ASTON-REESE LOOKS TO BUILD ON EARLY SUCCESS

At first, Zach Aston-Reese was getting all the breaks. He scored in the first period of his first AHL game, he rattled off a franchise-best four-game point streak to start a pro career, and he was skating every night with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ top veterans.

Then, suddenly, his luck changed, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Aston-Reese suffered an upper body injury in the Penguins second-to-last game of the season.

He sought several second opinions from doctors in Pittsburgh. Every trip only garnered marginally better news, but nothing ground-breaking. One thing became painstakingly clear: there was no way he was going to be able to play in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“I wish I could have kept going,” Aston-Reese said. “I really wish we could know how things would have went if I didn’t get this injury… I’m not sure if ‘disappointed’ is the right word, but it definitely doesn’t feel good.”

Aston-Reese was making progress towards a return as the postseason carried on, but he still wasn’t cleared to play in the Penguins’ decisive Game Five of their Atlantic Division Semifinal series against the Providence Bruins. He had to watch that game, and all of its prior contests, from suite level, a location that provided him with an excellent view of where he’d rather be.

The Hobey Baker finalist was left feeling powerless to the result playing out in front of him.

“It was tough, that last game, especially,” he said. “From up top, you see things from a different perspective. We totally outplayed them. [Providence] is not a bad team by any means, they cycle the puck really well and have some crazy good players. But a lot of our shots just couldn’t find a way in. It was tough because you get that feeling that you want to get out there and help, but you can’t.”

The sting from the loss was amplified by not only his lack of influence on the series, but by the fact that he quickly grew invested in the Penguins’ fortunes. Joining the club after his senior season of college hockey had come to an end, Aston-Reese might have never emotionally connected with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s goals. But he did, and it’s all thanks to the people he met when he first came in.

Greeted with nothing but compassion when he entered the fold in late March, Aston-Reese quickly integrated with the locker room and its many personalities.

“Coming to a team late in the season is tough,” he said. “You don’t know where you fit in, but everyone was really welcoming.

“I felt like part of the group.”

While Aston-Reese had to watch from afar while he and his new friends’ season came to an end, he ultimately gives his brief time in the AHL a positive review. In his eyes, the 10 games he played gave him the perspective necessary to thrive next year when he embarks on his first full professional season.

“I thought this was a really good experience for me,” Aston-Reese said. “You learn a lot about the whole three-in-three thing. The schedule change is such a huge difference, AHL vs. college. And the practices, too. The pace, the everyday grind; it was an eye-opening experience for me.”

Aston-Reese plans to spend the early portion of his summer healing properly, then working on the little details of his game in which he felt slightly insufficient now that he understands what pro hockey is all about. That being said, the adversity he faced at the end of his ATO run has him itching to start next season as soon as possible.

“I can’t wait to get after it next year, start from zero and work at another run.”


Season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season are on sale now, and available by calling the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 570-208-7367.

To have a Penguins representative contact you with more information, please fill out the form below.

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

LATE SEASON ADDITIONS CAN HELP PENGUINS

Troy Josephs and Zach Aston-Reese have joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after exceptional senior seasons at Clarkson and Northeastern respectively.  And while it remains to be seen what kind of impact the talented duo will have in the final month of American Hockey League action, past late season signings by the Penguins have led to positive performances.

Back in April 2014, a little known free agent named Connor Sheary signed an Amateur Tryout contract with the Penguins after completing his collegiate career at U. Mass.  The speedy forward appeared in two regular season games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before going on to post 11 points (6+5) in 15 postseason contests.  That point total was good for third on the team, and his six goals were tied for second.

The following year, Sheary led the AHL club with 45 points in just 58 games, and earned himself and NHL contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He joined the NHL squad midway through last season, and was a key component of Pittsburgh’s fourth Stanley Cup Championship.

At the beginning of last season, Jake Guentzel was just another mid-round draft selection that you may or may not have heard of.  Grabbed by the Penguins in the third round in 2013, Guentzel went on to lead the University of Nebraska-Omaha with 46 points last season, before signing an ATO with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 22.  He recorded a respectable six points (2+4) in 11 regular season games, before turning on the afterburners in the playoffs.  His 14 points (5+9) in 10 postseason contests led the Penguins, and were the most by any player in the league when the Pens were eliminated after the second round.

Guentzel picked right up where he left off this season, posting 42 points in 33 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  He also notched a pair of goals in his NHL debut against the New York Rangers, and has 25 points (11+14) in his first 34 NHL contests (as of March 20).  His 21 tallies with the AHL Penguins this season still ranked tied for second among league rookies on March 15, despite Guentzel’s last game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coming on January 14.

Daniel Sprong was another highly-touted prospect that jumped right into the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lineup and provided a spark last year.  The Pittsburgh Penguins’ second round choice in the 2015 NHL Draft recorded 46 points (16+30) in just 33 games with his junior club in Charlottetown (QMJHL), then joined the AHL club just as the Calder Cup Playoffs were getting underway.  He put up an impressive five goals and seven points in 10 postseason contests with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The 20-year old Sprong has been tearing up the QMJHL again this season.  After missing much of the campaign due to injury, Sprong has recorded 32 goals and 59 points in just 31 games with Charlottetown.  The Islanders finished second overall in the Q this season, and figure to be among the favorites when the league’s playoffs start this week.

It’s a busy seven day span for the Penguins, who will host the Hartford WolfPack at home on Tuesday night before a three-in-three weekend.  The Pens will play in Syracuse Friday and Allentown Saturday, before returning home to face the Utica Comets on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s game is another KIDS FREE Sunday. Fans ages 14 and younger can get into the game for free with a paid adult ticket. Plus we’ll have $2 hot dogs throughout the game, and a free postgame skating session (skates not included).

For more info or to purchase tickets, call the Penguins at 570-208-7367.