Penguins use offensive outburst for first two wins of the season
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (2-2-0-0) outscores opponents 11-1 in its two victories
Friday, Oct. 13 – PENGUINS 5 vs. Lehigh Valley 0
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton earned its first win of the 2017-18 campaign on the back of a 33-save shutout by Casey DeSmith. Tom Sestito tallied the eventual game-winner at 6:21 of the first period, while Daniel Sprong went on to score his second goal of the season with a power play goal.
Saturday, Oct. 14 – PENGUINS 2 at Lehigh Valley 3
The Penguins scored twice in the final period of play, but their comeback fell short against the Phantoms at PPL Center. Sprong kick-started Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s comeback by scoring for the third game in a row. Garrett Wilson later notched his first of the season to pull the Penguins within one, but they never found the late-game equalizer.
Sunday, Oct. 15 – PENGUINS 6 vs. Syracuse 1
Six different Penguins scored in their bounce-back victory during a Sunday matinée with the defending Eastern Conference champions. Gage Quinney scored a goal and had two assists in his AHL debut, and Sprong found the back of the net for the fourth-straight game. Christian Thomas scored his first goal with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as well.
The Week Ahead
Friday, Oct. 20 – PENGUINS vs. Laval
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will try and string together a winning streak when it welcomes the Laval Rocket to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for the first time ever. The Rocket have scored the most goals in the AHL this season (19).
Saturday, Oct. 21 – PENGUINS vs. Hartford
Hartford finished last in the AHL last season, but they’re off to a hot start in 2017-18 and tied for the best record in the Atlantic Division (3-1-0-0). The Penguins swept their season series with the Wolf Pack last season, going 6-0-0-0.
– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went 7-1-0-1 in the third game of its three-in-three weekends last season and is already 1-0-0-0 at the back-end of three-in-threes this season.
– The Penguins received offense from five and six different goal scorers in its two wins this past weekend.
– Casey DeSmith still has not allowed a goal at even strength this season.
– Including the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, five of Daniel Sprong’s nine AHL goals have come on the power play.
– Tom Sestito is one game away from playing his 500th professional game.
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins seized their second win of the 2017-18 season with a 6-1 victory against the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (2-2-0-0) saw two rookies take the reins of its potent offense, Daniel Sprong and Gage Quinney, who had a goal and two assists each. Sprong extended his goal-scoring streak to four games, while Quinney impressed with his three-point output in what was his AHL debut.
The Penguins got on the board just 34 seconds into the game with a rebound goal on the first shot of the night by Jean-Sébastien Dea.
Syracuse goaltender Connor Ingram held Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in check for the rest of the opening frame, denying the Penguins on 11 of the 12 shots he faced in the first period. However, the floodgates opened on Ingram and the Crunch quickly in the second stanza.
Garret Wilson had a puck ricochet off of his boot and across the goal line 1:16 into the second period. Exactly three minutes later, Thomas Di Pauli tipped in a feed from Teddy Blueger and put the Penguins in a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Crunch answered during a five-on-three power play, when Cory Conacher’s shot deflected off of Wilson’s stick and snuck over the glove of Casey DeSmith.
After extended power play time on the other side of the ice, Christian Thomas scored his first goal as a Penguin and reestablished his team’s three-goal lead with 3:01 left in the second period.
Sprong made fans wait until the final period of regulation to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games, but he did just that midway through the third frame, making it 5-1. Sprong later set up Quinney for the 22-year-old’s first AHL goal with 5:18 left in the game.
DeSmith earned his second win on the season by saving 24 out of the 25 shots he faced, and he still has yet to be scored on at even strength so far this season. Ingram recorded 25 saves for the Crunch.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is Friday, Oct. 20 against the Laval Rocket at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Puck drop between the Penguins and Rocket is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. 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 season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins earned their first win of the 2017-18 season in convincing fashion as Casey DeSmith’s 33-save shutout led the team to a 5-0 triumph over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (1-1-0-0) had five different players account for its five goals, while DeSmith recorded the second clean sheet of his career.
After outlasting an early blitzkrieg by the Phantoms, the Penguins’ first goal of the game came from Tom Sestito on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s very first shot of the contest. Thomas Di Pauli outraced Lehigh Valley defenseman Samuel Morin on an impending icing call, then whipped around the net and set-up Sestito for the opening tally at 6:21 of the first period.
Shortly thereafter, Daniel Sprong notched his second power play goal of the season, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
The third Penguins goal came at 7:52 of the second period as Frank Corrado’s fluttering shot from the point fooled Alex Lyon. Jean-Sébastien Dea made it 4-0 at 15:19 of the middle frame with the help of tic-tac-toe passing from Tom Kostopoulos and Adam Johnson. Lyon was pulled from the Phantoms net following Dea’s goal and replaced by Dustin Tokarski.
Tokarski was perfect in relief of Lyon for over 20 minutes of action until the Penguins found another man advantage marker, this time coming from Dominik Simon. Simon closed out the scoring in the 5-0 contest with 2:51 left in regulation.
Johnson (2A), Kevin Czuczman (2A), Zach Trotman (1A) and Dylan Zink (1) all earned their first points as Penguins throughout the course of the evening, as well.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s penalty kill was a perfect seven-for-seven on the night, and its power play unit converted on two of its six opportunities.
Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon finished with 11 saves on 15 shots before being replaced by Tokarski, who posted eight saves on nine shots.
The Penguins and Phantoms face-off again tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 14, when the two clubs drop the puck at Lehigh Valley’s PPL Center. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next home game Sunday, Oct. 15 against the Syracuse Crunch at 3:05 p.m. 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 season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins broadcaster Mike O’Brien is in Western Pennsylvania for Pittsburgh Penguins training camp, and checked in with some of his thoughts from Monday’s practice and tournament game.
• During the first three days of practice at training camp, the Penguins have split into three teams for a round robin tournament. Team 3 was not able to make it to the championship game as they were on ice early today for practice. Their roster read like a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Who’s Who from the 2014-15 season with the likes of Josh Archibald, Matt Murray, Carter Rowney, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson out there. Seems like forever, but it is less than two years ago that those players were helping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to one of its best starts in team history.
• It is always fun to see when players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton graduate to full-time residence in Pittsburgh, and obviously it has happened plenty of times over the last 18 years. Still, it was special to see Carter Rowney skating during training camp today. Such a good guy off the ice and a hard worker on it. His trek from the ECHL to the NHL has been written about at length, as were his contributions during the Penguins’ most-recent Stanley Cup run. Though Rowney has been a participant at Pittsburgh’s training camp before, it’s different this year. His spot in the NHL this season is deserved and seemingly secure. It has been a long, hard road for Rowney and it’s not hard to appreciate him officially reaching this point of his journey.
• Recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton signee Christian Thomas was also a part of Team 3’s practice. A couple of times, he flashed the shot that helped him score 24 goals in Hershey last season. Thomas also showed good ability distributing the puck. His no-look pass to Garrett Wilson created a good chance in close and he set-up teams on a couple of 2-on-1s. Thomas was signed to bring another scoring element to the Penguins, but it appears he can be a playmaker as well.
Training Camp Championship Game
They won’t be throwing any parades for the winner of this one, but it was a spirited match-up between Team 1 led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s Team 2. Team 1 used two goals in the “second half” of the scrimmage to pull away for the 4-2 win and take home the training camp crown. Here are a few players that stood out:
• Gage Quinney – The second-year pro was the MVP early on in the championship game, scoring both of Team’s 1 goals in the first half. His first came off a quick shot that banged off the post and into the net. Quinney’s second goal showed good patience, taking a pass from Ryan Reaves and waiting out Antti Niemi before tucking the puck past the skate of the downed goaltender.
• Casey DeSmith – This isn’t DeSmith’s first training camp in Pittsburgh, but it is his first with an NHL contract. The 26-year-old looked the part on Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Taking over net for the second half of the scrimmage and with the score knotted, 2-2, DeSmith pitched a shutout as Team 1 broke the tie and eventually skated to victory. The netminder was reading the play well and kept his form whenever there was chaos or traffic around his net. His prettiest save came with the glove, when he robbed Ian Cole on a bang-bang one-timer from the hashmarks. DeSmith’s most impressive stop came moments before, getting a shoulder a Phil Kessel’s mid-air rebound opportunity on the left post.
• Dominik Simon – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans remember Simon’s deadly shot that netted 25 goals during his rookie season in 2015-16. At times last season, that skill took a backseat as he worked to develop other aspects of his game. Skating on a line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, Simon’s quick release and accuracy were on display once again. Stationed on the left circle, Simon took a centering feed from Crosby and sniped a wrist shot to the top of the net that turned out to be the game-winner. With the depth at wing in Pittsburgh, earning a spot with out of camp might prove difficult. But if Simon continues to light the lamp during the preseason, he could put himself in line to be one of the first call-ups for Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan.
When Casey DeSmith wasn’t stopping pucks on the ice this past season, he often found himself dodging playful jokes from his teammates in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins locker room. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but all too frequently, someone would deliver DeSmith an insult regarding his car.
For a pro athlete, DeSmith drives modestly. He arrived at the rink every day in a gold 1998 Toyota Celica, a vehicle with a burnt-out taillight as well as the grit and character of a veteran fourth-liner. Affectionately known as “The Golden Snitch” in some circles, it was the low hanging fruit, perfectly ripe for his teammates to pick.
DeSmith probably got it so hard from his teammates about his obsolescent automobile because there was little else they could tease him about, especially when it came to his play on the ice. One season after his sudden and shocking ascent from being a third-string goalie in the ECHL to the Penguins playoff starter, DeSmith picked up right where he left off for his first full AHL campaign.
Day in and day out, game after game, he was a dominant force between the pipes. That kind of consistency lent itself to one of the best rookie seasons a goalie has ever had in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history. Not only did his gaudy statistics earn him a series of individual accolades, but his year culminated in the once undrafted DeSmith signing his first NHL contact on July 1.
“A personal goal that I set was just not necessarily to sign an NHL contract, but having a year to give me the possibility or opportunity to do that,” he said. “I’m glad that I was able to do that, and obviously it’s super exciting.”
An NHL contract wasn’t the only goal DeSmith set for himself at the start of the 2016-17 season, though. He came right into camp with the motivation to prove that his unpredictable playoff success the spring before was no fluke.
Anyone anticipating the New Hampshire native being a flash in the pan was proven wrong, not only when he started the season with an 8-0-2 record, but when he ultimately finished the season with an AHL-best 2.01 goals against average.
“That was important for me,” DeSmith said. “Obviously, the year before I didn’t have a ton of playing time or exposure or anything like that. So I definitely made the most of what I had. But this year, I knew I would have more of an opportunity to prove myself, and I wanted to take advantage of it.”
That’s exactly what he did. The coaching staff and his teammates, already familiar with his wizardry from the previous playoffs, grew to trust him even more. Just because the Penguins didn’t have their A-plus game on a given night, that didn’t mean their chances of victory were sunk. Just because Tristan Jarry wasn’t in net, it didn’t mean the Penguins would have a “back-up goalie mentality” when the other guy went in. Because the other guy was Casey DeSmith.
The rest of the league took notice of DeSmith, too.
Before the season’s end, he was named to the AHL’s 2016-17 All-Rookie Team. Once the season concluded, he and Tristan Jarry stood tall as statistically the best netminding tandem in the league, earning them the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award given annually to the goalie(s) with the fewest goals against at the end of the season.
With the playoffs gearing up at that stage of the year, DeSmith wasn’t really in the state of mind to appreciate the weight of the individual accolades he had received. However, when he returned home for the summer, he took the awards that were stashed in the back of the good ol’ Golden Snitch and handed them over to his mom and dad. It was in that moment that the reality of his accomplishments sunk in.
“I took them out and showed my parents, and you kind of realize how cool it is to get an award for All-Rookie Team or lowest goals against average as a tandem,” he said. “That’s not easy to do. [All-Rookie Team] is something only one goalie gets a year. One tandem as far as the Holmes award. It was handing those trophies to my parents and being like, ‘Man, this was a really good year.’”
DeSmith’s banner year didn’t end with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s season, though. On the first day of NHL free agency, the Pittsburgh Penguins inked him to a one-year, two-way contract.
“Excitement” is the emotion DeSmith cites most often when he thinks back to the day he put pen to paper, making the deal official. But he doesn’t dwell too much on what he’s already done. He’s already prepared to move forward and forge another unforgettable year like the one he just had.
“As a competitive athlete, it’s not enough,” he said. “You want to win the Stanley Cup. That’s the ultimate goal. So, it’s like a step in the right direction, rather than ‘Oh, I reached my goal. This is the top’. This doesn’t feel like the top of the mountain. This is another step in my climb to where I want to be.”
While DeSmith has his eyes on a greater prize as he continues to work to advance his career, certainly he had to celebrate the gigantic season and big contract signing in some fashion. And he did. After signing his first NHL contract, DeSmith went out and bought himself a new car.
Now, he’s the proud owner of a black Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Even though he’ll be traveling in style from now on, DeSmith isn’t so sure anyone will let him forget about his old ride anytime soon.
“You know, I might still hear about the gold car from time to time. But at least I won’t be driving to the rink in that anymore.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed three players who played key roles in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finishing with the American Hockey League’s best regular-season record in 2016-17, it was announced Saturday by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
Forward Tom Sestito and defenseman Frank Corrado both signed one-year, two-way contracts. Goaltender Casey DeSmith inked a two-year, two-way deal, the first NHL contract of his career.
All three contracts contain an average annual value of $650,000 at the NHL level.
Sestito, 29, saw the most NHL action of the trio last season, skating in 13 regular-season games with Pittsburgh, where he picked up two assists and collected 48 penalty minutes. At the AHL level with WBS, Sestito had 16 points (6G-10A) and collected 121 penalty minutes in 33 games.
The 6-foot-5, 228-pound Sestito has spent the last two years with the Penguins organization. He has three assists and 67 penalty minutes in 17 NHL games. Sestito has added 30 points (11G-19A) and 225 penalty minutes in 74 AHL regular-season contests with WBS, plus five points (2G-3A) in 12 AHL postseason games.
Corrado, 24, was acquired by the Penguins from the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 1 in a deal that sent Eric Fehr and Steve Oleksy, plus a 2017 fourth-round draft pick, to the Leafs. Corrado saw most of his action with WBS after his arrival, but he did suit up for two regular-season games with Pittsburgh in March.
A 6-foot, 205-pound right-handed defenseman, Corrado appeared in 17 regular-season games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, notching four points (1G-3A) and a plus-3. He also played in one postseason game. A 2011 fifth-round (150th overall) draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks, Corrado has suited up for 71 NHL regular-season games with the Canucks, Maple Leafs and Penguins, picking up eight points (3G-5A).
DeSmith, 25, earned his first NHL contract after leading all AHL netminders with a 2.01 goals-against average. DeSmith went 21-5-4 with one shutout and a .926 save percentage in 29 regular-season games. His save percentage tied for second-best in the AHL. He was one-half of the AHL’s best goaltending duo alongside Tristan Jarry. The two combined to win the Harry ‘Hap’ Holmes Memorial Award, which is awarded to the goaltenders that post the lowest goals-against average in the AHL.
A 6-foot, 180-pound Rochester, New Hampshire native, DeSmith was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.
An undrafted free agent, DeSmith has appeared in 35 career AHL regular-season contests, compiling an overall record of 23-7-3 to go with his 2.00 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
During the last two AHL playoff runs, DeSmith has assumed the starting role for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with Jarry backing up at the NHL level both years. DeSmith has gone 7-7 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
Before joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, DeSmith played three seasons of college hockey at the University of New Hampshire, where he made the Hockey East All-Rookie Team as a freshman. DeSmith also saw action with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League for two seasons before advancing to the collegiate level.
It’s never easy to see your season come to an end. It’s even more difficult when you have high expectations. And after a 51-win regular season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins certainly thought they had the ability to advance deep into the Calder Cup Playoffs.
But a 2-1 Game Five defeat at the hands of the Providence Bruins on Sunday ended the Pens’ hopes for a run at a postseason championship.
“I thought we did absolutely everything in our power [Sunday] to try to win that game,” said forward Oskar Sundqvist.
Falling in the first round is undoubtedly disappointing. And when you take into account that the Atlantic Division featured four of the top eight teams in the entire league, any opening series matchup was going to present challenges – on both sides of the puck.
“Overall, yeah, we’re disappointed we’re not in the playoffs. We’re disappointed that we have a good enough team here that we could of made a good run,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “If you look at the whole broad picture of what we did as a group, there are a lot of positives that came out of it.”
So before we close the book for good on the 2016-17 season, let’s take a look back at some of those positives and high points for the Penguins.
Jake Guentzel wasted little time in establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the AHL, recording four points (1+3) in the Penguins’ season-opening 6-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on October 15.
The rookie forward recorded 17 points (7+10) in his first 16 games of the season, before receiving his first recall by the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 21. He made his NHL debut that night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, and announced his arrival with authority, scoring goals on his first two shots in a Pittsburgh uniform.
Guentzel returned to Wilkes-Barre in early December, recorded his first career hat trick on December 27 against the Springfield Falcons, and posted 42 points (21+21) in just 31 teams with the AHL club. He was recalled once again on January 16, and has been a fixture in the Pittsburgh lineup ever since.
Oskar Sundqvist’s second season can’t be considered anything except a success. The native of Sweden recorded his sixth goal of the campaign in his 16th game, eclipsing his mark from the 2015-16 season. He had 16 points by December 4 (one fewer than his entire tally from last year), and blew past his first-year total on December 10, when he tied a team record with four goals in a game against the Hershey Bears.
Sundqvist hit the 20-goal mark on April 7, one of just three Penguins skaters to see that total this season, and his 46 points (20+26) in 63 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tied him for third on the team.
Additionally, he saw action in 10 games with Pittsburgh this season, giving him 28 NHL contests in his first two years in North America.
ARCHIE ON THE ATTACK
Josh Archibald came into his own this season, setting new career highs in goals (16), assists (13) and points (29). He also paced the AHL with four short-handed tallies, and finished sixth in the league with a plus-25 mark in 61 games. The fourth-year pro also thrilled with Pittsburgh, scoring his first two NHL goals in his first game of the season, February 11 against the Arizona Coyotes.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton captain Tom Kostopoulos showed few signs of slowing down in his 18th season of professional hockey, leading the Penguins with 24 goals and 54 points while appearing in a team-high 74 games.
Along the way, TK hit memorable marks by recording his 400th point with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (November 4); hitting the 500 point plateau in the AHL (January 28); appearing in his 600th game with the Pens (February 4); and recording his 200th AHL goal (February 10).
The Penguins goaltending duo of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith posted the lowest goals against average in the league at 2.15, earning the tandem the Harry ‘Hap’ Holmes award.
Jarry finished the season with 28 wins, third most in the league and the fourth-highest single season total in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton history. The AHL All-Star moved into a tie for fourth place on the team’s all-time wins list with Matt Murray (45) by year’s end, and his three shutouts this season evened Jeff Zatkoff’s career total of eight, tied for fifth in the Pens record book.
DeSmith posted an impressive 21 wins in 29 appearances, and led the entire AHL with a 2.01 goals against average. He stopped 26 shots to record his first AHL shutout on April 1 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his final 11 regular season appearances.
Additionally, David Warsofsky proved to be one of the most reliable defenseman in the league, finishing third overall with a plus-30 ranking, ranking seventh among blue liners with 47 points, and tied for fourth among defensemen with nine power play goals. A member of the Atlantic Division squad at the AHL All-Star Classic, Warsofsky’s totals of 16+31=47 established new career highs across the board for the seventh-year pro.
Nine different Penguins skaters recorded their first career AHL goals during the 2016-17 season:
Reid Gardiner – November 5 at Bridgeport
Thomas DiPauli – November 16 at Lehigh Valley
Teddy Blueger – December 11 at Bridgeport
Lukas Bengtsson – December 16 vs Rochester
Ethan Prow – February 3 vs St. John’s
Zach Aston-Reese – March 21 vs Hartford
Troy Josephs – April 1 vs Lehigh Valley
Pat McGrath – April 8 at Hartford
Cody Wydo – April 9 at Providence
Also, goaltender Sean Maguire picked up his first AHL victory with a22 save performance against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the Pens regular season finale on April 15.
GOING TO THE SHOW
In addition to Guetnzel, three other Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins made their NHL debuts with Pittsburgh this season.
Carter Rowney, suited up for the big club for the first time on January 31 against the Nashville Predators, and netted his first NHL goal on March 17 against the New Jersey Devils.
Tristan Jarry and Jean-Sebastien Dea both appeared in Pittsburgh’s regular season finale on April 9 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
ADDITIONAL HONORS AND AWARDS
Jake Guentzel captured the CCM / AHL Rookie of the Month honors for December with 17 points (11+6) in 10 games during the month.
Guentzel and DeSmith were named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team at season’s end.
Warsofsky earned All-AHL Second Team honors.
The Penguins clinched their 15th consecutive playoff appearance – the longest current stream in the AHL – on April 2.
The Penguins laid claim to the Emile Francis (Atlantic Division Champion) and Frank Mathers (Eastern Conference Champion) trophies following a 2-1 win over the Providence Bruins on April 9.
The Penguins finished the season with a record of 51- 20-3-2 (107 points) and captured the MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the league’s regular season champion on April 15.
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Providence Bruins defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-2, in Game Four of the Atlantic Division Semifinal on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The win allowed the Bruins to remain alive in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, and forced a decisive Game Five on Sunday afternoon in Wilkes-Barre.
The Bruins jumped out to a 4-0 lead that the Penguins eventually cut in half with a third period surge, but the comeback bid by the home team fell short against a Providence squad that was facing elimination.
Wayne Simpson buried his first goal of the playoffs just 1:15 into the game, and Colton Hargrove extended the lead eight minutes later with a power play goal.
Providence tacked on another goal with just 44.4 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Jake DeBrusk uncorked a short-side snipe on a three-on-one rush after taking a feed from Austin Czarnik.
DeBrusk added his second of the game by tipping in a slap shot from Bruins captain Tommy Cross at 14:09 of the second period.
The Penguins got on the board as Dominik Simon picked the pocket of Bruins defenseman Alex Grant and then flipped the puck over to Teddy Blueger, who wired a one-timer to the top corner with under three minutes left before the second intermission.
Simon earned another assist by helping to set up an Ethan Prow goal, making it 4-2 at 9:10 of the third period.
Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith posted 38 saves on the night, including a whopping 20 stops in the second period. Those 20 saves tied Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s franchise playoff record for saves in one period, set five years ago by Brad Thiessen against the St. John’s IceCaps.
Zane McIntyre halted 27 shots for his second win of this postseason.
The final game in the best-of-five series is Sunday, Apr. 30, at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Puck drop for Game Five of the Atlantic Division Semifinal is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Individual tickets for Sunday afternoon’s game are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling 570-208-7367.
Penguins postseason ticket packages, which include tickets to every home contest during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, are on sale now. With the purchase of a postseason ticket package, fans will receive a $6 food/merchandise voucher for every home game in the playoffs, as well as their same seat guaranteed. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans can secure their seats for every home game on the Cup run by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.
Casey DeSmith’s rise from ECHL backup to AHL postseason starter last year was somewhat unexpected. After all, the rookie out of Rochester, New Hampshire, didn’t even crack the Wheeling Nailers lineup until December of 2015.
But as the 2015-16 regular season ran down, DeSmith found himself firmly planted in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton crease.
Injuries and circumstances led to DeSmith’s initial rise up the organizational depth chart.
First, Matt Murray received a permanent promotion to Pittsburgh in early March, freeing up a space in Wilkes-Barre’s goaltending corps. Tristan Jarry subsequently assumed the regular starter role for the AHL club, with veteran Brian Foster serving as the backup.
But Foster faltered, and DeSmith leap-frogged Wheeling regular Frank Palazzese to move into the second position on the Penguins roster.
Jarry experienced a bit of a late-season slump, and DeSmith stepped in to hold down the goaltending duties during the final week of the campaign.
He kept the crease as the Penguins moved into the postseason, helping the team to a pair of wins on home ice to start the best-of-five series against the Providence Bruins.
But the contest that seemingly cemented DeSmith’s standing in the organization was Game Three, which took place in Providence on April 23. DeSmith turned aside an astounding 59 shots – a new team record – as the Penguins posted a 5-4, double overtime victory to sweep the Bruins from the postseason.
“It’s a game I’ll never forget, that’s for sure,” said DeSmith. “Double overtime and winning in the fashion that we did to sweep the series, was really special, one of the most exciting times of last year.”
The Penguins were ousted by the Hershey Bears in overtime of Game Seven in the Atlantic Division Final, but by that time DeSmith had solidified his stature as a regular in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lineup. He went from playing on a tryout contract in the playoffs to inking an AHL deal in early July, essentially guaranteeing himself a spot in northeast PA for the 2016-17 season.
Despite the late-season success he enjoyed, DeSmith was tabbed to hold down the backup role in Wilkes-Barre, with Jarry figuring to receive the bulk of the playing time. During most of the season, DeSmith saw one start for every two that Jarry played.
But as the season wound down, DeSmith once again found himself thrust into the limelight as the team’s regular starter.
With their playoff seeding already set in stone, the Pittsburgh Penguins recalled Jarry on April 9, giving him his first NHL start that night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. And when Matt Murray came up injured prior to the Pens first playoff game, Jarry moved into the backup role for Pittsburgh.
With a week left in the regular season, DeSmith found himself back in familiar territory for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“It’s kind of funny how that worked out again,” said DeSmith. “You never want to see Murray or anyone go down. But I’m really happy to have this kind of opportunity to take over like I did last year. Playoffs is a really fun time, and to be involved in it, to be able to play playoff games is a privilege for anybody.”
And just like last year, DeSmith is peeking at a good time. Since March 5, he’s gone 7-1-1 while allowing just 12 goals in that span. His 2.01 goals against average during the regular season was the best in the AHL, and his .925 save percentage put him in a tie for second place.
“I felt like I was playing my best hockey of the season at the end [of 2015-16],” DeSmith said. I think this year’s kind of the same thing. The past three or four weekends, I felt like I played my best hockey of the season. It’s kind of coming at the perfect time here.”
The Penguins and Bruins begin their best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinal series this Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, and the teams face off in Game Two in Rhode Island on Sunday afternoon.
The series switches to Wilkes-Barre for Game Three on Thursday, April 27 at 7:05pm. Individual tickets for Game Three are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, by calling 570-208-7367, or online at TicketMaster.com.
For information on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins playoff packages, which include a $6 food voucher for every game, just fill out the form below and we will get back to you shortly.
Well, the 2016-17 regular season has come to a close, but before we move on to our first round playoff matchup with the Providence Bruins, let’s take a quick look back at some of the big moments from the final night (and immediately after) of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 18th campaign in the American Hockey League.
FANTASTIC FINAL NIGHT
The Penguins entered Saturday’s action with 105 points in 75 games, good for a .700 points percentage, and trailing the San Jose Barracuda by .0015 percentage points for the top spot in the AHL standings. A loss of any kind by the Pens or a win by the Barracuda would give the coveted MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy to the team from the west coast.
And when Carter Verhaeghe picked up his second goal of the night to give the Bridgeport Sound Tigers a 4-2 lead over the Penguins with 6:40 into the third period, it look like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would be relegated to the number two spot in the league table.
The league title probably wasn’t on Adam Krause’s mind as the puck dropped after that goal. He was undoubtedly more focused on helping the Pens snap a two-game losing streak.
And he did just that – almost singlehandedly.
Just 91 seconds after the Sound Tigers took a two-goal lead, Krause got a stick on a loose puck and bounced it back to Jarrett Burton, who pumped home his seventh goal of the season from the top of the crease.
Krause was far from done though, as he gathered up a loose puck in the neutral zone, then rocketed by Devon Toews before stuffing a shot behind Eamon McAdam at 9:27 to tie the score.
Then, with the Pens killing a late penalty, Ryan Haggerty hit Krause with a breakout pass, and the second year pro beat McAdam low on the glove side for what turned out to be a shorthanded, game-winning goal.
That win moved the Pens to 107 points and a .704 points percentage at the season’s end, giving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a slight and at least temporary edge in the race for the AHL regular season title.
But it would be two more hours until a champion was crowned.
The Bakersfield Condors had little to play for on Saturday as they hosted the Barracuda, having been eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week. The Barracuda entered the game with a 24-point advantage on the Edmonton Oilers farm club.
What figured to be a lopsided outcome for the Pacific Division leaders turned into a back-and-forth contest, with San Jose’s Buddy Robinson and Nick DeSimone sandwiching goals around a pair of Josh Currie scores for the Condors.
Picking up the extra point in overtime would give the Barracuda a .001 advantage over the Penguins in the league standings, and guaranteed home ice throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs.
But Currie beat Troy Grosenick – the third-ranked goaltender in the league – for the third time on the night just 1:25 into the extra frame, giving the Condors the win and the Penguins the MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy for the second time in the team’s history.
Penguins netminders Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith combined to capture the Harry ‘Hap’ Holmes award, given to the goaltender or goaltenders who have played at least 25 games on the team which allows the fewest goals per game in the regular season.
The Pens allowed just 2.24 goals per game this season, which was .23 goals per game better than the second place Providence Bruins.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has dominated the award in recent years, with team goalies capturing the trophy five times in the past seven seasons and six times overall:
2016-17 Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith
2014-15 Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff
2013-14 Jeff Deslauriers and Eric Hartzell
2012-13 Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff
2010-11 Brad Thiessen and John Curry
2005-06 Dany Sabourin
Additionally, DeSmith finished the season with the lowest goals against average among qualified AHL goaltenders (minimum 1,440 minutes played) in the league at 2.01. DeSmith entered the final day of the season trailing Providence’s Zane McIntyre by .02 goals per game, but the Bruins backstopper allowed three goals to the Hershey Bears on Saturday night and saw his GAA go from 1.99 to 2.03 on the season.
Goaltender Sean Maguire recorded his first AHL victory with a 22 save performance on Saturday against the Sound Tigers. Two other players – Kevin Schulze and Dylan Zink – made their AHL debuts in the contest.
The Penguins finished the season with a 51-20-2-3 record, good for 107 points. The 51 wins ties the second-most in a single season in team history (58 in 2010-11; 51 in 2005-06 and 2006-07). However the 51 victories is the most by the team since the AHL went from an 80-game to a 76-game schedule in 2011-12. The team’s previous high for wins in a 76-game season was 45, established in the 2014-15 campaign.
The Pens’ .704 points percentage is the third-highest total in team history, behind only the 2010-11 (117 points, .73125 points percentage) and the 2005-06 (113 points, .7125 points percentage) seasons.