With the National Hockey League’s work stoppage likely continuing into early November, City of Champions continues its coverage of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ two minor-league affiliates.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2-5-0-0, 4 points – 5th place East Division)
One positive aspect of the NHL lockout is that borderline big-league players can get additional seasoning in an enhanced American Hockey League. No one in the Penguins organization may be benefiting more from the situation than power forward prospect Eric Tangradi.
Acquired along with Chris Kunitz in the March 2009 trade that sent defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim, Tangradi has struggled with consistency during short stints in Pittsburgh. However, the 6-foot-4 Philadelphia native is having no problems in northeastern Pennsylvania this fall, as his five goals lead the Penguins.
The Penguins, off to an unusually-slow start, got four goals from Tangradi over the weekend as they went 2-1 against regional foes. Their three-games-in-three-days stretch got off to a solid start with a 5-4 overtime victory Friday at home against Rochester. Paul Thompson – who had two goals and an assist – got the OT winner and goalie Brad Thiessen made 30 saves in his first win of the season.
Tangradi struck for a pair of tallies Saturday night in Syracuse as the Penguins earned a 4-1 win over the Crunch. Goalie Jeff Zatkoff earned the victory with 34 stops. Also of note, 2010 first-round draft pick Beau Bennett drilled his first professional goal; the former University of Denver standout has five points (1g, 4a), tying with with Tangradi for the team lead.
Tangradi continued his hot streak with a late goal Sunday in Hershey, Pa., but Wilkes-Barre/Scranton couldn’t complete the rally in an eventual 3-2 loss to the rival Bears. Adam Payerl, Tangradi’s former teammate with the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls, netted the other Penguins goal, his first as a pro.
The Penguins travel to Manchester, N.H., and Bridgeport, Conn., this weekend.
Wheeling Nailers (2-3-0-1, 5 points – 3rd Atlantic Division)
Similar to their AHL brothers, the Nailers made significant progress this past weekend. Wheeling opened its home schedule with a two-game sweep of divisional rival Reading.
Paul Crowder racked up four points (2g, 2a) in Friday’s home opener, as the Nailers rode three power-play goals to a 7-3 victory at revamped WesBanco Arena. Bobby Farnham also netted a pair, providing support for goalie Patrick Killeen. The 22-year-old Penguins 2008 draft pick made 28 saves for his first win of the season. Defenseman Cody Wild scored a goal and added two assists, with Paul Ferges, Phillipe Lefebrve and Paul Cianfrini registering two points apiece in the offensive showcase.
Saturday night brought more of the same in northern West Virginia, with Killeen stopping 38 Reading shots and four shootout attempts in a 3-2 Wheeling win. Stefan Chaput bolstered the Nailers with the tying goal in the third period and a shootout marker, helping Killeen get his 40th ECHL victory. Chaput also had a goal and an assist Friday night.
Crowder, in his third season with the Nailers, leads the club with seven points (3g, 4a) in six games, with Wild just one behind (1g, 5a). Wheeling hosts Toledo Friday night before traveling to Evansville, Ind., and Cincinnati to finish a three-game weekend.