HERSHEY, Pa. – On Thursday, Stefan Noesen signed an American Hockey League contract with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Friday, he scored twice to help new Head Coach Mike Vellucci win his Penguins coaching debut.
Anthony Angello and Jake Lucchini added goals, Adam Johnson tallied two assists, and Casey DeSmith collected 36 saves to lead Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a 4-3 victory over Hershey on Saturday Night at GIANT Center.
After Bears rookie Alex Alexeyev gave Hershey the lead just 1:02 into the contest, Jake Lucchini’s first of the year evened the score at one a little over five minutes later. Lucchini banged home the rebound of a Ryan Haggerty shot at 6:45.
Just under seven minutes later, Noesen’s first of the game gave the Penguins a lead that wound up not lasting long. After Kevin Czuczman dropped a pass to Adam Johnson, he found Noesen streaking down the far-side wing to beat Vitek Vanecek.
The teams ended the period tied at 2 after Christian Djoos scored his first goal 1:59 after Nosen’s goal.
Noesen struck again 2:55 into the middle frame, chipping in the rebound off a Oula Palve diving backhander low in the slot. It was the Finnish forward’s first American Hockey League point. The rest of the period was scoreless, with DeSmith making several saves as Hershey pushed to tie the game. Once again, shots favored Hershey 24-22 after 40 minutes.
The Penguins were dinged for a too many men on the ice penalty (served by Angello) 2:09 into the third. As the penalty expired, Niclas Almari tossed a home-run pass to the neutral zone, which Angello picked up after racing out of the box. He out-muscled Bears defenseman Lucas Johansen and beat Vanecek from the slot.
Much like the second period, Hershey made a valiant effort to get back into the game. After Joseph Blandisi took a boarding penalty at 7:04, Desmith made the save of the night, robbing Hershey’s Garrett Pilon at the edge of the crease 20 seconds into the man advantage.
The Bears would cut the lead to one with 1:19 remaining when former Pittsburgh draftee Matt Moulson lifted a puck over DeSmith to convert a six-on-four power play after Hershey Coach Spencer Carbery pulled Vanecek and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Sam Lafferty took a high-sticking penalty at 17:15.
It’s only one game, but it’s not hard to see how Charlotte won the Calder Cup last season. Watching this game versus one coached by Clark Donatelli, the contrast was stark. No more are the Penguins willingly letting teams enter the zone on a power play. All four players stack the line, making the opponent find a lane for zone entry. Sure, some things need to be cleaned up; turnovers led to two of the three Hershey goals. They took too many penalties. Those are both things that Vellucci will certainly fix, but overall, they had a solid night.
DESMITH NOT WAIVER WEARY
Sometimes, when a guy gets waived, a bad attitude can creep in. If Casey DeSmith is upset, his play on the ice isn’t showing it. He looked every bit the goalie Mike Sullivan trusted to spell Matt Murray for 36 games last season with Pittsburgh. There’s no telling how long DeSmith will be with WBS, but for the time being, Vellucci has an NHL-quality goaltender he can rely on to rack up points.
3) HER – Alex Alexeyev (Goal)
2) WBS – Casey DeSmith (Win, 36 saves on 39 shots)
1) WBS – Stefan Noesen (Two Goals)
The Penguins travel to Allentown to face off with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday, October 11 at 7:05 p.m.
Follow Brent Baldwin and his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton analysis on Twitter (@SinBinPenguins)!