Penguins Had Strong Turnaround After Loss To Hershey
WILKES-BARRE — Forward Anthony Angello said that, after Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Hershey Bears, it felt like the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins had lost part of their identity.
But given the nature of their convincing wins over Lehigh Valley and Binghamton to snap a four-game skid, they appear to have found it again.
The Penguins played with a newfound tenacity — winning more on-ice battles and racking up over 90 penalty minutes — and that fed into what became the team’s highest two-game scoring output of the season (12). It’s that kind of toughness the team hopes to keep this weekend with a chance to up its win streak to four games.
The turnaround started with a team meeting Saturday morning, in which captain Garrett Wilson said the group “ironed out a few things.”
“We knew we had to play a different kind of style, a different game, to be successful,” Wilson added. “What we were doing wasn’t working. So, I like the way we responded the last two games.”
Matchups with Lehigh Valley are already testy, but the Penguins immediately sent the message they wouldn’t back down from anyone on Saturday when Angello and Wilson both engaged in fights at the 8:11 mark of the first period. They followed a similar pattern two nights later, when Pat McGrath traded blows with Binghamton’s Kurtis Gabriel after an early goal put them behind 1-0.
Beyond the fights and penalties, however, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton seemed to get an energy boost and execute better from its hard checking and increased compete level.
Angello said Wilson’s guidance had an integral role.
“I think we’ve got to take a team mentality of having that edge and that pushback,” Angello said. “(Wilson) talked (in the meeting) about playing with edge, playing with grit, and that makes other teams not want to play against us.
“It gives you a little extra time and space. Guys are hesitant to come rush in and hit you, and that allows you to make more plays offensively.”
Wilson, Angello and Blueger anchored the team as a starting forward line, combining for six goals and two assists, but the increased production was contagious. The line of Adam Johnson, Sam Lafferty and Ben Sexton also had a big weekend, with the latter scoring three times.
A key going forward will be making sure that aggression doesn’t cross the line and become a detriment. Joseph Cramarossa was suspended Monday for an instigator penalty, and Wilson could face additional discipline from the league for his match penalty against the Devils.
Knowing they are bound to face more adversity as the season goes on, however, the way in which the Penguins have rebounded after their latest skid is proof they have a formula for getting past it.
“We went through some stretches earlier in the year that were actually longer,” head coach Clark Donatelli said. “You’ve just got to stick with the game plan, and good things are going to happen. It’s ups and downs (throughout the season).
“We’re going to get in it again. It’s a long season, so the guys are learning why we get in these situations and how we get out of them.”
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