Street adds name to memory lane

by Scott Stuccio || AHL On The Beat Archive

It wouldn’t take too much time to go alphabetically from the names Martin Sonnenberg to Ben Street if you looked at a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins media guide.

But nearly 11 calendar years have elapsed between those names and their places in Penguins franchise history.

The month of February has been fairly kind to the Penguins in recent years, and has also featured some historic moments. Taking a short glance back on the shortest month of past Penguins hockey:

  • February 21, 2000 – Robert Dome records the first hat trick in Penguins’ history in a 5-4 win at Philadelphia.
  • February 25, 2000 – Martin Sonnenberg attempts the first penalty shot ever awarded to the Penguins against Mike Minard of the Hamilton Bulldogs. (The shot was unsuccessful.)
  • February 7, 2003 – Little-known goaltender Mike Valley records one of his two wins via a shutout of the San Antonio Rampage. The Penguins won by a 5-0 score.
  • February 2, 2005 – Marc-Andre Fleury records his third shutout of a franchise-record five in one season, by defeating the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-0.
  • February 16, 2007 – Jean-Francois Jacques becomes the second Penguins player to record a four-goal game as part of a 7-0 rout of the Binghamton Senators on home ice.
  • February 15, 2009 – Dan Bylsma is named interim head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, upon the dismissal of Michel Therrien. Bylsma went on to lead the NHL club to its third Stanley Cup championship.
  • February 17, 2010 – Chris Conner sets a franchise record by posting six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in a 9-2 trouncing of the Albany River Rats. Conner’s three goal performance was also the first of his two consecutive home-ice hat tricks – the first time in history that a Penguins player accomplished the feat.
  • February 18, 2011 – Brad Thiessen makes 35 saves, earning his sixth shutout of the season and 10th of his career. The mark ties the Penguins’ franchise record for most career shutouts held by Sebastien Caron and breaks the single-season shutout record held by Marc-Andre Fleury in 2004-05. Ben Street also records two goals, helping the Penguins to a league-leading 41-15-0-0 record and a 4-1-0 record without Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s top seven scorers in the lineup.

    With Sonnenberg playing as early as last season in Sweden, with Fleury and Conner trying to help the NHL Penguins to another Stanley Cup playoff berth, and with Bylsma guiding them, the entire Penguins organization has produced countless memories to keep fans proud of its accomplishments.

    Most recently, forward Ben Street has emerged as both an offensive leader and character leader with the injury bug that has gone rampant through the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup. After earning his second recall to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the first weekend of this month, his impact was felt immediately on the ice and in the locker room.

    “It feels good,” Street related after the Penguins’ 4-0 win over the Albany Devils in Atlantic City on Feb. 7. “I mean, obviously I’m playing with some pretty skilled players so it makes it easier on me. It’s nice just to be getting a couple of bounces, being fortunate, and being able to contribute.”

    Street contributed with two goals and an assist, the first of the two holding up as his first AHL game-winning tally. With the recalls of the Penguins’ top offensive talents depleting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster, Street knew the role he had to take.

    Making the task slightly easier was the fact that Street’s long-time linemate in Wheeling, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Nick Petersen, was there to set up both of his first-period strikes against Dave Caruso, a goaltender that both players saw frequently in the ECHL as a member of the Trenton Devils.

    “We seem to be able to find each other pretty well,” Street said. “Sometimes when you get playing with a guy you just instinctively know where he’s going to be. I think Nick and I have that together. It’s nice to come up to Wilkes-Barre and have a guy that you’re familiar with. A lot of times you come up, and it’s two guys that you’ve never played with before or maybe haven’t seen since camp. That’s definitely a bonus and you just have to carry it over.”

    Unfortunately for Petersen, he himself ended up leaving the game with an injury, forcing more line changes for Penguins head coach John Hynes.

    Street’s play over the six games since his breakout game in Atlantic City also doesn’t appear to show that the forward, who turned 24 on Feb. 13, is only a full year removed from the college game. But being in a locker room full of Hockey East, WCHA, and CCHA graduates sometimes generates those moments that make Street feel like he’s back in the dorm.

    He also says that with the big Penn State University sitting proudly just over two hours west of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and primed to possibly get Division I hockey going in central Pennsylvania, the feel of the popular college rivalries once endured by many of the current Penguins could become a daily topic.

    Could you imagine a Penn State-Ohio State hockey rivalry (or in Street’s case, Penn State-Wisconsin) to be another addition to a list of February memories?

    “This area loves its hockey team but I think for the fans who don’t know hockey all that well but understand the Big Ten rivalries, it would be some familiar faces and obviously there would be that Penn State-Wisconsin rivalry no matter what because of football. Hockey could just piggy-back off of that.

    “It’s a really cool opportunity and Wisconsin will still play their games against North Dakota, and Denver, but it would be pretty neat to get a Big Ten league going. It might even rival Hockey East pretty well someday.”

    One thing it would certainly do is spice up the already growing hockey world in the Keystone State, and possibly could produce more successful Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins like Street – especially if they have the great personality that the forward brings with him.

    Since Penguins fans don’t get to see the games in West Virginia very easily, Street wrapped up a discussion about his recent games by providing a quick answer to a question about whether the seven goals he has scored for the Penguins were anything like those he has posted in Wheeling.

    He laughed. “Most of mine are highlight-reel.”