Newcomers Make A Statement
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — On a night when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins started plenty of regulars from last season, it was their group of rookies that managed to stand out most in the team’s second preseason contest.
Particularly, Sam Lafferty and Sam Miletic.
Both Lafferty and Miletic scored twice, showing off their offensive prowess in a 6-2 rout of Hershey on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“It definitely builds your confidence,” Lafferty said of his night. “Just seeing the puck go in the net always feels good, so just kind of encourages you to keep pushing and keep getting better.”
Lafferty scooped up a loose rebound in the first period and beat Hershey goaltender Vitek Vanecek to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Later in the second frame, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton comfortably ahead, he delivered a snipe of a wrist shot that snuck just inside the post.
Lafferty played nine games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the end of last season, scoring only once, but he said spending time at Pittsburgh’s camp this offseason was “tremendous” for his development.
“The biggest thing for me was being around those veteran guys, especially (Sidney) Crosby,” Lafferty said. “It was really cool. My eyes were glued on him every time he was on the ice.”
A couple of other youngsters also had productive games.
Anthony Angello didn’t score, but was excellent killing penalties and created numerous scoring chances. Additionally, defenseman Matt Abt had two assists as he tries to convince the coaches he deserves a closer look to begin the season.
The Penguins were outstanding on the penalty kill, and their power play also pitched in during the third period.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton created two high-percentage scoring chances a man down in the first, as Angello and Adam Johnson both showed off their speed on partial breakaways.
Otherwise, the Penguins allowed little clearance near the net of Anthony Peters on their seven kills and suffocated Hershey in general. The Bears mustered only 15 shots on goal.
Meanwhile, Miletic scored his second goal of the game on the man-advantage in the third. Will O’Neill’s point shot hit traffic in front of Vanecek, eventually settling on the stick of Ryan Haggerty. He fed a cutting Miletic on the left side for an easy tally.
Miletic has certainly made his case to stick with the team as the season begins; he also had a goal and an assist Thursday against Lehigh Valley.
“He’s just what we call a complete hockey player,” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said. “He loves it. He battles, he wins his 1-on-1’s. He’s a smart player that manages the puck.”
Peters, presumably locked in a battle with John Muse to be the team’s backup goaltender, wasn’t tested at all in the early going, but allowed a pair of goals in the middle period.
The first was hardly his fault, as Jeremy Morin crept behind the Penguins’ defense off the opening faceoff and got two whacks at the net on a breakaway. The second connected to put Hershey on the board.
Later in the period, a failed clear attempt in front by Stefan Elliott allowed Steven Whitney to beat Peters five-hole.
“It’s tough in games like that,” Donatelli said. “It’s quiet for a while and then, all of a sudden, (Hershey’s) on the power play for 4 minutes. I thought he was great. He made some big saves when he had to.”
Donatelli said the plan is for Peters and Muse to split today’s game in Hershey evenly. Muse made 27 saves on Thursday and was especially effective in the late stages, preserving a 3-2 win.
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