Season 20 for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins opened on Saturday night against the Springfield Thunderbirds. Starting lines, defense pairings, and goalies for the Penguins’ season opener were as follows, per WBS play-by-play broadcaster Nick Hart:
#WBSPens lines tonight...— Nick Hart (@_NickHart) October 6, 2018
Wilson / Johnson / Hayes
Aston-Reese / Lafferty / Angello
Di Pauli / Blueger / Haggerty
Lindberg / Ölund / Miletic
#WBSPens D pairs...— Nick Hart (@_NickHart) October 6, 2018
Summers / Elliott
O'Neill / Trotman
Abt / Prow
Starting goalie match-up for tonight...— Nick Hart (@_NickHart) October 6, 2018
WBS - Anthony Peters, 2.71 GAA, .907sv%
SPR - Michael Hutchinson, 2.08, .935sv%
^2017-18 AHL statistics
After an extensive pregame ceremony introducing coaches, scratches, and the current night’s roster (loudest cheers among the paid attendance of 6,294 reserved for Penguins goalie coach Andy Chiodo), Springfield wasted no time crashing the party.
Look at Thomas Di Pauli along the near boards there. Just an absolutely brutal turnover, a blind pass behind him in his own zone, with former Penguin Harry Zolnierczyk bearing down behind him to swipe it away. Zolnierczyk then centered easily to the charging captain of the Thunderbirds, Paul Thompson, for the goal just 36 seconds into the season.
The lead, thankfully, did not last.
That’s big Anthony Angello, wearing No. 17 this season, winning the faceoff clean back to Ethan Prow on defense, and his quick wrist shot through traffic found paydirt to equal the score at 1:50 of the first.
Springfield came into this game ready to fight, forcing many post-whistle scrums by trying to clear Penguins out of goalie Hutchinson’s crease as play stopped. The combined feistiness of the two sides led to 46 penalty minutes just in the first period, which I suppose is not surprising coming from a team that claimed, in naming former Penguin Thompson its captain, that “the Springfield Thunderbirds’ captaincy is not something we believe in awarding unless it is truly earned.”
As for the scoreboard, the game stayed level for approximately six minutes after Prow’s goal. Then perhaps the one guy who should not be here in the WB if not for his waiver status made his presence known in the WB once again.
Solid pass from Trotman up to Lafferty at neutral ice, who takes a big hit to spring Aston-Reese on a 2 on 1 with Angello, and what a move.
Can we call that dangle, snipe, scrap? 2-1 WBS.
WBS would carry that lead through the end of the first, outshooting Springfield 18-8 in the first.
In the second, Springfield started to find its footing, outshooting WBS 12-11 in the frame and getting this power play goal from Thompson, his second of the night, to tie the game.
Some really good movement there by the Thunderbirds on the power play, and the final shot by Thompson was a total changeup that Peters probably wants back in the worst way.
Both teams had their opportunities in the third period and overtime to break the tie, but neither could do it. Final shots through OT were a remarkable 46-32 favoring the Penguins.
In the shootout, only one of the five shooters could find the net. Once again, it was the guy who probably shouldn’t be here.
Peters denied Blaine Byron, Ludwig Bystrom, and Patrick Bajkov in the shootout to clinch the win, finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots for the win. His counterpart Hutchinson finished with a remarkable 44 saves on 46 shots...and remarkably did not earn a star for it.
Third star went to Springfield captain Thompson with two goals. Second star went to WBS defender Prow for the first goal. First star went to Zach Aston-Reese for his goal and shootout goal.
WBS now hits the road to visit the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Monsters. Cleveland is 2-0 after the opening weekend, with two home victories over the Rockford Icehogs to open the season. WBS will play two against the Monsters, first on Thursday, October 11 at 7:00 p.m. EDT, then on Saturday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m. EDT.
Elsewhere around the Atlantic Division on the first two days of the season:
- Charlotte opened with two wins at Rochester, 6-2 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday. The Checkers were fueled by two goals each from Nicolas Roy and Janne Kuokkanen and three assists from Andrew Poturalski on Friday, then two more goals and an assist from Roy on Saturday.
- Hartford opened with a 4-2 win over Providence on its season opener on Friday night, getting three goals in just over seven minutes in the third period, then fending off a Providence rally in the third.
- Hershey hosted Syracuse in its season opener on Saturday and fell 3-2 as Alex Barre-Boulet broke a 2-2 tie in the third period in favor of the Crunch.
- After dropping its season opener on Friday, Providence then traveled home for its home opener on Saturday and dropped a 3-2 decision to Laval, losing a 2-0 lead in the third period as Brett Kulak scored with just 35 seconds to go to give the Rocket its first win of the season.
- Lehigh Valley overwhelmed Bridgeport 6-3 on Saturday in the opener for both teams. The Phantoms’ top line of Greg Carey, Phil Varone, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel combined for five of Lehigh Valley’s six goals, while rookie Carter Hart stopped 31 of 34 shots for the win in his AHL debut.