WILKES-BARRE, PENN – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will enter the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs for the 16th consecutive year, the longest current streak in the American Hockey League. The last time they missed the playoffs was back in the 2001-02 season when they finished fifth in what was then the South Division.
Their first-round opponent will be the Charlotte Checkers. In the league since 2010, this is just the fourth time the Checkers will make the playoffs. Both teams are hoping to improve upon last season’s first-round exit. Charlotte finished the season on fire, winning its’ final seven games
Final Regular Season Records:
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: 45-22-6-3, 99 points (2nd in Atlantic Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference)
Charlotte Checkers: 46-26-1-3, 96 points (3rd in Atlantic Division, 5th in Eastern Conference)
Game 1 – Friday, April 20 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at CHARLOTTE 7:00 pm ET
Game 2 – Saturday, April 21 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at CHARLOTTE 6:00 pm ET
Game 3 – Thursday, April 26 – Charlotte at WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 7:05 pm ET
*Game 4 – Saturday, April 28 – Charlotte at WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 7:05 pm ET
*Game 5 – Sunday, April 29 – Charlotte at WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 3:05 pm ET
Season Series Recap:
Charlotte dominated the season series winning three out of four games and outscoring the Penguins 111-9, which included Jeremy Smith making 28 saves on Opening Night. The Penguins’ lone win came March 13 in Charlotte, with Joseph Cramarossa netting the game-winner and Anthony Peters making 29 saves in a defeat of Carolina Hurricanes’ top prospect Alex Nedeljkovic.
How Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wins:
Motivation and defense. Their longtime Captain Tom Kostopoulos is retiring after the playoffs following a 19-year career. He won almost every major accolade, except for a championship. If the team kicks it into another gear for its captain, led by rookie Daniel Sprong and his 32 goals, they could take down the high-flying Checkers.
Another key will be goaltending. Tristan Jarry has struggled since returning to the AHL from Pittsburgh, and with no margin for error in a five-game series, it will be interesting to see how much of a leash head coach Clark Donatelli gives his young netminder.
How Charlotte Wins:
This one is pretty simple: push the pace. Charlotte loves to play a track meet-style which allowed them to dominate the Penguins all season. With scorers like Valentin Zykov, Lucas Wallmark, and Andrew Miller all tallying more than 50 points in the regular season and an additional 13 skaters over the 20-point plateau, Charlotte has the scoring prowess Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is comparatively lacking. If Charlotte can outwork the Penguins, while a sweep is unlikely, it is not out of the question.
Another interesting angle for Charlotte in this series is former Penguin Greg McKegg. Pittsburgh traded McKegg to Carolina at the NHL Trade Deadline for Josh Jooris. McKegg promptly went on a tear, tallying 23 points over the season’s final 19 games, including two goals against his former club in a March victory at Bojangles Coliseum
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