Baby Penguins could set AHL records
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are halfway to the best season in the 75-year history of the American Hockey League.
Carrying a 30-8 record into this weekend, the Baby Pens were on pace to top league records for wins (60 by the 2009-10 Hershey Bears) and winning percentage (.775 by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers).
"It's really not a goal or something we're striving for," coach John Hynes said. "It's more getting the players better to be able to move up and play (in the NHL), and that, in turn, makes our team better."
The Baby Pens have been winning with defense, goaltending and timely scoring. They have allowed the fewest goals in the league and are 16-2 in one-goal games. Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Ryan Craig and Joe Vitale are among league leaders with at least three game-winning goals apiece.
"We play in a lot of tight games, and we're able to pull those games out," goalie Brad Thiessen said. "It's a little different style, but we just keep going about our business and the wins keep coming."
Stars on ice
Thiessen and Jeffrey will represent the Baby Pens in the AHL All-Star game. Jeffrey is among the league's top scorers with 38 points in 35 games. Thiessen (17-3) leads the league in wins.
The AHL handed Baby Pens heavyweight Jesse Boulerice a 10-game suspension for bumping an official during a game last Wednesday night in Charlotte.
Angry that no penalty was called on a play in which the stick was knocked out of his hands, Boulerice found himself standing along the boards with the puck in his skates and referee Francis Charron a few feet in front of him. Boulerice kicked the puck forward, and as he skated to chase it, bumped Charron with his shoulder.
AHL rules call for an automatic 10-game suspension for any player who makes deliberate physical contact with an official without intent to injure.
"I kicked the puck up the wall, and there was contact," he said. "They view it how they want to view it, and they made the call they made."
Defenseman Andrew Hutchinson is due back any day from a knee injury that sidelined him since Dec. 1. Defenseman Brian Strait (head) and winger Keven Veilleux (leg) have returned from minor injuries. Defenseman Alex Grant (wrist) has resumed skating but has yet to practice with the team.
Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.Additional Information:
One to watch
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) • Goaltender
5-foot-11, 171 pounds
Good all year and brilliant lately, Thiessen will be the starting goaltender for the Eastern Conference in the AHL all-star game Jan. 30-31 in Hershey.
The second-year pro out of Northeastern began the season splitting time evenly with fourth-year man John Curry but has pulled away since Christmas, going 4-1 with a 1.18 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his last five starts.
Thiessen is neither big nor extraordinarily athletic, but he's technically sound, cool under fire and isn't prone to rubber-ball rebounds or stick-handling gaffes.