Lucchini Impresses In Debut For Pens
WILKES-BARRE — Debuting as a professional is enough to make any hockey player a little antsy.
Doing so without any practice sounds like it would only add to the uneasiness, but Jake Lucchini was undaunted.
The rookie out of Michigan Tech played in his first game with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday, recording a plus-1 rating as the team posted a key 4-1 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It completed a hectic 24 hours for the 23-year-old, who arrived in Wilkes-Barre at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, signed his amateur tryout contract in the morning, was late for the team skate because he needed a physical examination and had to quickly prepare himself for a big rivalry game.
“It was good to get in there and kind of get my feet wet,” Lucchini said Friday at the Toyota SportsPlex. “I was a little nervous because I hadn’t really practiced with the guys or anything. We (Michigan Tech) lost out on Saturday, and I hadn’t been on the ice since then. So, it was exciting.”
Lucchini fit right in with a couple of the Penguins veterans, starting on a line with Joseph Cramarossa and Jimmy Hayes. The trio teamed up for the game’s first goal early in the opening period, a rebound in front for Hayes, and the rookie buzzed around the net of Alex Lyon throughout the contest. He nearly got his first professional goal, but shot just wide off a pass from Adam Johnson.
The British Columbia native, who signed a one-year, entry-level contract with Pittsburgh for next season, said he tried to play a simple style of game as he adjusts to his new team and role. He prides himself on his two-way play and said puck possession is a key facet of his skill set.
“The first period, I just tried to got out there and get a few touches, move my feet and limit my mistakes,” Lucchini said. “Then the second and third, I thought I was just more confident with the puck and skated a little bit more. I thought, overall, it was good. It was a good opportunity.”
He may get another opportunity as soon as this weekend, as the Penguins have a pivotal division matchup against Providence tonight and an afternoon tilt with defending champion Toronto on Sunday. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was only four points back of Providence for the final playoff spot as of Friday afternoon with a game in hand.
Ryan Scarfo practiced Friday, and head coach Clark Donatelli said the team is hopeful he’ll be back for at least one of the games. However, forward Pat McGrath is still questionable after suffering a deep cut on his hand in a fight last Saturday.
Defenseman Chris Wideman is also expected to be out for both games.
If Lucchini does play, the Penguins are more than comfortable having him in the lineup.
“Good speed, he’s got good hockey sense,” Donatelli said. “I thought he did really well. He was good on pucks, he was hard in the battle. He looked like he was here all year. Definitely a clean transition for him.” Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPiccotti on Twitter
SCOUTING REPORT: March 16-17
Opponent: Providence Bruins
When: 7:05 p.m. tonight
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena
Last matchup: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won, 2-1, in a shootout on March 1 at Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
About the Bruins: Providence has cooled off of late with only four wins in its last 10 games through Thursday, but beat Hershey in a pair of games last weekend that went beyond regulation. Goaltender Zane McIntyre ranks tied for fifth in the league with 22 wins and tied for 12th in goals-against average (2.55). Forward Paul Carey and defenseman Connor Clifton were recalled by Boston on Thursday; Carey had three goals in as many games before the move. Jordan Szwarz thus assumed the team goal lead with 19. Providence won the only other game between the teams at Mohegan Sun Arena back on Nov. 25.
Opponent: Toronto Marlies
When: 3:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena
Last matchup: The Penguins lost, 7-4, on Dec. 1 in Toronto.
About the Marlies: Toronto started the season slow, but is comfortably in a playoff position in the North Division at 32-20-6-4. The Marlies have one of the league’s top offenses, led by veteran Chris Mueller’s 24 goals. Toronto had trouble giving up goals earlier in the season, but has stabilized in net after the acquisition of Michael Hutchinson. He’s gone 10-3-3-2 with a 2.60 GAA since joining the team. The Marlies also have one of the league’s best power-play percentages at 22.3.