PITTSBURGH SIGNS DEFENSEMAN JUSSO RIIKOLA


The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Juuso Riikola to a one-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Riikola, 24, spent the past few weeks representing his native Finland at the 2018 World Championship, where he had two assists and was plus-4 in eight contests.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Riikola, a left-handed shot, has played the last six seasons with KalPa in Finland’s top professional league. He made his debut as a 19 year old back in 2012-13. He has served as an alternate captain for his club each of the last three years.

A native of Joensuu, Finland, Riikola steadily improved his offensive numbers over his six professional seasons. This past season, he scored a career-high eight times and added 16 assists for 24 points in 59 games. One year ago, in 2016-17, Riikola set personal highs in both assists (19) and points (25) in 59 games. That same year, Riikola added seven points (1G-6A) and a plus-7 in 18 postseason contests, helping KalPa advance to Finland’s championship series.

Riikola, who went undrafted in the NHL Draft, had 26 goals, 63 assists and 89 points in 283 regular-season games with KalPa. He tacked on 10 points (2G-8A) in 31 playoff games.

Riikola was teammates with Olli Maatta on the Finn’s 2013 World Junior Championship squad. Riikola’s older brother, Simo-Pekka Riikola, is an eight-year veteran of Finland’s top professional league.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will begin their 20th season of play this coming October.  For more info on season ticket packages, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and flex plans, call the Penguins at 570-208-7367 or fill in your info below.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

JUMP TO THE PROS WAS AN ADJUSTMENT FOR JOHNSON

By Katherine McVeagh

Shifting from the life of a collegiate athlete to that of professional can be quite an adjustment, both on and off the ice. Those coming out of the college ranks, where all players are in relatively the same age group and experience level, have quite an adjustment when it come to playing against older, more experienced and, sometimes, more skilled opponents.

Adam Johnson went through this trial first-hand during the 2017-18 season, his first professional campaign after competing at the collegiate level for two years. It didn’t take him long to recognize the difference amongst opponents and teammates.

“The biggest thing was it just seemed like the guys are a lot stronger [at the pro level],” Johnson said. “It’s obviously a little bit faster and it’s a tougher league. I think college gets you well-prepared, but it’s still a big jump here.” 

Before he even knew there were professional pastures ahead of him, the undrafted forward wasted no time establishing himself against collegiate competition. Johnson experienced great success in his time at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Across 81 collegiate games, he notched 55 points (24+31). As a member of the Bulldogs, Johnson played in two NCAA tournaments, making it to the national championship game in his sophomore season.

Johnson’s impressive résumé earned him a two-year entry level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he passed up his final two years of NCAA eligibility. And after falling short in the 2017 championship, Johnson was able to cheer on his former team as they won the 2018 NCAA men’s title this past April.

“I was pretty happy for them,” Johnson said. “Actually, I still have a lot of good buddies on the team so I was pretty pumped for them.

“Obviously it would have been nice to win one with them, but we had a good season here and I was having fun here. Overall it was great to see those guys do it.” 

In his first professional season, Johnson registered 11 goals and 20 assists in 70 games for the Penguins. Looking back on his first year of with the team, Johnson referenced his confidence as something he seeks to develop.  

“I think it was a little up and down, but overall I’m trying to improve on that category,” he said. “I think toward the end it got a little better. So I’ve just got to keep that going and improve it for next year and just play with confidence.”

As he worked to find consistency in his on-ice self-esteem during the season, Johnson found he had a lot more time to stew in his thoughts than he had before. He noted the amount of free time players have as another big difference when adjusting from college to the pros. 

“There’s a lot more down time,” Johnson said. “You don’t have school to take care of, and you’re not around your buddies all of the time when you’re away from the rink, so it’s a little bit different. You’ve got to find something to do with your time.”

Even though he’s made the jump from college to the pros on the ice, he still has some work to do to finish his collegiate schooling.  This offseason, Johnson has the opportunity to wrap up some classes he still has on the docket to complete his finance degree from UMD.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

THOMAS TAKING TIME TO LOOK BACK ON BUSY SEASON


The hockey season can be a grind.  Training camps start in mid-September, the regular season runs through the middle of April, and if your team is lucky enough to experience the playoffs, you could be playing up through June.

Because so much happens over the course of the marathon, it’s difficult for even the most passionate supporter or studious player to recall everything that happened during a season.

How did they score on the power play in game 21? What was the rush that followed the hit post on a breakaway back in the first home game of the year? How many saves did the goalie make in Game 45? It all becomes a blur with so much going on over such an extended period.

It takes something truly remarkable to stand out when the season is all said and done. 

And even though he was the busiest member of the team this season, there’s no chance Christian Thomas will be forgetting the year he had in 2017-18.

Thomas signed on with the Penguins in mid-September, moving him only a short trip north from Hershey to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Little did he know that he would soon become a world traveler after being named to Canada’s men’s national team in December.

His international tour started with Canada’s participation in the Karjala Cup. He played in Switzerland and Finland during the event, which Hockey Canada used as sort of an evaluation tryout for future tournaments. Despite not logging big minutes, Thomas impressed Canadian coaches which earned him the invite to play for his country once again in the historic Spengler Cup Tournament over the December holiday period.

Not to be forgotten is that in between those events, Thomas did pretty well while lacing up for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Thomas ultimately recorded 18 goals for the Penguins, 15 of which came at five-on-five. Only Daniel Sprong scored more goals for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while the team was skating at five-on-five (19).

Then came the big one: The Winter Olympic Games. Thomas was named to Canada’s men’s hockey team, went to South Korea, and came back with a bronze medal, capturing his country its fourth medal in the men’s event in the last five Olympics.

“This will probably be one of the most memorable years of my life,” Thomas said. “I haven’t won a championship in a long time, so winning the Spengler Cup was cool. Then winning bronze at the Olympics is something that I’ll never forget. Never.”

All the travel and important games made a long season even longer for the 25-year-old forward. Although that lengthy campaign yielded a lot of success, he’s ready for a break.

“There was a lot going on,” Thomas said with an affirming smile. “I’ll definitely take a couple weeks off. I’ll head home, unwind, but then get right back into the workouts.”

He’s getting some much deserved time off, and maybe that will give him some time to reflect on everything he was able to accomplish. Not only should he feel his pride throughout this summer, but 20, 30, even 50 years down the line when his playing career is long over, Thomas will always have the fond memories of an unforgettable 2017-18 season.

“I got to win a Spengler Cup. I got to win a bronze medal at the Olympics. I can always say that.”

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PENGUINS LOCKER ROOM EQUIPMENT SALE THIS WEEKEND


The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins annual locker room sale will take place at the Toyota SportsPlex (40 Coal Street, Wilkes-Barre) on Saturday, May 19 from 10am-2pm and Sunday, May 20 from 12-pm-2pm.

Fans will be able to purchase new and used equipment, including sticks, helmets, gloves, skates, pants and pads, as well as other accessories.

Equipment will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and will only be available in person (no online sales).  Cash and credit cards will be accepted as payment.  All sales are final (no returns).

In addition, the Penguins Team Store will have select items on sale for up to 20% off.  Be sure to swing by the shop inside the Toyota SportsPlex while you’re there.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

LONGEST GAMES IN WBS PENGUINS HISTORY

It’s finals week at many colleges throughout the area, and kids are pulling all-nighters to get ready for their finals.

Well, there was an all-nighter in the American Hockey League last night as well.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Charlotte Checkers battled in the longest game in AHL history last night/this morning, with Alex Krushelnyski scoring at 6:48 of the fifth overtime to give the visiting Phantoms a 2-1 victory. That goal came at 1:09am.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have played seven games that have gone to multiple overtimes in the playoff history. Here’s a quick look back at those contests, from longest to shortest.

APRIL 25, 2005 – Colby Armstrong scores at 12:26 of the third overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 win over the Binghamton Senators in Game Three of the East Division Semifinals. The Penguins, who had dropped the first two games to the Pens, went on to win the next three games and advance to the East Division Final.

MAY 6, 2015 – Zach O’Brien’s goals at 4:13 of the third overtime gave the Manchester Monarchs a 4-3 win in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Monarchs advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in five games, and went on to capture the Calder Cup that season.

MAY 7, 2001 – Alexendre Mathieu’s goal at 15:43 of the second overtime gave the Penguins a 2-1 win in Game Two of the Western Conference Final against the Hershey Bears. The Penguins swept the Bears in four games as they advanced to the Calder Cup Final for the first time in team history.

APRIL 23, 2016 – Jake Guentzel’s goal at 13:52 of the second overtime gave the Penguins a 5-4 win over the Providence Bruins, and a sweep of their best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinal, with all three victories coming in overtimes.

MAY 8, 2012 – Simon Despres scored at 12:08 of the second overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 win over the St. John’s Ice Caps in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinal. The victory staved off elimination for the Penguins, who went on ti win Game Six in St. John’s three days later. However, the Ice Caps posted a 3-2 victory in game Seven to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

MAY 14, 2014 – It was Simon Despres once again playing the hero, scoring at 6:32 of the second overtime to give the Penguins a 5-4 win over the Providence Bruins in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinal. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won the series in seven games, and advanced to face St. John’s in the Eastern Conference Final.

MAY 4, 2007 – Alexander Giroux’s goal at 5:57 of the second overtime gave the Hershey Bears a 4-3 win in Game Two of the East Division Final. Hershey went on to win that series in five games.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

QUIET LEADER WILSON LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT SEASON


It was easy to see that Garrett Wilson wasn’t in a great mood at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins exit interviews. One day after being bounced from the Calder Cup playoffs, he stood in front of the local media with his head slightly tilted downward. With the sting of being bounced from the postseason still tingling, Wilson opened his mouth.

He spoke softly, but his words packed a punch.

“We couldn’t get the job done,” he said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow… I’m kind of [ticked] off we couldn’t do more for T.K.”

There’s nothing that can be done to change what happened this April, but Wilson has made it very clear that this year’s loss will only motivate him moving forward. The U.S.S. Wilson’s course for the summer is full speed ahead for the 2018-19 season, where he’s taking no prisoners.

“That’s two years in a row that we’ve been bounced in the first round since I’ve been here,” Wilson said. “That’s definitely going to be my feel for the offseason. It’s sticking with me. I’m going to be ready to go next year, for sure.”

The 2017-18 campaign was a difficult one for the 27-year old winger away from the rink, as he lost his mother to a long battle with cancer in late November. And despite setting career highs in assists (25) and points (47), Wilson admits his mother’s passing made last season a difficult one for him to get through.

The good news is that he believes this season has steeled him for any potential bumps in the road he may come across in the future.

“I went through some adversity and think I handled it well,” Wilson said. “When I face some obstacles again in my career, I can look back on this year and use what I learned and go from there.”

Wilson also credits his teammates for propping him up during one of the most difficult times in his life. One man in the locker room that has been referred to as the ultimate teammate, won’t be back for next season, though. That’s 19-year veteran Tom Kostopoulos, who retired at the end of the season.

Wilson was one of the Penguins’ most outspoken supporters of what the captain meant to the team. That’s also another reason why this year’s playoff exit hit Wilson so hard.

With Kostopoulos ready to write the next chapter of his life, Wilson seems like a prime candidate to assume a leadership position in the room.

But Wilson believes Kostopoulos’ contributions as a captain were so great, that one person trying to bear that burden of captaincy might be difficult. Regardless of who’s wearing what letter on their chests, it will require a group effort to fill the void left by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s longtime leader.

“Losing T.K. is big shoes to fill,” Wilson said. “I don’t think one person can come and fill that leadership role all on their own. It’s going to take a good group to step up. I’m sure [WBS General Manager] Billy [Guerin] and them will get the right pieces in free agency, and we’ll all lead this together as a team.”

If the plan is to lead as a team, fans can still expect Wilson to be at the forefront of the squad, playing with a determination to get that bad taste out of his mouth.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

AHL ANNOUNCES DIVISION ALIGNMENT FOR 2018-19


American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced that the league’s Board of Governors, which convened for its Spring Meeting today in Chicago, Ill., has approved the following division alignment for the 2018-19 AHL season (National Hockey League affiliations in parentheses):

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders)
Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes)
Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers)
Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers)
Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins)
Springfield Thunderbirds (Florida Panthers)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins)

North Division
Belleville Senators (Ottawa Senators)
Binghamton Devils (New Jersey Devils)
Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Laval Rocket (Montreal Canadiens)
Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres)
Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks)

Western Conference
Central Division
Chicago Wolves (Vegas Golden Knights)
Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings)
Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild)
Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets)
Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators)
Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks)
San Antonio Rampage (St. Louis Blues)
Texas Stars (Dallas Stars)

Pacific Division
Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers)
Colorado Eagles (Colorado Avalanche)
Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings)
San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks)
San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks)
Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames)
Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes)

Changes from the 2017-18 season include:

  • Colorado joining the AHL as its 31st active team and playing in the Pacific Division
  • San Antonio and Texas moving from the Pacific Division to the Central Division
  • Cleveland moving from the Central Division to the North Division

The playing schedule for the 2018-19 regular season, which begins Oct. 5, will be announced this summer.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. More than 87 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 17th year in a row, more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America in 2017-18.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

DESPITE INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS, SPRONG STILL HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE


Name an American Hockey League player who was more electrifying than Daniel Sprong during the 2017-18 regular season.

Go on.

We’ll wait.

Can’t do it, can you?

Sprong was sensational during his first full pro season, scoring at a point-per-game clip (65 in 65), leading all AHL rookies with 32 goals, and finishing one-point behind Manitoba’s Mason Appleton for the freshman point lead.

His 32 goals were also the most by any rookie to ever don a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sweater, and tied him for second-most in team history. He also became the first Penguin in eight years to eclipse the 60-point mark.

Sprong expressed his disappointment with his team’s playoff exit when the Penguins held their exit meetings and locker clear-out day, but when prodded about his individual success, he lightened up a bit.

“Personally, I thought I had a really good year,” Sprong said. “I’m happy with my season. There were a lot of guys in this room that helped me this season, too. We created a lot of good memories together. I’m proud of the way my season went.”

The Netherlands native’s scoring prowess earned him several nicknames in his first full season as a pro; the Dutch Dangler, the Flying Dutchman, the King of Sprong Style.

There was never a question about Sprong’s offensive ability as he entered the season. The youngster was, however, tasked with improving his defensive play by the Penguins staff. It was a challenge he gladly accepted.

“Coming into the year, I was still cheating,” Sprong said. “I was looking for breaks. As the year went on, I started to play inside the game a little bit more. That in turn created more offense for me. That contributed to a lot of my success.”

This season, Penguins assistant coach Tim Army spent a lot of time in front of a computer screen reviewing game film with Sprong sitting right beside him. Engaged in the learning process, the rookie slowly but surely started to comprehend the benefits of not “cheating”, as he put it, and remaining an active participant in the play, even when he wasn’t carrying the puck on his stick.

This evolving play was a big reason why he was able to etch his way into Wilkes-Barre/Scranton record books, thanks in large part to his outburst of 11 goals and 19 points in his final 15 games of the regular season.

Despite the rousing success in year one, Sprong isn’t taking anything for granted this summer; he’s approaching the next campaign like someone who still has something to prove.

“There’s still a lot of months, a lot of steps between now and [the start of the season],” Sprong said. “I’m going to work hard in the summer, come back in shape and get ready to earn my spot.”

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PITTSBURGH RECALLS 13 FROM WBS


The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled 13 players from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Today’s recalls include seven forwards, four defensemen and two goaltenders.

Joining the Penguins are forwards Josh Jooris, Daniel Sprong, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Teddy Blueger, Garrett Wilson and Jean-Sebastien Dea; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Andrey Pedan; and goaltenders Tristan Jarry and Michael Leighton.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

COMEBACK KIDS? THE PENS HAVE A HISTORY

Dropping the first two contests of a best-of-five playoff series isn’t the ideal situation for any team.

But it’s not the end of the world, either.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are no strangers to playoff comebacks, including those times when their backs have been firmly against the wall.

But two series stand out above the other 36 they’ve participated in entering the 2018 postseason.


2004

Back in 2004, the Penguins dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven East Division Semifinal against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, with both losses coming in overtime, before winning a Game Three in the extra frame.

But a 4-2 loss in Game Four had the Penguins fighting for their playoff lives.

Jeff Hamilton gave the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead 6:17 into the second period, before Tom Kostopoulos beat Dieter Kochan to even the score before the end of the middle frame to complete the regulation scoring.

The teams traded shots in the extra frame before TK set up Tomas Surovy for the winning goal to extend the series.

Game Six saw the series shift back to Wilkes-Barre, and the home cooking paid off for the Pens, who posted a 5-0 win. Matt Hussey opened the scoring midway through the first period and added another goal in the third, while Konstantin Koltsov, Shane Endicott and Kris Beech also tallied. Kostopoulos had two helpers in the win, and Andy Chiodo made 23 saves for the shutout.

Game Seven goes down as one of the most memorable road games in team history, as busloads of the Wilkes-Barre faithful made the trip to Bridgeport, where they saw Koltsov tally the decisive goal in overtime, giving the Penguins a 3-2 win to cap a remarkable series comeback.


2013

Five years ago, the Penguins and the Providence Bruins faced off for the first time in the AHL playoffs, with the clubs meeting in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And the early results were not good for the Pens.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton dropped an 8-5 decision in the opening game, which included a four-point effort (1+3) from noted Penguin killer, Chris Bourque.

Game Two saw the Penguins jump out to a 1-0 lead 4:40 into the contest, thanks to Warren Peters’ shorthanded goal. But the Bruins rattled off four goals in fewer than 14 minutes to close out the opening frame, and the Bruins held on for a 4-2 victory.

Game Three, held back in Wilkes-Barre, was a much tighter contest, with Jared Knight and Trevor Smith trading goals in the second period. Brad Thiessen stopped 20 of 21 shots in regulation, but couldn’t stop Carter Camper’s attempt just 31 seconds into OT, giving the Bruins a 2-1 win and a seemingly unsurmountable 3-0 lead in the series.

But things were about to get interesting.

Camper gave the visiting Bruins a 1-0 lead just seven and a half minutes into the game, but that was the only goal Thiessen would surrender, as Peters, Riley Holzopfel and Chad Kolarik scored for the Penguins to give them their first win of the round.

Game Five, also in NEPA, saw Brian Dumoulin’s power play goal give the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 10:55 of the first. Tempers began to flare a short time later, as Bobby Robbins and Adam Payerl dropped the gloves at 14:29. But it was a scuffle behind the play between Christian Hanson and Joey Mormina that gave the Penguins another chance on the man advantage at 16:20. It took Smith just 27 seconds to double the Wilkes-Barre lead with his second goal of the series.

Payerl picked up a goal of his own in the second period, and the game degenerated into a slugfest in the third, with 72 penalty minutes being assessed in the final 5:23. Paul Thompson also added a goal during that time, making the final score 4-0.

Back in Providence, the Bruins poured on the offensive onslaught in Game Six. But Thiessen proved to be too much for the home squad, stopping 46 of 47 shots to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 overtime victory. Dumoulin scored for the second straight game on the power play, while Smith netted the winner 3:26 into OT.

That performance seemed to suck the wind out of the Bruins’ sails, as the Penguins scored four times in the second period of Game Seven, en route to a 5-0 win and an astounding comeback to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.


So sitting in a 2-0 hole isn’t the best place to be for the Penguins. But it’s also not an impossible hole to climb out of.

Game Three of the series with the Charlotte Checkers is this Thursday night at 7:05pm.  Games Four and Five, if necessary, will be held on Saturday at 7:05pm and Sunday at 3:05pm.

Individual game tickets and ticket packages for the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs are now on sale. With the purchase of a postseason ticket package, fans will receive a $6 food/merchandise voucher for every game played in the playoffs.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans can secure their seats for every game on the Cup run by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367, or fill in the form below to be contacted by a ticket representative.

Penguins Playoff T-Shirts are available now at the Penguins Team Store on Coal Street, via the Penguins online store, and at the Igloo Store inside the Mohegan Sun Arena during Thursday night’s game.