BY BRIAN COE
It didn’t take Brian Gibbons long to make an impression on Penguins fans. The speedy forward tallied his first professional goal in his first game back on October 8, 2011, a shorthanded score to boot.
He went on to hit the 30 point mark in each of his first two seasons with the Penguins – solid numbers to be sure, but far from the point-per-game production he put up during his four seasons at Boston College.
This year might be a different story.
After just six games, the 25-year old Gibbons has posted 11 points (4+7), placing him third among the American Hockey League’s scoring leaders going into this week’s action, and his plus-9 rating has him atop of the league standings.
So is this scoring splurge a return to normality for the third-year pro?
“I don’t know if I’d say it’s normal. It definitely feels good,” said Gibbons. “You work hard all summer and through training camp, so it feels good to get rewarded individually. But more importantly the team is doing really well.
“I try not to think about it too much or worry about it. Just go out every day, practice, work hard and that carries over to the games.”
Gibbons has recorded multiple points in four of the Penguins’ six contests so far this season, including his first career multi-goal game and a career-best four points (2+2) in a 4-3 overtime victory against the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday afternoon.
“He’s a very talented player. The end results for him are on the scoreboard and he’s playing real well,” said head coach John Hynes. “But the reason why those are coming is because he’s been very consistent in his game and his work habits.”
Skating, stick-handling and shooting are important parts of any hockey player’s game. Gibbons has all of those skills, but might not have put them all together at the same time in the past according to Hynes.
That appears to have changed this season.
“He’s the perfect example of a guy who has great hockey sense, he’s got all the ability, all of the skill, but now his mind’s right…Now you’re seeing the total package,” Hynes stated. “He had shown signs of it for a couple of years, of what he can do and what he has the potential to do.
“Now he’s playing consistently competitive, and when he’s getting scoring chances he’s more on task. He has a lot of drive in his game, and with that type of speed he’s able to create a lot of offensive chances.”
That speed has translated to some highlight reel goals already this season. During the team’s home opener against Hershey on October 12, Gibbons corralled a loose puck on the far boards, raced past the Bears defense, dropped a pass to Jayson Megna who fed the puck right back to Gibbons for a tip in goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Later in the same game the speedster picked off a Hershey pass at his own blue line, blew past two Bears defenders, then dropped a pass to Chris Conner who backhanded home the game-winner.
Gibbons’ two goals in Manchester were helpful as well, but the pass he fed Brendan Mikkelson with for the game-winning goal might have been his best play of the day.
Either way, whether scoring goals or setting them up, Gibbons appears to be enjoying the team’s early season success.
“You like winning. The team has more fun when you win,” he said. “That’s the main focus. As long as we’re winning and we’re having fun, that’s why you play the game.”
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