Chirps from Center Ice

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

In Thiess We Trust – Pens WIN 4-2

WBS          @          NOR

4                                                2

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Selfishly, I wanted the NHL lockout to go all season long. I really cannot stand millionaires arguing with millionaires over billions of dollars.

But the way that the first half of the season was developing for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, it looked as though playoffs were a long shot at best.

The lockout ended about 10 days ago.

Since, a completely different Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins team.

John Hynes touched on this topic in the papers this past weekend. With the labor strife, you have guys playing in the AHL who belong in the NHL. Thus, you have guys playing in the ECHL and lower leagues who belong in the AHL and the new blood that resurrects when the lockout ends are hungry, to say the least and ready to prove they belong.

The post-lockout Penguins have won three in a row and look to be heading in the right direction. Brad Theissen has guided the Penguins to all three victories.

Finally.

A 4-2 win in Norfolk tonight against a patchwork Admirals team completely left barren by call-ups to parent Anaheim. If the Penguins did not win this game, a real cause for concern would set in in my mind.

Brad Thiessen vs. Viktor Fasth – a decorated Swedish goalie assigned to Norfolk today making his first North American pro start.

Lineup Notes: Philippe Dupuis was “dinged up” in practice yesterday and was not on the trip. Benn Ferriero was held out again, and will likely play Sunday in Hershey, per Tom Grace. Tom Kuhnhackl is out for the rest of the season after surgery, so this is probably the last time I mention him in lineup news.

First Period: Matt Kennedy boarded Joey Mormina. Or at least it appeared that way, as referees Fred Leblanc and Steve Patafie called no penalty. As a result, ex-Admiral Trevor Smith fought Kennedy. Mormina was fine and returned for his next shift. Later, Nick Schaus thunders down the ice with Brian Dumoulin providing interference. Shaus lets go or a wrist shot that somehow eludes Thiessen. There was no traffic in front of Thiessen or anything, the puck just beat him. Late in the period, the Pens finally turned up the intensity and got a 4:00 power play out of it when a Gabe Guentzel high stick drew blood from Paul Thompson.

Second Period: On a five on three for a Troy Bodie trip on Alex Grant, Grant gets two slap shots from the point on net at Fasth. He stops them both. The third time would end up being the charm, as Grant’s shot would end up being deflected by Riley Holzapfel to tie the game at one. Not a whole lot happened this period. Chris Barton had time and space and missed the net entirely. The Penguins successfully killed two penalties late. The shots in the period were 10-3 Penguins, so they picked it up in the sandwich stanza. The one of the Norfolk shots came from John Mitchell when he picked off a pass at the WBS blueline and came in on a breakaway but Thiessen made the save.

Third Period: A puck bloops around the front of Fasth’s net. Paul Thompson whacks it home to put the Penguins out front 2-1. The remainder of time would be spent by the Penguins in the offensive zone with the Admirals trying to push back. Finally, the Admirals get a late power play, and only took four shots on goal since the start of the second period. Mentioning that is an automatic jinx. Josh Brittain scores a goal that ties the game on a wrist shot. Then, Dom Uher draws a rough on Rod Pelley. Uher is awesome at drawing penalties against the opposing team.

Alex Grant has been a victim of the NHL lockout. I literally scratch my head some nights asking myself why he is not in the lineup. With the lockout over, Grant is a staple. He scores a power play goal on a bomb from the blueline to put the Penguins up 3-2. Riley Holzapfel takes a delay of penalty call. The Admirals pull Fasth for the 6-on-4. Brian Gibbons blocks a shot at the blueline and skates in and pots the empty net goal to put the game on ice.

It would be the first time since December 7 that the Penguins would score four goals, an overtime home loss to the Hershey Bears which, oddly enough, began the spiral downwards. Hopefully, karma turns and this is the start of something good.

Three Stars: 3) Viktor Fasth (25 saves on 28 shots) 2) Riley Holzapfel (goal, two assists, +1) and 1) Alex Grant (game winning goal, two assists, +1)

Brian Dumoulin, who was quickly falling into Jon D’Aversa territory in my book is now 2-3-5 in his last three games. He is certainly a beneficiary of the lockout ending.

Notes: Tom Grace said in the second intermission that 14 players will be in Pittsburgh for the scrimmage tomorrow. No goalies. From what I gathered from what he said, all 14 players will be back Thursday. So it leads me to believe that the players won’t be “called up” tomorrow, just “there for a scrimmage” and then return back to Coal Street the next day. Pittsburgh will probably announce the players featured at some point tomorrow. The game will be shown live on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh tomorrow.

Around the Division: Nothing doing. No other divisional foes skated.

Standings: Syracuse 53 — Binghamton 50 — Hershey 40 — Penguins 39 — Norfolk 31

Conference: 1) SYR 53 2) SPR (48) 3) POR (48) 4) BNG (50) 5) WOR (41) 6) PRO 40) 7) HER 40) 8) BRI (40) 9) WBS (39)

SendToNews Highlights: Are here.

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off tonight.

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With this, the Penguins are at the halfway point of the season. That means that the second quarter grades are due. Look for them here on the blog by this weekend.

Let’s Go Pens!

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