PROSPECTS CHALLENGE NOTEBOOK – SEPT. 16 vs. OTTAWA

September 16, 2023 Nick Hart
Prospects Challenge

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Unrelenting physicality set the tone and ultimately led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a dominant 8-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at the 2023 Prospects Challenge.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton rookie Jagger Joshua led the Penguins’ pugnacious charge, while seven different goal-scorers filled the net for the Black and Gold.

For the second game in row, the Penguins prospects surrendered the first goal early. Just 90 seconds in, the Senators polished off a backdoor tap-in to seize the day’s first lead.

The response by Pittsburgh came swift.

THE PROSPECTS CHALLENGE PLAY-BY-PLAY

It started with Joshua landing a thundering open-ice hit, followed by another series of heavy blows to unsuspecting Senators. Evan Vierling ultimately tied the game at 4:20 of the opening period.

“The way the boys bounced back, it definitely helped us in the long run,” Joshua said. “I think it’s all about the response, and we all responded well.”

The Penguins continued to rack up shots (and hits) throughout the first 20 minutes, but went into intermission knotted at 1-1. Pittsburgh kept its foot on the gas and continued to impose itself physically on Ottawa early in the second period, which quickly led to a comfy three-goal lead. Brayden Yager, Dillon Hamaliuk and Sam Poulin each scored within six minutes of one another, putting the Penguins ahead, 4-1.

Ottawa tallied one late in the middle frame to pull within two, then the two clubs traded goals early in the third period, setting Pittsburgh’s lead at 5-3. Hamaliuk’s second of the game with five minutes left in regulation put things on ice. An empty netter by Corey Andonovski and power-play strike in garbage time by Jordan Frasca rounded out the scoring.

FINER PROSPECTS CHALLENGE DETAILS:

• The Penguins tinkered with their lineup to give players from yesterday some rest and to get some invitees more game action. Joel Blomqvist, Cooper Foster, Ty Glover, Sam Houde, Jack St. Ivany and Lukas Svejkovsky did not dress. Joshua, Andre Anania, Pano Fimis, Taylor Gauthier, Cole Moberg, Max Namestnikov and Matthew Soto checked in.

• Pittsburgh is rolling deep with its staff at this event. In addition to the bevy of scouts who normally attend the event, all of the Penguins’ management and coaches are in Buffalo for these games, as well. That means Kyle Dubas, Jason Spezza, Mike Sullivan, you name it, they’re all here.

“It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking, but you can’t think about it too much,” Hamaliuk said about having so many influential figures in the stands. “Even my game yesterday, I thought I was holding my stick a little too tight. Today, it was a fresh start, clean slate, and I thought I could show what I can do today.”

• Joshua’s impact on the game cannot be understated, and the entertainment value he provided to the afternoon was through the roof. In fact, he earned some hearty cheers and chants from fans clad in Buffalo Sabres gear as the Penguins left the ice once things went final.

Forrest said the following about Joshua postgame: “That’s what he does. He plays with a physical edge. He’s not shy out there, and he brings a type of juice to the bench and a different type of swagger. You love to see it. It gets the guys into the game, and you don’t have a choice, right? He’s bringing you into the game no matter what.”

• It was mostly a quiet day for Gauthier in net, as he the Penguins’ pressure resulted in just seven shots against through the first half of the game. However, he did come up with a lunging, post-to-post save in the second period, drawing oohs and aahs from the Penguins fans in attendance.

Gauthier finished with 18 saves on 21 shots faced.

• We should make sure not to overlook the edge to Isaac Belliveau’s game. The first-year pro and fifth-round selection by Pittsburgh in 2021 has showcased some snot in his two performances. It hasn’t been as eye-catching as Joshua, necessarily, but it’s definitely there. In fact, Belliveau utilized stiff defense to slow an oncoming rush, then started the play that led to the Penguins’ first goal of the afternoon.

• For the second game in a row, we saw Frasca and Hamaliuk be trusted with a good chunk of ice time during the penalty kill. Defenseman Justin Lee was a regular on that unit the past two games, as well. The Penguins’ P.K. went 5-for-5 on Saturday.

• Lee dropped the gloves with Connor Clattenburg midway through the second period. Lee left the game and went to the locker room, but returned before the the frame was over.

• Sunday is a day off for the Prospects Challenge. The Bills play, at home nonetheless, so it’s really an informal holiday in Buffalo. But the Penguins will be back at it and wrap up their stay on Monday when they take on the home side, the Buffalo Sabres. Game time will be 5:00 p.m.

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