The Wilkes-Barre Penguins had their best on paper roster this past week. Ryan Shea and Valtteri Puustinen were back from the NHL. John Ludvig was making a cameo in the minors on a conditioning stint. The bonus of having an NHL caliber player in Jesse Puljujarvi was reaching its apex and conclusion. Overall, Wilkes doesn’t have that many injuries of their own. An AHL team often is a lot less short-handed through callups and injuries at this time of the year.
The table was set for a great week. Aaaand, then hockey happened. Wilkes only scored one goal against Toronto to lose 4-1 after the Marlies tacked on two empty netters. Then the Pens went down 4-1 to Hartford before a rally forced overtime, where they fell. Luckily, they salvaged a win in their final game before the All Star break.
In some ways, that’s the sport for ya. Team is built up for success and has all the pieces in place, but still can only ends up with a 1-1-1 record on the week. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
Here’s Nick Hart from the team’s recap of the games:
Wednesday, Jan. 31 – PENGUINS 1 vs. Toronto 4
In the first-ever meeting between father and son, Penguins forward Jonathan Gruden scored his team’s only goal, but Marlies head coach John Gruden for the last laugh with the win. After Jonathan Gruden tied the game in the third period, the Marlies scored 18 seconds later to reestablish the lead followed by a pair of empty-net goals.
Friday, Feb. 2 – PENGUINS 4 at Hartford 5
A three-goal Penguins’ comeback fell just short on Friday night in Hartford. Down 4-1 in the second period, Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton received tallies from Peter Abbandonato and two from Vinnie Hinostroza to force overtime. Hartford’s Brett Berard scored 49 seconds into OT to take the win.
Saturday, Feb. 3 – PENGUINS 3 at Lehigh Valley 1
In the final game before the break, Joel Blomqvist once again proved why he was chosen as the team’s All-Star. Blomqvist notched 20 saves and came within 1:54 of pitching his first AHL shutout. Ty Smith opened the scoring in the first period, and Joona Koppanen gathered the game-winner with a third-period shorthanded goal.
Monday, Feb. 5 – AHL ALL-STAR CLASSIC
Joel Blomqvist and the Atlantic Division went 2-1 in round robin play but lost in the final seconds of the final to the host Pacific Division, 3-2. Blomqvist was credited with two assists across his team’s four games.
Joel Blomqvist’s debut campaign in America has been a smash success this season. He was on display and shining at the AHL All Star game, just as he’s been shining all year in Wilkes. Blomqvist nearly joined Alex Nedeljkovic and Tristan Jarry as goalie goal scorers this season.
We have a serious question:— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 6, 2024
If Blomma had made this shot, would it have counted for real for real as a goalie goal? pic.twitter.com/fxCTR2WjQ2
That fun stuff aside, Blomqvist ranks second in the league in goals against average (2.08) and third in save percentage (.922%). The future looks extremely bright for a netminder who turned 22-years old last month.
The Penguins remain in third place in their division, where the top-six will make the playoffs. They look in solid shape for that, but their total goals stand out in a negative way about being lower than the top teams in the division.
Generating goals might be more difficult with Puljujarvi graduating to an NHL contract and trip to Pittsburgh this week. Puljujarvi closed the books with nine points (4G+5A) in 13 games on his AHL tryout deal.
WB/S only has one game in the upcoming week, another matchup against Lehigh Valley. The Pens have been getting the better of the Flyers’ affiliate so far this season with a 2-0-1 record and a win last week over the Phantoms.