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Countdown to Opening NightOctober 16, 2021
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A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
In continuing with the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguin Season in Review, we continue with the second half of the season. If you missed Part One it’s here or you can scroll down if you didn’t link in direct.
This one nearly touches 4,000 words, so it’s going to take you a while. Hell, you have all summer. Click through the jump if you didn’t link in direct.
Game 39: Syracuse 4, Wilkes-Barre 1
When: Monday, January 16 (at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena)
What: The first loss in 2017 and one that stops the seven game winning streak the Penguins brought into the game. With losses of Jake Guentzel and Chad Ruhwedel to recall to Pittsburgh, the Penguins scored just one goal. Syracuse scored twice in the first and the Penguins were never able to dig out of that hole. Tristan Jarry took the loss in net, his first loss since December 9 at home against Hershey.
Game 40: Hershey 3, Penguins 5
When: Wednesday, January 18 (at Giant Center)
What: Penguins score 5 goals on 25 shots in Hershey in a game largely dominated by the Bears puck possession wise. Carter Rowney continued his hot pace since returning from injury with another goal giving him a goal in four straight games returning from injury. Tom Sestito continued to fill up the score sheet instead of the penalty ledger with a goal and two assists as the Penguins beat the Bears to go 9 points up on the idle Lehigh Valley Phantoms who they still have 11 games left to play. David Warsofsky returned from recall from Pittsburgh.
Game 41: Phantoms 5, Penguins 3
When: Friday, January 20 (at PPL Center)
What: Phantoms beat the Penguins for the second time this season with a full lineup and the Penguins missing a few key guys. Earlier in the day the Penguins recalled Michael Webster from Wheeling and listed Tim Erixon as week to week with an upper body injury believed to be a concussion. The Phantoms jumped out to a 3-1 lead at the end of two periods thanks in large part to scoring in the opening minute of the first and second period. The Penguins mounted a comeback and tied it midway through the third period, but Lehigh Valley would score a minute later to re-establish its lead, one they would never relinquish.
Game 42: Penguins 5, Hershey 1
When: Saturday, January 21 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins are the first team to 30 wins with a 5-1 dismantling of the Hershey Bears. Ryan Haggerty scores a pair of goals, the Penguins score first for the first time in a while and the Penguins exploit the Bears shallow depth and run away from their rivals and improve to 7-2 over the Bears and 4-0 for the month of January. Casey DeSmith made 20 saves and picked up his 12th win of the season.
Game 43: Penguins 3, Syracuse 2 (OT)
When: Wednesday, January 25 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Probably the most exciting game of the season from an action standpoint with two talented teams really showcasing the full display of has both leading their respective divisions. The Penguins would see Syracuse strike first in the opening period, score two in the first part of the second period, then see Syracuse tie it midway through, then just start taking it to one another in the form of chances. Recently named all-star David Warsofsky’s goal with 1.2 seconds left in overtime would win it for the Penguins and give them the extra point.
Game 44: Utica 2, Penguins 3
When: Friday, January 27 (at Utica Memorial Auditorium)
What: Penguins jump out to a 2-0 lead, both on shots from long range on Comets starting goaltender Richard Bachman and hang on to a charging Utica side and win 3-2. Tom Sestito had two assists and so did Kevin Porter. Utica had been 8-1-1-0 in their last ten games and seemingly turned their season around getting back into playoff contention but Casey DeSmith stopped 27 of 29, including a first minute save in the second period where he goes post to post to rob a shot by Alex Grenier, to improve to 13-2-2 on the season.
Game 45: Binghamton 2, Penguins 6
When: Saturday, January 28 (at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena)
What: Tom Kostopoulos scores his 500th AHL point, the 91st player in the American Hockey League to do so, and the Penguins finish their best ever month with a 12-2 record and hit the AHL All-Star break on a four game winning streak and bring a league best 33-9-3-0 record into the break. Dominik Simon and Teddy Blueger both scored a goal and assisted on two others. Tristan Jarry stops 32 of 34.
Game 46: Penguins 2, St. John’s 5
When: Friday, February 3 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins inability to score on a 4:00 double minor and over a minute of two man advantage late on doom the Penguins and send them to their tenth loss of the season. Tom Kostopoulos added two assists and Tristan Jarry took the loss in net as the homecoming of Bobby Farnham, now a St. John’s IceCaps player, is spoiled by a win from the visitors.
Game 47: Penguins 7, Lehigh Valley 1
When: Saturday, February 4 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins subjugate the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the first time in Wilkes-Barre with a 7-1 blasting of their rival team. Tom Kostopoulos, playing in his 600th game as a Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguin, scored twice. Josh Archibald added two more goals and an assist and Tristan Jarry bounced back from the 5-2 loss dealt him the night before with 30 of 31 saves on the night.
Game 48: Penguins 0, St. John’s 4
When: Wednesday, February 8 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins shutout for the fourth time this season, this time by Charles Lindgren and the St. John’s IceCaps 4-0. Lindgren had 31 saves. Casey DeSmith started for the Penguins and suffered just his third loss of the season.
Game 49: Penguins 4, Hershey 3 (OT)
When: Friday, February 10 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Kevin Porter’s first four point game in the AHL since 2009 with an overtime game winning goal and three assists as the Penguins defeat the Hershey Bears 4-3 in overtime in a game which featured each team scoring three times on the power play in regulation. It was yet another milestone game for Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos. Kostopoulos netted his 200th AHL goal late in the third period on the power play with the Penguins down one at the time.
Game 50: Penguins 4, Binghamton 2
When: Saturday, February 11 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins are the first team to 20 wins on home ice as Sahir Gill scores two goals having been inserted on the top line as Tom Sestito missed the game with an injury. Penguins jump out to a 4-0 lead but Binghamton chips away to cut the deficit in half, but the Penguins penalty killing holds the fort and Wilkes-Barre wins on home ice for the 20th time this season on Military Appreciation Night.
Game 51: Penguins 5, Lehigh Valley 1
When: Tuesday, February 14 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins defeat the Phantoms on home ice and open up an 11 point lead on second place Lehigh Valley to boot. Oskar Sundqvist scored two goals, Tristan Jarry stopped 27 of 28 and Sahir Gill, Teddy Blueger, Dominik Simon and J-S Dea all had two points each. Garrett Wilson would leave the game in the first period with an upper body injury on a hit by Sam Morin on the far boards. The win concluded a six game home stand for the Penguins.
Game 52: Albany 4, Penguins 0
When: Friday, February 17 (at Times Union Center)
What: The fifth time that the Penguins have been shutout this season. Albany’s first team shutout and Mackenzie Blackwood’s first professional clean sheet. Second time in as many Friday’s that Wilkes-Barre has been shutout (last Friday against St. John’s) – Devils struck :58 into the first then blocked a ton of shots after with the Penguins just getting to 20 shots with two minutes to play in the game.
Game 53: Springfield 2, Penguins 1
When: Saturday, February 18 (at MassMutual Center)
What: Penguins run into another stellar goaltending performance from Reto Berra, stopping 34 of 35 shots and the Penguins drop their second game in a row. David Warsofsky scored to tie the game in the third period via a power play but about three minutes later, Juho Lammikko scored on a rebound left by Casey DeSmith from a shot by Mackenzie Weegar to put the Falcons ahead for good. The Pens had a 6 on 4 power play with a minute to play but couldn’t solve Berra then and all night.
Game 54: Providence 3, Penguins 2
When: Sunday, February 19 (at Dunkin’ Donuts Center)
What: Wilkes-Barre scores its two goals on the power play, but a late goal by the Bruins in the third period ensures that the Penguins lose all three weekend games for the first time all season. Wilkes-Barre never led once in all three games as well.
Game 55: Utica 2, Penguins 1
When: Friday, February 24 (at Utica Memorial Auditorium)
What: Penguins drop their fourth straight game in a row and still have not led on the road trip. Tom Kostopoulos scored a third period power play goal giving the veteran Penguins captain his 19th point in 19 games. Tristan Jarry took the loss for the Penguins. His counterpart Thatcher Demko stopped 27 of 28 Penguins shots for his first win since January.
Game 56: Lehigh Valley 3, Penguins 4 (OT)
When: Saturday, February 25 (at PPL Center)
What: Barry Goers’ first goal since April 2015 is the overtime game winner as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins snap their four game losing streak with a big overtime win in Allentown against the then second place Phantoms. Tom Kostopoulos scored his 20th point in 20 games and scored his 20th goal for the Penguins this season, making him the tenth player in AHL history to score at least 20 goals at age 38 or older.
Game 57: Hershey 2, Penguins 1
When: Saturday, March 4 (at Giant Center)
What: A dazzling goaltending performance by Tristan Jarry is bested by Pheonix Copley whom the Bears re-acquired at the trade deadline and the Penguins are unable to stretch their winning streak over the Bears to seven games and lose 2-1. The Penguins gave Hershey six power plays and were never able to gain momentum after falling down 2-1. It was Thomas DiPauli’s return to the Penguins lineup, seeing his first action since November 26.
Game 58: Hartford 3, Penguins 6
When: Sunday, March 5 (at XL Center)
What: The Penguins fall behind by a goal midway through the second period but roared back to tie it with a Josh Archibald goal then the second goal by David Warsofsky where the Penguins defenseman eclipses the 40 point mark of the season. A goal with .8 second left by J-S Dea in the second period made it a two goal game and the Wolf Pack never recovered. Dea tacked on another goal in the third period and the Penguins close out their road trip with a win in Hartford.
Game 59: Penguins 0, Lehigh Valley 3
When: Wednesday, March 8 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins are shutout again when they fall behind 1-0 early in the first then chase the rest of the game from behind. In an evenly matched game with the Phantoms, who were coming off of an ugly loss Sunday in Providence, the Penguins fell into penalty trouble and were called for seven penalties. Lehigh Valley iced the game away with two goals in the third period and the Penguins were never able to recover.
Game 60: Penguins 8, Hartford 1
When: Friday, March 10 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Eight goals scored by seven different players with defenseman Barry Goers leading the way with two goals and two assists as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins obliterate the Hartford Wolf Pack 8-1. Twelve Penguins players recorded a point including starting goaltender Casey DeSmith, his first professional assist. Tom Kostopoulos scored a power play goal which brought him level for team lead in points with Jake Guentzel. Penguins with the win were the first AHL club to 40 wins.
Game 61: Penguins 3, Providence 2
When: Saturday, March 11 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins race out to a 3-1 lead in the first period, chase Zane McIntyre in the process and hold on to beat the Providence Bruins 3-2. Barry Goers continued to thrive in a pairing with Derrick Pouliot and tacked on two more assists matching his career high for points in a season (9) – Wilkes-Barre found themselves in penalty trouble again but managed to kill 5 of 6 penalties and used that momentum to win the game.
Game 62: Lehigh Valley 1, Penguins 4
When: Friday, March 17 (at PPL Center)
What: After falling down 1-0 after the first period, the Penguins roar back for two goals in the second and two in the third to go five points clear of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Teddy Blueger picked up his seventh and eighth assists against Lehigh Valley this season. Tristan Jarry started and stopped 29 of 30 for the Penguins. Tom Kostopoulos scored a put away goal in the third period.
Game 63: Penguins 2, Lehigh Valley 3
When: Saturday, March 18 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Phantoms creep back up to three points behind the Penguins for first place in the division after holding on to win 3-2. Lehigh Valley scored once in the first and twice in a span of :15 in the second to hold on for the victory. Troy Josephs made his professional debut on the fourth line. Tristan Jarry started again and took the loss, the first loss of the season for Jarry when starting in back to back games. Penguins scored a power play goal via Tom Kostopoulos and a also on a shorthanded goal from Oskar Sundqvist.
Game 64: Penguins 5, Hartford 2
When: Tuesday, March 21 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: It was the professional debut for Zach Aston-Reese and he responded with a goal which stood up as the game winning goal as the Penguins throttle the Wolf Pack at home. Ryan Haggerty scored twice as the Penguins continued their mastery of the Wolf Pack. In seven meetings thus far in the season, the Penguins have outscored the Wolf Pack 38-13.
Game 65: Syracuse 1, Penguins 5
When: Friday, March 24 (at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena)
What: Penguins throttle the undermanned Syracuse Crunch to go three points clear of the idle Lehigh Valley Phantoms by a 5-1 score. Zach Aston-Reese added a goal and an assist to continue his hot professional start, Tristan Jarry picked up the win in net and the Penguins dominated the North Division leading Syracuse Crunch.
Game 66: Lehigh Valley 0, Penguins 4
When: Saturday, March 25 (at PPL Center)
What: A stellar performance by Tristan Jarry, picking up a 35 shutout. The Penguins penalty kill would go a perfect 9-for-9, the Phantoms would get shutout for the first time all season, the Penguins fourth line would score two goals in the second period and Tom Kostopoulos picked up his 50th point of the season as the Penguins would go five points clear of the Phantoms for tops in the division.
Game 67: Penguins 2, Utica 1
When: Sunday, March 27 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: 45 saves by Casey DeSmith and a goal by Sahir Gill and Dominik Simon were enough to hold off the hard charging Utica Comets who were battling for their playoff lives Sunday afternoon in Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins, without seven regulars in their lineup due to either recall or injury, won their fourth straight game and seventh in their last eight and sweep the weekend.
Game 68: Springfield 3, Penguins 1
When: Friday, March 31 (at MassMutual Center)
What: The Thunderbirds continue their mastery of the Penguins with a 3-1 win over Wilkes-Barre for a home season sweep of the Atlantic’s best team in the Penguins. The game featured the first professional fight for Zach Aston-Reese, one that he won easily. Ryan Haggerty scored a third period goal but the Penguins found themselves in yet another tight defensive battle where they were the team taking the brunt of the penalties.
Game 69: Penguins 3, Lehigh Valley 0
When: Saturday, April 1 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The first regular season shutout for Casey DeSmith as the Penguins shutout the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the second consecutive game. DeSmith had 26 saves, Troy Josephs scored his first professional goal and Frank Corrado scored his first in a Penguin uniform. The win put the Penguins within 2 points of clinching a playoff spot and seven points clear of Lehigh Valley for the division lead.
Game 70: Penguins 2, Utica 3 (SO)
When: Sunday, April 2 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: An Oskar Sundqvist power play goal with 58 seconds left to play in the game secured an extra point for the Penguins as they suffered their first shootout loss of the season to the Utica Comets. The Penguins trailed for most of the game and couldn’t seem to solve Utica starting goaltender Thatcher Demko, who made 43 saves to take home first star honors. It wasn’t until later that afternoon after Lehigh Valley beat Hershey 4-2 that the Penguins 15th consecutive trip to the playoffs was locked in.
Game 71: Lehigh Valley 0, Penguins 3
When: Friday, April 7 (at PPL Center)
What: The third shutout in a row against the Phantoms, this time by Tristan Jarry, who stopped 21 shots as the Penguins roll to an easy 3-0 win and a seven point lead on second place in the division. Oskar Sundqvist scored two goals with Ryan Haggerty assisting twice. Wilkes-Barre is the first team to 100 points in the AHL and it’s the first time that a team from Wilkes-Barre reaches 100 points since 2010-11.
Game 72: Hartford 1, Penguins 2
When: Saturday, April 8 (at XL Center)
What: After a scoreless first period, Patrick McGrath scored his first AHL goal. J-S Dea added another and Casey DeSmith stopped 34 of 35 shots to pick up his 20th win of the season as the Penguins moved one point to a division championship. Wilkes-Barre sweeps Hartford in the season series 8-0 and 40-14 on aggregate.
Game 73: Providence 1, Penguins 2
When: Sunday, April 9 (at Dunkin’ Donuts Center)
What: Penguins are the first team in the AHL to 50 wins and just the first team in AHL history to win 50 games in a 76 game season. Wilkes-Barre wraps up the Atlantic Division Championship and the Eastern Conference Championship with a 2-1 win in Hartford. Cody Wydo and Jarrett Burton’s goals in the first period hold up as the game winners and Casey DeSmith picks up another win. J-S Dea, Oskar Sundqvist and Derrick Pouliot were recalled to Pittsburgh Sunday morning so the Penguins won the division without five regulars in their lineup over two games.
Game 74: Penguins 1, Lehigh Valley 2 (SO)
When: Wednesday, April 12 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: The Penguins and Phantoms close out their regular season series with Wilkes-Barre suffering defeat via shootout to the Phantoms. Lehigh Valley finally broke through and scored a goal against the Penguins after going scoreless for 260+ minutes when Taylor Leier scored in the third period on Casey DeSmith. Dominik Simon scored an earlier goal that gave the Penguins the lead. With at least one point gained by the Phantoms, that punched their postseason playoff ticket, their first appearance in the AHL postseason since 2009.
Game 75: Penguins 1, Hershey 2
When: Friday, April 14 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: Penguins offense continues to struggle against a hungry Bears team that came in needing a win to clinch a playoff spot. The Bears did just that. A third period power play goal by Tim Erixon that tied the game was answered :33 later by Christian Djoos off the next faceoff. Casey DeSmith stopped 19 of 21 but the Penguins were stymied by Pheonix Copley, who stopped 22 of 23 in a low shot affair by the Penguins standards.
Game 76: Penguins 5, Bridgeport 4
When: Saturday, April 15 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: A three goal comeback in the third period led by Adam Krause was enough to propel the Penguins to the leagues best overall points percentage after San Jose lost to Bakersfield in overtime later that night. Sean Maguire started in net and won his first AHL game, stopping a Josh Ho-Sang penalty shot in the second period. Krause was the hero though with two goals and an assist. The Penguins learned at the end of the game that they would face the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 1: Providence 2, Penguins 1
When: Friday, April 21 (at Dunkin’ Donuts Center)
What: Penguins play undisciplined hockey and see the Bruins take Game 1 of the best of five series when Providence scores two power play goals and get 30 saves from Zane McIntyre to take a 1-0 series lead. J-S Dea scored the lone goal for the Penguins.
Series: 1-0 Providence.
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 2: Providence 5, Penguins 6 (OT)
When: Sunday, April 23 (at Dunkin’ Donuts Center)
What: A wild, back and forth offensive explosion between the top two teams in the AHL in defense sees the Penguins blow a 3-0 lead when the Bruins tied it at three a piece, this is all in the second period. Bruins edge ahead in the third period but an extra attacker goal with 63 seconds left by Josh Archibald forces overtime where Derrick Pouliot’s bank in goal on Zane McIntyre pushes the best of five series back to Wilkes-Barre tied 1-1.
Series: Tied 1-1.
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 3: Penguins 2, Providence 1
When: Thursday, April 27 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: A defensive battle for the first half of the game and then the Penguins used special teams to overcome the deadlock when Tim Erixon scored in the final minute of the second period and David Warsofsky scored in the early stages of the third as the Penguins held on for a 2-1 win against the Providence Bruins putting the Bruins on the brink of elimination. Casey DeSmith made 32 saves.
Series: 2-1 Wilkes-Barre.
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 4: Penguins 2, Providence 4
When: Friday, April 28 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: A total no show by the Penguins in probably the worst game they could have played at the time. Bruins jump out to a lead 1:15 into the game after a turnover in front of the Penguins net then double their lead on a power play goal and add a third goal before the end of the first period. Bruins would ultimately push their lead to 4-0 before the Penguins got two goals back, but it was too little, too late as the Bruins take Game 4.
Series: Tied 2-2.
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5: Penguins 1, Providence 2
When: Sunday, April 30 (at Mohegan Sun Arena)
What: A monumental effort by the Penguins to beat Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre, but a Herculean effort met by McIntyre, who stopped fifty shots by the Penguins and take the decisive Game 5 and the series by a 2-1 score. Jake DeBrusk scored twice. Wilkes-Barre found itself in penalty trouble again and DeBrusk scored :09 into the ensuing power play in the first and added a second with under ten minutes left in the third. J-S Dea would score a power play goal late to bring one back for the Penguins, but the season would end and the Bruins would vanquish the ghosts of Wilkes-Barre teams prior, finally advancing past the Penguins in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Series: Providence wins 3-2.
Postmortem: It would be the Penguins special teams that would ultimately be their undoing. Going 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 4, taking three different too many men on the ice penalties in the series is enough to tip the scales in the favor of the Providence Bruins who capitalized on their special teams and used McIntyre’s enormous efforts in goal to win the series. It would be the first time since the 1995-96 Cornwall Aces that the overall number one seed in the Calder Cup Playoffs would fail to advance to the second round. An upset based off of seeding alone, but the Providence Bruins came into the series with the Penguins on equal terms in every category. Sometimes you just get beat.
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