by Maureen L.
Heading into their triple header weekend, the Baby Pens were 8-0-0, the only undefeated team in the AHL. Facing two away games against the Rochester Americans and hosting the Syracuse Crunch, the Baby Pens were looking to defend their streak and go 11-0-0 on the weekend. They came very close, but fell to the Crunch at home on Saturday, ending the weekend 10-1-0.
Let’s break it down game by game:
Friday 11/5: @Rochester
The Amerks jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, taking advantage of their first 2 power play opportunities. High powered scoring talent Michal Repik was instrumental on the Amerks power play, assisting on both goals. After the second powerplay goal, the Baby Pens were able to get things back on track and Thiessen didn’t allow the rocky start to shake his confidence. The Baby Pens stormed back with goals from Collins and Sterling and went to intermission with the score 3-2. Chris Connor scored the only goal of the second period, unassisted, to tie the game at 3-3. The Pens’ PK unit came alive in the third and Dustin Jeffrey scored a shorthanded goal to put them ahead for the first time in the game. With just over 3 minutes remaining in the final period, Tim Wallace scored to put the Pens up 5-3. Not deterred, the Amerks mounted a furious comeback effort and made it a 1 goal game with just over 2 minutes left. However, they couldn’t tie it and the Pens went on to win 5-4.
Saturday 11/6: Syracuse
Saturday’s game was a matchup between the top 2 penalty killing teams in the AHL and the score sheet reflects that. Despite a total of 11 power plays, each team only notched 1 power play goal. The Pens went 1 for 6 on their power play and Syracuse was 1 for 5. It’s a good litmus test because the special teams were a pretty even match in standings going into the game. A contrast to the high scoring first period the Pens played the night before in Rochester, the two teams went into the locker room scoreless. The second period had a very different look for both teams as the Pens jumped into the lead with 2 goals (1 even strength, 1 power play) in the first half of the second period. The Crunch answered with a power play goal of their own, but Brett Sterling found the back of the net to give the Pens another 2 goal lead. The second period ended with the score 3-1. Unfortunately for the Pens, they fell a short in the third period and were unable to score. They gave up 3 goals early in the first and spent the rest of the game trying to find the tying goal. That goal didn’t come and the streak ended on Saturday with a final score, Syracuse-4, Wilkes Barre-3.
Sunday 11/7: @Rochester
On Sunday, Pen’s goaltender Brad Thiessen’s play earned him first star honors. Facing 20 shots from the Amerks, Thiessen turned away 19. Both goaltenders were tested in the first (Thiessen faced 8 shots, Markstrom faced 6) but stopped everything that came their way. The teams were scoreless after 1. The Pens came out shooting in the second and launched 8 shots at Markstom. At 12:26 of the second period, Dustin Jeffrey’s shot found its way past the Rochester netminder to put the Pens up 1-0. Rochester didn’t stay down for long though and got the puck behind Thiessen just over a minute later to tie the game up. The game remained tied into the second intermission. In the third, the Pens seemed determined to absorb only one loss for the weekend, launching 10 shots at Markstrom. At 18:10 of the third, a shot from Ryan Craig found the net and the Pens went up 2-1. The Amerks tried to tie it up and pulled Markstrom in favor of the sixth skater, but time ran out. The Pens’ strong PK also contributed to the win as Rochester was unable to score on any of their 4 power play chances.
While the undefeated streak is over, the Pens have a pretty impressive record at 10-1-0. The only team with more points in the AHL right now is the Portland Pirates who have played 14 games, 3 more than the Baby Pens. The success they have enjoyed so far is truly a team effort with goals, assists, and other key plays coming from many different members of the roster. Not a single player on the Pens’ roster is in the top 20 in AHL scoring.
So while the Pens’ undefeated streak is over, their great start to the season is not. This weekend they’ll face Binghamton and Worcester so make sure you check back later in the week for your weekend game preview!