Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Pacific Division Preview

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If you are familiar with me, you know that I love Apple devices. If you own an iPhone, especially an iPhone 6s, you know that the tagline that went with that device was, “The only thing that’s changed is everything.” The same concept applies in the American Hockey League, which begins its 80th season this Friday.

Take for example, the Pacific Division. A sum total of five teams uprooted from their Eastern bases and moved operations approximately 3,000 miles west to California. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

To better explain all of the changes, I’ll introduce each in every division capsule. The first thing that you should know is that the AHL is back to four divisions, down from six, and the five California teams will play 68 games instead of the regular 76. Playoff positioning will be based not on points, but points percentage.

You can follow the AHL on the interwebs at @TheAHL and @AHLPR on Twitter, /TheAHL on Facebook and TheAHL on Instagram.



Today we begin in the Western Conference in the Pacific Division. The Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage come over from the old West Division. The Rampage are now affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche. The five California teams are the Bakersfield Condors; who were last years Oklahoma City Barons, the Ontario Reign; who are the defending champion Manchester Monarchs reincarnated, the San Diego Gulls who you knew last year as the Norfolk Admirals, the San Jose Barracuda who were last years Worcester Sharks and the Stockton Heat, playing as the ghost of Scorch and the Adirondack Flames.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins do not play anyone in this division nor do they play anyone from the Western Conference this season.

Here we go…


NHL Affiliation: Edmonton Oilers

Record: 41-27-5-3 – 90 pts., 3rd place West Division playing as the Oklahoma City Barons.

Playoffs: 6 seed – Lost in seven games to the Utica Comets in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Head Coach: Gerry Fleming

Arena: Rabobank Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Norfolk Admirals

Offseason Moves: Philip McRae, Griffin Reinhart, Brad Ross

The Case For: Bakersfield takes over an Oklahoma City team that took the eventual Western Conference Champion Utica Comets to seven games. There is no reason to believe that Bakersfield will not contend again this season.

The Case Against: A big reason for the success last year was the play of all-star goaltender Richard Bachman. He signed with the team that beat him last year in the Comets. Goaltending may be an issue for the Condors this season.

Media Coverage: Mike Griffith for the Bakersfield Californian.

Twitter: @Condors

Facebook: /BakersfieldCondors

Instagram: condors

Broadcaster: Ryan Holt

vs. WBS: Do not play.


NHL Affiliation: Los Angeles Kings

Record: 50-17-6-3 – 109 pts., 1st place Atlantic Division playing as the Manchester Monarchs.

Playoffs: 1 seed – Won Calder Cup in five games over the Utica Comets.

Head Coach: Mike Stothers

Arena: Citizens Business Bank Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Manchester Monarchs

Offseason Moves: Kris Newbury, Michael Houser

The Case For: Much of the core that tore through the AHL last season and won the Calder Cup last year return to Northern California in a brand new environment. Everyone else may be playing for second place again this year.

The Case Against: The only weakness I see is goaltending.

Media Coverage: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and the Press Enterprise

Twitter: @ontarioreign

Facebook: /ontarioreign

Instagram: ontarioreignhockey

Broadcaster: Joseph Zakrzewski

vs. WBS: Do not play.


NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche

Record: 45-23-7-1 – 98 pts., 1st place West Division playing as the affiliate of the Florida Panthers.

Playoffs: 3 seed – Swept by Oklahoma City Barons in three games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Dean Chynoweth

Arena: AT&T Center

ECHL Affiliation: Fort Wayne Komets

Offseason Moves: Hubert Labrie, Mikhail Grigorenko, Brandon Gormley

The Case For: A new affiliation with the Avalanche. These prospects were a Lake Erie Monsters side that lacked consistency. If the Rampage can remain consistent, they are a playoff team.

The Case Against: I see writing on the wall and it tells me that next year is the year that the Rampage make playoffs. Not this year.

Media Coverage: Nathan Mallett for Runnin’ with the Herd

Twitter: @sarampage

Facebook: /sarampagehockey

Instagram: sarampage

Broadcaster: Dan Weiss

vs. WBS: Do not play.


NHL Affiliation: Anaheim Ducks

Record: 27-39-6-4 – 64 pts., 5th place East Division playing as the Norfolk Admirals.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Dallas Eakins

Arena: Valley View Casino Center

ECHL Affiliation: Utah Grizzlies

Offseason Moves: Shane O’Brien, Harry Zolnierczyk, Chris Mueller, Joe Piskula, Matt Hackett

The Case For: Lots of vets coming in to help San Diego get off the ground on its maiden voyage in the AHL captained by the mastermind of Dallas Eakins. You should expect San Diego to be a playoff team.

The Case Against: Will the stench of what was leftover of a dismal Norfolk team be washed clean?

Media Coverage: San Diego Union-Tribune

Twitter: @SDGullsAHL

Facebook: /SDGullsAHL

Instagram: sdgullsahl

Broadcaster: Craig Elsten

vs. WBS: Do not play.


NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks

Record: 41-29-4-2 – 88 pts., 3rd place Atlantic Division playing as the Worcester Sharks.

Playoffs: 7 seed – Lost in four games to the Hershey Bears in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Roy Sommer

Arena: SAP Center

ECHL Affiliation: Allen Americans

Offseason Moves: John McCarthy, Mark Cundari, Frazer McLaren

The Case For: Barracuda are a team trending upwards, coming over as the Worcester team that made playoffs last season. They could be a dark horse that contends in the Pacific Division.

The Case Against: Western Conference is a better conference than the East with a boatload of good teams that don’t make playoffs. Is San Jose a good team or a great team? Time will tell.

Media Coverage: Bay Area News Group

Twitter: @sjbarracuda

Facebook: /sjbarracuda

Instagram: sjbarracuda

Broadcaster: Eric Lindquist

vs. WBS: Do not play.


NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames

Record: 35-33-6-2 – 78 pts., 4th place North Division playing as the Adirondack Flames.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Ryan Huska

Arena: Stockton Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Adirondack Thunder

Offseason Moves: Derek Grant, Aaron Johnson, Blair Riley, Kent Simpson

The Case For: Struggling to find one. After a hot start in Glens Falls last season, the bottom fell out. Grant and Johnson could help, but will it be enough to contend with the likes of San Jose and Ontario night after night? I don’t think so.

The Case Against: Calgary doesn’t take serious winning anywhere outside of Cowtown. That’s been made evident year after year with the constant shuffling from city to city and irrelevant teams getting beat night after night. Perhaps that changes with five NHL teams moving operations closer to the NHL affiliate, but I don’t see it this season.

Media Coverage: Scott Linesburgh for the Stockton Record

Twitter: @AHLHeat

Facebook: /ahlheat

Instagram: ahlheat

Broadcaster: Brandon Kisker

vs. WBS: Do not play.


NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars

Record: 40-22-13-1 – 94 pts., 2nd place West Division.

Playoffs: 5 seed – Swept by the Rockford IceHogs in three games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Derek Laxdal

Arena: Cedar Park Center

ECHL Affiliation: Idaho Steelheads

Offseason Moves: Stephen Johns, Brennan Evans, Jesse Blacker, Cory Kane, John Muse

The Case For: The Stars were swept out of the playoffs last year by the Rockford IceHogs in overtime off a goal by the key addition that the organization signed this offseason, Stephen Johns. Add in the other offseason signings incorporated in with a group that already made playoffs last season and you have another contender.

The Case Against: I don’t like the fact that the Stars are playing in the same division with five other teams that are playing fewer games with a playoff format that pits you against other playoff teams in your division.

Media Coverage: Stephen Meserve for 100 Degree Hockey and Sean Shapiro for Wrong Side of the Red Line

Twitter: @TexasStars

Facebook: /TexasStars

Instagram: txstarshockey

Broadcaster: Brien Rea

vs. WBS: Do not play.

We return Tuesday at noon for a look at the Central Division.

Preseason Game #4 — Lehigh Valley 4, Penguins 3

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins wrapped up their 2015-16 preseason with a trip to Allentown to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

It was an exciting contest to what could have otherwise been a Phantoms blowout.

After trailing 3-0 by the time the third period rolled around, the Penguins rattled off three goals to tie the affair, but ultimately fell in regulation 4-3 to the Phantoms.

In an otherwise meaningless game in the big picture, a lot of players used today to battle for the final positions available. Some made strong cases, others not so much. Sahir Gill and Ty Loney in particular made strong cases today.

Personell wise, defenseman David Warsofsky and forward Kevin Porter cleared NHL waivers today at noon and will join the Penguins tomorrow.

As for this game, the lines were…

Dominik Simon – Carter Rowney – Josh Archibald
Dominik Uher – Oskar Sundqvist – Anton Zlobin
Shane Bakker – Sahir Gill – Ty Loney
Patrick McGrath – Jarrett Burton – Michael McCarron

Niclas Andersen – Clark Seymour
Nick Petrecki – Ryan Parent
Matt Maione – Mike Beauregard

Tristan Jarry – Brian Foster

Harrison Ruopp took warmups but was scratched.

Penguins gave up the first goal to Petr Straka after a failed clear from the neutral zone which gave the Phantoms a 1-0 lead. The hosts would tack on a second goal via power play when ex-Penguin Tim Brent swept home a rebound of a shot that Jarry never fully controlled. Phantoms veteran goaltender Jason LaBarbera stopped all 13 shots faced in the period.

Lehigh Valley extended the lead to 3-0 when Nick Cousins fired a quick shot past Jarry. Play was set up back in the Penguins offensive zone when a hard shot sailed past Jason LaBarbera and out of the zone. Players watched the puck sail out, the Phantoms pounced on it and took off to a three on two to Cousins for the goal.

Off the ensuing face-off, Patrick McGrath fought heavyweight Jay Rosehill.

The Penguins didn’t really, to this point, make Jason LaBarbera work on the 22 shots he faced to this point.

In the third, the rally was on. Sahir Gill broke the LaBarbera shutout with this nice move five hole:

Penguins killed two consecutive minor penalties rather easy and then Gill struck again. This time setting up Ty Loney:

The Penguins looked to be the better even strength team, but were down three and had a hole to dig out of.

Oskar Sundqvist tied it with this nice shot:

The Phantoms found their legs, Jarry was forced into a few strong saves. A clearing attempt by the Penguins hit Josh Archibald’s skate and right to Danick Martel and he wasted no time in putting it past Jarry for a 4-3 Phantoms lead.

Penguins had a late power play and with Jarry vacated for the six-on-four advantage, never found the equalizer.

So that is it for preseason. Here is what to look for here on the blog this week…

— Cuts. They will happen this week and when they do, I will have a blog of who went where.

— AHL Previews. Starting Monday at noon with the Pacific Division and running Tuesday for the Central Division, Wednesday for the North Division and finally Thursday for the Atlantic Division.

— Pregame setup for the Penguins first regular season game of the season on the road at Providence 3 p.m. Friday with full blog recap to follow complete with graphics, links, and a pun headline.

Here’s to a great season. I am ready to get started.

Let’s Go Pens!

Preseason Game #3 — Penguins 5, Hershey 3

The Penguins continue to roll though preseason with out a loss with a 5-3 win down in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The game was radio only, so it’s a really stripped down version of a postgame recap.

In case you missed the news earlier, the Pittsburgh Penguins hammered out their 23 man roster and that meant that guys were cut and placed on waivers. Details here.

As for this game tonight, here was a look at the lines…

Anton Zlobin – Oskar Sundqvist – Adam Krause
Dominik Simon – Sahir Gill – John McCarron
Derek Army – Matia Marcantuoni – Tyler Biggs
Shane Bakker – Jarrett Burton – Patrick McGrath

Nick Petrecki – Clark Seymour
Reid McNeill – Harrison Ruopp
Barry Goers – Ryan Parent

Matt Murray – Tristan Jarry

Penguins couldn’t get anything going on the games first power play. The Bears got one a few minutes later and cashed when Chris Bourque found Jakub Vrana for a one timer and a goal for a 1-0 Bears lead. Shots were 10-8 Bears after one. The line of Dominik Simon, Sahir Gill and John McCarron generated the most chances for the Pens in the first period.

Bears had an early power play in the second. They didn’t score, but Dustin Gazley had a great look on goal but Matt Murray made the save. Immediately after, Harrison Ruopp and Max Sauve fought to what sounded like a draw. You be the judge:

Out of that, the Bears got a power play. Madison Bowey for the Bears misplayed a puck and Matia Marcantuoni scored shorthanded to even the score at a goal a piece.

Later, Riley Barber broke in on a two on one and scored to push the Bears ahead 2-1.

But the Penguins got it right back as Shane Bakker stuffed one past Dan Ellis to tie the game again for the Penguins. The Bears failed to clear and Wilkes-Barre made them pay. It was a dogged forecheck by homegrown Patrick McGrath that set it all up.

The second period ended that way, shots were 21-14 Bears.

In the third, Wilkes-Barre would score their first power play of the preseason when Clark Seymour snapped a shot though a screen from the center point for a 3-2 lead:

The Penguins held the Bears to just two shots in the period when Oskar Sundqvist scored to make it 4-2 Penguins through bodies:

Jakob Vrana scored with the Hershey net empty off a nice feed from Chris Bourque to cut the Penguins lead to one, but Hershey still trailed by one, pulled Ellis again, and this time Sahir Gill stole a puck in the neutral zone and rolled a puck into the empty Bears net for a 5-3 Wilkes-Barre lead.

Hershey will end the preseason without a win and so far the Penguins are undefeated. It’s preseason and will be forgotten by the time next Friday rolls around, but it’s always nice beating Hershey.

Penguins are back in action for the fourth and final time in preseason in Allentown tomorrow when they take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Sunday at 5 p.m. Unless something out of the ordinary happens and Porter or Warsofsky are claimed on waivers, look for the next recap to come after the game tomorrow.

More Cuts 10/3

Pittsburgh cut down their roster to what is most likely what they are going to head into the season with October 8 in Dallas.

To Wilkes-Barre: Forwards Bryan Rust and Jean-Sebastian Dea; Defenseman Derrick Pouliot

To Waivers for the purposes of assignment to Wilkes-Barre: Forward Kevin Porter and Defenseman David Warsofsky

Released: Sergei Gonchar


— I didn’t watch a second of NHL preseason games for Pittsburgh but from what I read, Derrick Pouliot had a rough preseason and was one of the worst players at plus / minus in the NHL. He is not subject to waivers and others that performed better were, so Pouliot was the odd man out.

— I don’t think that Pouliot stays here the whole season. His pedigree is much too great to keep him buried in the minors.

— Remaining up with Pittsburgh for the time is Tim Erixon and Adam Clendening (two defensemen that are subject to waivers, remember Pouliot isn’t) Daniel Sprong (can’t be sent to the AHL because he does not meet the minimum age requirement) and Bobby Farnham (who is also subject to waivers) Tom Kuhnhackl is hurt and can get sent back once he recovers.

— Jonathan scratched together a depth chart. He left off AHL contracted players Tom Kostopoulos, Carter Rowney and Barry Goers.

Seth tried to, and as Tom eluded to, this is the deepest pool of talent that Wilkes-Barre has in a while. Folks, this team is loaded for bear and will contend this season. Hell, it is going to need to to contend in Pennsylvania, let alone the Atlantic Division. Hershey and Lehigh Valley are going to be good this year also.

— Finally, the door is open for Sergei Gonchar to sign on with Wilkes-Barre. I am not saying that it is going to happen, but Pittsburgh used the same buzzwords when they let go of Tom Sestito. If he wants to stay in the organization, there is a spot at the table down in Wilkes-Barre. If Gonchar can’t find NHL work someplace else (his options are slim) and he wants to stay in an organization where he is loved and revered, and if the competitive fire still burns, who knows? Perhaps he signs on and is with Wilkes-Barre for a spell.

Back later for the recap of the preseason game down in Hershey later on.

Preseason Game #2 – Penguins 2, Albany 1 (OT)

Two things from this game. One, the play of Tristan Jarry, who started in goal for tonight and played the entire game and the other the play of offseason acquisition Kael Mouillerat.

Jarry stopped 19 of 20 shots and was outstanding (for a preseason game) and Mouillerat was an offensive threat every time he had the puck. That’s a scouting report that has followed him around all of his career, really.

The Penguins won the game tonight 2-1 in overtime off of a goal by the aforementioned Mouillerat and the sound play in net by the young Jarry, who faced a 1:42 of overtime penalty killing.

The Penguins were in preseason action Friday night for the final time at home against the Albany Devils. Before the game, Friday morning actually, Wilkes-Barre announced the signing of Tom Sestito, who was cut by Pittsburgh earlier this week.

Lines were…

Scott Wilson-Kael Mouillierat-Conor Sheary
Anton Zlobin-Carter Rowney-Ty Loney
Dominik Uher-Sahir Gill-Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Sestito-Matia Marcantuoni-Tyler Biggs

Will O’Neill-Steve Oleksy
Niclas Andersen-Harrison Ruopp
Reid McNeill-Barry Goers

Tristan Jarry – Brian Foster

First period was scoreless. Penguins came out flying, shots at one point were heavily favored for the Pens. Neither team did anything memorable on the power play. Both Scott Wedgewood for the Devils and Jarry for the Penguins were leaving rebounds all over the place.

Foreshadowing by Mouillerat this period. He got open, got around guys and got shots off in the first.

The second period started and out of the gate Anton Zlobin was hauled down and awarded a penalty shot. Wedgewood batted it away with the glove.

Best save of the period was a Tristan Jarry one on a Jim O’Brien blast.

Later, Conor Sheary broke the scoreless deadlock with a nice shot off some tic tac toe work from Scott Wilson:

Pens found themselves on a 5-on-3, but Albany killed it all off. The Penguins really worked the Devils in this period but weren’t able to get anything other than the Sheary goal.

Albany got on the board after the Penguins were unable to score in an extended power play time when they were running around all over and didn’t actually do anything. A Reid McNeill defensive zone turnover to Joseph Blandisi caught everyone off guard, Jarry included, and the Devils were off and running.

But ultimately it was the Penguins with the last laugh when Mouillerat ended it:

Here’s (bad) video…

Three stars were: 3) Joe Blandisi with a goal for Albany, 2) Conor Sheary with a goal for the Penguins and 1) Kael Mouillierat with the overtime game winner for the Penguins. Jarry deserved a star in my opinion and in my opinion a spot on the team. But, that is yet to be determined. If Pittsburgh wants him to play, he will go to Wheeling. I think that happens but time will tell.

I am telling you, the Albany Devils are going to give teams fits this season. They make you play a certain way and if you can’t adjust or take advantage you are going to get frustrated and lose. They could surprise some this season. Wedgewood especially. He was outstanding.

Elsewhere, actually just 90 minutes south of here, two ex-Penguins were in Hershey transactions. First, the Bears cut D Nick D’Agostino. He’ll report to the Bears ECHL affiliate South Carolina. Second, parent Washington cut old fan favorite Zach Sill. He is on waivers. If no one claims him, he should report to Hershey, where the Penguins play Saturday in more preseason action. Sullivan told the media that Matt Murray will get the start for the Penguins in net.

Preseason Game #1 – Penguins 4, Lehigh Valley 3

No goofy pun headlines or graphics for preseason games. I don’t even think I can link into a boxscore.

Anyway, the Penguins won tonight 4-3. They blitzkrieged with three goals in the first period, were blitzkrieged for three goals in the second before Adam Krause scored in the final minute in the second. Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith played a perfect third period in relief of starter Brian Foster.

Pens opened up the scoring early on in the first period. A Matthew Maione shot from the blue line was tipped in by Tom Kostopoulos in front for a quick 1-0 lead. About a minute later, the Pens rushed into the zone and Clark Seymour ripped one from the point for a 2-0 Penguin lead.

Penguins would go on the games first power play. Good looks, but did not score. Seconds after, Brett Stern fired one in from long range for a 3-0 Wilkes-Barre lead.

Lehigh Valley settled in after that, benefitting from two power plays, but Brian Foster was solid.

Phantoms opened the second with goals at the beginning, middle and end of the period. Wilkes-Barre would have last laugh though when Adam Krause stole a puck at center ice and raced in and scored to make it 4-3.

Phantoms goals were Taylor Leier on a backhander to make it 3-1, Kevin Sundher after a long sequence of play that saw the Pens fail to score on a 4-on-1. They were trapped deep and Sundher made it 3-2. Late, Lehigh Valley crashed the net, Dan Martel parked in front and muscled one past Foster to make it 3-3.

Here’s video of a second period fight involving Clark Seymour:

Casey DeSmith came in for Foster in relief in the third and played a fine game. He had to kill off two Phantoms power plays. He had some nice stops while Lehigh Valley were bearing down. Penguins had some chances with the most memorable being Ty Loney on a breakaway.

I don’t want to get took insightful on a preseason game with what the Penguins were / weren’t working on or focusing on in the third. Obviously, protect the lead and try to insulate the young DeSmith. When called upon, he was more than up to the challenge.

Fights included Patrick McGrath and Shane Bakker. Nothing memorable with McGrath and Bakker. Both are fighting for a spot come October 9 in Providence. Nick Petrecki, another one fighting for a spot, fought Derek Mathers in the third period and won on a right hand to Mathers jaw.

Anyway, so that’s that. The three stars were Shayne Bakker, Clark Seymour and Adam Krause in that order.

There were cuts made today. Pittsburgh sent goaltender Tristan Jarry; defensemen Barry Goers and Niclas Andersen; and forwards Tyler Biggs, Anton Zlobin, Josh Archibald, Dominik Simon and Matia Marcantuoni to Coal Street. They placed forwards Dominik Uher and Kael Mouillierat and defensemen Will O’Neill, Reid McNeill and Steve Oleksy on waivers. All five will also be assigned to WBS if they clear waivers on Thursday afternoon at 12 p.m. Pittsburgh cut Tom Sestito, who is free to sign with any team, anywhere.

Later, as in right after their preseason game with Detroit, Pittsburgh sent Matt Murray, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson and Oscar Sundqvist to Coal Street.

Players still up with Pittsburgh that could get sent to Wilkes-Barre include Adam Clendening, Tim Erixon, Dave Warsofsky, JS Dea, Bobby Farnham, Tom Kuhnhackl, Kevin Porter and Bryan Rust. Of these players, Bobby Farnham, Adam Clendening, Tim Erixon, David Warsofsky, Tom Kuhnhackl and Kevin Porter would require waivers.

If anyone gets claimed at the noon deadline Thursday, I’ll drop a blog in then. Same goes if there are any moves made Thursday too. Otherwise, look for the next blog update to come Friday, when the Penguins play host to the Albany Devils in more preseason action.

Tuesday Notes 9/29

I don’t normally do pregame setups for preseason games because they are for large parts meaningless. So if you are looking for one Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. in advance of the first preseason game against Lehigh Valley, consider this it.

That said, Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan filled out his preseason lineup in advance of Wednesday’s matchup with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at 7:05 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza:

Tom was later told by Sullivan that goaltender Brian Foster will start and play two periods and that backup Casey DeSmith will play the third period. It should be an interesting thing to watch. This could be your Wheeling tandem or one could potentially be backing up Matt Murry with Tristan Jarry starting in Wheeling. I think this is the most obvious position battle that you, if you wanted to come to tomorrow’s game and watch for battles, should focus on.

Tom also learned from Sullivan that Tom Kostopoulos will return as Penguins captain for the third straight season. That’s as obvious as the sunrise and sunset.

Carter Rowney is not included above but has been partaking in full practices. Rowney is going to be a key element for the Penguins going forward, so why risk injury.

I’ll have a stripped down version of a postgame recap Wednesday night.


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