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WBS Penguins Season Opener Recap: WBS 4, Hershey 3

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton gets two from new signee Stefan Noesen and 36 saves from Casey DeSmith to dispatch the Hershey Bears in the first game of the new AHL season for each.

Photo by WBS Penguins

Through four preseason games, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins only scored a total of five goals, with one of those goals being into an empty net. Offense was clearly at the forefront this past week, as WBS signed Stefan Noesen to an AHL contract the morning of the first day of the season to bolster the forward lines. The signing proved immediate dividends, as Noesen tallied two goals in his first game for WBS as the Penguins outlasted a dangerous Hershey Bears team 4-3.

Opening lines and defense pairings for the first game of the season looked like this:

The season opener didn’t begin encouragingly for the Penguins, as highly touted Washington defense prospect Alexander Alexeyev scored his first pro goal for Hershey just 1:02 into the first period to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead.

The lead lasted just 5:43, as Jake Lucchini slammed home a rebound from a Ryan Haggerty shot to square the proceedings.

Haggerty and David Warsofsky tallied the assists.

WBS took their first lead of the season at 13:36 of the first, as Noesen scored his first of the night.

Check out the vision from Adam Johnson on this primary assist.

Adam Johnson loads up a pass to Stefan Noesen for Noesen’s first goal as a Penguin.

That’s Johnson on the left side of the rush, with a clear alley to Noesen on the other side. Johnson executed the pass perfectly, and Noesen made no mistakes on the finish.

The lead only lasted 1:59, as Christian Djoos took a blind pass from Shane Gersich and buried it past starting goaltender Casey DeSmith for a 2-2 tie after 20 minutes.

Noesen didn’t waste much time in the second period getting his second, putting the Penguins up 3-2 by burying a rebound of an Oula Palve shot.

Two of the first three goals scored from short range on second chances. That’s extremely encouraging coming out of the gate.

WBS saw the 3-2 lead through to the end of the second period, then after killing off a questionable penalty for too many players on the ice, Anthony Angello used his big frame to take control of a 50/50 puck and fire past Hershey goalie Vitek Vanecek for a 4-2 lead.

Angello’s goal proved to be the game-winner, as Hershey’s Matt Moulson (yes, THAT Matt Moulson, the veteran of 650 NHL games) tapped home a rebound with Vanecek pulled for a two player advantage to give the final score of 4-3.

The American Hockey League has expanded its stat tracking this season to include shot charts; taking a quick look at the goal chart for WBS on the first game, this struck out at me.

The goal chart for the WBS Penguins’ first game of the season.

Those are four goals very, very close to the net. It’s only one night, but if the Penguins can expand on this and continue to score its goals from in close and on second chances like they did tonight, it’s going to be a good, good year.

Hershey’s Alex Alexeyev was given third star honors for the goal on his debut; WBS goaltender Casey DeSmith, getting the start on opening night over Emil Larmi with new signee Dustin Tokarski fighting off an injury, saved 36 of 39 Hershey shots for second star honors; Stefan Noesen took top honors for his two goals.

The weekly WBS recap will return next week, as WBS heads to Lehigh Valley on Friday, October 11 for a 7:05 pm EDT start against the Phantoms, then welcomes the Utica Comets to the WB for the 21st season’s home opener on Saturday, October 12, probably sometime after the scheduled 7:05 pm EDT start time.