Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season in Review: October
by Jen Dobias
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took the ice in 2012-13 for their 14th season of play and looking to come out on top of the rough and tumble East Division. With the NHL lockout providing the backdrop for the first half of the season, the Penguins seemed to find their stride over the final two months of the regular season en route to their 11th consecutive Calder Cup Playoff appearance. Over the next few weeks, we will recap Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s season, month-by-month.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins entered the season after a summer that saw the assembly of an impressive roster, bolstered by free-agent acquisitions such as Trevor Smith and Dylan Reese and Pittsburgh draft picks, including 2010 first-rounder Beau Bennett. The work stoppage in the NHL would force Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to put expectations on hold as all 30 AHL teams were suddenly forced to navigate a new hockey landscape.
The story of opening month would prove to be slow starts, not only in October, but also in the games themselves as the Penguins posted a record of 2-5-0-0.
That would not be the case in the season opener against Binghamton on Oct. 13 as the Penguins peppered Senators goaltender Robin Lehner with 26 shots through the first two periods alone. Even though Smith put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on the board at 13:08 of the second period, Binghamton scored twice in the span of three minutes in the third to steal a 2-1 win. Lehner finished with 35 saves and earned the first star of the game.
The Penguins would quickly get into the meat of their schedule, beginning on Oct. 19 with the first of two three-game weekends.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s inability to keep the opposition off the board in the opening period would prove fateful as the team’s record to start the season stretched to 0-4-0-0. In the first game of the weekend at Springfield, the Penguins allowed two goals in the first period, but Joe Morrow and Philippe Dupuis were able to capitalize on power plays in the third to tie the game, 2-2.
The Falcons regrouped and went ahead for good as Cam Atkinson gave Springfield the lead at 11:10 and Ryan Johansen added an insurance tally shortly thereafter to bring the score to 4-2.
The Penguins looked to find some success the following night in the home opener against Bridgeport, but instead spotted the Sound Tigers two first-period goals before falling by a score of 3-2. The next day, the story was much the same as Syracuse Crunch scored three unanswered in the first for an eventual 3-1 victory.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would kick off its second three-in-three the very next weekend to a much different tune.
The squad earned their first win of 2012-13 at home on Oct. 26 against the Rochester Americans. A 2-2 deadlock after two periods gave way to a two-goal cushion for the Penguins on goals by Eric Tangradi and Brian Gibbons.
The Americans would not go away quietly, mounting an amazing comeback on the strength of a pair of extra-attacker goals in the last two minutes of the game. At 18:52, Kevin Porter drew Rochester within one and, less than a minute later, Mark Mancari tied the game at four to send it into overtime.
The Penguins came out strong in the extra frame, limiting Rochester to one shot while taking five of their own. With just 14 seconds left in the extra period, Simon Despres hit Paul Thompson with a breakaway pass that saw the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward slip a backhander past Rochester goalie David Leggio.
Thompson’s game-winner was the cherry on top of his three-point night (2g-1a) and the Penguins’ first win of the year.
The Penguins carried the momentum from this dramatic win into their game at Syracuse. Though Cory Conacher drew first blood for the Crunch only 38 seconds into the game, Tangradi netted the equalizer 14:10 into the first period and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would control play the rest of the match.
In the second frame, Riley Holzapfel and Beau Bennett both scored to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead. With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Tangradi added an empty netter, his second goal of the game, to make it 4-1.
Jeff Zatkoff had a strong game in net, turning aside 34-of-35 shots. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was also perfect on the penalty kill, killing off seven Syracuse power plays, including five in the third period alone.
Right after their strong performance in Syracuse, the Penguins bussed to Hershey to play the rival Bears. After a scoreless first period, Hershey jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second. After Adam Payerl netted his first pro goal to draw the Penguins within a one late in the period, the Bears extended their lead to 3-1 on Ryan Stoa’s tally just 4:39 into the third. Tangradi’s marker during a late man-advantage completed the scoring as the Penguins were defeated, 3-2.
In the first month of his pro career, Bennett was as good as advertised as he led the Penguins with six points (1g-5a) in seven games. Tangradi topped all goal scorers on the team with five.
After grinding through a difficult October, the Penguins hit their stride in November – enjoying one of the most successful stretches of the season and vaulting themselves back among the conference leaders.
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