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Pens clinch playoff berth for 11th straight year

April 13. 2013 11:14PM

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ST. JOHN’S, New Foundland — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins limited the St. John’s IceCaps to 18 shots on goal to post a 3-0 victory and officially clinch an American Hockey League playoff spot Saturday night before 6,287 at Mile One Centre.

It’s the 11th straight year the Penguins (41-28-2-2) have secured a berth in the Calder Cup playoffs.

Saturday’s win was also the sixth straight, and seventh in the past 18 games, for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, decked out in its red and alternate jerseys, which pay homage to the 1936 Pittsburgh Hornets.

With the loss, the IceCaps — who ousted the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinal last season — were officially eliminated from this year’s playoff dance. St. John’s sits No. 14 in the East at 31-35-2-4.

“The boys worked hard for this,” said Penguins coach John Hynes. “They deserve this. Now the real work begins.”

Dominik Uher, hardly considered a scoring threat before Saturday’s game with one goal in 49 starts, paced the Penguins with a pair of goals. Paul Thompson netted the other, and Jeff Zatkoff posted his fifth shutout on the year.

“We try to limit other teams’ scoring chances,” Hynes said. “But you have to give St. John’s credit. They didn’t have a ton of chances, but they did get some quality scoring opportunities.

“But our goalie was the difference,” he said of Zatkoff. “And we play a good, committed team game.”

Uher scored what turned out to be the game-winner on only the Penguins’ second shot in the game, redirecting a Bobby Farnham shot past a surprised IceCaps’ goalie Mark Dekanich at the 17:51 mark of the first period.

Uher, a 20-year-old from the Czech Republic playing his first pro season, made it 2-0 9:08 into the second period on a similar play when he redirected a weak shot from the point by Brian Dumoulin, with Farnham picking up a second assist.

Thompson potted the insurance marker 2:14 later, cashing in on a breakaway for his 19th goal, beating Dekanich with a quick wrist shot over the glove.

“We’ve got a good group of older guys here,” said Hynes, pointing out captain Joey Mormina, Warren Peters, Trevor Smith and Dylan Reese, “who are doing a great leadership job for us.

“It all starts in the (locker) room, and we’ve got a great room in there.”

The teams meet again 2:30 p.m. today before the Penguins return home to close out their regular season against the Worcester Sharks and Manchester Monarchs Friday and Saturday.

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