.

You couldn’t tell that from head coach Joe Coombs’ demeanor in the hallway outside the Rebels’ locker room just minutes after the final horn.

Antonio Venuto scored an unassisted goal just over three minutes into the game before Alex Frye and Noah Finstrom added power-play tallies as second-place Jamestown shut out the Knights, 3-0, to remain firmly entrenched between Johnstown and New Jersey in the North American Hockey League’s East Division standings.

“I really thought the last six weeks before Christmas we were a really, really good hockey team and we played like it,” said Coombs, whose team split with the Knights last weekend in western Pennsylvania. “I understand it’s a long season and January can be a tough month on teams. It has certainly started out like that for us.”

Goaltender Ryan Keane didn’t need to do much in the opening two periods, but he stole the show for the Rebels in the final 20 minutes, turning aside all eight shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season.

Jamestown’s Lewis Crosby (18) tries to put the puck past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Samuel Vyletelka as a pair of Knights defenders work to keep him away from the puck during Friday’s NAHL game at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

“They hit five or six posts. That’s a sign of a goaltender playing his position well because there is nothing to shoot at,” Coombs said of Keane. “I thought we left him hanging out to dry in the third period. There was no urgency to get better.”

Fifth-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton struggled to get going early and Venuto took advantage with 16:51 remaining when he stripped the Knights’ William Otwell of the puck just inside the blue line, went in alone on goaltender Samuel Vyletelka, dragged the puck through the crease and slid it into the far side of the goal for his ninth goal of the season.

Jamestown struck again in the final minute of the period with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Davis Pennington in the penalty box for the second time in the period, this time for elbowing. Newcomer Eric Olson, added to the roster earlier Friday, carried the puck into the Knights’ zone on the rush and dished it to Colin Schmidt, who slid it through the crease to a waiting Alex Frye, who tapped in his 19th goal of the season.

“The first one was a power-play goal, but it was very much a broken play,” Coombs said. “Schmidt made a nice play on it.”

The Rebels’ power play wasn’t done and struck again early in the second period with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Zak Currie in the penalty box for slashing. Augustine Moore passed the puck to Schmidt, who fed Noah Finstrom along the goal line. With no Knights player really pressuring him, Finstrom drove the net and beat Vyletelka to the far post for his sixth goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.

“Finstrom attacked the net like he should and it found a home,” Coombs said. “(The power play) has to get us momentum.”

Jamestown had a chance to put the game away just over two minutes later as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Luke Robinson was sent to the penalty box for five minutes after making head contact with a Rebels player. The hosts were unable to take advantage as the Knights killed off the entire advantage and began to turn the tide.

“I thought the minute they killed that five-minute penalty, they really took the game over,” Coombs said.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton carried the play for much of the third period with its best chance to score coming with 4:39 remaining as Pennington pinched in from his point position and was fed the puck in the slot, but Keane turned him away to preserve his shutout.

“Our process was way better before Christmas,” Coombs said. “We have some guys that are still on vacation. Either it changes or we change it.”

The Knights will look to split the weekend series tonight back at Northwest Arena with another 7:05 puck drop.

“We’ve got a ways to go. I know we won. We have to be happy with the two points and continue to grow, but we have to manage the puck better. Defensively we have to be better. We have to take the body. We are wanting the game to be easy,” Coombs said. “That team should’ve won two last weekend. They continued to work tonight. If we don’t find a better effort and some togetherness, they’ll be walking out of here (today) with two points.”