Zach Aston-Reese leads WBS Pens to 3-2 shootout win in season opener

By Tom Venesky - [email protected]
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton winger Zach Aston-Reese (center) tangles with Springfield players Harry Zolnierczyk, Ian McCoshen and former Penguin Bobby Farnham in front of the goal with teammate Adam Johnson in the crease. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Penguins captain Garrett Wilson exchanges blows with Springfield’s Joel Lowry behind the net in the first period of the season-opener. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Springfield goalie Michael Hutchinson stretches out the right pad to deny Penguins winger Adam Johnson. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Anthony Angello (17) goes after the puck along the boards. - - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese scores off the rush, beating Springfield goalie Michael Hutchinson in Saturday’s season-opener at Mohegan Sun Arena. - - Fred Adams | For Times Leader

It took all of three periods and overtime for Zach Aston-Reese to notice something peculiar with Springfield Thunderbirds goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

Even as Aston-Reese scored a goal in the first period and came close to tallying a second at the end of overtime, it wasn’t until he came out for the shootout that he took notice of Hutchinson.

“I came out and realized he was reverse. I didn’t know the whole game that he was catching with his opposite hand,” Aston-Reese said.

So during his shootout attempt, what did Aston-Reese do? He went five-hole for the only goal in the shootout to give the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 3-2 win in the 20th season opener. Ethan Prow scored the first goal of the season and Anthony Peters stopped 30 shots for the win.

Things erupted right off the start as the Thunderbirds struck just 36 seconds into the opening period. Thomas Di Pauli attempted to pass the puck behind him, but Springfield’s Paul Thompson picked it up and fired a shot before Peters was ready.

The goal gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead, but it was short-lived. With less than two minutes expired in the period, Anthony Angello won an offensive zone faceoff back to Prow on the point, who promptly launched a long wrist shot into the net for a 1-1 tie.

Aston-Reese made it 2-1 when he flipped the puck over goaltender Hutchinson during a two-on-one rush to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

After both teams skated penalty-free for the first nine minutes, they totalled 46 penalty minutes in the second half of the period. Zach Trotman got it started with a fight against Thompson and Garrett Wilson kept it going when he dropped the gloves with Joel Lowry.

Along with numerous minor penalties along the way, the Penguins had three power play chances but couldn’t connect.

“From both sides it was an emotional first game of the season,” Aston-Reese said. “It’s nice to see guys sticking up for each other out there. Both teams responded how they should.”

The Penguins finished 0-4 on the power play after posting the second-worst percentage in the American Hockey League last season. Still, head coach Clark Donatelli said it’s too early to be concerned.

“We definitely have to work at it, but I like that we’re getting pucks through. We’ll continue to tweak it, but at least we’re getting some shots,” he said.

The Thunderbirds, however, found power play success when Thompson scored his second of the game after his shot fluttered over Peters.

Thompson’s goal tied the game, 2-2

The Penguins had a chance to take the lead when they went on the power play for fourth time with less than four minutes left, but they were unable to generate any chances.

After a scoreless overtime where Aston-Reese just missed with a second left, he opened the shootout with a goal that would stand as the game-winner.

“It was a spirited hockey game. A great one to start off with,” Donatelli said. “I didn’t like the way it started, but I liked the response that we bounced right back.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton winger Zach Aston-Reese (center) tangles with Springfield players Harry Zolnierczyk, Ian McCoshen and former Penguin Bobby Farnham in front of the goal with teammate Adam Johnson in the crease.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_pens_op1_faa.jpgWilkes-Barre/Scranton winger Zach Aston-Reese (center) tangles with Springfield players Harry Zolnierczyk, Ian McCoshen and former Penguin Bobby Farnham in front of the goal with teammate Adam Johnson in the crease. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Penguins captain Garrett Wilson exchanges blows with Springfield’s Joel Lowry behind the net in the first period of the season-opener.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_pens_op2_faa.jpgPenguins captain Garrett Wilson exchanges blows with Springfield’s Joel Lowry behind the net in the first period of the season-opener. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Springfield goalie Michael Hutchinson stretches out the right pad to deny Penguins winger Adam Johnson.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_pens_op4_faa.jpgSpringfield goalie Michael Hutchinson stretches out the right pad to deny Penguins winger Adam Johnson. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Anthony Angello (17) goes after the puck along the boards.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_pens_op5_faa.jpgWilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Anthony Angello (17) goes after the puck along the boards. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese scores off the rush, beating Springfield goalie Michael Hutchinson in Saturday’s season-opener at Mohegan Sun Arena.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_pens_op3_faa.jpgWilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese scores off the rush, beating Springfield goalie Michael Hutchinson in Saturday’s season-opener at Mohegan Sun Arena. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]

Penguins 3, Springfield 2 Shootout

Springfield`1`1`0`0 — `2

Penguins`2`0`0`0 — `3

First Period

Scoring – 1. SPR, Paul Thompson 1 (Zolnierczyk) :36. 2. WBS, Ethan Prow 1 (Angello) 1:50. 3. WBS, Zach Aston-Reese 1 (Lafferty, Trotman) 8:37. Penalties – SPR, Thompson (fighting) 9:03; WBS, Trotman (instigating, fighting, misconduct) 9:03; SPR, Lowry (fighting) 13:03; WBS, Wilson (fighting) 13:03; SPR, Byron (hooking) 13:16; WBS, Hayes (goaltender interference) 13:22; SPR, Lammikko (tripping) 13:35; SPR, Zolnierczyk (roughing – double minor) 14:00; WBS, Aston-Reese (roughing) 14:00; SPR, Hawryluk (roughing) 20:00.

Second Period

Scoring – 4. SPR, Paul Thompson 2 (Hunt, Zolnierczyk) power play 11:49. Penalties – WBS, Abt (kneeing) 10:20; WBS, Haggerty (slashing) 16:50.

Third Period

Scoring – None. Penalties – SPR, McCoshen (tripping) 16:35.

Overtime

Scoring — None. Penalties – None.

Shootout

WBS — Aston-Reese – G; Lafferty – NG;

SPR — Byron – NG; Bystrom – NG; Bajkov – NG

Shots on goal

Springfield – 8-12-10-2-32

Penguins – 18-11-13-4-47

Power-play Opportunities

Springfield – 1 of 3

Penguins – 0 of 4

Goaltenders

Springfield – Michael Hutchinson 0-1-0 (45 saves-47 shots)

Penguins – Anthony Peters 1-0-0 (30-32)

Starters

Springfield – G Michael Hitchinson, D Iam McCoshen, D Matt Mangene, LW Dryden Hunt, C Harry Zolnierczyk, RW Paul Thompson

Penguins – G Anthony Peters, D Stefan Elliott, D Chris Summers, LW Thomas Di Pauli, C Teddy Blueger, RW Ryan Haggerty

Three Stars

1. WBS, Zach Aston-Reese (goal, shootout goal) 2. WBS, Ethan Prow (goal) 3. SPR, Paul Thompson (two goals)

Referees – Conor O’Donnell, Mike Sheehan. Linesmen – Ryan Knapp, J.P. Waleski.

Attendance – 6,294

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky