PROSPECTS CHALLENGE NOTEBOOK – SEPT. 15 vs. BOSTON
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Pittsburgh Penguins opened their entry at the 2023 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York with a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.
Though the three-game weekend opened with a loss, Sam Houde and Joel Blomqvist emerged as bright spots for the Penguins.
Houde notched Pittsburgh’s first goal and generated a bevy of scoring chances throughout the game while skating on the top forward line with Corey Andonovski and Brayden Yager. He also leveed several big hits, including a big one in open ice.
“I thought [Houde] was great tonight,” remarked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach J.D. Forrest. “We really leaned on him a lot. … I think a part of his game that he doesn’t get enough credit for is he’s willing to go to some ugly areas. He makes really good wall plays. I think if you look at his progression during his time with us, from year one through year two to now, I think he’s turning into the player who we think can really help the organization.”
Blomqvist was under siege early, but settled in and earned rave reviews from Forrest after the game.
“He made some extremely difficult saves, multiple times,” Forrest said. “There was a lot of traffic there for him to fight through and bodies around the net. So it was good to see him battle for it and find the puck and make some big saves for us.”
The Bruins’ prospects raced out to an early lead by scoring seconds into the game, then again at 6:32.
Pittsburgh on the board and cut their deficit in half midway through the opening frame. Houde seized a head of steam and made a hard drive to the net, only to be rebuffed. However, Andonovski quickly found the loose puck below the goal line and set up Houde for their team’s first goal of the Prospects Challenge.
The Penguins tied the game, 2-2, just 1:59 into the second period, albeit controversially. First-year pro Evan Vierling drove hard to the net and collided with Bruins goalie William Rousseau. Play continued long enough for Lukas Svejkovsky to calmly tap the loose puck into the open cage, and the referee deemed it a good goal. After a lengthy discussion with the other officials (and no video review,) the initial call was upheld, much to the B’s chagrin.
The Bruins regained their lead, 3-2, thanks to Providence regular Luke Toporowski potting his second tally of the game moments before the second intermission. That edge extended to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 3:54 of the third period.
• Boston’s first goal was a centering pass that ricocheted off of defenseman Jack St. Ivany and directly underneath an unsuspecting Blomqvist. St. Ivany made up for the gaffe later in the period by making a sliding, goal line save when the Penguins were killing a two-man advantage.
• First period shots ended nearly even, 10-9 in favor of Boston. However, the ice was firmly tilted towards Pittsburgh’s zone for most of the frame. Blomqvist a number of highly contested saves to keep the game from getting away from the Penguins, like Forrest alluded to,
• The Penguins made a planned goalie swap at 10:54 of the second period, with Blomqvist being replaced by tournament invite Michael Simpson. Blomqvist denied 12 of the 14 shots he faced. Simpson turned away 13 of 15.
• Things got feisty between the Penguins and Bruins a number of times. Given that this was the first competitive setting either team has been in for months, it was a welcome sight to see such intensity.
“It definitely gets you engaged, if you weren’t already,” Andonovski said after the game. “Physicality is something I try to take pride in in my game, so for me, that’s right up my alley.”
• Forrest also had this to say about Andonovski after the game: “He’s one of the older guys on this team. He was with us in Wilkes-Barre last year, he was at training camp before that, so he’s been through it all before. He has a presence about him. He’s a really intelligent guy. … He has some sway in the locker room.”
• Sam Poulin was surrounded by a sea of reporters after the game, but it wasn’t the usual Pittsburgh beat writers. It was a faction of Francophones who wanted to speak to the 22-year-old in his native tongue.
Even though Poulin produced no points during the game, he did showcase his trademark tenacity in the trenches and came within millimeters of setting up teammates for goals. Even though he hasn’t played much in the past calendar year, there’s a confidence brewing in Poulin right now.
• Ty Glover and Jordan Frasca were the first forwards deployed by J.D. Forrest any time the Penguins went to the penalty kill today.
• The next game of the 2023 Prospects Challenge for the Penguins is tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 16, when they go head-to-head with the Ottawa Senators’ prospects. Puck drop is slated for 12:00 p.m.
Check the Pittsburgh Penguins’ social media pages on Saturday before the game for streaming information.