With literally half of the team either injured or on recall to Pittsburgh, if I told you that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins would only lose one point off of their five point lead coming into this weekend, do you take it?
If you say no, you are a liar.
The Penguins defeated the Norfolk Admirals Sunday afternoon by a score of 2-1. The Penguins once again enjoyed the services of Nick Drazenovic, returning from illness and Brian Dumoulin, retuning from Pittsburgh. It was announced during the game that Dominik Uher was recalled to Pittsburgh. The Penguins play the New Jersey Devils Monday night.
So the lead on the Bears shrinks one point to four, with Hershey having two games in hand on the Penguins. Wilkes-Barre plays the Bears twice this upcoming week.
Matt Murray started the game and was sharp when he needed to be. He was beat in the second period by a low shot by Dave Steckel after a busted Penguin line change.
The Penguins got goals from Conor Sheary in the first period and Nick Drazenovic in the third. The Sheary goal was a rebound of shots that Drazenovic and Tom Kostopoulos were peppering Norfolk starting goaltender Jason LaBarbera with. The Drazenovic goal was a laser that he unleashed on the far wall that went crossbar and in.
The Sheary goal ended a shutout streak that lasted 173:33 going back to last Saturday in Binghamton and two shutouts this Friday in Binghamton and Saturday at home against Bridgeport.
The Penguins had to kill :54 of a 5-on-3 late in the first and kept the Admirals off the board on special teams all night.
Wilkes-Barre used a team effort of shot blocking in the third period. Matt Murray only faced four shots.
Drazenovic’s re-entry into the lineup was felt immediately. He had a goal and an assist and factored into all of the offense tonight. He was the first star of the game. The second star was Conor Sheary, who has really been the only steady presence that the Penguins have had all season. Matt Murray stopped 26 of 27 shots to take home third star honors.
No one else in the division played tonight.
Standings are Penguins with 39 points, Hershey with 35, Lehigh Valley with 33, Binghamton with 31 and Norfolk with 25.
Conference is Manchester and Springfield with 46 points, Wilkes-Barre with 39, Syracuse with 44, Hartford with 38, Hershey with 35, Albany and Bridgeport with 34 each.
The Nailers played three skaters short and lost to South Carolina by a score of 5-1. The Nailers lost Tyler Murovich to recall to Wilkes-Barre early this morning. Murovich was probably insurance for Drazenovic, in case he couldn’t go. He participated in warmups but didn’t dress.
The only other lineup change was Paul Cianfrini for Brian Dumoulin.
Highlights, via Youtube…
My Week 12 AHL Power Rankings hit the blog at 4 p.m. Monday. Unless the calvary returns in time for the New Years Eve bash with Hershey, expect the next blog update after Monday’s Rankings to be the Wednesday Gameday setup against Hershey at 11 a.m., for the special 3:05 start.
Let’s Go Pens!