I’ll come right out and say it, Jake Guentzel has nothing left to prove at the AHL level.
Since returning from his first NHL assignment, and coming into tonight’s game, Guentzel had seven goals in seven games. Add on three more tonight for Guentzel, a hat trick, and its ten goals in eight games.
These numbers are ridiculous.
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, as a whole, have benefitted greatly from the rookie Guentzel’s return. They have won their seventh straight game tonight, beating the Springfield Thunderbirds by a score of 5-3. In the seven game winning streak, the Penguins have scored four or more goals in every single game.
You would think that with all of what I just wrote there, that the Penguins would be leading the Atlantic Division by a mile. It’s not the case. To be at the top of this division you have to be a great team like the Penguins are, but it’s a tight lead the Penguins own on the second place Lehigh Valley Phantoms and two versions of bear in the form of Hershey and Providence.
Taking the veteran option regarding the lines tonight because I despise home work night hockey games. Here they are:
Notes: Gardiner and McGrath for Jarrett Burton and Ryan Haggerty up front with Goers for Ethan Prow on the blue line.
Tristan Jarry, backed up by Casey DeSmith, opposed Mike McKenna.
In the first, Springfield would score twice on the power play in the span of 9:18 to give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead.
Then Jake Guentzel started building his hat trick with a ridiculous, nearly end to end play where he bounced the puck off of the boards and beat McKenna five hole for his first act.
For his second act, Guentzel would bat in a puck laying in the crease that McKenna wasn’t able to control for a tie game.
Here’s a look at Guentzel’s two first period goals…
Couple things here. First, watch the video highlights below of the first tow goals by Guentzel for better looks but on the first goal, he throws a changeup at McKenna and beats him. On the second goal, he eats a crosscheck to the face and still scores.
Guentzel completed his hat trick when the Penguins were on a 5-on-3 power play, the second one where Guentzel drew the penalty to put the Penguins on the two-man advantage. He batted in a puck through McKenna’s legs to put the Penguins ahead 3-2…
Garrett Wilson made it 4-2 soon after when a puck went in off of a Thunderbirds player in front, it was Wilson’s third goal in three games and fourth in five games. David Warsofsky picked up the assist, giving him 15 points (3-12) in his last 10 games.
Pens had it on cruise control from there, smothering Springfield and not allowing the Thunderbirds a shot on goal for a very long stretch.
But if you have ever been on a long trip before and used cruise control, you know you can’t use it for the entire journey. Eventually Springfield scored to bring it to within one. I say that because the Thunderbirds had an initial goal washed out on account of goaltender interference. But later, a Mackenzie Weegar shot that hit the post, counted and made it a 4-3 game heading into the third.
In the third, which was the most even period of the night between the two sides with each club putting nine shots on the board and neither team scoring on two power plays in the period, the Penguins would hold on and tack on a Cameron Gaunce empty net goal from behind his own goal line in the final minute for good measure.
Coal Street didn’t GIF the Wilson or Gaunce goals in case you were wondering.
Note: Wilkes-Barre is a point away from clinching Clark Donatelli a spot at coaching at the All-Star Classic in January.
Three Stars: 3) David Warsofsky (three assists, +4) 2) Mackenzie Weegar (two goals, -1) and 1) Jake Guentzel (hat trick, +3)
Around the Division: Providence snaps Hartford’s four game winning streak with their tenth win in the month of December with a 3-2 win over the Wolf Pack tonight in Hartford. Every other team was off.
Standings: Penguins (.776 percentage points) –Lehigh Valley (.707) — Hershey (.690) — Providence (.661) — Bridgeport (.571) — Springfield (.482) — Hartford (.433)
Wheeling Update: Nailers lose in Toledo 4-3. Seven different Wheeling skaters recorded a point in the losing effort.
But for breaking stuff, look for the next blog post to come Friday when Providence pays a visit.
Let’s Go Pens!