The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have made it to the playoffs for fourteen consecutive seasons.
No other team in the AHL can make that claim.
The Penguins, in those 14 seasons of postseason hockey, have made it to the second round 13 of those 14 seasons.
No other team comes close.
Wilkes-Barre has two newspapers covering the team from all angles.
Some teams don’t have a single newspaper running a daily or a beat writer covering the team.
Every Penguins game is on terrestrial radio.
Most teams aren’t.
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have a stable relationship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hell, half of the reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins are as far along in their postseason is because of guys like Matt Murray, Mike Sullivan, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Derrick Pouliot. All started the season in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre.
You have the unthinkable occurring with the New England teams drying up. Portland? Gone. Springfield? Depends. Binghamton? Shaky ground.
Step back for a minute and drink all that in. What would you rather have? A Calder Cup or an AHL team that is the envy of the league and dare I say a premier destination for minor league hockey?
Ask anyone from Norfolk or Manchester. Both teams recently won the Calder Cup. Both had their teams ripped away from them. Now they are playing in the ECHL. Oklahoma City was a win away from the Calder Cup Finals last year and are now a barren wasteland for hockey. They don’t have a team or any prospects for one. Their fans have nothing to cheer for but for ECHL Wichita up north or some junior teams.
Perspective, is what I am saying. If you have read this blog for as long as I have been writing it, you know that I have said that the Penguins day will come. It isn’t this year. When it does, it becomes all the more sweeter.
And don’t let me hear you say that the Bears straight up beat the Penguins in Game 7 in overtime 3-2. It was close. The entire series was close. If this was a nine game series, it would have went 9. If it was 11, it would have went there, and on and on…
But here we find ourselves. With this series and this opponent with how the Penguins and Bears were matched up, there is nothing to hang your head on. The Bears and Penguins were two evenly matched teams. Someone had to win and someone had to lose. I had a feeling long ago that this would go seven and end in overtime of some kind. It did. The Penguins got caught on the losing end. It happens.
Full credit to the Hershey Bears on a hell of a series. It could have done either way. Run this series 100 times and you probably get a 50/50 split.
Thank you’s to come, but pop through the jump to read the game story first….
Casey DeSmith opposed Justin Peters.
Kael Mouillierat – Dustin Jeffrey – Dominik Simon
Jake Guentzel – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Mattias Plachta – J-S Dea – Josh Archibald
Tom Sestito – Teddy Blueger – Daniel Sprong
Ryan Parent – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Steve Oleksy
Tim Erixon – Ethan Prow
Casey DeSmith – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Notes: Back was Reid McNeill, out was Will O’Neill, who presumptively must have been injured in his fight with Nathan Walker in Game 6.
First Period: Bears scored first when Dustin Gazley pounced on a Casey DeSmith turnover from behind his net to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
It was all Bears to open. Then Zach Sill hit Jake Guentzel up high…
On the ensuing power play, Dustin Jeffrey fanned on an open net but the puck went into the pads of Peters and Mattias Plachta knocked it in to tie the game at one…
Tom Sestito and Liam O’Brien fought. It was more of a shoving match, or Sestito one punched O’Brien, depending on your perspective.
The only punched landed in the fight was by Liam O’Brien to linesman John Grandt.
Grant had to leave to get repairs but returned.
Pens killed off two consecutive Bears power plays. But then, at even strength, Liam O’Brien, from the bench, decided to say hello again to Tom Sestito, who was on the ice…
Pens couldn’t capitalize on the power play and it was tied at one going into the…
Second Period: Pens were the better team. They did everything but score. But the Bears scored on this move by Carter Camper after the Pens were hemmed in and could not clear…
Third Period: Pens needed dirty goals and got one. Daniel Sprong took the shot, which hit the post and died on the line. Kael Mouillierat beat Madison Bowey to the puck and tapped it in that tied the game at two…
Ryan Stanton took a misconduct penalty for ripping the stick out of Tom Kostopoulous’ hands and tossing it over the boards into the scorers box…
Pens couldn’t capitalize on the Bears being without Stanton and skating with five defensemen.
Pens were hemmed in again but managed to get the puck out. In the final minute, Dustin Jeffrey set up Jake Guentzel who put the puck wide on a yawning net. It was off to….
Overtime: Pens had the chances early on. But after the Penguins iced the puck at the halfway mark, Travis Boyd, off the ensuing face-off, ended the Penguins season with this wraparound….
Next level call by ex-Penguins voice Scott Stuccio there.
Grady is the man too. Voice of the Binghamton Senators if you aren’t familiar.
Oh man, Liam O’Brien and Tom Sestito got in a fight at the handshake line, right?
Three Stars: 3) Erik Burgdoerfer (two assists, +2) 2) Carter Camper (goal, +1) and 1) Travis Boyd (series clinching goal, +1)
The Bears get the winner of Toronto / Albany in the North Division Final. That series plays its Game 7 Monday.
As far as the blog goes, I’ll continue to predict (probably wrongly) the remaining series. Here’s a preview. Had the Pens advanced, I would have picked Toronto in five or Albany in six. It would have been sweet had the Pens won against the Bears, but Toronto and Albany are elite. The winner of that series is going to give the Bears a handful. Good luck.
Have we seen the last of Tom Kostopoulos?
Say it with me. One. More. Year.
Time to empty out the thank yous.
First, thanks to the Hershey Bears, Scott Stuccio and Chocolate Hockey on a hell of a series plus all Bears fans that follow and read the blog on a great series. This could have gone either way. Good luck the next round.
Second, thanks to Brian Coe and the whole Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins front office on another great year of documenting the experience as a fan. It’s fun and easy when you are good and the Penguins are both.
Mike O’Brien and his color man Nick Hart are two of the best in the business. They describe actions with words. That takes a special skill that not many have.
Wilkes-Barre media. That isn’t me. I blog. I write bad puns and am fiercely independent on my views of this franchise. You read or you don’t. It doesn’t matter to me. But the Wilkes-Barre media, from Tom Venesky at the Times-Leader to Seth Lakso at The Citizens’ Voice who, in his first year taking over for the Great Jonathan Bombulie, to Russ Hryvnak who writes for DKPittsburghSports. You guys report, I interpret.
Finally, thank you to everyone who reads the blogs, subscribes via e-mail, follows on Facebook, or Twitter. I’m just trying to capture the spirit of the thing. I have said this for years, but we will have our date with destiny. It wasn’t this year. Soon, I assure you.
I’ll be around this summer. From my Mets, to my cats, to sushi lunches and goofy puns, I will be here. I’m going to likely crowdsource the AHL Free Agent Big Board again this July and will have plenty of stuff in the offseason covering this team and this league for the blog.
Stay tuned. Keep your head up.
Let’s Go Pens!