WBS vs. Manchester Postgame Report
By: Ali Myers
On Saturday night, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ hopes of starting another winning streak were dashed at the hands of the Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs struck twice in the first period, including one power play goal, to defeat the Penguins 3-1 at Wachovia Arena.
WBS goaltender John Curry gave up two first period goals less than one minute apart. Tom Cavanagh put a shot behind Curry at 9:43 of the period with Bud Holloway and Gabe Gauthier earning assists. Just 49 seconds later, Curry came out to play the puck and was caught out of position by John Zeiler. Monarchs’ enforcer Kevin Westgarth and defenseman Joe Piskula earned the assists.
End of first period: Manchester 2-WBS 0
Shots on Goal: WBS 11-Manchester 8
At the 6:31 mark, Nick Johsnon responded to a hit from behind by fighting Richard Clune; perhaps also in an attempt to spark a comeback by the Penguins. Clune landed most of the punches in the fight as the two got tangled up a bit more before being broken up by officials.
Later in the period, a controversial call was made by referee Ian Croft on WBS forward Chris Conner. Manchester defenseman Patrick Mullen was entering the Penguins’ attack zone and landed into the boards when he tripped coming down the ice. Conner was called for tripping at 12:14, much to the dismay of the home crowd. As the Penguins attempted to kill Conner’s penalty, Joe Vitale was called for hooking at 12:48 in yet another controversial call, resulting in a 5-on-3 situation for Manchester.
Rookie Corey Elkins, who is one of the Monarchs’ top scorers this season, was able to capitalize at 14:19 of the period. Bud Holloway picked up his second assist of the night, and the secondary assist went to Andrew Campbell.
The Penguins had some of their best chances in this period, but Manchester’s defense was able to hold off a shot attempt from Nate Guenin and goalie Jeff Zatkoff froze a Joe Vitale slapshot at 17:23. Conner had the best chance of the period to tie the game, but hit the post at 8:07.
End of second period: Manchester 3-WBS 0
Shots on Goal: WBS 14-Manchester 7
SOG total after two periods: WBS 25-Manchester 15
The Penguins came out for the third period on a mission to try to comeback and make a whole new hockey game. 27 seconds in to the period, it appeared Konstantin Pushkarev would do just that. He scored his second goal in as many nights. Vitale and Eric Tangradi picked up the assists. It was Tangradi’s third point in three games. However, Pushkarev’s goal was not enough hope for the Pens.
Starting at 1:54, the Penguins were given four consecutive power play opportunities. However, thanks to Manchester’s second ranked penalty killing unit, the Penguins were unable to convert; including on one 5-on-3 opportunity of their own when Gauthier and Marc-Andre Cliché were off for tripping calls.
John Curry was pulled with about 1:30 remaining in the third period. The Monarchs were unable to find the empty net goal to put the Pens out of the game for good, and even when Tangradi was called for slashing with 1:17 remaining, there was no more offense to be found.
Final Score: Manchester 3-WBS 1
Shots on Goal: WBS 13-Manchester 6
Final SOG tally: WBS 38-Manchester 21
Three Stars of the Game:
3. Bud Holloway (Manchester)-two assists
2. John Zeiler (Manchester)-first period goal; +1
1. Jeff Zatkoff (Manchester)-37 saves on 38 shots
Prior to the game, Nick Johnson was awarded the December Player of the Month award presented by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Booster Club.
WBS’ scratches remained unchanged from Friday night’s game. Defenseman Lane Caffaro was the healthy scratch. Wade Brookbank, Jesse Boulerice, Ryan Bayda, and Keven Veilleux remain out with injuries.
The starters were also mostly remained unchanged, with Curry in goal against Manchester after defeating Lowell on Friday. The Tangradi-Vitale-Pushkarev line started the second consecutive night. However, head coach Todd Reirden opted to start the defensive pairing of Chris Lee and Deryk Engelland rather than Nate Guenin and Ben Lovejoy.
Monarchs defenseman Patrick Mullen is the son of former WBS Penguins head coach Joe Mullen. Joe Mullen coached the Pens on an interim basis during the 2005-2006 season after Michel Therrien was promoted to Pittsburgh.
Chris Conner had one of the best scoring chances of the second period. He truly moves on the ice with a purpose and despite being a small player, has great speed. It is hard to blame him for the penalty that was called since it’s believed that Mullen lost his own balance and Conner was nowhere near him.
The Penguins are now off until Friday night when they travel to Binghamton. This could be an upside for the team, as they will have a chance to possibly get some injured players back in the lineup (Ryan Bayda is the likely candidate to return and Wade Brookbank might also return depending on the severity of his concussion symptoms) and work out the problems they faced tonight.
Shooting accuracy: While we can’t expect the Penguins to score on every shot, they are taking many shots that are going just wide of the goal line or having rebounds come out, but nobody to pick them up. The Pens need to bring more players to the front of the net and ensure that missed attempts do not go directly to their opponent.
Power play: Going 0 for 6 on the power play, including failing to score on a 5-on-3 opportunity, is no recipe for success. As the Penguins saw, Manchester’s power play goal helped them to have more of a cushion on the game. Scoring more on the man advantage will give the Pens more confidence to win games and make a comeback attempt easier; or even prevent it altogether.