A roadtrip through Connecticut with back to back games against Hartford and Hartford. No transactions to mention, but Kostopoulos is still out week to week, Bengtsson has an upper body injury that is day to day (but thankfully not related to his POTS) and Sestito is still out.
Friday Night (12/15/2017)
Hartford Wolf Pack (Away) – 7-3 Loss
Only one change from Wednesday with Pat McGrath taking a seat for Adam Johnson. WBS went down early to a bad turnover followed by bad defense by the forwards and Ryan Graves had a simple tap in in the slot. Thomas DiPauli tied the game with 6 and a half left in the first after beating Hartford’s D for speed and backhanding through Mazanec in the Wolf Pack’s net. It wasn’t long before Hartford took the league once again, this time scoring on the powerplay 2 and a half minutes after DiPauli equalled it up. Just over a minute into the 2nd period, the Penguins once again conceded with them allowing Hartford an easy zone entry and forwards once again failing to track a defenseman jumping into the play, leaving the game 3-1 to Hartford. A 4-1 lead followed not long after when the Wolf Pack powerplay once again converts with a one timer from the blue line by John Gilmour and Casey DeSmith pulled in place of Sean Maguire. A tough start for Maguire as Hartford score less than 10 seconds after their 4th to put up 5 goals on 13 shots with 25 minutes gone in the game. One of the few lines to turn up for the Penguins was the 4th, and it was their effort dragging the game back to 5-2 as DiPauli and Blueger flew in on the forecheck, bumped some bodies, forced a turnover and Blueger banked in a loose puck off the back of Mazanec. After these wild moments, we entered the 2nd intermission 5-2 to Hartford. In the 3rd, Hartford opted to sit back and pack it in, preventing a lot of chances for WBS and 7 and a half minutes in potted a 6th goal to put this game completely to bed as a point shot was deflected off Dea in the slot and then Hartford added a 7th goal 50 seconds later when the Baby Penguins made the odd decision to sit Sprong at the far blue line to try and give him a break out chance, leading to a 4 on 5 in the Penguins zone in which the uncovered man, DeAngelo, puts away the rebound. Sprong does manage to grab a goal shortly after by finding a nice soft zone in the offensive zone and wristing over the blocker of Mazanec. This was the last goal of the game, finishing 7-3
Saturday Night (12/16/2017)
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Away) – 3-2 OT Loss
The first thing to get to is that Kevin Spinozzi earned himself an AHL contract after his performances on his PTO, so stick taps to Kevin who’s looked good in the 6 games he got into for WBS. Lineup wise, Prow takes a seat after missing the last 2 periods of yesterday’s game through injury and is replaced by Jarred Tinordi, and Quinney is scratched in favour of McGrath. DeSmith gets the nod in net after being pulled on Friday night. With almost 7 minutes gone, Aston-Reese and Haggerty’s forecheck freed up the puck behind the Bridgeport net for McKegg to grab the puck and wrap it around off a Bridgeport defender’s skate for a 1-0 lead that lasted all the way up until under a minute and a half left in the 2nd period, when some extended zone time for the Sound Tigers resulted in Devon Toews wristing in from the left half boards in a goal that DeSmith would have loved to have back. There wasn’t another goal until 13:46 gone in the 3rd period when the Sound Tigers took advantage of a Colin Smith high sticking penalty and converting on the powerplay for a 2-1 lead. This lead did not last long as 2 minutes later, Aston-Reese tying the game at 2 with his first goal in 12 games and over a month. A questionable boarding call against Corrado in the last minute led to a powerplay that carried into the OT period and it was there that Sebastian Aho (no, not that one) converted on the PP to give Bridgeport the 3-2 OT victory.
1) In what is a pretty common takeaway, Sprong continues to play better after his healthy scratch, and added 2 goals this week to take him to 15 goals on the year, with 8 of those coming at even strength. Finally getting over the 50% mark on goals at ES is a huge step for Sprong and his physical engagement is continuing to impress, getting involved in the forecheck consistently. Hopefully he continues to have quality linemates like Colin Smith that can feed him the puck with a bit more regularity.
2) Casey DeSmith looked pretty rusty at points over the weekend, and that’s to be expected given he hadn’t played a game in about 3 weeks prior to starting against Springfield on Wednesday. I do question the decision to throw him in there immediately against Springfield when Maguire was coming off a strong performance over the previous weekend, and I would hope that Clark Donatelli keeps Maguire in the rotation regularly as he had earned some extra time.
3) Kevin Spinozzi earned himself a full time AHL contract after he got a PTO and he’s done everything in his power to earn that contract. He’s a big kid at 6’3, 210 and skates very well for that size. I was surprised there wasn’t more interest in him for an ELC throughout the league as the size and skating combination isn’t easy to find. He doesn’t move the puck with the skill of a Bengtsson, but he has some solid enough puck skills as evidenced by going 0.5ppg in junior a year after his original draft year. If he keeps up the performance’s he has been having where he’s playing physically and on the PK, I wouldn’t be awfully surprised to see the Penguins give him an ELC.