The season ended a lot quicker than the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins would have liked to on Sunday in Game 5 against the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.
But instead of rehashing that painful memory all over again, let’s take a look back at the Penguins season in whole, starting on that Saturday night in October in Wilkes-Barre, opening night against the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins had a very successful regular season for themselves. In this first of a two part series, I look back at each game the Penguins played in the regular season up to the midway point of the season. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.
It’s a meaty piece, over 2500 words here, so settle in and let’s take a look back at the year that was after the jump…
Game 1: Penguins 6, Hartford 2
When: Saturday, October 15 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins explode for six goals, their second largest margin of victory in a home opener since 2005, with a 6-2 pasting of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Jake Guentzel had a goal and three assists, Oskar Sundqvist played a strong game and the Penguins were a perfect 6/6 on the penalty kill and 2/2 on the power play. Josh Archibald scored the first goal of the season for the Penguins in the first period.
Game 2: Penguins 0, Springfield 1
When: Friday, October 21 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins had trouble from the start with Springfield’s speed and come out a bit flat footed. A Ryan Horvat turnaround shot in the first period somehow gets by Tristan Jarry and this is all the offense the Thunderbirds need as Reto Berra makes 23 saves to win it for his team. Pens didn’t connect on the power play but the penalty kill remained perfect.
Game 3: Penguins 3, Syracuse 1
When: Saturday, October 22 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Kevin Porter’s two short handed goals 1:19 apart in the second period was enough for the Penguins to beat the Syracuse Crunch. Casey DeSmith stopped 26 of 27 in his season debut. The Penguins penalty kill streak to open the season ended at 13 straight kills. Dominik Simon scored late in the third period to ice the game away for the Penguins.
Game 4: Hershey 1, Penguins 2 (OT)
When: Sunday, October 23 (at Giant Center)
What: A Dominik Simon penalty shot in overtime beat Vitek Vanacek to give the Penguins first blood against the Bears in the 12 game season series. Tristan Jarry stopped 30 of 31, Jake Guentzel scored in the third period to tie the game at 1, and the Penguins finish the weekend only allowing three goals.
Game 5: Penguins 3, Albany 1
When: Wednesday, October 27 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Chad Ruhwedel netted his first goal with the Penguins on the power play, Josh Archibald picked up a shorthanded goal, and Jake Guentzel added his third of the season, as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defeated the previously unbeaten Albany Devils, 3-1. Tristan Jarry made 19 saves in the victory.
Game 6: Springfield 2, Penguins 1 (OT)
When: Saturday, October 29 (at MassMutual Center)
What: J-S Dea scored a first period goal and this was all the offense the Penguins could muster against the Thunderbirds, who got a power play goal in the third period from ex-Penguin Paul Thompson. Chase Balisy won the game in the 3-on-3 overtime. Mike McKenna stopped 27 of 28 Wilkes-Barre shots.
Game 7: Penguins 6, Syracuse 1
When: Sunday, October 30 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: 14 skaters recorded at least a point, Kevin Porter continued to terrorize the Crunch with two goals as the Penguins rolled the Syracuse Crunch 6-1. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Penguins rode Casey DeSmith the rest of the way. DeSmith stopped 16 of 17 shots sent his way from the second period on.
Game 8: Penguins 4, Binghamton 1
When: Friday, November 4 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Seventh straight game for the Penguins where they allow the opponent to score just one regulation goal. Tom Kostopoulos netted his 399th and 400th points in a Wilkes-Barre sweater. Garrett Wilson scored his first goal as a Penguins as well.
Game 9: Bridgeport 1, Penguins 7
When: Saturday, November 5 (at Webster Bank Arena)
What: A four point night by Jake Guentzel with two goals and two assists, good for tops amongst rookies in that category at the time vault the Penguins to best team in the AHL. It’s the eighth time that Wilkes-Barre has held an opponent to just one goal in regulation. Casey DeSmith stopped 28 shots of the 29 sent his way.
Game 10: Providence 4, Penguins 5 (SO)
When: Sunday, November 6 (at Dunkin’ Donuts Center)
What: Penguins finally see an opponent score more than one goal on them for the first time in eight games but Garett Wilson’s shootout goal in the bottom of the fourth round is enough to keep the Penguins on a roll as they defeat the Providence Bruins. Tom Kostopoulos scored in his fourth straight game and Garrett Wilson and Carter Rowney both picked up their 100th AHL point.
Game 11: Penguins 0, Toronto 3
When: Friday, November 11 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The two best teams in the Eastern Conference squared off on a Friday in November and it was a one sided affair with the Marlies skating to a 3-0 victory. Kerby Rachel scored twice and Antoine Bibeau collected his third shutout of the season with 19 saves.
Game 12: Penguins 3, Providence 1
When: Saturday, November 12 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: A bounce back win for the Penguins with goals from J-S Dea, Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Guentzel. Casey DeSmith stopped 28 of 29 shots and continued to lead AHL rookie goaltenders in goals against and save percentage.
Game 13: Hartford 1, Penguins 4
When: Sunday, November 13 (at XL Center)
What: The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are the first team to 10 wins in the AHL as they use two first period power play goals to defeat the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Penguins remained perfect on Sunday’s. Tristan Jarry stopped 22 of 23 shots and the Penguins, on the end of a three in three, put up 40 shots against Magnus Hellberg and the Wolf Pack.
Game 14: Lehigh Valley 4, Penguins 1
When: Wednesday, November 16 (at PPL Center)
What: The Phantoms score four straight goals, three of them in the third period, and skate away to their seventh straight win. Thomas DiPauli scored his first goal as a professional. It’s just the third time in 14 games that the Penguins allow their opponents to score more than two goals.
Game 15: Penguins 4, Bridgeport 3
When: Friday, November 18 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins were never able to put the Sound Tigers away, seeing the Sound Tigers cut the deficit to one three times. Tom Kostopoulous’ empty net goal while Stephon Williams was knocked down by his own teammate proved to be the game winner. Casey DeSmith stopped 25 of 28 to remain perfect on the season. It was the first time that an opponent would score more than one goal on DeSmith.
TRADE: The Penguins traded Reid McNeill to the St. Louis Blues for sniper Danny Kristo on Saturday November 19. Kristo scored 20+ goals in the last three seasons.
Game 16: Hershey 3, Wilkes-Barre 4 (OT)
When: Saturday, November 19 (at Giant Center)
What: The Hershey Bears scored early in the third period to go up two goals then Garrett Wilson and Tom Kostopoulos’ goal with 1:07 left and an empty net forced overtime. Carter Rowney’s spectacular individual effort in overtime with a Bears defenseman draped all over him sealed the stunning, comeback win for the Penguins.
Game 17: Hershey 4, Wilkes-Barre 0
When: Wednesday, November 23 (at Giant Center)
What: The Bears scored first in this game, as they had in the two prior meetings with Wilkes-Barre, but made the score line hold as Vitek Vanecek stopped all 28 shots faced as the Penguins were shutout for the third time. Derrick Pouliot was assigned by Pittsburgh earlier in the week and drew three tripping penalties.
Game 18: Bridgeport 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
When: Friday, November 25 (at Webster Bank Arena)
What: Bridgeport scores first and the Penguins tie the score twice, but lose in overtime for the second time in the season. Bridgeport scored all three goals on two on ones. It was the first loss for the Penguins coming off of a loss, or what you would call a losing streak. Casey DeSmith took the overtime loss. Jarrett Burton and Josh Archibald scored in regulation for the Penguins but it was Connor Jones’ goal in overtime that won it for the Sound Tigers.
Game 19: Penguins 1, Bridgeport 0
When: Saturday, November 26 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: It took 18 games, but the best defensive team in the AHL finally records a shutout as Tristan Jarry stops 24 shots and J-S Dea picks up a power play goal with one second left in it which holds up as the game winner. The Penguins were facing a 0-for-29 streak on the man advantage. Dea, having been scratched the night before against these very Sound Tigers, had a very strong game.
Game 20: St. John’s 2, Penguins 6
When: Saturday, December 3 (at Mile One Centre)
What: Six different goal scorers for the Penguins with 10 players recording a point. Wilkes-Barre struck three times on the power play to put away the IceCaps up in Newfoundland for the first of two games. Tom Kostopoulos recorded three assists and Kevin Porter registered a goal and two assists. Tristan Jarry continued his strong play in net, stopping 31 of 33 shots.
Game 21: St. John’s 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
When: Sunday, December 4 (at Mile One Centre)
What: The Penguins battled back from a 2-0 deficit despite having eight power plays called against them but ultimately lost in overtime to the IceCaps. Casey DeSmith started in goal for the Penguins and again, as they have all season to date, the Penguins recorded at least a point in front of DeSmith. The Penguins power play struck again in this contest with a third period goal. St. John’s goaltender Yann Danis stopped 50 Penguins shots sent his way.
Game 22: Penguins 2 , Hershey 5
When: Friday, December 9 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins, with a star studded lineup lay a virtual egg against their biggest rivals in the Hershey Bears and lose 5-2. Jake Guentzel, fresh from NHL recall, figures in on every Penguins goal with a power play goal and an even strength assist but the Bears rushes up ice prove deadly as Hershey overtakes the Penguins for first place in the division.
Game 23: Penguins 6, Hershey 2
When: Saturday, December 10 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Oskar Sundqvist’s four goals helps turn around a Penguins side which was trailing 2-0 at the time to the rival Bears. Wilkes-Barre explodes for six unanswered and snaps the Bears 10 game point streak. Jake Guentzel and Tom Kostopoulos also added goals for the Penguins. The win put the Penguins back atop the Atlantic Division and dropped the Bears with wins by the Sound Tigers and Phantoms that night to fourth place.
Game 24: Bridgeport 1, Penguins 4
When: Sunday, December 11 (at Webster bank Arena)
What: Bridgeport scores first, but Wilkes-Barre rattles off four goals en route to win. Teddy Blueger scored his first professional goal. Stuary Percy scored his first as a Penguin and Jake Guentzel continued his torrent pace. Tristan Jarry stopped 26 of 27 shots and at the conclusion of this game, the Penguins were the best team in the AHL based off of percentage.
Game 25: Hartford 2, Penguins 6
When: Wednesday, December 15 (at XL Center)
What: A 1-0 Penguins lead was tied by Hartford’s Niklas Jensen but :16 later, Kevin Porter scored to give the Penguins a lead they would never relinquish. Dominik Simon recorded four assists. Wilkes-Barre scored twice on the power play and it was their seventh game in a row where they have recorded a power play goal in a game. Penguins avoid the weekday trap game from a last place overall team.
Game 26: Penguins 4, Rochester 1
When: Friday, December 17 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Lukas Bengtsson scored his first North American goal for the Penguins, marking the third game in a row where a player notches his first goal for Wilkes-Barre. Jake Guentzel, for the fourth time in five games, records at least a goal and an assist, Casey DeSmith improved in goal to 7-0-2 and it was the ten straight goals for the Penguins by 10 different players.
Game 27: Penguins 4, Springfield 2
When: Saturday, December 17 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins complete a span where they play six games in nine days and won five of those games, out scoring opponents 24-8. Oskar Sundqvist and David Warsofsky both had a goal and an assist as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins defeat the Thunderbirds by a 4-2 score for their fifth straight win and remained tops in the AHL overall at the Christmas break.
Game 28: Binghamton 4, Penguins 5
When: Monday, December 26 (at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena)
What: Wilkes-Barre comes back from a multiple goal deficit and scores two early in the third and hang on and win 5-4. On the anniversary of Head Coach Clark Donatelli’s hiring, Jake Guentzel scored two goals and notched an assist and Casey DeSmith improved to 8-0-2 in goal for the Penguins. The Penguins won their sixth straight game.
Game 29: Penguins 5, Springfield 3
When: Tuesday, December 27 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Seventh win in a row for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. Jake Guentzel netted a hat trick, David Warsofsky continued his torrent pace with his 15th point in 10 games for the Penguins. Wilkes-Barre expanded its slim lead on dormant Lehigh Valley, improving to 21-5-3-0.
Game 30: Penguins 2, Providence 5
When: Friday, December 30 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins seven game winning streak comes to a screeching halt at the hands of the Providence Bruins, who continued their December tear. Zane McIntyre improved to 10-0 for the Bruins in net and Casey DeSmith for the Penguins lost his first regulation game of the year for Wilkes-Barre, who were unable to score on long stretches of power play time.
Game 31: Binghamton 3, Penguins 2
When: Saturday, December 31 (at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena)
What: The first regulation losing streak for the Penguins all year. Wilkes-Barre rings in 2017 as the best team in the AHL, but are unable to overcome B-Sens goaltender Chris Driedger’s performance in net. Driedger stopped 44 of 46 shots. The Penguins threw everything they could at Driedger, but came up one goal short.
Game 32: Penguins 3, Hartford 2
When: Tuesday, January 3 (at Michigan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins jump out to a 2-0 lead after a dominating first period then tack on another in the third period, but Hartford narrowly is defeated as the Wolf Pack score two goals in the third period to make this game tighter than it appeared to start. Penguins get goals from Teddy Blueger, Josh Archibald and Chad Ruhwedel as well as two assists from Derrick Pouliot who came into the game the last regular Penguin to record at least a point. The win snapped a brief two game losing skid the Penguins were on coming into this game.
Game 33: Penguins 5, Hershey 1
When: Friday, January 6 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Two goals by Tom Sestito and two goals by the Penguins :19 apart in the first period is enough lead they need to dispose of their bitter rival. Sestito added an assist and had a fight with Tyler Lewington giving him a Gordie Howe hat trick. Jake Guentzel and Garrett Wilson added goals, Casey DeSmith stopped 26 of 27 shots.
Game 34: Penguins 5, Binghamton 4
When: Saturday, January 7 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Another goal and assist by Tom Sestito and a breakout game by Danny Kristo who scored two goals and the Penguins hold on for a Saturday night win against the Binghamton Senators on Star Wars Night. Doug Carr started his first game in a Penguins sweater and stopped 33 of 37. Jake Guentzel continued his dominance of the AHL with three more assists.
Game 35: Hershey 4, Penguins 5 (OT)
When: Sunday, January 8 (at Giant Center)
What: An instant classic, that’s what. Fast forward to the third period of a 2-2 game, the Bears edge ahead twice but the Penguins tie it each time. Then the Penguins edge ahead and the Bears score with 8 seconds left to force overtime. There, David Warsofsky scores in overtime to sweep the weekend for the Penguins and give Wilkes-Barre its fourth win in a row.
Game 36: Toronto 1, Penguins 2
When: Wednesday, January 11 (at Ricoh Coliseum)
What: Penguins remain perfect in 2017 with another come from behind win, this time against the Toronto Marlies. The Penguins did all of their scoring in the third period after falling behind 1-0 in the second. Jake Guentzel was the first AHL player to 20 goals in just 32 games on a Toronto turnover to tie the game. Tom Sestito continued his goal scoring torrent with his fourth in four games and that stood up as the game winning goal. Tristan Jarry stopped 27 of 28.
Game 37: Rochester 2, Syracuse 3
When: Friday, January 13 (at Blue Cross Arena)
What: Rochester has many chances on a power play but only strike once, the Penguins strike twice on the man advantage in the first period. Carter Rowney returned to the lineup for the first time since November 18, missing the last 18 games and had a goal and an assist. The Penguins win their sixth game in a row and remain unbeaten in 2017.
Game 38: Syracuse 1, Wilkes-Barre 3
When: Saturday, January 14 (at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena)
What: The fourth game in a row that the Penguins allow the opponent to score first, but Wilkes-Barre wins its seventh straight game to remain unbeaten in 2017. The Penguins scored all three goals in the third period. Casey DeSmith stopped 22 of 23 shots and Dominik Simon scored a goal and assisted on another.
Come back tomorrow at noon for the second half of the season and the playoffs as we continue to recap the season that was for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.