The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins carved their names in the AHL history books on Wednesday night, but they’re only halfway to their ultimate goal.
On the strength of four second-period goals, the Penguins beat the Providence Bruins, 5-0, and became just the third team in the 77-year history of the American Hockey League to win a series after falling into a 3-0 hole.
Wilkes-Barre, into the third round for the fourth time in team history, will visit Syracuse for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night (full schedule here). The Penguins advanced all the way to the Calder Cup Finals in 2001, 2004 and 2008, but are still looking for their first championship.
Brad Thiessen followed up his 46-save performance in Game 6 with a 34-save shutout in Game 7, becoming the eighth goaltender in AHL history to post a shutout in a Game 7. After taking over between the pipes during Game 2, Thiessen stopped 177 of 181 shots (0.70, .977) in the series.
As they did in Game 6 on Monday, the Bruins began to control play as the first period went on, but the teams hit the first intermission scoreless.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton got on the board with a power-play goal 4:44 into the second period. After a great effort by the Penguins to keep the puck in the zone, Chad Kolarik had his initial shot blocked by Kevan Miller but he recovered, skated around the defender and tucked it in behind Niklas Svedberg for the 1-0 lead.
The Penguins doubled their lead at 13:04 as Warren Peters tipped in a Joey Mormina shot from the left point, and it went to 3-0 just over two minutes later when Chris Collins forced a turnover in the offensive zone and found a wide-open Adam Payerl, who one-timed a drive past Svedberg.
With Michael Hutchinson on in relief of Svedberg for the third period, Trevor Smith scored with 4:35 left in regulation to make it 5-0. Thiessen stopped 16 shots in the third to preserve his second shutout of the series.
NOTES: This was the first Game 7 ever played at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, which has hosted 26 seasons of AHL hockey for the Bruins and Providence Reds since 1972… The Penguins improved to 5-2 all-time in Game 7’s; the Bruins fell to 3-2… Road teams are 9-5 in Calder Cup Playoff Game 7’s since 2009… Wilkes-Barre also became the 18th team ever to win a series after trailing 3-1, and the eighth ever to win both Game 6 and Game 7 of a series on the road… The Penguins outscored the Bruins 14-2 over the final four games of the series, and successfully killed off each of the Bruins’ last 20 power play chances… The conference finals will pit the 3-seed against the 5-seed in both the East and the West… With Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre squaring off, the Eastern Conference representative in the Calder Cup Finals will come out of the East Division for the 10th consecutive season.
Eastern Conference Semifinal – Series “I” (best-of-7)
1-Providence Bruins vs. 5-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Game 1 – Fri., May 10 – PROVIDENCE 8, W-B/Scranton 5
Game 2 – Sat., May 11 – PROVIDENCE 4, W-B/Scranton 2
Game 3 – Wed., May 15 – Providence 2, W-B/SCRANTON 1 (OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 17 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Providence 1
Game 5 – Sat., May 18 – W-B/SCRANTON 4, Providence 0
Game 6 – Mon., May 20 – W-B/Scranton 2, PROVIDENCE 1 (OT)
Game 7 – Wed., May 22 – W-B/Scranton 5, PROVIDENCE 0