The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins may not be the hottest team in the American Hockey League, but they do possess plenty of spirit and the support of a town who has vowed to stand behind them despite a rocky start. Currently playing with a record of 2-13-5, the “Jr. Pens” have a great deal of work cut out for them if they hope to catch up with the opposition. Nothing is impossible however, and it’s still early enough in the season to turn things around. Whether they can do it or not remains to be seen.
Wilkes-Barre does however, have a few things on it’s side: players such as Martin Sonnenberg and Dennis Bonvie, the two leading scorers. Bonvie brings a whole new definition of forceful play to the game. His unique ability to get under the opposition’s skin has earned him the title of “goon.” The truth is however, he’s not a goon. He knows exactly what he’s doing and enjoys frustrating the other team. This year, he’s added something special to the mix. Dennis found the scoreboard and was, for quite some time, the points leader. Amazingly, he managed to do so entirely based on assists.
Martin Sonnenberg is a different kind of player. While Bonvie is a winger with an attitude, Sonnenberg is a winger with a little more patience. He’s not exactly a Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but he does exhibit a real passion for the game and desire to win. It’s obvious how much he respects his teammates and how much they respect him.
It is true that in order to create a winning team, there must first be 100% effort by all members of the squad, but team effort would not exist without first being inspired by motivated individuals. Take a look at the top 5 scorers on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster: Martin Sonnenberg; Dennis Bonvie; Tyler Wright; Greg Crozier; and John Slaney. Each of them have played key roles in the “Jr Pens” two wins.
On November 10, 1999, the Wilkes-Br/Scranton Penguins visited Hamilton, recording a 5-3 victory and their first win of the season. Each of the goals that occurred that evening were either made by, or assisted by, one of the leading scorers. Martin Sonnenberg skated away with a goal and a +1 rating. Dennis Bonvie racked up 2 assists and a +1 rating. Greg Crozier, a hard working winger and Pittsburgh’s third choice in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, tallied 2 assists and a +1 rating. John Slaney, an individual who has 7 goals and 5 assists despite only playing in 10 games, walked away with a goal and a +2 rating. Last, but not least, the Penguins Captain, Tyler Wright, pulled off another impressive performance with an assist and a +2 rating.
On November 13, 1999, the “Jr Pens” played in their home opener, dazzling the crowd with a 4 – 2 victory over Kentucky. Once again Bonvie participated in the scoring (1 assist), as did Crozier (2 goals), and Slaney (1 goal, 1 assist).
Is it coincidence that the leading scorers actively participated in the Penguins first and second win of the season? Doubtfully so. As much as the Pittsburgh Penguins depend on their leading scorers to inspire a win and help the team play at it’s best, so do the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Another fact in favor of this struggling team; it is owned by Mario Lemieux, a hockey hero and Penguin legend. If anyone understands the mystery behind success on the ice, he does. With the help of President Jeff Barret, General Manager Craig Patrick, and Head Coach Glenn Patrick, Mario hopes to build a future champion. Considering this is Wilkes-Barre’s inaugural season in the American Hockey League, growing pains are expected, but don’t be surprised if a fierce contender emerges within the next few years. After all it was Mario who inspired a struggling team (the Pittsburgh Penguins) to eventually win back to back Stanley Cups (1990-91, 1991-92).
GP G A PTS PIM
Martin Sonnenberg 18 6 9 15 22
*with Pittsburgh 3 0 0 0 0
Dennis Bonvie 19 0 15 15 120
Tyler Wright 18 4 10 14 72
*with Pittsburgh 1 0 0 0 0
Greg Crozier 18 8 5 13 4
John Slaney 10 7 5 12 7
*with Pittsburgh 8 1 3 4 4
Pittsburgh reassigned center *Robert Dome to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
GP G A PTS PIM
Wilkes-Barre 10 1 5 6 33
Pittsburgh 13 1 3 4 0
Coach Kevin Constantine, did however make it very clear that he intends on using Dome as often as he possibly can. A huge part of the Penguins future, Dome was sent down to obtain more ice time, which will in turn keep him in shape and on top of his game. A great deal of progress has been made by this gifted forward. Just 20 years old, he’s well on his way to becoming an NHL starter. It may not happen overnight, but if he continues to focus on the dream, it will eventually happen.
In other news: Goaltender Tom Barrasso returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup following a long awaited recovery from a severely sprained knee. Jean-Sebastien Aubin is the favored back-up, but the choice ultimately rests with Coach Constantine. Equally impressed by Skudra and Aubin’s efforts in training camp, Constantine may lean in favor of Aubin simply due to his overall performance in regular season play.
It appears as though Coach Constantine has decided to send goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin back down to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. It’s not for lack of effort on Aubin’s part. In fact, KC is sending him down in order to make sure he gets enough playing time. With Tom Barrasso back in the Pittsburgh lineup, chances are a number two goalie with the big club would get very few chances to shine. In Wilkes-Barre however, there will be plenty of opportunities.
Prospects in Pittsburgh Statistical Update:
GP G A PTS +/-
Andrew Ference 21 2 4 6 2
Michal Rozsival 21 0 6 6 3
Hans Jonsson 15 0 0 0 1
GP W L T
Pittsburgh Penguins 21 7 11 3
Wilkes-Br/Scranton 20 2 13 5
Wheeling Nailers 18 4 12 2
Tue 11/30/99 7:30 Pittsburgh at Buffalo
Thu 12/2/99 7:30 San Jose at Pittsburgh
Sat 12/4/99 7:00 Pittsburgh at Toronto
Tue 12/7/99 7:30 Pittsburgh at New Jersey
Wed 12/1/99 7:35 Louisville at WB/S
Fri 12/3/99 7:35 Hershey at WB/S
Sat 12/4/99 7:05 Philadelphia at WB/S
Sun 12/5/99 6:05 WB/S at Rochester
Fri 12/3/99 8:30 Wheeling at Peoria
Sun 12/5/99 6:00 Wheeling at Peoria
Fri 12/10/99 7:05 Wheeling at Trenton
Sat 12/11/99 7:30 Greensboro at Wheeling