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Penguins Slug Way To Win In Opener

October 7, 2018
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Penguins Slug Way To Win In Opener

WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Call it the adrenaline of kicking off a new season. Emotions were high and tempers flared for the Penguins and Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday night, and it made for one of the craziest season-opening periods at Mohegan Sun Arena. The teams combined for two fights, 46 penalty minutes and three goals. When things finally calmed down, the game turned into a nailbiter that first needed overtime and then a shootout. Zach Aston-Reese had a goal in regulation and then beat Michael Hutchinson in the series of penalty shots, giving the Penguins a 3-2 win at Mohegan Sun Arena and the extra point. “I tell you, it was an exciting game,” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said. “It was a spirited hockey game and great win to start off with. “I didn’t like the way it started; we got scored on. But, I liked the response.” Springfield and WBS traded goals in the opening 1:50, with Paul Thompson capitalizing on a turnover in the Penguins zone and Ethan Prow answering with a point shot that eluded a screened Hutchinson. Aston-Reese would give the Penguins the lead on a pretty drive to the net, patiently holding the puck with his stick and flipping it over a sliding Julian Melchiori and the shoulder of Hutchinson. Then the game took a nasty turn. Penguins defenseman Zach Trotman fought Thompson at 9:03, with new captain Garrett Wilson and Joel Lowry duking it out shortly after. Penguins forward Adam Johnson was crosschecked from behind into the Springfield net, setting off another melee. Then, late in the period, Wilson and Thompson screamed at each other on the benches. At one point, five Thunderbirds were jammed into the penalty box. However, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton power play couldn’t take advantage of subsequent 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 chances, leading to a 2-1 score at the first intermission. “I think that was the longest period - that might be the longest game I’ve played in with all the stops,” Aston-Reese said. “First game of the season ... emotions were going. It’s nice to see guys sticking up for each other out there. I think both teams responded how they should.” Hutchinson was stellar the rest of the way, stopping Thomas Di Pauli’s shorthanded breakaway in the second and making 22 saves over the final two periods. Anthony Peters was just as effective for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, making 28 saves get the game to the extra period. The two traded big saves in overtime, with Peters robbing Matt Mangene on a tip attempt in front of the crease and Hutchinson denying Aston-Reese in the final seconds. The latter got his revenge on the Penguins’ first attempt of the shootout, faking left and then beating the netminder through the five-hole for the winner.r “It’s a tribute to (Aston-Reese’s) character, coming down here and not sulking,” Donatelli said. “He’s engaged; he’s in a great place right now with his mindset. He’s down here playing his (butt) off. That’s what he’s doing.” At the other end, Peters showed patience in waiting out the first two shooters to make saves before Patrick Bajkov lost control of the Thunderbirds’ third and final attempt. Peters was given the start after competing with John Muse throughout training camp and Tristan Jarry sat out the game as a healthy scratch. Thompson, a former Penguin, had Springfield’s other goal just past the midway point of the second period. Contact the writer: tpiccotti@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPiccotti on Twitter

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