SPRONG POSTS TWO ASSISTS FOR ATLANTIC, BUT NORTH DIVISION WINS ALL-STAR CHALLENGE

(Lindsay Mogle | AHL)

UTICA, N.Y. – In a wild night of back-and-forth, end-to-end, action, the North Division won the 2018 AHL All-Star Challenge three-on-three tournament at Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, New York.

The Atlantic Division didn’t make it to the final, going 1-2-0 in its three games, but Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins All-Star Daniel Sprong recorded two assists during the course of the night.

“We had fun, and we had some laughs out there,” Sprong said. “I’ll always remember this experience. I’ll remember the friends I saw and the new friends I made… This whole thing is just all about fun.”

This year’s AHL All-Star Challenge format was the same as the two years prior, with team representing each of the league’s four divisions skating in a three-on-three round robin tournament. The two divisions with the best records at the end of the initial phase played went on to face one another in the final.

Sprong and the Atlantic Division first faced off against the Central Division in the second game of the night, and won that match-up in convincing fashion, 5-2.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s leading goal scorer notched an assist in the Atlantic’s second contest, dishing the puck to Providence’s Austin Czarnik when their team had their goalie pulled for an extra attacker in an attempt to tie the game. Unfortunately, that goal came a bit too late, as the Pacific Division defeated Sprong and company, 4-3.

In the Atlantic’s last game, Sprong used a lengthy pass from the defensive zone to the far blue line that led to a breakaway goal for Lehigh Valley’s T.J. Brennan. The rookie’s long-distance helper put the Atlantic into a 3-0 lead with 2:58 left in the game.

“I don’t think that’s happening next time we play [the Phantoms],” Sprong said of his feed to Brennan. “I told him he had to return the favor eventually this year. But you know, you set up a guy like that for a breakaway, he had a really good chance of scoring.”

However, the Atlantic’s 3-0 lead disappeared in a flash, as the North Division stormed back with four goals in 2:38 to win the game, 4-3, and clinch a date in the final with the undefeated Pacific.

C.J. Smith of the Rochester Americans scored the lone goal of the final, as the North took down the Pacific for the title, 1-0.

Sprong will be back on the ice with the Penguins for their next game on Friday, Feb. 2 against the Hershey Bears.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s showdown with Hershey is also a WBRE/WYOU Eyewitness News Fan Friday with lower bowl seating available for $14 and select draught beers on sale for $2 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Puck drop between the Penguins and Bears is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. 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 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

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SPRONG, EASTERN ALL-STARS WIN 2018 SKILLS COMPETITION

UTICA, N.Y. – The Eastern Conference came away with an 18-12 victory over the Western Conference in the 2018 AHL All-Star Skills Competition at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Sunday night.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Daniel Sprong participated in three events, helping the East claim victory in the AHL Live Rapid Fire, Turning Stone Resort Casino Pass & Score and Dunkin’ Donuts Breakaway Relay. During the Breakaway Relay, Sprong drew oohs and ahs from the crowd by pulling off a between the legs move.

“I don’t think Clarkie (Donatelli) would appreciate that if I tried that in a game, but it’s called a skills competition for a reason,” Sprong said. “It’s about creativity. We’re here to have fun and show off a little bit.”

Sprong showed off more of his creativity during the Pass & Score event, during which groups of three players would attack a goaltender unopposed and shoot as long as they had each touched the puck once. The Penguins’ leading scorer orchestrated a move straight out of Hollywood that unfortunately did not count towards the East’s winning score because their time had expired.

“On the last one, we were trying to do the Flying V like the Mighty Ducks,” Sprong said. “I think it should have counted, I don’t know why it didn’t count. I think it should have counted. I don’t think the people on TV realized it didn’t count, so at least we looked good on TV.”

Alexandre Grenier of the Springfield Thunderbirds shined in his return to Utica, where he is the Comets franchise’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points. Grenier won the CCM Hardest Shot event with a shot clocked at 104.1 miles per hour – the third-hardest shot ever recorded in an AHL skills competition.

Defenseman John Gilmour of the Hartford Wolf Pack claimed the CCM Fastest Skater title with a lap of 13.663, the fourth-fastest in event history. And Eastern Conference teammates Chris Bourque of the Hershey Bears and Chris Terry of the Laval Rocket shared the Turning Stone Resort Casino Accuracy Shooting crown by each breaking four targets in five attempts.

The Eastern Conference salted away the win by earning an 8-3 victory in the Dunkin’ Donuts Breakaway Relay.

The Providence Bruins’ Jordan Binnington and the Ontario Reign’s Cal Petersen shared the CCM Top Goaltender award, as each turned aside 16 of 18 shots on the evening. Petersen made history in the AHL Live Rapid Fire, becoming the fifth goaltender ever to stop all 10 attempts.

The 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino continues on Monday with the AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony at 11 a.m., featuring the enshrinement of Jim Bartlett, Don Biggs, Brian Kilrea and Glenn Merkosky as the AHL Hall of Fame Class of 2018 and also celebrating honorary All-Star Classic captains Scott Pellerin and Craig Cunningham.

The league’s mid-season showcase wraps up Monday night at 7:00 p.m. ET with the 2018 AHL All-Star Challenge, a round-robin tournament among the league’s four divisions played at 3-on-3. The All-Star Challenge will air live across the United States on NHL Network, across Canada on Sportsnet and on the internet at AHL Live.

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SPRONG WILL SHOOT TO SCORE AND HAVE A BLAST IN SKILLS COMPETITION

UTICA, N.Y. – Daniel Sprong was in a car on the way to Utica, New York when he found out what events he’d be participating in during the 2018 AHL All-Star Skills Competition.

He’s pretty fired up about it.

“Oh, I’ve got some good ones, for sure,” he remarked before taking the ice at Adirondack Bank Center.

Sprong will represent the Eastern Conference All-Stars on Sunday night by taking part in the rapid fire shooting event, the three-on-none pass and shoot drill, as well as the marquee event of the night, the shootout relay.

The first event for Sprong will be the rapid fire shot, the perfect event for Sprong to showcase the lethal shot that has him leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with 19 goals this season. In a fun twist, he’ll be paired with Chris Bourque, the lone all-star representative for the Penguins’ bitter rival, the Hershey Bears.

Sprong said that his Penguins teammate Tristan Jarry recommended this event, because it’s so hard for goaltenders to move from post to post in order to contend with two shooters. Jarry would know from experience, because he was in the crease for this event as an all-star last year.

Then, Sprong will participate in the pass and score event, a three-on-none rush during which all three players much touch the puck before trying to score on a goalie for the opposite conference. He’ll skate with Charlotte’s own rookie scoring sensation, Warren Foegele, as well as Providence’s Austin Czarnik. Sprong is particularly excited about this event, because the goalie opposing him will be an old friend, Antoine Bibeau of the San Jose Barracuda.

“I used to play with [Bibeau] in juniors, and he was a real help to me when I was coming into the league at 16-years-old,” Sprong said. “It’s good to see him and I’m happy to see he’s doing well… I’ll try not to embarrass him too much.”

So there’s definitely extra motivation for Sprong to shine in the pass and score three-on-none, but that mojo goes both ways. Bibeau is determined to keep his old Charlottetown teammate off the scoresheet, but if he’s successful in shutting out his old friend, he won’t gloat about it.

“No, no. I’m not that type of guy,” Bibeau said. “But if he scores on me, I’m sure he’ll let me know.”

Sprong will not be a part of the fastest skater competition, but for what it’s worth, his money is on Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman, John Gilmour.

Last for Sprong will be the breakaway challenge. He’ll be going in the sixth round once again with Foegele and Czarnik, in addition to Lehigh Valley’s T.J. Brennan and Laval’s Matt Taormina. That five-some will shoot against Ontario Reign goaltender, Cal Petersen. Sprong advised fans to stay tuned for some tricks he might have up his sleeve in the breakaway challenge, as he’s prepared to cut loose and enjoy the Skills Competition.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “There’s no reason to overthink it. I’m here to have fun and I’m excited to be a part of this weekend.”


• A full list of 2018 AHL All-Star Skills Competition events and competitors can be found here.

• The 2018 AHL All-Star Skills Competition will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET from the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, New York. The skills competition can be viewed in its entirety on TV on NHL Network.

PENGUINS’ SPRONG AND DESMITH NAMED TO AHL ALL-STAR CLASSIC


WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The American Hockey League announced today that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins players Daniel Sprong and Casey DeSmith have been named to the Atlantic Division All-Star Team for the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino.

Sprong and DeSmith will represent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the two-day All-Star festivities on Sunday, Jan. 28 and Monday, Jan. 29 in Utica, New York. Full rosters for the All-Star Classic were determined by committees of AHL coaches, and all 30 AHL teams are represented by at least one All-Star. Click here to view the league’s full release and rosters.

Sprong currently leads the Penguins with 18 goals and 29 points. His 18 goals also tops all AHL rookies. Seven of his goals this season have come on the power play, which also leads Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and ranks second among league rookies. The native of Amsterdam, Netherlands was recently named CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for December. During that time, Sprong racked up nine goals – including three game-winners – and five assists for 14 points in 12 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before earning a recall to the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL).

Sprong, 20, is one of six rookie players selected to AHL All-Star rosters.

Casey DeSmith has stood out in his third season as a pro, continuing to build on what was an All-Rookie Team caliber performance last year with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. DeSmith got off to a torrid start to the 2017-18 season by posting a 9-0-1 record through his first 10 games, not suffering a regulation loss until after Thanksgiving (Nov. 24, 2017). The 26-year-old from Rochester, New Hampshire leads all Atlantic Division goaltender this season with a .911 save percentage and ranks second among division netminders in goals against average (2.72).

DeSmith’s selection to the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino means that the Penguins have had a goalie named to the AHL’s All-Star event for the fourth year in a row. Furthermore, it has been four different goalies announced to the All-Star Classic from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in that time (Jeff Zatkoff, 2015;  Matt Murray, 2016;  Tristan Jarry, 2017.)

The Penguins’ next game is tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 5, against the Springfield Thunderbirds. Puck drop between the Penguins and Thunderbirds is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. 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 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

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Would you like more info on tickets for any of our upcoming FAN FRIDAY games? Simply fill in your contact info below, and a Penguins ticket representative will contact you within 48 hours.