2011-12 Season in Review: November
Like most teams in the American Hockey League in any given season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins went through their ups and downs during the course of the 2011-12 campaign. The peaks for the Penguins were definitely higher than valleys as they finished second in the East Division and skated to the fourth-best record in the league. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at the highs and lows for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as we break down the season month-by-month. If you missed October, check it out here
A slow start to the season gave way to a four-game winning streak that saw the Penguins end October with a 5-2-1-1 record. That success carried over into November, but Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would hit some bumps in the road through the last half of the month.
Best Win – 3-2 W at Binghamton – 11/26/11
File this win under “Most Needed” for the month of November. The Penguins followed a stretch of nine wins in ten games with a five-game winless streak before traveling to face the Senators. What ensued was another blue-collar road win that helped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton get back on track.
The Senators had played the Penguins tough in their previous three meetings and this one would be no exception. Things looked good early when Bryan Lerg found the back of net five minutes into the game, but David Dziurzynski evened the score less than three minutes later.
Colin McDonald put the Pens back in front, 2-1, at 13:39 of the first and that score would hold until the third period. There, Binghamton received a power play goal from Josh Godfrey at 3:41 to tie the score once again and the game seemed destined for overtime.
That was until Brandon DeFazio chipped in the deciding tally with 3:07 remaining in the contest. Scott Munroe continued his early season dominance of the Senators with 28 saves on the night.
Toughest Loss – 7-5 L vs. Syracuse – 11/23/11
This one was seemingly over before it even got started. With Munroe getting his fifth start of the season, the Crunch scored on their first three shots of the game to chase the Penguins goaltender. Brad Thiessen did not fare much better in relief as Syracuse went on to establish a 5-0 cushion early in the second before Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finally got on the board.
After Alexander Picard and Nick Deschamps quickly traded goals, the Penguins potted three straight in the final minutes of the second period to amazingly find themselves within striking distance, 6-4, going into the intermission.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton outshot Syracuse 19-5 in the final frame and 54-18 overall, but Peter Holland put the match out of reach with a power play marker midway through the third. Rarely do you hear that a goalie let up five goals and had a great game, but that was the case for Iiro Tarkki, as he withstood the Penguins onslaught and made 49 saves to help his team hold on for the win.
Defining Game – 5-4 OTW at Hershey – 11/11/11
This isn’t to pick on the Penguins’ biggest rival during the course of this series, as it was more the significance of this victory for the team as opposed to whom it came against. Still, it was a splendid game full of drama and overtime heroics as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton picked up the win over Hershey.
The Penguins entered the contest having won not only seven in a row, but also opened the season with seven straight road wins. Hershey had a chance to pull into a tie for first place in the East Division with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
A Colin McDonald goal at 8:54 of the third period had the Penguins clinging to a 4-3 lead, but the Bears would demonstrate their magic on the man-advantage when Mattias Sjogren knotted things up with just 2:24 left in regulation.
Rookie defenseman Simon Despres ended the game 57 seconds into overtime with his third goal of the season – all of which had been game-winners.
It was definitely a meeting worth of the rivalry as each team twice battled back to tie the score and neither held a lead of more than one goal. The victory was the eighth consecutive on the road and overall for the Penguins and kept them in first place. The cherry on top Ben Street notching four assists to help Wilkes-Barre/Scranton make it nine wins in a row at GIANT Center versus Hershey.
MVP of the Month – Ben Street
Street worked through an early-season injury to find his scoring stride in November. The former ECHL Rookie of the Year compiled six goals and nine assists for 15 points in 13 games and was named AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 13, erupting for eight points (2g-6a) and a plus-5 rating, in three games.