The Penguins and Charlotte Checkers face-off for the first of four season meetings, but tonight is their first game against one another since 2011. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had a commanding 7-1-0-0 record in the two clubs’ 2010-11 regular season series, but Charlotte got the better of them in six games during the second round of the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins’ hope to capitalize with a new-look power play unit that will feature offensively inclined rookies like Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Johnson and Daniel Sprong as well as the team’s leading scorer from last season, veteran Tom Kostopoulos. However, they may not have many opportunities to make an impact, as the Checkers were the second-least penalized team in the AHL the previous year (10.88 PIM per game).
Charlotte’s power play came up clutch late last night, scoring a tying goal in the third period. Tonight, the Checkers’ man advantage must contend with the Penguins’ penalty kill, which was best in the AHL last season with a 86.9 percent success rate.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is well-rested, prepared for its first game of the season, whereas Charlotte in playing in the second game of a back-to-back this weekend. Last season, the Checkers were 16-12-1-0 in the second game of back-to-backs last season.
The Charlotte Checkers kicked off the 2017-18 season and their Atlantic Division residence with a dramatic 5-4 victory spearheaded by rookie Warren Foegele while visiting the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Charlotte started off behind the eight ball when Hartford’s Cole Schneider struck 54 seconds into the game. Foegele, last year’s OHL Playoffs MVP, evened things up in the first period with his first pro goal.
The Wolf Pack popped back on top, 2-1, with a tally courtesy of Ryan Gropp at 2:25 of the middle frame. Hartford’s Joe Whitney and Charlotte’s Lucas Wallmark traded goals less than two minutes apart, and the game headed to the second intermission at a 3-2 score in the home squad’s favor.
Adam Tambellini extended his team’s lead to two goals at 2:42 of the third before Aleksi Saarela chopped it right back down t o one midway through the period.
The Checkers’ power play unit found a 4-4 equalizer from Valentin Zykov 13:06 into the final period of play. Foegele shocked the opening night crowd at XL Center with his second goal of the night, the game-winner, with one minute left in regulation.
– Tom Kostopoulos begins his 19th season of professional hockey tonight, a career that started in 1999 during the inaugural season of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
– Penguins forward Teddy Blueger not only had the best plus/minus of all AHL rookies last year (+23), but also set Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s franchise record for rookie plus/minus rating.
– In his final year of junior hockey, Daniel Sprong failed to record a point in only nine of his 43 games played, including playoffs.
– Last season’s Penguins were the fifth team to reach the 50-win plateau since the AHL adopted a 76-game schedule in 2011-12.
– Charlotte posted a record of 15-3-3-0 (.785) when Lucas Wallmark scored a goal last season. – The Checkers allowed the fewest shorthanded goals in the AHL last season (3).
– Andrew Poturalski ranked third in rookie scoring last season with 52 points (19G-33A).