FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT WITH ANGELLO, ALMARI

By everyone’s admission, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ season concluded much sooner than people were expecting. The Game Three loss to the Charlotte Checkers was a stunning one to be sure, but those caught up in the moment may have missed the silver lining brightly shining from that contest.

Rookies Anthony Angello and Niclas Almari, both playing on amateur tryout contracts, were awesome.

Angello scored twice for the Penguins in that game, his first two tallies as a pro. Almari was a stalwart on defense and notched an assist. The Penguins may have lost the game, but Angello accounted for two-thirds of the team’s scoring, and Almari earned a plus-three rating.

The loss meant the 2017-18 season was over, but Angello and Almari sent a loud message for the future.

Anthony Angello recorded a pair of goals in just his second professional game.

“I think that was a good example of how I play and what I can do,” Angello said. “Coming in, I started off a little tentative, but then I started to play my game, and dominate down there at the end.”

Angello made the adjustment to the pro game quickly, but as he pointed out, things weren’t smooth sailing right from the outset. It took him several days to get truly settled in with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but once he did, he reached that level where he could break through in the unforgiving atmosphere of an elimination playoff game.

“I obviously had never been a pro before, I hadn’t played as pro style before, and being at school and stuff, I hadn’t skated in a couple weeks,” Angello said. “I was nervous from that aspect, but it all came together for me. Plus the guys were great, practices were well put together, so everything was arranged for me to step in and have success.”

Almari was impressive not only because of his play on the ice, but because of the age at which he thrived. He was only 19-years-old for that game against the Checkers, his first professional playoff game, and yet he maneuvered the playing service with the poise and confidence of a 10-year veteran. Even a casual fan could take one look at the teenager and see that he isn’t very physically imposing at this point, but despite lacking strength, he was arguably Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s best defenseman in that Game 3.

Niclas Almari recorded an assist and a plus-three rating in his first pro game.

In line with Almari’s performance, his off-ice personality is a poised one. Unfazed by reporters bombarding him with questions that aren’t in his native tongue, he declared himself to be “comfy” in the Calder Cup Playoffs setting. Last season, he captured the championship in Finland’s top junior league while leading all defensemen in points during the postseason. 

“I feel like I’m a playoff player,” Almari said. “I always play my best in playoffs… Junior playoffs in Finland aren’t that much different. Of course this level is a lot better hockey and every team has depth, but we had pretty big crowds for our games. It’s easy to get into the game. I think it had a huge impact on my (AHL) performance.”

All signs point to Angello starting the 2018-19 season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. On the other hand, Almari is still unsigned by Pittsburgh and could be headed back to Finland for one more season. Until then, the smooth defenseman will follow the guidance of Pittsburgh’s development staff with the added confidence of his AHL debut in tow.

“I know I played well, but there’s still a lot of improving that needs to be done,” Almari said. “The coaches know the road for me.”

By Nick Hart

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

PENGUINS FALL SHORT TO CHECKERS IN ELIMINATION GAME

 

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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins saw their 2018 Calder Cup Playoff run come to an end with a 7-3 loss in Game Three to the Charlotte Checkers at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Thursday night.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored the game’s first two goals, including the first of Anthony Angello’s professional career, but their opening push was not enough as Charlotte came back with five consecutive tallies to earn enough separation to win the series, 3-0.

The Penguins got things going early as Angello collected a rebound five minutes into the opening frame. Niclas Almari, making his Calder Cup Playoffs debut, earned the secondary assist on Angello’s first pro goal.

Angello’s line combined to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 2-0 lead at 7:29 of the first period. Teddy Blueger delivered a pass to Zach Trotman, whose booming slap shot was tipped in by Adam Johnson.

The Penguins were firmly in control of the contest until the Checkers turned the tide late in the opening period. First, Lucas Wallmark found the back of the net behind a screened Tristan Jarry at 16:41 of the first period, and Greg McKegg converted on a breakaway 21 seconds later. Suddenly, the game was tied, 2-2.

The second period produced scoring chance after scoring chance for both sides, but no goals until the Checkers got a favorable bounce late. Aleksi Saarela threw the puck into the slot crease, where it deflected off a Penguin’s stick, then his skate and into the net. The pinballing puck granted Charlotte a 3-2 lead with 2:14 left before the second intermission.

Charlotte poured on the offense in the final frame, scoring two goals in as many minutes as Clark Bishop and Andrew Miller both capitalized to extend the Checkers’ lead to 5-2.

Angello scored his second goal of the game when he stole the puck from Alex Nedeljkovic and snuck it past the goaltender, giving the Penguins life at 13:31 of the third period.  However, the Checkers tacked on two empty netters to end any hopes of a comeback and bring the game to its final score, 7-3.

Jarry made 25 saves on the night while Nedeljkovic stopped 26 shots thrown his way.

The Penguins finished the regular season 45-22-6-3, good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division and the fifth-best record in the American Hockey League. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs for the 16th season in a row, the longest active streak in the AHL.

PENGUINS LOSE CLOSE BATTLE WITH PHANTOMS IN SHOOTOUT, 2-1

 

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Both the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Lehigh Valley Phantoms traded goals in the last two minutes of regulation, but the Phantoms came out on top in a shootout, 2-1, on Saturday night at PPL Center.

With their point earned in the standings, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (44-22-6-3) was able to secure home ice in the first round of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Penguins will play as the No. 2 seed for the Atlantic Division in the postseason, even though their first round opponent is still to be determined.

The first period featured a strong defensive effort by both teams, keeping the game scoreless and without grade-A scoring chances for either side.

In the middle frame, the Penguins nearly doubled the Phantoms in shots. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton earned a 11-6 shot advantage in the second period, but both goalies remained strong. Alex Lyon held down the fort for the Phantoms, while Michael Leighton came up with a series of solid stops for the Penguins.

The Phantoms nearly generated a breakaway opportunity midway through the second period, but defenseman Niclas Almari stepped in to neutralize the headman pass. Almari, making his AHL debut, was the last line of defense on the sequence for the Penguins, but calmly clogged up the passing lane that would have otherwise resulted in a clean chance for Lehigh Valley’s Cole Bardeau.

Leighton also helped power the Penguins to kill off a double minor penalty in the middle frame, too, making numerous key saves to keep the score even at 0-0.

The third period yielded the best scoring chances for both the Penguins and Phantoms, but time and time again, they were foiled by the opposing netminder. The game appeared poised for a scoreless regulation until Garrett Wilson cracked the goose egg for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton late in the contest. With 1:50 left in the third period, Wilson muscled a loose puck under Lyon’s pad for the game’s first goal.

However, the goal was not enough as Chris Conner came back a minute later, scoring for Lehigh Valley with the goalie pulled and extra attacker activated with 45.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

The tight defense continued through the overtime period, as each team only surrendered two shots and allowed no goals.

Nic Aubé-Kubel scored the only goal of the shootout in the fourth round, granting Lehigh Valley the victory in its last game of the season.

Leighton made 30 saves on the night and denied three Phantoms attempts in the shootout, while Lyon turned aside 26 shots in regulation and overtime and went four-for-four on saves in the shootout.

The Penguins have one more game left in the regular season. They’ll take on the Hershey Bears at Giant Center tomorrow, Sunday, Apr. 15, at 5:00 p.m. for both clubs’ regular season finale.

Ticket packages and individual game tickets 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.

 

PENGUINS SIGN NICLAS ALMARI TO ATO

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that they have signed defenseman Niclas Almari to an amateur tryout agreement for the 2017-18 season. Almari returns to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after accepting an ATO and training with the club in April of 2017.

Almari, 19, just completed his second professional season with HPK-Edustusjääkiekko Ry of the Finnish Liiga. In 41 games with HPK this season, Almari notched four goals and four assists for eight points. At times throughout the season, Almari, a native of Espoo, Finland, was loaned to Lempäälän Kisa and Espoo United of the Mestis, Finland’s second professional league. In 13 combined contests in the Mestis, Almari racked up four assists.

At the expiration of the regular season, Almari was assigned by HPK to its junior club for the Jr. A SM-liiga Playoffs. In five postseason games, he scored twice and added an assist for three points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins selected the defenseman in the fifth round (151st overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Following the draft, Almari began his professional career with HPK. Almari completed the 2016-17 campaign with HPK’s junior club for a 10-game stint in the Jr. A SM-liiga playoffs. HPK U20 won the Legacy Bowl that year, and Almari topped all defensemen during the playoffs in assists (10) and points (11).

The Penguins’ next game is today, Saturday, Mar. 31, when they host the Providence Bruins for the second time this week. Puck drop between the Penguins and P-Bruins is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

Individual tickets for the final four home games of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 19th season of hockey are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

PENGUINS ADD FOUR DEFENSEMEN

 

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that they have signed defensemen Niclas Almari and Connor Hall to amateur tryout contracts for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. Additionally, defenseman Kevin Schulze has signed a professional tryout agreement with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the Penguins have recalled defenseman Ryan Segalla.

Almari split his first pro season between HPK Hämeenlinna (Liiga) and Lempäälän Kisa (Mestis) in Finland. During that time, he earned four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 47 games. He also won the Legacy Bowl with HPK’s junior club as Jr. A SM-liiga champions on Apr. 1, 2017. The 18-year-old blueliner from Espoo, Finland was taken in the fifth round (151st overall) of this past summer’s 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hall, a third round pick (77th overall) by Pittsburgh in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, comes to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after his second season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. The six-foot-four defenseman appeared in 17 games with the Rangers this season before he underwent shoulder surgery in December. In 64 career OHL games, Hall has earned three goals, nine assists, 12 points and 95 penalty minutes.

Schulze led the Nailers this season with 47 assists and tied current Penguin Cody Wydo for the team lead in points (60). The rookie out of the University of Wisconsin was the only defenseman in the ECHL to lead his team in points at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Segalla, who is also playing in his first season of pro hockey, made his AHL debut in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 4-0 win at Lehigh Valley on Mar. 25, 2017. In one AHL game, the Hanover, Mass. native did not earn any points. The 22-year-old has posted three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 62 games with the Nailers this season.

Segalla was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is tomorrow, Wednesday, Apr. 12, the last of 12 season meetings between the Penguins and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Puck drop between the Penguins and Phantoms 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.

Penguins ticket packages, including 10-voucher flex packs, are available directly through the Penguins offices by calling (570) 208-7367.