March of the (WBS) Penguins

Sunday, March 30, 2014

In a game that played out kind of like Friday night's meeting at the Scope, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins edged the Norfolk Admirals by another 2-1 decision Saturday night, and are now two points behind East Division-leading Binghamton and have extended their lead over third place Norfolk to seven heading into April.

The Penguins were woefully out shot, 25-13 in the game and 11-3 in the third period, but were able maintain a one-goal lead thanks to a Dominik Uher shorthanded goal in the opening minute of the third and 24 saves by WBS goaltender Peter Mannino, who has taken over as the team's starting goaltender heading into the final month of the regular season.

The Penguins finished March with a record of 9-2-0-1 and have solidified their position in the AHL's Eastern Conference, currently sitting in 5th place and just two points out of a top three seed guaranteed by finishing first place in the division.

But what has been the cause(s) for the Pens' turnaround after a February to forget (3-5-2-1) for the Pittsburgh Penguins top minor league affiliate?

Peter Mannino has taken over #1 duties in net for WBS in March. Photo Credit: @ItsJacki
Mannino Marching WBS Towards The Postseason

Peter Mannino has had quite the journey this season. He was suspended by the AHL Penguins after failing to report to their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling earlier this season. After a two month absence, Mannino reported to Wheeling and after being recalled back to Wilkes-Barre on February 28th, has been rock solid in net.

Mannino hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his 11 appearances since being recalled at the end of February, posting a record of 7-2-1 in March with two shutouts, a 1.09 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. In fact, as a team the Penguins only allowed 16 goals in 12 games in the month of March.

Chuck "King" Kobasew. Photo by: @ItsJacki
Long Live King Kobasew

Upon being re-assigned by Pittsburgh at the NHL's trading deadline, many wondered if Chuck Kobasew's better days were behind him and if he was slowly going to decline in the AHL ranks.

Not even close.

Kobasew has come into Wilkes-Barre and taken the place by storm, scoring in his WBS debut on March 14th at home vs. Hamilton. Kobasew went on to record a goal in each of his first six games in a WBS uniform and before being held off the scoresheet last night in Norfolk, had tallied seven goals and an assist in those first six games.

Andrew Ebbett (left) has been a welcomed addition to the WBS Penguins.
Ebbett Pacing Penguins Offense

If it seems like the Penguins offense runs through center Andrew Ebbett, that's because over the last month or so it has. Ebbett has recorded at least one point in his last 11 games (3G-11A). Ebbett has been the AHL Penguins go-to guy for offensive production since his return from Pittsburgh after a lengthy absence with a broken ankle he suffered while in the NHL this season.

Regardless of who his linemates have been, Ebbett has been able to those around him better. Lately, Ebbett has seen time with the likes of Spencer Machacek and Chuck Kobasew, but was also playing top line center alongside current NHL Penguins forwards Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna at one point in time.

Spencer Machacek. Photo by: @ItsJacki
More Than Beginners Luck For #17

Spencer Machacek was acquired from the Springfield Falcons in exchange for Paul Thompson and the new #17 has made quite an impact after 15 games in a WBS uniform, with eight goals and three assists since making his Penguins debut on February 7th. 

Machacek had six goals in his first seven games as a Penguin, but has followed that up with a minor injury that caused him to miss some time as well as an occasional veteran scratch since the team currently employs too many veteran players on the roster. 

Eleven Until Twelve 

With eight games remaining in the Penguins 2013-14 regular season, they're on track to make the postseason for an incredible 12th straight season. Entering Sunday's games, the Pens' magic number to clinch a berth into the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs is 11.

With three of their eight remaining games against East Division-leading Binghamton - who the Penguins trail by just two points entering Monday - the Penguins basically control their own destiny as to whether they will make a push for the division, with much depending on the outcome of the three meetings between the two teams. 

WBS Remaining Schedule

4/4 vs. Bridgeport
4/5 vs. Albany
4/6 @ Binghamton
4/11 @ Syracuse
4/12 vs. Binghamton 
4/13 vs. Toronto
4/18 @ Binghamton
4/19 @ Utica


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