PROSPECT CHALLENGE TITLE A TESTAMENT TO PENGUINS ORGANIZATION STRENGTH

At the 2017 Prospect Challenge, there was only one team without a single player selected in the first round on it’s roster. It was the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team with the most undrafted players on its roster was the Pittsburgh Penguins. Which team had the most points at the end of the tournament? The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite their opponents boasting arguably more attractive depth charts, the Penguins organization proved its dominance once again with its tremendous showing at the Prospects Challenge. The efforts of the scouts, coaches, and most importantly the players culminated in a 5-3 victory in the final game against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

“This group was pretty special because we didn’t have too many practices,” said coach Clark Donatelli. “We showed them some video, we told them what to do, and they responded. They played really well. I think it gets contagious once they know they have success doing it, they want to do it more.”

Donatelli went on and spoke at length about the organizations philosophy when it comes to not just drafting and signing good players, but “good humans”, as he put it. There is an added emphasis on work ethic, too, and when those personalites all combine in one space, unique things can happen.

“When people come to us, they want to get better,” Donatelli said. “Every single person works so hard on the ice and off the ice. When you’re working in that kind of environment and you have people around you that are willing to pay the price to win and pay attention to details and practice habits, it’s contagious. Fortunately for us right now, that’s our culture. It’s a tribute to the organization and how they draft players.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a first round or a second rounder or undrafted. Once you’re a Penguin, you’re a Penguin. Once you’re part of the family, you’re part of the family.”

New assistant coach Tim Army has only been part of the family for a hot second, being hired by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton one month ago. However, he now has first-hand experience with what the Penguins organization is capable of, even when they have limited resources at the draft.

“I think the evaluation of players and brining in the right group is a credit to all of the scouting staff,” Army said. “You know, they get out there and they watch a lot of games. They’re all over North America and they’re all over Europe. We have some draft picks here, but there are also some unsigned players that are really battling. They bring in the right pieces.”

Those scouts found Teddy Blueger, who wore the “C” as a young leader on this team and was a beacon of light on defense.

Those scouts found Daniel Sprong, whose constant threat of offense kept opposing teams on their heels.

Those scouts found Jordy Bellerive, and undrafted, unsigned 18-year-old who ended up topping the tournament with seven total points (4G-3A) in three games.

Those scouts scoured the globe and found Slovenian Jan Drozg, who unloaded a wicked wrist shot on the rush for what became the game-winning and tournament-winning goal.

And on and on and on.

The Sabres opened the scoring with a first period power play goal by Brendan Guhle. The rowdy crowd at HARBORCenter thought that the hometown Buffalo squad would carry that 1-0 lead into the first intermission until Thomas Di Pauli slammed home a rebound in the waning seconds of the frame.

The second period was a back and forth affair, with the two teams trading goals in quick succession. Zach Aston-Reese made it 2-1 for the Penguins prospects with a goal on a five-on-three man advantage, but Buffalo’s Justin Bailey answered back with another power play marker. Antti Palojärvi, who checked in to the Penguins’ line-up for the first time on Monday, got the black and gold back on top, 3-2, before Buffalo’s third power play goal of the night (this time from C.J. Smith) evened things up again.

Drozg found his game-winner midway through the third, and then Zach Aston-Reese sealed it off with an empty netter.

They didn’t walk away with a trophy or gold medals or anything like that, but with the work put in by everyone with the Penguins this weekend, the organization showed its counterparts why its considered the best there is.

“There’s an expectation of winning here,” Army said. “And we told that to the guys before we bused out. We’re about winning here, so let’s go win a tournament. Well, we won the tournament.”

PENGUINS PROSPECTS HIT THE ICE IN BUFFALO THIS WEEKEND

Jeff Taylor will be among the players who suited up for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins participating in the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo

Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese headline the 24-man roster (full roster and player bios) that the Pittsburgh Penguins will send to participate in the 2017 Prospects Challenge held at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York from September 8-11.

This year, the Penguins will compete against rookies from the host Buffalo Sabres, the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins. This is Pittsburgh’s first year competing in Buffalo after several years participating in a rookie tournament in London, Ontario.

Pittsburgh will play in the opening game of the Prospects Challenge on Friday, September 8 at 3:30 PM. The Penguins will also play on Saturday, September 9 at 3:30 PM against New Jersey, before concluding with a night contest against the Sabres on Monday, September 11 at 7:00 PM.

All three games will be broadcast live on penguins.nhl.com with Josh Getzoff handling play-by-play duties. Michelle Crechiolo and the Pens’ social media team will be on hand to provide coverage all weekend.

Prior to departing for Buffalo, the Penguins prospects will practice on Thursday, September 7 at 10:30 AM at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa. Players, coaches and members of the development staff will be available to the media immediately following practice.

During the Prospects Challenge, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli will be behind the bench for the Penguins, alongside his assistants, J.D. Forrest and Tim Army.

Sprong, 20, who skated in 18 NHL regular-season games for the Penguins as an 18 year old in 2015-16, has been a member of Pittsburgh’s ‘Black Aces’ taxi squad during the back-to-back Stanley Cup runs. Back in 2015, Sprong used a strong rookie tournament in London, Ontario to eventually make the NHL roster out of training camp, before returning to his junior club in Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Last year, Sprong’s season was delayed by offseason shoulder surgery, but when he returned to the ice, he was one of the most dominant skaters in the QMJHL. In just 31 games with Charlottetown, he produced 32 goals and 59 points, including four hat tricks and a four-goal game.

Aston-Reese, 23, joined the Pittsburgh organization as an undrafted free agent from Northeastern after leading the NCAA in goals (31) and points (63) in 2016-17. In a brief late-season cameo with WBS, Aston-Reese scored three goals and eight points in 10 games.

Here are some tidbits on the remainder of Pittsburgh’s Prospects Challenge roster:

*Five more players in addition to Sprong and Aston-Reese – defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Ethan Prow and Jeff Taylor; and forwards Teddy Blueger and Thomas Di Pauli – are prospects signed to NHL contracts that have also logged action with WBS.

*Rookie free agent forward Adam Johnson, who inked an entry-level deal with Pittsburgh following a strong showing at the team’s annual prospect development camp in July, will compete in his first game action in a Penguins jersey. Johnson was second on Minnesota-Duluth in goals (18) and points (37) as a sophomore last year.

*Three members of the Penguins’ 2017 draft class will suit up, including top pick Zachary Lauzon. The 18-year-old defenseman was chosen by the Penguins in the second round (51st overall). He will be joined by forward Jan Drozg, a fifth-round (152nd overall) pick, and fellow blueliner Antti Palojarvi, who was selected in the sixth round (186th overall).

*Freddie Tiffels, a 22-year-old 2015 sixth-round (167thoverall) draft pick, will be joining Johnson in seeing his first game action with Pittsburgh following a three-year collegiate career at Western Michigan.

*Of the 24 players attending the Prospects Challenge, 17 attended Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp in July.

Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2017 Prospects Challenge Schedule

Thursday, September 7

10:30 AM – Practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex

Friday, September 8

9:00 AM – Morning Skate (KeyBank Rink)

3:30 PM – Game vs. Boston (Kaybank Rink)

Saturday, September 9

9:00 AM – Morning Skate (New Wave Energy Rink)

3:30 PM – Game vs. New Jersey (KeyBank Rink)

Monday, September 11

11:00 AM – Morning Skate (New Wave Energy Rink)

7:00 PM – Game vs. Buffalo (KeyBank Rink)

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

PENGUINS PROSEPCT CAMP BEGINS THIS WEEK

Jeff Taylor will be one of the skaters with experience playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at this week’s prospect camp.

Thomas DiPauli, Jeff Taylor and Zach Aston-Reese are among the 2016-17 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who will be participating in the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect development camp, which runs from Wednesday, June 28 until Saturday, July 1 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa.

This year’s roster (click here to see full roster) features 24 forwards, 12 defenseman and four goaltenders, and will include all six players selected in Saturday’s NHL Draft in Chicago, led by defenseman Zachary Lauzon, Pittsburgh’s top choice (2nd round; 51st overall).

Fans can attend all of the on-ice practices, including the 3-on-3 camp-concluding scrimmage on Saturday, July 1 at 3:00 PM. A complete camp schedule is listed below.

The first practice sessions will be on Wednesday, July 28. Team A will practice from 2:15-3:00 PM, followed by Team B from 3:15-4:00 PM.

Of the 40 players invited to camp, 21 were originally drafted by Pittsburgh, and two others, forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Thomas Di Pauli, were signed by the Penguins as college free agents. Ten of the 12 defensemen on the camp roster are Pittsburgh draft picks, with eight of them chosen within the past two drafts.

Lauzon, the reigning Kevin Lowe Trophy winner as the best defensive defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, will be joined at camp by defenseman Clayton Phillips (3rd round; 93rd overall), fifth-round forwards Jan Drozg (152nd overall) and Linus Olund (155th overall), and defensemen Antti Palojarvi (6th round; 186th overall) and William Reilly (7th round; 217th overall).

Last week, it was announced that three of Pittsburgh’s top prospects, forwards Daniel Sprong and Aston-Reese, and goalie Filip Gustavsson, would be attending. Among the players joining that trio are Di Pauli, defenseman Jeff Taylor and forward Freddie Tiffels, all of whom are already signed to pro deals.

Di Pauli, 23, signed with the Penguins last August after being originally chosen by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round (100th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. Injuries limited Di Pauli to 21 games in his first professional season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. A four-year member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Di Pauli represented Team USA at the 2014 World Junior Championship.

Taylor, 23, joined WBS late in the season following a stellar senior season at Union College, where he helped his team advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33), while adding 24 assists and posting a plus-15, in 38 games. Taylor was an alternate captain for Union, and his performance earned him a berth on the All-ECAC Second Team. Taylor was drafted by Pittsburgh in the seventh round (203rd overall) in 2014.

The speedy Tiffels, 22, signed his entry-level contract with Pittsburgh last week after enjoying a successful junior season at Western Michigan this past year, scoring nine goals and setting personal highs with 12 assists and 21 points in 37 games played. He was named to the NCHC All-Academic Team each of his last two years in school. Tiffels was a 2015 sixth-round (167th overall) draft pick. He scored twice skating for Germany at the 2017 World Championship.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli will run this year’s camp, alongside WBS assistant coaches Chris Taylor and J.D. Forrest; Wheeling Nailers head coach Jeff Christian and his assistant, Riley Armstrong; and Pittsburgh Penguins goalie coach Mike Buckley and Penguins skills development professional Ty Hennes. Other Pittsburgh Penguins, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Wheeling Nailers hockey operations personnel will assist with off-ice activities throughout the week.

Below is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2017 Development Camp Practice Schedule:

Wednesday, June 28

2:15-3:00 PM – Team A Practice

3:15-4:00 PM – Team B Practice

Thursday, June 29

9:45 AM – Skills Session (Team A)

10:45 AM – Skills Session (Team B)

10:45 AM – Goalies Session (Rink 2)

Friday, June 30

9:45 AM – Practice (Team B)

10:45 AM – Practice (Team A)

Saturday, July 1

3:00 PM – 3-on-3 Scrimmage

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

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

PENGUINS SCORE LATE, BUT LOSE IN SHOOTOUT, 3-2

BOXSCORE

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins managed a late-game equalizer to force overtime in their Sunday afternoon game, but ultimately fell in the shootout to the Utica Comets by a 3-2 score at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

The Penguins dropped to 47-19-3-1 on the season, but still managed to inch closer to a playoff berth as a result of the extra point claimed by losing after regulation.

It did not take long for the visitors to start the scoring as Cody Kunyk tipped in a shot from the point just 2:28 into the contest. Kunyk’s redirection ended up being the only goal of the opening period.

Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos helped tie the game, 1-1, by setting up Zach Aston-Reese from behind the net for a power play goal at 5:08 of the second period.

An own goal by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton reestablished Utica’s one-goal lead at 12:58 of the middle frame. Jordan Subban was credited with the goal, his second point of the game.

The Penguins furiously attempted to knot thing up throughout the third period, but were consistently foiled by rookie goalie Thatcher Demko. It wasn’t until Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 15th shot of the period and an empty-net, extra attacker power play that Oskar Sundqvist snuck the puck across the line on Demko’s short side with a mere 58.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

The game went to a shootout after the thrilling three-on-three overtime period that didn’t have a single stoppage. Utica’s Curtis Valk notched the shootout’s only goal and claimed victory for the Comets.

Tristan Jarry recorded 34 saves during the game and made an additional two more stops in the shootout. Demko made 43 saves and denied the Penguins on all three of their shootout attempts.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is Friday, Apr. 2, when it takes on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at PPL Center. The Penguins’ next home game is Wednesday, Apr. 12, and once again, their opponent will be the Phantoms. Puck drop between the Penguins and Phantoms 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.

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

ASTON-REESE NAMED ONE OF THREE FINALISTS FOR HOBEY BAKER AWARD

Zach Aston-Reese was in the midst of a video session with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assistant coach Chris Taylor when word came down that he had been named one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. So the recently-signed rookie hadn’t even received word on the honor before a gaggle of reporters grabbed him on the way back to his locker.

“I just found out from you guys,” said the grinning Aston-Reese. “It’s pretty exciting. I don’t really know what to say. I’m just kind of focusing in on this weekend right now. I’ve got a big weekend coming up. That’s something that I’ll probably have to call my parents about and kind of worry about next week.”

The Hobey Baker Award has been presented every year since 1981 to the top NCAA men’s hockey player for skill on the ice and character inside and outside of the rink. The award is named after former Princeton Tigers forward Hobey Baker (1892-1918), who perished in an airplane accident while serving in France during World War I.

The Hockey East Player of the Year and a First Team all-conference forward, Aston-Reese led the entire nation with 31 goals and tied for the top spot in college hockey with 63 points this year while skating with Northeastern. With that stat sheet, many assumed the Staten Island native would be a shoe-in for one of the final spots for the award.

But Aston-Reese wasn’t one of them.

When asked if he was surprised to be in the final three, Aston-Reese replied, “A little bit. There was a lot of good guys in the top 10 and a lot of guys that made it further with their teams.”

Zach Aston-Reese led the entire NCAA with 31 goals this season (photo courtesy Northeastern University)

Aston-Reese showed continual improvement during his four seasons at Northeastern, and more than doubled his goal production from his junior to senior seasons (14 goals to 31).

“I never really dreamed about [being nominated for the Hobey Baker Award],” he said. “I was kind of a grinder back in the day. Still am. But I just had some success this year with producing. So it kind of just fell on me this year.”

Signed to an amateur tryout by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 18, Aston-Reese has recorded six points (2+4) in his first four games with the AHL club, and carries a four-game point streak into Friday night’s road contest against the Springfield Thurnderbirds.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins return home for a pair of games this weekend against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Saturday at 7:05pm) and Utica Comets (Sunday at 3:05pm). Sunday’s game is a KIDS FREE contest, with fans ages 14 and younger able to attend the game for FREE with a paid adult ticket.

Tickets for both games are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, online at TicketMaster.com or by calling 570-208-7267.

JARRY, PENGUINS SHUT-OUT PHANTOMS, 4-0

 

BOXSCORE

 

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins extended their lead atop the Atlantic Division and inched closer to a playoff berth by defeating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4-0 at PPL Center on Saturday night.

The Penguins (45-18-3-0) rode the coat tails of Tristan Jarry and their league-best penalty kill to victory. Jarry stopped all 35 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season, while the P.K. went a perfect nine-for-nine on the night.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opened the scoring at 12:58 of the first period. Video review confirmed Teddy Blueger snuck a puck past Lehigh Valley goalie Alex Lyon’s short-side, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The Penguins’ fourth-line provided the team with a pair of goals in the middle frame. Adam Krause deflected in a shot from the point for his first goal of the season 5:07 into the second period. Jarrett Burton put his stick on a pass from Troy Josephs that beat Lyon through the legs, extending the Penguins lead to 3-0 at 12:18 of the middle frame.

The penalty killing clinic by the Penguins took over from there, neutralizing five-straight man advantages for the Phantoms before Tom Kostopoulos netted a power play goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a mere 1:14 remaining in regulation.

Kostopoulos’ two point night (1G-1A) allowed him reach the 50-point plateau for the seventh time in his career. Zach Aston-Reese notched two assists to extend his career-opening point streak to three games.

Lyon turned aside 26 shots in the loss for the Phantoms.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is tomorrow, Sunday, Mar. 26, when it takes on the Utica Comets at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in a Sunday matinée. Puck drop between the Penguins and Comets is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Sunday’s game is also one of three Kids Get In Free games this season.

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.

PENGUINS CRUISE TO 5-1 WIN AT SYRACUSE

BOXSCORE

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins rode an impressive offensive performance to a 5-1 win against the Syracuse Crunch at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena on Friday night.

Hobey Baker finalist Zach Aston-Reese continued to impress early on in his pro career, as he notched a goal and an assist in his second pro game while the Penguins (44-18-3-0) kicked off their three-in-three weekend on a high note.

Thomas Di Pauli scored his second career goal to open the scoring, giving the Penguins an early 1-0 lead only 5:22 into the contest.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton continued to go to work as Kevin Porter and Aston-Reese set one another up for back-to-back goals one shift apart, making it 3-0. Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudļevskis saw his night end before the 15-minute mark and was replaced by Mike McKenna.

Syracuse eventually got on the board with a shorthanded tally by Michaël Bournival on a two-on-none rush with Cory Conacher with 3:44 remaining in the first.

The Penguins reestablished their three-goal edge 1:09 into the middle frame. A blue line blast from Barry Goers went past a screen and then McKenna, making it 4-1. Another early period goal at the start of the third period made it 5-1 when Dominik Simon tapped in his 13th goal of the year after a cross-crease pass from Ryan Haggerty.

In addition to a runaway victory for the road team, the game devolved into a penalty-filled contest by the end of regulation, too. The two clubs combined for 13 power plays and 40 total penalty minutes, but 32 of those PIMs came after the midway point of the game.

Tristan Jarry was spectacular once again in net for the Penguins as he made 27 saves on 28 shots for his 26th win on the year, tying him for the league lead. McKenna made 23 saves on 25 shots in his relief stint after Gudļevskis allowed three goals on seven shots.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is tomorrow, Saturday, Mar. 24, when it takes on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at PPL Center. The Penguins’ next home showing is on Sunday, Mar. 26 when they take on the Utica Comets for a 3:00 p.m. Sunday matinée and Kids Get In Free game.

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.

ASTON-REESE SHAKES OFF NERVES IN PRO DEBUT

You could forgive Zach Aston-Reese for having a few butterflies fluttering around before Tuesday night’s game against the Hartford Wolf Pack.  After all, the 22-year old was about to make his professional hockey debut while suiting up on the top line for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

“I was a little nervous in warm ups.  I think I whiffed on half of my shots,” he laughed following the Pens’ 5-2 win.  “But halfway through the first I got my confidence a little bit.”

And by the end of the period, any semblance of nervousness was gone.

The leading scorer in the NCAA this season, Aston-Reese netted his first pro goal with just 17.3 seconds left in the opening frame, giving the Penguins a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes of play.

The goal came off of a goal line feed from team captain Tom Kostopoulos, who found Aston-Reese in the slot.

“TK made a really nice play to me.  I didn’t hesitate, I just put it on net,” said Aston-Reese.  “It was fortunate enough to go in.”

The Northeastern product was being a bit modest saying he was fortunate to score.  Goals have come at a prodigious pace for the recently signed free agent this season, as he scored 31 times in 38 games with the Huskies during his senior year.

Head coach Clark Donatelli was impressed with what he saw out of the rookie forward.

“Quick release.  For his first game, he’s pretty poised with the puck,” said Donatelli.  “You can tell he’s a goal scorer.”

Aston-Reese didn’t look out of place skating with Kostopoulos and Kevin Porter, two vets who had combined to play more than 1,900 professional games headed into last night’s action.  But he did notice a bit of a difference in one area compared to the college game.

“I said on the bench to TK actually that guys are a lot stronger and it’s tougher to get to the net,” he remarked.

Tuesday was just a taste of the AHL for Aston-Reese.  The Penguins will play three games in three days this weekend, something which is a rarity in the college ranks.  Still, the Staten Island native is looking forward to the challenge of the late season schedule.

“It’s not going to get any easier.  I just have to keep my mind right, keep my body going here.”

NOTES:  Aston-Reese became the first Penguins player to score in his pro debut sine Kasperi Kapanen tallied against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on April 8, 2015…Aston-Reese became the 77th Penguins player to receive an assist from Tom Kostopoulos.

PENGUINS WEEKLY – 3/22/17

 

Penguins start week right with win before three-in-three weekend

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (43-18-3-0) looks ahead to trio of playoff-caliber teams

 

Weekly Rewind

Friday, Mar. 17 – PENGUINS 4 at Lehigh Valley 1
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kicked off a back-to-back set with Lehigh Valley by rattling off four unanswered goals en route to a big win. Josh Archibald scored a shorthanded goal to turn the tide. Dominik Simon tallied for the third-straight game.

 

Saturday, Mar. 18 – PENGUINS 2 vs. Lehigh Valley 3
The Penguins attempted a valiant third period comeback, but ran out of time to drop the second game of their home and home with the Phantoms. Tom Kostopoulos scored on the power play, and Oskar Sundqvist struck shorthanded for the club’s eighth shorty of the season.

 

Tuesday, Mar. 21 – PENGUINS 5 vs. Hartford 2
The Pens made it a perfect seven-for-seven against the Wolf Pack this season thanks in large part to a two-goal outburst from Ryan Haggerty. Zach Aston-Reese made his pro debut and scored the game-winning goal.

 

The Week Ahead

Friday, Mar. 24 – PENGUINS at Syracuse
The North Division-leading Crunch play host to the Atlantic Division-leading Penguins in their final meeting of the season. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 4-1-0-0 against Syracuse this season.

 

Saturday, Mar. 25 – PENGUINS at Lehigh Valley
The Penguins and Phantoms face one another for the fourth time in March. The season series is knotted at four wins each, but Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has emerged victorious in its last two visits to PPL Center.

 

Sunday, Mar. 26 – PENGUINS vs. Utica
The Comets will come into Sunday’s matinée motivated, as they currently sit just one win outside the North Division playoff bubble. Sunday’s contest is also a Kids Get In Free game.

 

Ice Chips

– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has already matched its win total from last season (43).

– Zach Aston-Reese is the first Penguin to score in his pro debut since Kasperi Kapanen (Apr. 8, 2015).

– Dominik Simon is on a five-game point streak, tying an AHL career high. He also has 12 points (4G-8A) in his last 11 games.

– The Penguins have outscored the Wolf Pack 38-13 this season.

– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton boasts the best penalty kill in the league (86.9%).

– David Warsofsky leads the AHL with a plus-31 rating and he tops all defensemen with 13 multi-point games this season.

– Tristan Jarry has the second-most wins in the AHL (25).

 

DIVISION STANDINGS

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS Pt%
1. PENGUINS 64 43 18 3 0 89 .695
2. Lehigh Valley 64 41 19 4 0 86 .672
3. Hershey 65 36 28 8 3 83 .638
4. Providence 64 36 19 5 4 81 .633
5. Bridgeport 64 38 23 2 1 79 .617
6. Springfield 64 27 27 8 2 64 .500
7. Hartford 64 21 37 4 2 48 .375

 

TEAM LEADERS

SKATERS GP G A PTS
Tom Kostopoulos 64 23 26 49
David Warsofsky 49 15 29 44
Jake Guentzel*^ 33 21 21 42
Kevin Porter 60 10 32 42
Dominik Simon 61 12 29 41

 

GOALIES GP W-L-OT GAA SV% Shutouts
Tristan Jarry 40 25-14-1 2.27 .921 1
Casey DeSmith* 23 17-4-2 2.28 .912 0

* = rookie

^ = currently with Pittsburgh

 

UPCOMING GAME SCHEDULE

DATE                 OPPONENT         LOCATION                                TIME    

Fri, Mar. 24        Syracuse              Onondaga War Memorial        7:00 p.m.

Sat, Mar. 25       Lehigh Valley      PPL Center                                 7:05 p.m.

Sun, Mar. 26     Utica                      Mohegan Sun Arena                3:05 p.m.

 

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

Mon, Mar. 21     (D)   Derrick Pouliot                Reassigned by PIT

Mon, Mar. 21     (D)   Frank Corrado                      Recalled by PIT

Mon, Mar. 21     (C)    Oskar Sundqvist                   Recalled by PIT

Mon, Mar. 21     (D)   Ryan Segalla                  Recalled from WHL