Usually you would see that headline in the final game of a season where the team featured played its last game of the campaign.
That’s not true here, as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are headed to the Calder Cup for the 16th straight season.
But, with nothing to play for and their seeding locked in at two, the Penguins dressed a young, inexperienced lineup in Hershey today.
They all looked like cagey veterans. Penguins win 3-2 in Hershey Sunday afternoon and will face the Charlotte Checkers in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs that open Friday in Charlotte.
But let’s get back to the Penguins and their regular season for a second. 45 wins, 99 points, second in the Atlantic. 10-0-1-1 against Hershey, the most dominant one opponent was against the other in this storied rivalry.
The Penguins enter the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs as a team looking for a Calder Cup for their captain. No other heavy expectations as a number one overall seed like they were last year when they went out in five games over the Providence Bruins. Much of that same core returns and is upgraded greatly, defense is one area.
But we can get to all that in the coming week. For tonight, Anthony Peters opposed Vitek Vanecek.
Adam Johnson – Gage Quinney – Daneil Sprong
Christian Thomas – Jarrett Burton – Jan Drozg
Ryan Haggerty – Sam Lafferty – Anthony Angello
Troy Josephs – Cam Brown – Patrick McGrath
Niclas Almari – Ethan Prow
Andrey Pedan – Jeff Taylor
Kevin Schulze – Dane Birks
Anthony Peters – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Notes: With this basically being a free game to play withnothibg on the line, Clark Donatelli rested the likes of J-S Dea, Tom Kostopoulos, Teddy Blueger, Zach Trotman, Tom Sestito and the like. Dane Birks and Jan Drozg made their pro debuts and Cam Brown made his WBS debut.
First Period: If first impressions are lasting ones, then the number one impression I got when watching the first period on AHL Live is that these newcomers that Donatelli put in the lineup today are good. Hershey, dressing a lineup full of regular players, got all they could handle from the ATO players.
Daniel Sprong put the Penguins ahead 1-0 halfway through on a power play on this wrist shot that beat Vitek Vanecek.
Hershey had a power play come and go, then Jarrett Burton scored in the final minute of the period when he unleashed a writer that beat Vanecek and double the Penguins lead.
Jan Drozg was credited with the secondary assist on the play, his first AHL point.
Second Period: Was a quick pace to the period, with the Bears failing to score on a power play, Daniel Sprong and Adam Johnson failing to connect on a 2-on-1 and Dustin Gazley scoring in the final minute of the second to cut the Penguins lead to one. Anthony Peters stopped a few shots, never corralled the rebound and the puck squirted to Gazley in the slot for the goal.
Third Period: Daniel Sprong put a shot on and Gage Quinney put in a rebound to extend the lead to two again for Wilkes-Barre…
Bears would score on a 6-on-4 power play with Vitek Vanecek pulled when Jeremy Langlois tipped in a shot from the point to bring the Bears to within one, but Hershey would not get any closer.
Three Stars: 3) Garrett Mitchell (milestone 400th AHL game) 2) Dustin Gazley (goal, +1) and 1) Daniel Sprong (+1)
Around the Division: Providence beat Springfield 4-2 to briefly jump to third, but Charlotte beat Bridgeport 4-1 to take third and the first round matchup with Wilkes-Barre. Everyone else ended their season but for Lehigh Valley who open round one against Providence.
Here is the first round schedule that went live moments after the Charlotte game went final:
Here’s Clark’s thoughts on the Checkers series after the game…
But, but, you told me it was going top be Providence all along! What’s up with that?!
The great Mark Divver caught up with a Springfield player who shared his thoughts on Wilkes-Barre…
I would have asked a follow up about the Checkers, but I guess you had to be there.
Anyway, as for this week, Week 28 AHL Power Rankings hit the blog Monday at 4. The Western Conference Playoff Preview will be out Tuesday and the Eastern Conference Playoff Preview will run Wednesday. Pens / Checkers breakdown will be Thursday with the full Gameday setup Friday at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!