WILKES-BARRE, TWP. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins lineup for Game 1 of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday will likely look a bit different than the one head coach Clark Donatelli sent out on the ice for Saturday’s regular season finale.
Still, a mishmash of Wheeling Nailers up-and-comers and Penguins regulars looking to secure their playoff ice time were able to pin a 5-4 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in front of 7,638 at Mohegan Sun Arena in a game that had no bearing on either teams’ place in the Atlantic Division standings.
Adam Krause, who finished with two goals and an assist, did the heavy lifting in support of Sean Maguire (22 saves), who earned his first AHL win in net.
The Penguins will now head to Providence on Friday where they will kick off Calder Cup play against the Bruins. Games 1 and 2 (on Sunday) will be at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, before the series returns to Pennsylvania for the final three games beginning on Thursday, April 27th.
Donatelli gave veterans Tom Kostopoulos and Kevin Porter, as well defensemen David Warsofsky, Tim Erixon and Derrick Pouliot the night off. He also sat Casey DeSmith and penciled in rookies Kevin Schulze and Dylan Zink, who both made their Penguins debuts.
One player of note who was not in the lineup was rookie forward Zach Aston-Reese, who left Friday night’s game in the third period with an upper-body injury.
“We’re still not sure on him right now,” Donatelli said after the win. “He’s day-to-day, but we will know more later this week.”
After losses on Wednesday and Friday in games where Donatelli used his usual lineup, Saturday’s game was both about staying healthy and playing the right way for the Penguins regulars that did see action.
Behind 4-2 in the third period, the Penguins – led by Krause – roared back, scoring three times in the game’s final 12 minutes to finish the season with an Eastern-Conference best 51-20-3-2 mark.
Turning Point: After Carter Verhaeghe’s second of the game for Bridgeport made it 4-2 in the third, the Penguins came rushing back thanks to goals 1:16 apart from Jarrett Burton and Krause. Krause then put the Penguins up for good with a shorthanded breakaway goal at 16:35.
What it means: The Penguins (51-20-3-2, 107 pts.) snapped their two-game losing streak. … Wilkes-Barre/Scranton leads the Atlantic Division by 6 points over the Phantoms (101 pts.), who clinched a playoff spot with their win over the Penguins on Wednesday. …. Around the division: Providence (96 pts.) lost to Hershey (97 pts.); Lehigh Valley bested Binghamton. With it’s win, Hershey leapt past the Bruins and into third place in the Division.
Worth mentioning: The 107-point season for the Penguins is the fourth best in the franchise’s 18-year history. … Oskar Sundqvist left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. According to Donatelli, he is not expected to miss any time. … The three-point night is a new career high for Krause. … Pat McGrath assisted on Krause’s first goal. The Shavertown native now has three points (1G-2A) over his last seven games … The game snapped a four-game slide where the Penguins had failed to secure more than two goals. … The Penguins are now 5-0-1-0 against the Sound Tigers this season … The Penguins handed out their team awards on Saturday. They went as follows… Defensive Player of the Year: David Warsofsky; Fan Favorite: Patrick McGrath; Rookie of the Year: Casey DeSmith; Media Award: Oskar Sundqvist; Star of the Year: Sundqvist; Community Service Award: Cameron Gaunce; MVP: Tristan Jarry.
By the numbers: 5 – teams to reach the 50-win plateau since the AHL adopted a 76-game regular season schedule in 2011-12.
Quote: “My time here has kind of been one big audition, but you’ve got to earn the ice time, it’s a really deep organization,” Adam Krause said. “I’m just trying to earn some ice and some playoff ice too, if I can get it. It was just a fun win too; for a lot of young guys to be in the lineup and be a part of that, some of them as their first game. It was pretty cool.”
Up next: The Penguins are off until Friday when they’ll head to Providence to take on the Bruins in Game 1 of the first round of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.