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Fans back inside Mohegan Sun Arena

Friday marked the first time in a year fans could watch the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — In any other season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, a small crowd for a Friday night game would be a major disappointment.

But for this season, for a Friday night - it was absolutely perfect.

“Great! We've been waiting for this a long time,” said Peggy Johnson of Mountain Top.

Peggy Johnson brought her 7-year-old grandson Devin to the game.

She's a season ticket holder, so is Johnathan Davis. Both got a call from the Penguins a few weeks ago.

“They were just like 'Hey, we can allow fans back inside, what do you say?' and I was like 'Let's do it,'” said Davis of South Abington Township.

Inside: capacity was limited to 15% — the roughly 1200 or so fans who got in mingled with cardboard cutouts. Most seats remained empty. Plexiglass partitions are up at the concession stands.

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Fans are required to wear masks.

Still, hockey fanatics wouldn't dream of being anywhere else.

“It feels great to be back. Just going back to the games, enjoying ourselves, hearing the goal horn go off every time they score. It's just a wonderful feeling,” said Davis.

A wonderful feeling that has been missing. The Penguins have thousands of devoted fans who were forced to adapt when the arena went dark.

“We watched AHLTV, watched them on the internet on AHL.TV, not the same, not the same as being here, no sir,” said Brad Williamson of Jersey Shore.

Even the game itself wasn't the same.

The Penguins were originally scheduled to play their rivals, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, in this game, but the Phantoms had to pull out when they had a Covid outbreak of their own.

The league pivoted quickly - and the Syracuse Crunch traveled down I-81 for the big event.

But Syracuse was not an accommodating guest, the Crunch knocked off the Penguins in this one.

Fans will get more chances to see the home team here at Mohegan Sun Arena - the Pens have nine more home games between now and the end of the season.