ASTON-REESE NOTCHES GAME-WINNER IN PRO DEBUT AS PENGUINS DEFEAT HARTFORD, 5-2

BOXSCORE

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – It didn’t take long for college hockey’s top offensive threat to make an impression on the pro ranks. Zach Aston-Reese scored the game-winning goal for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in their 5-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

The Penguins (43-18-3-0) downed the Wolf Pack for the seventh time this season thanks to Aston-Reese’s well-timed strike at the end of the first period and two more tallies from Ryan Haggerty.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton got off to an early lead 4:45 into the game when Josh Archibald waited ever so patiently to avoid going offside and accepted a breakaway pass that he wristed into the net. However, the lead did not last long, as Chris Brown struck back for Hartford just 23 seconds after Archibald’s goal.

Haggerty earned another breakaway opportunity for the Penguins and converted on his chance, making it 2-1 at 7:34 of the opening frame. The Wolf Pack raced to another swift answer, though, this time in the form of a shorthanded goal by Marek Hrivík coming less than a minute after Haggerty’s marker.

The rollercoaster opening frame was closed out by Aston-Reese rocketing a shot past Hartford goalie Jeff Malcolm with a mere 18 seconds remaining in the period, bringing the score to 3-2 in favor of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Haggerty’s second goal of the night gave the Penguins some breathing room at 3:36 of the second period. David Warsofsky extended that lead to 5-2 at 6:39 of the middle frame with a point shot on the power play. The power play goal spelled the end of the night for Malcolm, who was replaced in the cage by Mackenzie Skapski.

Skapski went on to make 15 saves on 15 shots faced in relief, but the team in front of him never got any closer on the scoreboard as the Penguins secured the two points. Casey DeSmith stopped 19 shots in the win for the Penguins. Malcolm turned away 14 shots.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is Friday, Mar. 24 at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena against the Syracuse Crunch. Puck drop between the Penguins and Crunch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. 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.

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.

PITTSBURGH SIGNS ZACH ASTON-REESE


The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed college free agent forward Zach Aston-Reese to a two-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The contract will begin with the 2017-18 season and run through the 2018-19 campaign.

Aston-Reese will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this weekend on an amateur tryout contract this year.

Aston-Reese, 22, recently completed a successful four-year career at Northeastern, leading the NCAA this past season with 63 points (31G-32A) in just 38 games. His goal total also led the NCAA.

The 6-foot, 180-pound native of Staten Island, New York completed his four years at Northeastern averaging better than a point per game with 148 points (66G-82A) in 145 contests. His offensive totals improved all four seasons.

A two-year alternate captain at Northeastern, Aston-Reese skated three-plus years in the USHL, mostly for the Lincoln Stars.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are home again this Saturday night when they face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at 7:05pm.  It’s our annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, featuring a game-worn shamrock sweater auction.

Tickets for Saturday night’s game are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling the Penguins directly at 570-208-7367.