BY KENNY DURLING
The Penguins head back to the ice for their first mid-week game of the year this Wednesday against one of their division rivals, the Syracuse Crunch.
The Penguins and Crunch have met once this year, October 13 at Syracuse, where the Penguins had an unbelievable five goal third period to pull out a 6-3, come-from-behind victory.
The game was highlighted by a two goal performance by the Penguins captain, Tom Kostopoulos, who scored the first goal of the night and the game tying goal for the Penguins in the third. Brendan Mikkelson was a key factor as well, posted two assists on the night, including a helper on the game-tying goal.
Mikkelson has been an important player for the Penguins so far this year, especially when it comes to overtime. The native of Regina, Saskatchewan has just two goals this year, but he could not have picked a better time to score them, as both came in overtime.
The first one came in a 4-3 overtime victory against the Manchester Monarchs on October 20, where he scored just 22 seconds into the extra frame. His most recent overtime goal came during this past Friday’s thriller against the Hershey Bears, where he found the back of the net with just 25 seconds remaining.
When Mikkelson was asked about his clutch goals he responded “I don’t know what to say, I don’t score many goals to begin with so to get two winners like that it’s big. It’s big for our team and those are four big points that our group has picked up so far.”
Going into tomorrow’s game against the Crunch, Mikkelson and the Penguins will have their work cut out for them. The Pens will be looking to stop forward Nikkita Kucherov any way they can, as the rookie sensation is the AHL’s leader in points (20) and goals (11). The Crunch are also coming in hot has they have won five of their last six games.
“It’s always going to be a challenge, not just for your defensemen but for your whole team,” said head coach John Hynes. “Because you are facing some really high end, NHL caliber offensive players. It’s not just going to be the D [defense], I think all of us as a group have to find a way to be able to stop them.”
When reminded about the first meeting between the clubs this season, and the big third period output, Mikkelson remarked, “They are going to remember that. That’s one thing about that group, they are a prideful group and they are going to come back. They are going to be well prepared and they are hot right now too. So that confidence, along with us having beaten them in their barn last time, it’s going to be a tough match tomorrow.”
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