WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Playing the final game of a three-in-three at 3 p.m. on a Sunday isn’t an easy task, but it helps when you have Daniel Sprong in the lineup.
After Saturday’s 3-2 loss on the road to Lehigh Valley, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins showed no signs of fatigue as they dominated Syracuse, 6-1. Gage Quinney, who made his AHL debut while centering Sprong and Garrett Wilson, registered a goal and two assists while Casey DeSmith stopped 24 out of 25 shots in goal. Sprong now has four goals in four games to start the season.
The Penguins wrapped up the three-game weekend by winning two, and on Sunday they did it behind the line of Quinney, Sprong and Wilson, who combined for three goals and seven points.
Quinney, who spent his first pro season with Wheeling last year, said his linemates made his AHL debut go smooth.
“Sprong can probably score from anywhere and Wilson is unreal in tight,” Quinney said. “That was really helpful for my first game.”
The Penguins wasted no time getting on the board when Jean-Sebastien Dea put home a rebound from a Lukas Bengtsson shot just 34 seconds into the game.
The quick goal gave the Penguins an early lead and put any thoughts of fatigue on the back-burner.
“It’s key,” said head coach Clark Donatelli of the early goal. “Always getting that first one, especially in the three-in-three, you get it off your back and now we’re playing with a lead.”
Despite a penalty-filled second period that saw both teams whistled for nine minors, the Penguins built upon that lead.
And like the opening frame, the first goal of the second period came quickly when Wilson shoveled in a rebound from a Sprong shot to make it 2-0 just 1:16 into the frame. Three minutes later, Thomas Di Pauli tipped a Teddy Blueger shot for a 3-1 lead.
After Syracuse scored on the power play to draw within two, the Crunch were called for three straight penalties in a span of just over a minute, giving the Penguins nearly two minutes of a five-on-three advantage.
They didn’t connect with the two-man opportunity, but Christian Thomas deflected a Zach Trotman shot for a power play goal and a 4-1 lead.
While things were fine for the Penguins on the scoreboard, Donatelli wasn’t happy about the penalties.
“I’d like to play more even-strength, but that’s just the way they’re calling it and our team has to get better at it,” he said. “We have to tighten up in that department.”
Especially considering the infractions keep the penalty killers on the ice and Sprong on the bench.
“I think it’s frustrating for everyone,” Sprong said. “They’re calling everything and if you’re on the wrong side of it, it hurts everyone. We want to play more five-on-five. We have four lines that can roll with any line.”
After a quiet first half to the third period, Sprong extended his goal-scoring streak to four games when he punched in a loose puck in front to make it 5-1. The goal was the first even-strength goal of the season for Sprong.
The Penguins showed no signs of tiring late in the game as Quinney posted in the slot and converted a feed from Sprong to make it 6-1. The goal was the first AHL tally for Quinney and it gave him a three-point night and sealed the win.
“He’s a young kid with a lot of talent,” Donatelli said of Quinney. “He can make plays offensively and he’s a real smart hockey player. It was a great start for his career.”
- Along with Quinney, D Ethan Prow and F Freddie Tiffels played in their first games of the season. Tiffels also made his pro debut. Jarrett Burton, Dylan Zink and Zach Aston-Reese sat out Sunday’s game.