Entering this season, the Texas Stars had never played the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Three games later, they’ve yet to lose against them.
Tanner Kero recorded a hat trick, and Texas took advantage of some fluky bounces and a turnover to hand the Penguins a 5-2 loss in the first stop on its visit to the Lone Star State. Kevin Roy and Adam Johnson scored for the Penguins (18-16-3-3).
The Penguins had to overcome a 10-minute misconduct by Joseph Blandisi in the second period, as well as a fluky goal that goaltender Casey DeSmith had fall out of his glove, under his legs and into the net. Still, they were tied at 2 entering the third.
However, Texas’ Joel L’Esperance delivered the eventual winning score only 38 seconds into the final frame. He drove toward the net with defenseman David Warsofsky trying to impede his progress. Their sticks seemingly got to the puck at the same time, but it bounced off the stick of DeSmith, into the air and then the net.
The Penguins never threatened the rest of the way, requiring head coach Mike Vellucci to pull DeSmith early for a two-man advantage on a power-play opportunity.
- L’Esperance had a goal and an assist the last time the teams met, and his goal Wednesday earned him third-star honors.
- Anthony Louis was credited for the goal that fell through DeSmith, and he also added a helper en route to a No. 2 selection.
- Kero is red-hot with seven points over his last three games. His hat trick made him an easy choice as star No. 1.
Stat to know
Kero’s hat trick was the first allowed by the Penguins since Utica’s Reid Boucher accomplished the feat April 12.
Defenseman Jon Lizotte returned to the lineup and was paired with usual partner Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Lizotte missed Saturday’s win against Hartford for precautionary reasons after suffering a head injury Friday.
Blandisi started on the Penguins’ second line after being reassigned Tuesday. Forward Oula Palve was a healthy scratch for the third game in a row.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will meet the Stars again Friday at 8 p.m. before departing for San Antonio.
Tyler Piccotti has covered the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for Times-Shamrock newspapers since 2017. In the Penguins Insider blog, he provides a look at NEPA’s only professional hockey team, sharing analysis and insights that go beyond the game sheet. A 2015 graduate of Syracuse University, he also has written for Bleacher Report, The Post-Standard and Lacrosse Magazine. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-821-2000; @CVPiccotti