WBS Penguins 6 – Hershey 2
The Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins extended their winning streak to eight games, defeating the Hershey Bears 6-2 on Saturday night. John Curry made 30 saves to earn the win and improve to 4-0 on the season.
The Penguins have emerged as a top contender in the American Hockey League and through eight game, have earned three victories against Hershey who are a power house in the AHL.
This is an extremely deep team with a handful of veteran players who have NHL experience and several prospects who are on the verge of being NHL ready and who are and would be in the NHL if they weren’t in the Penguins system.
Chris Conner (2) led the offensive attack for Wilkes Barre, with 2 goals an assist in the win.
Eric Tangradi (1), Andrew Hutchinson (2), Zach Sill (1), and Joe Vitale (5) also scored for Wilkes Barre.
The Penguins dominate special teams continued Saturday night, scoring two power play goals and Joe Vitale added a short-handed goal, the third shorthanded goal for Wilkes Barre on the season.
The Penguins are killing penalties at a 93 percent rate and top defensemen prospects Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait are among the key contributors to the units success.
Strait and Bortuzzo have worked together as the Penguins shutdown pair and both players are inching closer to being NHL ready. Strait leads the team with a plus-7 rating and the two have a combined plus/minus rating of plus-13.
Penguins scouts are extremely high on Bortuzzo who is regarded inside the organization as the Penguins No. 2 defenseman prospect behind Simon Despres.
How the Penguins are going to find space for them on the NHL roster is a big question mark heading into the next couple seasons.
An under-rated player in the Penguins system is Joe Vitale. He’s a player GM Ray Shero said this summer that will play in the NHL whether it’s with the Penguins or elsewhere.
Vitale is a true role player that provides energy and is an exceptional skater and penalty killer. A surprise part of his game though this season is his goal scoring touch thus far. He leads Wilkes Barre with five goals and two shorthanded goals.
Top forward prospect Eric Tangradi scored his first goal of the season for Wilkes Barre tonight. Tangradi I’m told has arrived in Wilkes Barre with a great mindset and attitude.
*Nick Johnson (3G-5A) and Dustin Jeffrey (2G-6A) lead the team with 8 points on the season. Jeffrey has a team worst minus-4 rating.
Johnson continues to produce but whether it leads to him moving up the organizational depth chart remains to be seen.
*Goaltender John Curry is 4-0 on the season with a 1.72 GAA and .940 save percentage. Curry has earned himself some playing time but Brad Theissen has been just as good, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.96 GAA and .930 save percentage.
However, it’s been a nice rebound year thus far for Curry who was once regarded as a long-term backup for the Penguins.
*Despite missing five games, Andrew Hutchinson leads all defensemen with 6 points. Hutchinson is averaging 2 points per game. Steve Wagner is second among defensemen with 5 points.