PENGUINS OPEN PRESEASON WITH 5-1 LOSS TO BEARS

BOXSCORE

 

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ introduction to the exhibition schedule ended in a 5-1 loss to the Hershey Bears at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Wednesday night.

Tom Mele scored Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s lone goal of the contest late in regulation, spoiling a shutout bid by Bears goaltender Parker Milner.

Hershey cashed in on an early power play to go up 1-0 with a Dustin Gazley goal at the 2:50 mark of the first period.

The Bears extended their lead to 2-0 after Andrew Cherniwchan threw the puck at the Penguins’ net and Hampus Gustafsson knocked in the rebound. Gustafsson’s tally came at 7:18 of the middle frame.

Jeremy Langlois was left unattended atop the Penguins’ crease and slammed a one-timer across the goal line, making it 3-0 Bears at with 3:20 left in the second period. Gazley’s second of the night expanded the scored to 4-0 shortly thereafter.

The Bears went up 5-0 in the third period on another power play goal from Stephen Collins before Mele finally solved Milner with 3:16 remaining in regulation. Mele’s may have put the Penguins on the board, but they never pulled any closer to the Bears.

Milner may not have earned the clean sheet, but he registered 17 saves in the win. Colin Stevens stopped 18 of the 22 shots he faced in net for the Penguins during the first and second periods. Will King denied the Bears on eight of their nine bids in the third.

The Penguins next preseason game is at home on Friday, Sept. 29 when they take on the newly minted Binghamton Devils. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opens up the regular season on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Charlotte Checkers. Individual tickets for all Penguins home games are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Season ticket packages for the 19th season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

FASTER, SMARTER GARDINER RETURNS TO PENGUINS


Reid Gardiner was always a standout in the Western Hockey League. Then he became a standout at the Penguins’ rookie tournament in London, Ontario last summer. Shortly thereafter, he became a standout at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton training camp. Gardiner turned a ton a success in a short period of time into an American Hockey League contract with the Penguins last year, and was expected to be a rookie standout for the eventual Kirkpatrick Trophy winners.

When the season started though, Gardiner found that he wasn’t the same beast he was in the WHL. He didn’t have the same open spaces he found in London. The confidence he gained at training camp slowly waned.

Despite showcasing his jaw-dropping shot and pure scoring ability on occasion with the Penguins in 23 games, he decided it would suit him better to utilize his final year of eligibility and return to juniors. The Penguins obliged and returned him to the WHL where he had a unique career opportunity. Gardiner suited up alongside his younger brother, Erik.

“It was special for me and my family,” Reid said. “It was lots of fun, [Erik] being a young guy on the team and me wanting to teach him a few things especially after my pro experience in Wilkes-Barre. I thought we had moments where we maybe didn’t like each other so much, but most of the time we got a long. That’s brother stuff, I guess. I loved every second of it.”

After taking a few games to re-acclimate to a more wide-open style of hockey played at the junior level, Gardiner found his scoring touch again with the Kelowna Rockets. He posted 37 points (18G-19A) in 28 games before unloading a whopping 15 playoff goals and 28 playoff points in only 17 contests during the WHL postseason.

Once the offseason rolled around, Gardiner made the decision to turn pro once again. While there were presumably many suitors for his services after the offensive flair he showed in Kelowna, one team made the most sense: the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Penguins’ upcoming training camp will serve as the first chapter in Gardiner’s second term with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and he’s determined to show them that he’s better than he was when they allowed him to return to juniors and play alongside his younger brother.

“I want to show management and coaches and the like that I’ve made huge strides over the summer,” Gardiner said. “I am a better player. Over first few weeks of the season, maybe my role gets more defined, but right now I’m just trying to put my best foot forward.”

What’s the biggest difference between last year and the Gardiner 2.0 model he’s been advertising? He says he more mature and knows what to expect from the pro style now, and he catered his training around those traits.

“I think I can maybe hang onto the puck for a half a second longer and keep my head up to make a play,” he said. “I know the pro game now. There won’t be as much as a learning curve. I like to think my skating has improved, too. So people can expect to see a faster player, and hopefully more points come from that.”

The Penguins coaching staff is expecting more points to come from Gardiner, too. At the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York earlier this month, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli discussed Gardiner’s return to the black and gold and what he thinks the stocky sniper can accomplish.

“We want him shooting the puck,” Donatelli said. “[Gardiner] is a player with a really nice shot, he’s a goal scorer. Hopefully, he learned from his pro experience with is last year and can use that to attack the play more. If he’s shooting, he’s always going to be dangerous.”

The danger of Gardiner 2.0 will be unleashed starting this weekend at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PENGUINS REVEAL 2017 TRAINING CAMP ROSTER & SCHEDULE

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today the schedule and roster for their 2017 training camp. Players will report to camp on Saturday, Sept. 23 and begin on-ice sessions the following day at 10:30 a.m. at the Toyota SportsPlex at Coal Street.

The Penguins’ initial training camp roster consists of 28 players: 17 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies.

Player Pos. Height Weight Birthday (Age) Birthplace
BOURBONNAIS, Riley C L 5’11” 195 8/8/1993 (24) Rochester, NY
BURTON, Jarrett C L 6’0″ 190 12/30/90 (26) Echo Bay, ON
BROWN, Cam C L 5’7″ 156 3/25/1993 (24) Natick, MA
FEJES, Hunter LW L 6’1″ 192 5/31/1994 (23) Anchorage, AK
FICK, Danny D R 6’0” 200 8/21/1991 (26) Marine on Saint Croix, MN
GARDINER, Reid RW R 5’11” 180 1/19/1996 (21) Humboldt, SK
HAGGERTY, Ryan RW R 6’0” 200 3/4/1993 (24) Stamford, CT
JOSEPHS, Troy C L 6’0″ 194 5/9/1994 (23) Whitby, ON
KOSTOPOULOS, Tom RW R 6’0” 197 1/24/1979 (38) Mississauga, ON
LEAVENS, Daniel C R 6’2″ 200 6/26/1993 (24) Toronto, ON
McGRATH, Pat RW R 5’10” 200 3/17/1993 (24) Wilkes-Barre, PA
MELE, Tom LW L 6’0″ 176 2/23/1986 (31) Bronx, NY
MILAN, Dan D L 6’3” 190 4/14/1992 (25) Detroit, MI
O’DONNELL, Shawn RW R 6’1″ 192 5/28/1988 (29) Halifax, NS
PARIZEK, Justin RW R 6’1″ 200 6/5/1992 (25) Lakeville, MN
PETGRAVE, Matt D L 6’2” 195 1/29/1992 (25) Brampton, ON
QUINNEY, Gage C L 5’11” 190 7/29/1995 (22) Las Vegas, NV
RYAN, Kenny RW R 6’0″ 209 7/10/1991 (26) Franklin, MI
SCHULZE, Kevin D L 5’10” 174 4/29/1993 (24) White Bear Lake, MN
SKUDALSKI, Craig D L 6’6” 215 5/25/1995 (22) Wyoming, PA
SORKIN, Nick LW L 6’3″ 209 6/3/1991 (26) Rockville, MD
SPINOZZI, Kevin D L 6’2” 200 5/23/1996 (21) Granby, QC
TAYLOR, Jeff D R 6’0” 185 4/13/1994 (23) Clifton Park, NY
WYDO, Cody LW L 5’11” 185 3/28/1991 (26) Allen Park, MI
ZINK, Dylan D L 6’0” 180 10/8/1992 (24) Madison, WI
Goalie Catches Height Weight Birthday (Age) Birthplace
MAGUIRE, Sean R 6’2” 202 2/2/1993 (24) Powell River, BC
KING, Will L 6’3” 196 6/13/1994 (23) Valencia, PA
STEVENS, Colin L 6’2” 181 6/30/1993 (24) Niskayuna, NY

 

Like in years past, all practices at Toyota SportsPlex are free and open to the public. The full training camp schedule is as follows:

Saturday, Sept. 23    
5:00 p.m. Intro Meeting Toyota SportsPlex
5:30 p.m. Physicals
Sunday, Sept. 24
10:30 a.m. Practice Toyota SportsPlex
Monday, Sept. 25
10:30 a.m. Practice Toyota SportsPlex
Tuesday, Sept. 26
10:30 a.m. Practice Toyota SportsPlex
Wednesday, Sept. 27
10:00 a.m. Pre-Game Skate Mohegan Sun Arena
7:05 p.m. Game vs. Hershey Bears
Thursday, Sept. 28  
10:00 a.m. Group A Practice  Mohegan Sun Arena
11:30 a.m. Group B Practice  Mohegan Sun Arena
Friday, Sept. 29
10:00 a.m. Pre-Game Skate Mohegan Sun Arena
7:05 p.m. Game vs. Binghamton Devils
Saturday, Sept. 30
10:00 a.m. Pre-Game Skate Mohegan Sun Arena
7:00 p.m. Game at Hershey Bears
Sunday, Oct. 1
10:30 a.m. Practice Mohegan Sun Arena
5:00 p.m. Game at Binghamton Devils

* – Players assigned to Group A and Group B will be determined the day of practice.
** – All dates and times subject to change

The Penguins take the ice for their first preseason game when they host the Binghamton Devils at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 7:05 p.m. The Penguins will battle the Hershey Bears in their second home contest of the exhibition schedule on Friday, Sept. 29 at 7:05 p.m.

Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through all Ticketmaster outlets, or by contacting the Penguins offices at (570) 208-7367.

Season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

FINALLY HEALTHY, DI PAULI READY TO SHOW WHAT HE CAN DO

Based on the way Thomas Di Pauli’s first season as a pro went last year, it’d be easy to think he spent most of his days spilling salt over broken mirrors underneath a ladder with a black cat. It was a rather unfortunate year to say the least, one riddled with injuries.

First it was a knee ailment suffered during training camp. Then once he got healthy, a nagging issue in his back required surgery to fix. That ultimately sidelined him for three whole months. Finally, a slash cut him right back down with a broken finger that ended his season for good. After all of that, the promising two-way forward was limited to just 21 games.

Bad luck like that would give anyone a good reason to mope around and curse the heavens, but at the recent Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York, not even the Karate Kid could wax the smile off of Di Pauli’s face.

Grinning ear-to-ear after every game, the Italian-born 23-year-old couldn’t contain his excitement when talking about his healthy status. By the time the tournament was over, Di Pauli had one word to describe how he felt.

“Fantastic.”

“I feel strong, I feel fast, and I feel confidence,” Di Pauli said following the Penguins prospects’ title-clinching game against the Buffalo Sabres. “I guess I’m going to keep having fun, because right now the hockey is flowing and it’s been so fun to play.”

Di Pauli spent most of his summer altering his training regimen and his diet. Di Pauli cited the time he spent observing Penguins veterans like Tom Kostopoulos as a huge inspiration for him when he was sidelined, and for good reason. Not only does Kostopoulos still produce offense in his late 30’s, but he’s only missed one game due to injury over the past two seasons.

Di Pauli hasn’t altered his eating habits to completely mirror the gluten-free lifestyle of his captain, but he is now a pescetarian. In the gym, he’s placed an added emphasis on flexibility and mobility over strength, attempting to ensure that his body can better handle the rigors of pro hockey.

Everything the oft-injured rookie changed from last year to now is a direct result of his misfortune.

“I learned from it,” he said. “I had the whole summer to regroup and focus on this year. I’m a firm believer that when things like that happen, it can make you stronger. I’m trying to look at it as a positive.”

The changes he’s made off the ice appear to be already translating to his on-ice performance, as well.

“Now [Di Pauli]’s healthy, and you can see the difference,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli. “You can see he’s got more jump. He’s a little bit quicker, and he’s a quick player to begin with.”

With his health in check, Di Pauli has his sights set on making a big impact with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Technically, because he was robbed of so many games last year due to all of his miscellaneous setbacks, he still qualifies as a rookie by American Hockey League standards. That puts him right in the mix with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s expected and anticipated rookie class, including Zach Aston-Reese, Daniel Sprong and Adam Johnson.

Despite being existing in a crowded field not only of rookies, but the Penguins organization’s overall depth chart at forward, a healthy Thomas Di Pauli has his sights set on reaching the NHL. Soon.

“I know the player I am and I’ve always known the player I can be,” Di Pauli said. “I won’t be surprised if I’m playing [in Pittsburgh] sooner rather than later. I know I can make that jump. So I’m going to keep hammering away, paying my dues and having fun, because I’m confident that I can play there.”

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PENGUINS SIGN CHRISTIAN THOMAS

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that they have signed forward Christian Thomas to an American Hockey League contract for the 2017-18 season.

Thomas is coming off of his best season in the American Hockey League last year, establishing career highs in goals (24), assists (25) and points (49) over the course of 65 games with the Hershey Bears. The 25-year old also established himself as a power play specialist, tallying 12 man advantage markers, good enough for fifth-most in the AHL.

Throughout his AHL career, Thomas has posted 76 goals and 80 assists for 156 points in 284 games with the Bears, Connecticut Whale, Hamilton Bulldogs, St. John’s IceCaps and Springfield Falcons. The Toronto, Ontario native has also logged 27 NHL games in which he’s earned one goal and two assists.

His father, Steve Thomas, played in the AHL from 1984-86 for the St. Catherines Saints. Steve went on to have an NHL career of over 1200 games and 933 points (421G-512A) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Christian Thomas and the Penguins will open their next season on Oct. 7 against the Charlotte Checkers at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

DANIEL SPRONG FOCUSED ON IMPROVING HIS DEFENSIVE SKILLS

Everywhere Daniel Sprong has gone, he’s been really, really good at one thing: scoring goals. Ever since he was one of few young lads tearing up the rink in Amsterdam, he was scoring goals. Once he crossed the pond and was terrorizing the bantam and minor midget ranks up and down the eastern seaboard, it was because he was scoring goals.

Sprong has continued to generate offense in bunches since the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted him in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.  But now they’re looking for him to find a new trick: they want him to learn how to play defense.

The oft-cited but always elusive “200-foot game” is what Sprong is focused on achieving these days. Last year, after shoulder surgery denied him the first few months of the season, Sprong used his time back with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League to not only score many more goals, but to work on rounding out the defensive aspects of his skillset.

“I had good teammates and good coaches that helped me out with my 200-foot game in the Q last year, and I think my plus/minus showed it,” Sprong said. “And these games at [the 2017 Prospect Challenge], each game got better and better. It’s never going to be perfect at this time of year, but I’m making progress and getting closer to where I need to be.”

It’s hasn’t been an overnight adjustment for Sprong, largely because his game has been predicated on generating offense his entire life. And when he looks at the roster of the NHL team that drafted him, there’s plenty of existing offensive firepower with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel to name a few. So Sprong feels the pressure to demonstrate his worth amongst a crowded field of competition.

“Pittsburgh has a lot of scoring depth and me being an offensive guy, of course I have to worry about creating chances every time I’m on the ice to prove myself,” Sprong said.

That creates quite a mental paradox for a young player. On one hand, you want to do the one thing you’ve done your whole life, while the people in charge of you want you to do the opposite. Instead of being overwhelmed by it all, Sprong has welcomed this challenge with open arms.

Furthermore, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assistant coach Tim Army says that Sprong is far from the first player to go through that conundrum.

“That’s the pressure of this immense offensive potential and ability,” Army said. “But then it’s about the process of players learning how to best take advantage of that ability. The only way you can take advantage of it, is being diligent without the puck in all three zones. Pro hockey’s too difficult, it’s too humbling. If you’re not diligent off the puck, you’ll quickly find you’ll dry up offensively, too.”

A young offensive stud isn’t exactly accustomed to playing off the puck all that often, though. Sprong has been the go-to guy for his teams to drive the play shift after shift. Now that he’s starting from scratch and isn’t going to always be in those same situations, well, that’s the current learning curve he’s on right now.

“That’s just all part of being a pro,” coach Clark Donatelli said. “Those offensive players, especially coming out of juniors, their defense IS having the puck. Now when you try moving up, you might have the puck less, so you have to adapt your game. He’s such a high talent that he’ll figure it out.”

Sprong is also far from the first player to go through these growing pains. Donatelli and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton GM Bill Guerin both used the phrase “superstars” when talking about the game’s history of offensive players thriving once they learned how to effectively play defense. Army, on the other hand, had more specific examples.

“I think back to all those years ago when I was in Anaheim, and we drafted Paul Kariya,” he said. “And then when we traded for Teemu (Selänne). They were really young guys at that time. They obviously had brilliant offensive ability, but to learn the game from an away from the puck vantage point, it took some time.Eventually, by them playing, and you being patient with them and instructing them, they begin to figure it out.”

Now, both Kariya and Selänne are Hall of Fame bound.

That’s not to say Sprong is destined for Younge Street, but those two names provide a perfect example of what his career could be if he harnesses the power of the mythical 200-foot game. Only then can he truly reach the skyscraper high ceiling of his offensive talents. More goals for Daniel Sprong. Though he’s probably used to hearing that at this point.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PROSPECT CHALLENGE TITLE A TESTAMENT TO PENGUINS ORGANIZATION STRENGTH

At the 2017 Prospect Challenge, there was only one team without a single player selected in the first round on it’s roster. It was the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team with the most undrafted players on its roster was the Pittsburgh Penguins. Which team had the most points at the end of the tournament? The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite their opponents boasting arguably more attractive depth charts, the Penguins organization proved its dominance once again with its tremendous showing at the Prospects Challenge. The efforts of the scouts, coaches, and most importantly the players culminated in a 5-3 victory in the final game against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

“This group was pretty special because we didn’t have too many practices,” said coach Clark Donatelli. “We showed them some video, we told them what to do, and they responded. They played really well. I think it gets contagious once they know they have success doing it, they want to do it more.”

Donatelli went on and spoke at length about the organizations philosophy when it comes to not just drafting and signing good players, but “good humans”, as he put it. There is an added emphasis on work ethic, too, and when those personalites all combine in one space, unique things can happen.

“When people come to us, they want to get better,” Donatelli said. “Every single person works so hard on the ice and off the ice. When you’re working in that kind of environment and you have people around you that are willing to pay the price to win and pay attention to details and practice habits, it’s contagious. Fortunately for us right now, that’s our culture. It’s a tribute to the organization and how they draft players.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a first round or a second rounder or undrafted. Once you’re a Penguin, you’re a Penguin. Once you’re part of the family, you’re part of the family.”

New assistant coach Tim Army has only been part of the family for a hot second, being hired by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton one month ago. However, he now has first-hand experience with what the Penguins organization is capable of, even when they have limited resources at the draft.

“I think the evaluation of players and brining in the right group is a credit to all of the scouting staff,” Army said. “You know, they get out there and they watch a lot of games. They’re all over North America and they’re all over Europe. We have some draft picks here, but there are also some unsigned players that are really battling. They bring in the right pieces.”

Those scouts found Teddy Blueger, who wore the “C” as a young leader on this team and was a beacon of light on defense.

Those scouts found Daniel Sprong, whose constant threat of offense kept opposing teams on their heels.

Those scouts found Jordy Bellerive, and undrafted, unsigned 18-year-old who ended up topping the tournament with seven total points (4G-3A) in three games.

Those scouts scoured the globe and found Slovenian Jan Drozg, who unloaded a wicked wrist shot on the rush for what became the game-winning and tournament-winning goal.

And on and on and on.

The Sabres opened the scoring with a first period power play goal by Brendan Guhle. The rowdy crowd at HARBORCenter thought that the hometown Buffalo squad would carry that 1-0 lead into the first intermission until Thomas Di Pauli slammed home a rebound in the waning seconds of the frame.

The second period was a back and forth affair, with the two teams trading goals in quick succession. Zach Aston-Reese made it 2-1 for the Penguins prospects with a goal on a five-on-three man advantage, but Buffalo’s Justin Bailey answered back with another power play marker. Antti Palojärvi, who checked in to the Penguins’ line-up for the first time on Monday, got the black and gold back on top, 3-2, before Buffalo’s third power play goal of the night (this time from C.J. Smith) evened things up again.

Drozg found his game-winner midway through the third, and then Zach Aston-Reese sealed it off with an empty netter.

They didn’t walk away with a trophy or gold medals or anything like that, but with the work put in by everyone with the Penguins this weekend, the organization showed its counterparts why its considered the best there is.

“There’s an expectation of winning here,” Army said. “And we told that to the guys before we bused out. We’re about winning here, so let’s go win a tournament. Well, we won the tournament.”

JAN DROZG WORKING HIS WAY TOWARDS SLOVENIAN DREAM

 There are certain countries that are considered hockey powerhouses. Canada quickly comes to mind for most. So do Russia and the United States. Sweden is always a tough out in international play and Finland has been on a roll lately. Slovenia isn’t in that same pantheon.

Slovenia isn’t thought of as much of a hockey anything, really. In fact, a 2014 survey revealed less than 5% of Americans could even identify Slovenia on a map of Europe. But nestled south of Austria, east of Venice and west of Zagreb is where Penguins prospect Jan Drozg grew up and where he found his love for hockey.

Only three Slovenians have ever played in the NHL: Greg Kuznik, Jan Muršak and Anže Kopitar. Drozg is using the Prospects Showcase in Buffalo as a stepping stone as he tries to climb the ladder and become the fourth name on that list.

“I always looked up to the NHL stars,” he said. “And Anže Kopitar, he’s a very good player. He does a lot of things very well. It’s easy for a Slovenian like him to be a model.”

Drozg was taken by Pittsburgh as a bit of a surprise pick in the fifth round of this past NHL Entry Draft. Not many knew his name, but the Penguins’ European scouts that saw him play for the Leksands U18 junior program in Sweden knew he had a skillset they couldn’t pass up. Through two games in Buffalo at the Prospects Showcase, that offensive flair has been apparent. He’s created scoring chances, shown off some slick hands as well the the kind of straight-ahead speed that the Penguins organization has coveted in recent years.

That isn’t to say Drozg isn’t the perfect player yet. If he wants to become the fourth Slovenian to make it to the NHL, he’s already been made well aware of where he needs to improve.

“I need to get stronger down low, in the corners,” he said. “That’s something the coaches have told me and I’m focused on it.”

The 18-year-old Drozg also recognizes the weight on his shoulders considering Slovenia’s history (or lack thereof) in the NHL and international hockey. He’s the first to admit that hockey doesn’t occupy the national consciousness very often. Frankly, it’s an afterthought compared to other popular European sports like soccer. But at a particular time of year, the country rallies around it’s hockey players.

“Slovenia is not much of a hockey country, but when it’s the Olympics, everyone is paying attention,” he said. “It would be great to play for my country at the Olympics, but that’s not something I’m thinking about now. That could be far away. I’m thinking about what I can do today.”

Today, his efforts are dialed in on improving so that he can make an impression of Penguins coaches and scouts and get himself in good graces for seasons down the line.

Drozg will not play for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Pittsburgh this season, although he will get the opportunity to acclimate himself to the North American game as a member of the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League. Beyond that, Drozg will have the Penguins and his country watching closely to see the steps he takes towards making the NHL.

 

OTHER NOTES:

• Coach Clark Donatelli has been very complimentary of Teddy Blueger’s skating throughout the week, an identified area of improvement after last season. More on this later in the week.

• The Penguins prospects’ last game of the 2017 Prospects Showcase will obstensibly also serve as the Final for the tournament. Both the Penguins and their Monday night opponent, the Buffalo Sabres, have the most points through two games, posting an identical 1-0-1 record. Whoever wins their showdown tonight will be Prospect Showcase Champions.

BELLERIVE MAKING WAVES AS PENGUINS NAB FIRST WIN OF 2017 PROSPECTS SHOWCASE

Pick after pick went by at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago back in June, 86, 87, 89… it kept going. 154, 155, 156… and so on and so on until 215, 216, 217. The draft was over.

Jordy Bellerive never heard his name.

After an impressive year with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, not one of the 31 NHL clubs felt that Bellerive could help their team advance in the future. Even though he was at first understandably rocked by going undrafted, he’s looking on the brighter side.

“It’s something you look forward to your whole life,” Bellerive said. “You try and battle throughout the whole year trying to get that opportunity for a team to take you, then to not get drafted, obviously that was disappointing. But some things happens for a reason. I really think it turned out well for me. It really motivated me for the summer. I put a lot of hard work in, which I think is paying off. So I’m okay with it now.”

bellerive tweet

With the chip still freshly engraved on his shoulder, Bellerive is using it to leave a big time impression as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2017 Prospects Showcase. The 18-year-old forward now leads the tournament with four goals on the heels of tallying a hat trick in the Penguins first win of the weekend, a 6-2 triumph over the New Jersey Devils.

Just over one minutes into the contest, Bellerive notched slid a rebound across the goal line. As the Devils caught fire early in the third period and started forging a comeback, Bellerive poured cold water on them with yet another tally, and later added a third score to complete the hat trick.

Bellerive gave partial credit to his offensive outburst to the confidence he gained by scrounging up a goal in the Pittsburgh prospects’ first game on Friday.

“To get that first one out of the way quick, it showed, hey, I can play. I belong here. I got some confidence and tried to do it again today. It worked out for me again, I guess.”

Bellerive isn’t the only one believing in himself at this point either. His performance has coach Clark Donatelli singing his praises, as well.

“I don’t know his whole body of work and what he’s done before this, but so far so good,” Donatelli said. “If you’re going off this, then yes he definitely should have been drafted.”

What’s particularly impressed Donatelli and other Penguins brass has been Bellerive’s ability to contribute in this fashion offensively despite limited ice time. Most of the minutes through two games have been dedicated to Penguins prospects already under contract, like Zach Aston-Reese, Daniel Sprong, Teddy Blueger, Thomas Di Pauli, etc. But every time Bellerive has stepped onto the ice, one can’t help but notice.

“Coming in being a fourth line guy, I expected to not get the most ice time. So I told myself whatever ice time I got, that was an opportunity to do something special.”

He’s been exactly that so far. Special. Now there’s more than enough reason for him to hope this weekend is just the start to a lengthy pro career.

“Hockey’s a long run. I’m not too worried about [going undrafted] anymore.”

 

OTHER NOTES:

In addition to Bellerive’s hat trick, the Penguins got their fair share of puck luck in their victory over the Devils prospects, too. First period goals by Teddy Blueger and Thomas Di Pauli both redirecting off of Devils defensemen and in.

Much like Friday, Sprong continued to be snakebitten despite a bevy of scoring chances. When the puck finally fell right for him, it was on a one-timer that left his stick with such velocity, it went rocketing right through the equipment of Devils goalie Ken Appleby and across the goal line. It was quite a shot, but the kind of delivery we’ve come to expect from Sprong.

The Devils’ two goals that beat Penguins goalie Alex D’Orio both went bar-down. Otherwise, it was an impressive showing from the 18-year-old tender when New Jersey had its chances.

Zach Aston-Reese dropped the gloves and fought Devils D-man Steve Santini late in the third period. Aston-Reese got into a scuffle by the Devs’ bench and Santini stepped in with less than diplomatic intentions to solve the conflict. Both players got good punches in, but Aston-Reese ended up with the takedown.

The Penguins have a practice scheduled for Sunday afternoon, then they face the host Buffalo Sabres in the final game of the tourney at 7:35 p.m. on Monday.

INDIVIDUAL GAME TICKETS GO ON SALE SEPTEMBER 5

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Individual game tickets for all Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins home games for the 2017-18 season will go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 10:00 a.m.  Tickets for all 40 home games (two pre-season, 38 regular season) can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza Box Office, by calling 800-745-3000, or by visiting Ticketmaster.com.

The Penguins will play 30 of their 38 regular season home games on weekends and will be bringing back many popular promotions and deals from last season.

The popular WBRE/WYOU EYEWITNESS NEWS FAN FRIDAY promotion will return starting on Dec. 1, with lower level tickets for Friday night home games available for just $14 while supplies last. Additionally, select draft beers will be available for just $2 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. for those contests. The Penguins will also host postgame autograph sessions with players following 10 of the team’s 11 Friday night home games this season.

KIDS GET IN FREE SUNDAYS are also back for 2017-18, with children age 14 and under able to attend Sunday afternoon contests for free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Following each of those games, fans will be able to take to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza ice for a free public skating session with players (fans are responsible for supplying their own skates).

The Penguins full promotion schedule for the 2017-18 season is listed below.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

 

DATE OPPONENT THEME / PROMOTIONS
Saturday, Oct. 7 Charlotte Opening Night / Geisinger Magnetic Schedule
Friday, Oct. 13 Lehigh Valley Postgame Autographs
Sunday, Oct. 15 Syracuse Halloween, Kids 14 and Under Free (with paid adult ticket), & Postgame Skate
Friday, Oct. 20 Laval Postgame Autographs
Saturday, Oct. 21 Hartford Zombie Night / Penguins Car Magnet
Sunday, Nov. 5 Hershey Harry Potter Day, Kids 14 and Under Free (with paid adult ticket), & Postgame Skate
Saturday, Nov. 11 Providence Veterans Day / Penguins Team Card Strip #1
Saturday, Nov. 25 Syracuse Youth Sports Night #1
Friday, Dec. 1 Milwaukee WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.) / Bayard – Times Tribune – Citizens Voice Team Photo Giveaway
Saturday, Dec. 2 Rochester Teddy Bear Toss / Penguins Team Card Strip #2
Friday, Dec. 8 Charlotte WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.)
Friday, Dec. 22 Binghamton WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.)
Saturday, Dec. 23 Lehigh Valley Festivus Celebration, Jersey Auction / Penguins Team Card Strip #3
Friday, Dec. 29 Hartford WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.)
Friday, Jan. 5 Springfield WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.) / PA Lottery Giveaway (Fans 18 and older)
Saturday, Jan. 6 Belleville Jeep Jake Guentzel Bobblehead
Friday, Feb. 2 Hershey WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.) – Football Friday (Wear Your Favorite Team’s Jersey)
Saturday, Feb. 3 Lehigh Valley Pink In The Rink – Pink Stick Auction / McCarthy Tire All-Star Poster Giveaway
Saturday, Feb. 17 Utica METLife Military Appreciation Night – Camo Jersey Auction
Friday, Feb. 23 Rockford WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.) – Olympic Celebration
Sunday, Feb. 25 Hershey Tux’s Birthday! – Kids 14 and Under Free (with paid adult ticket), & Postgame Skate
Saturday, Mar. 10 Grand Rapids Boy Scout Night / Star Wars Night, Jersey Auction / Penguins Team Card Strip #4
Saturday, Mar. 17 Hartford St. Patrick’s Day, Jersey Auction
Sunday, Mar. 18 Hershey Superhero Day (Dress Like a Superhero) – Kids 14 and Under Free (with paid adult ticket), & Postgame Skate
Sunday, Mar. 25 Bridgeport Princess Day (featuring members of a Moment of Magic) – Kids 14 and Under Free (with paid adult ticket) & Postgame Skate
Saturday, Mar. 31 Providence Youth Sports Night #2 / Girl Scout Night
Friday, Apr. 6 Bridgeport WBRE Fan Friday ($14 Tickets), Postgame Autographs, $2 Draft Beers (6-7:30 p.m.)
Saturday, Apr. 7 Binghamton First Responders Night / Fan Appreciation Night