AHL Weekend Live Recap from Wilkes-Barre
I’ve watched the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins online via video stream all season long, but luckily this past weekend I got a chance to make the trip up to the WB to check out some of the action, live.
Friday, Jan 29 vs Hershey Bears
Final: HER 8 – WBS 6
First of all let me say that this game had a playoff atmosphere from the drop of the puck. The Penguins were down 6-2 at one point, came back to make it a one-goal game, and nearly tied it with under a minute remaining in the third. The Penguins defense was particularly sloppy for most of the game, but goaltender John Curry didn’t help. He looked like the same goalie from the Vancouver blowout a few weeks ago.
Just 45 seconds in, Eric Tangradi forced a turnover in the slot. Tim Wallace picked up the puck and snapped it shortside for his 11th on the year. There was a total of five fights including Robert Bortuzzo, Wade Brookbank, Deryk Engelland and Luca Caputi. But the main event of the night was Jesse Boulerice vs. Grant McNeill. This fight sparked the team with momentum and fired up the crowd.
Mark Letestu was on fire and was by far the most dominant Penguin on the ice. His hat trick (14, 15, 16th) was enough to earn a call-up to Pittsburgh. Two of the three were highlight reel worthy.
Wallace would add a slap shot goal from the right wing (12th) and Caputi tipped in a Letestu shot to get the game within one with 3 minutes remaining (15th of the season). Caputi was downright mean tonight with some hard, physical play. The video doesn’t lie and this kid is going to play in the NHL sooner than later.
Brad Thiessen was summoned from the bench in relief of Curry after 7 goals allowed, and was tremendous, earning himself a start the following evening. He only allowed one goal, as the empty netter doesn’t go against him.
Saturday, Jan 30 vs Manitoba Moose
Final: MTB 6 – WBS 4
The Baby Pens were bad defensively again but still almost pulled out a W. Dustin Jeffrey scored a nice but easy tap in power play goal (14) off of a Caputi rush.
Caputi would score a PP goal of his own, early in the 2nd (16th) and deflect in yet another one on another power play (17th).
‘Big Dog’ Tangradi was physical throughout the game, and put home a nice goal from the top of the crease for his 10th of the season. After watching him live, I promise – he’s going to be good. Really good.
Coach Reirden decided to make Brian Strait a healthy scratch and put in Jon D’Aversa. Turned out to be a bad decision.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel made his debut at home with WB/S.
Sunday, Jan 31 vs Manitoba Moose
Final: WBS 3 – MTB 1
The Pens finally pulled out a win, this time in a 3:00 afternoon game. Matt Pettinger struck early for the Moose, but that is all that Curry would allow. He really bounced back from two terrible performances, which shows he can be mentally strong.
Ben Lovejoy struck on the powerplay with a low slapper that found its way into the net. Tangradi made a nice play to Bortuzzo, who fired it across the point to Big Ben.
In the second period, Pierro-Zabotel stole the puck from a defender in the offensive zone, and laid a perfect pass over to Wallace who slowly slid home his 13th of the year. Wallace is a battler who will finish every one of his checks and is now proving he can chip in offensively. He’s making a strong case to make Pittsburgh’s fourth line next year out of camp.
Caputi would add the eventual empty netter to seal the deal (17th).
Overall I thought the most impressive prospects were Caputi, Tangradi, and Strait. Honorable mention to Bortuzzo, Jeffrey and Wallace.