Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Postgamer

Killing Me Softly — Pens LOSE 4-2

ALB          vs.          HER

4                                                2


All you need to know about this game, a 4-2 Penguins loss, is the following:

The Penguins allowed the Albany Devils to score three times on the power play tonight and it cost them. That was where the game was won and lost this evening. It was pretty equal at even strength in a tight checking, defensive battle. The Devils were just the better team on special teams tonight.

Let’s take a quick look around the AHL East at the other action before we get to the rest of the recap, shall we?

– The Hershey Bears couldn’t beat Phantoms goaltender Anthony Stolarz, even with 32 shots at him, including half in the first period (for a 16-1 shot advantage) and it cost them as they lost 2-0.
— The Binghamton Senators can’t play defense, up 4-1 at one point to the Springfield Falcons and lost 6-5. The fact that the B-Sens can’t play any defense at all cost them tonight.

So the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins were extremely lucky to lay an egg tonight but still not have it cost them that badly in the division, as no matter what happens tomorrow, the Pens will still lead the East Division by Christmas.

It was 2-0 Albany after forty minutes of insomnia busting hockey before Conor Sheary connected in the third period on a power play goal that beat starting Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen low to draw Wilkes-Barre within one with a lot of time to play.

But an Adam Payerl slash at 14:42 would put the Devils on the power play yet again and Brandon Burlon wasted no time in scoring the third Albany power play of the night that made it 3-1.

Fifteen seconds later, a soft floater off of the stick of Derrick Pouliot from the blue line beat Clemmensen to draw the Penguins to one again.

But time was the enemy of the Penguins and with starting goaltender Matt Murray pulled, ex-Penguin Paul Thompson buried the empty netter from center ice to squelch any comeback hopes.

John Hynes is in a tough spot. The Penguins sleepwalked through most of this game, but with half of his usual staff in Pittsburgh, how do you send a message? Clark Seymour and Sahir Gill were the healthy scratches tonight. Nick Drazenovic returned from injury and centered a line with Tom Kuhnhackl and Jayson Megna.

Jeff Zatkoff was reassigned from Pittsburgh this morning by the way. Eric Hartzell hasn’t been officially sent back to the ECHL yet, as he wasn’t with the Nailers tonight as they hosted Greenville, in a game that Wheeling lost 1-0.

There was a bunch of stuff that went on Friday afternoon that I never got around to blogging about. In no set order,

On Thursday, it was announced that Bill Guerin will serve as one of the honorary captains of the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic in Utica. Guerin served as a player development coach here in Wilkes-Barre and now is an Assistant GM in Pittsburgh.

On Friday, it was announced that Tom Kostopoulos will serve as the honorary captain for the Eastern Conference All-Stars in Utica in late January. A dubious distinction for the veteran Kostopoulos, as the playing captains are selected by the AHL President, Dave Andrews.

Nice story here on Defenseman Derrick Pouliot.

In other East Division action, the Norfolk Admirals were defeated 5-2 by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The two teams rematch tomorrow.

Penguin still lead the East with 35 points. Hershey trails by four, Lehigh Valley by five, Binghamton by eight and Norfolk by thirteen.

Conference is Manchester leading with 40, Syracuse with 39, Wilkes-Barre with 35 then Springfield with 39, Hartford with 33, Providence with 32 and Albany and Hershey with 31 each.

SendToNews highlights are packaged here. Unless your name is Tracey or Amy, nothing to see from a Wilkes-Barre perspective.

Pens are in Binghamton tomorrow night. I’ll be there. With two teams coming off stinkers the night prior, should be interesting.

Let’s Go Pens!

Overtime? It Payerl’s Off! — Pens WIN 3-2 (OT)

HER        vs.        WBS

2                                         3


The newspaper guys would love this one.

The Penguins, seemingly on their way to a five point weekend and a five point East Division lead over the rival Hershey Bears, are 2.7 seconds away from doing just that when Chris Brown walks into the Hershey offensive zone with time dripping off the clock, winds and fires and the puck somehow eludes starting goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. The Bears stun the Penguins and force overtime.

Enter Adam Payerl. A player who hasn’t scored a goal all season long and when the organization is healthy, has found himself a scratch more times than not. An overtime three on one leads to a four on one. A Conor Sheary shot off of Hershey starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer is saved, but Sheary follows his own rebound, dishes to Payerl who buries the shot past Grubauer sending the Penguins home with the win and Payerl and to a lesser degree Zatkoff, vindicated.

Someone with a journalism degree could write it a little differently than that, but the overall picture is painted and any reader to this blog should get the point.

A 3-2 overtime thriller win for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and a four point cushion over the Bears to second with a ragtag scratch lineup bereft of stars. Five points out of the weekend. How John Hynes and Alain Nasreddine have managed this with the lineup pillaged from injuries to Pittsburgh stifles me.

Scott Harrington was recalled to Pittsburgh at 5 p.m. today. The Penguins didn’t have a single healthy scratch this afternoon. Here’s what the lineup looked like:

Tom Kostopoulos – Carter Rowney -Adam Payerl
Conor Sheary – J-S Dea – Jayson Megna
Tom Kuhnhackl – Sahir Gill – Josh Archibald
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Dom Uher

Reid McNeill – Taylor Chorney
Derrick Pouliot – Goers
Nick D’Agostino – Alex Boak

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

First Period: The goaltenders posts were the story of the period. Conor Sheary creates a turnover and rings one off the post. A while later, the Bears ding the post off a wacky shot from the blue line that rainbowed and clipped the top of Zatkoff’s net. Shots were 6-5 Penguins at the end of the first of a pretty even period.

Second Period: Bears get their first power play but don’t score but immediately thereafter went on another power play. You can’t do that if you are the Penguins. It cost them. Connor Carrick unloaded from the blue line and it went in.

The Penguins had a chance to tie it with a long period of 5-on-3 (1:53) but the Bears top penalty killing unit killed it all off.

Then, in a span of :38, the Penguins had the lead.

- J-S Dea cleaned up a rebound on a power play.
– Dominik Uher followed in similar fashion for the 2-1 lead.

Play opened up after that, but it went 2-1 into the….

Third Period: Penguins played that boring, don’t give up the lead, don’t make dumb mistakes style of hockey. The Bears hemmed Wilkes-Barre in a few sequences, but the time continued to drip down. With less than a minute and with Grubauer vacated, the Pens had a few shots at the empty net but didn’t capitalize. Brown came racing up the right wing and fired a shot that plum beat Zatkoff via the glove.

Overtime: A couple of chances both ways, but the Bears turn the puck over in their zone, Sheary and Payerl lead a two on one that developed into a three on one. Payerl overshot his pass to Sheary. Sheary needed to collect it, put a shot on net that Grubauer made a great save on that rebounded back to Sheary who passed to Payerl who ended it with a nice wrist shot on net.


Three Stars: 3) J-S Dea (goal, even) 2) Dominik Uher (goal, +1) and 1) Adam Payerl (overtime game winning goal, assist, +1)

Around the Division: Albany finally wins a game in overtime, with a 4-3 win in Atlantic City against Lehigh Valley.

Standings: Penguins 35 – Hershey 31 — Binghamton 27 — Lehigh Valley 26 — Norfolk 22

Conference: 1) SPR (37) 2) MCH (36) 3) WBS (35) 4) SYR (35) 5) HFD (33) 6) HER (31) 7) PRO (30) 8) 8) ALB (29)

Wheeling Update: Nailers finally get a win against the Reading Royals by a score of 3-2. Eric Hartzell took home third star honors with 36 saves.

SendToNews Highlights: YouTube instead, cause it plays nice with WordPress…

Week 10 AHL Power Rankings hit the blog at 4 p.m. Monday. Check them out then. I’ll have whatever news or notes I can scrape throughout the week.

Let’s Go Pens!

Seeing Stolarz — Pens LOSE 2-1 (SO)

WBS       @       button_lv200

  1                                         2


If the Penguins ever deserved to win a game, it was this one.

But rookie Phantoms goaltender Anthony Stolarz wasn’t going for it.

Anchored by a 44 save performance by the rookie Stolarz, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms win this game by a score of 2-1 against the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

Matt Murray vs. Anthony Stolarz.

News of the day was that Bobby Farnham and Bryan Rust were recalled Saturday morning to Pittsburgh and Jayson Megna was sent back. That said, here is what the lines looked like tonight…

Tom Kostopoulos – Carter Rowney – Adam Payerl
Conor Sheary – JS Dea – Jayson Megna
Tom Kuhnhackl – Sahir Gill – Josh Archibald
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Dom Uher

Scott Harrington – Taylor Chorney
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Alex Boak took part in warmups again but was scratched.

First Period: At 1:15, a Brett Hextall shot rebounded to Petr Straka that put the Phantoms on the board first for the 1-0 lead. Penguins lost D zone coverage that led to the goal. Wilkes-Barre settled in from there and got two power plays but didn’t capitalize. Stolarz had a nifty save sliding back over the opposite way that stopped a Barry Goers back door rebound attempt.

Second Period: The Penguins did everything they could to score in this period but Stolarz would remain stout in net and stopped all 12 Wilkes-Barre shots fired this period. It seemed all four lines were rolling, Matia Marcantuoni kept his legs moving on a puck behind the net, centered to Pierre Leblond in front but no dice. Tom Kostopoulos and Carter Rowney worked a two on one but Rowney never got a good enough shot off. It seemed like a methodical wear down of the Phantoms by the Penguins but Stolarz kept them out.

Third Period: Finally, the Pens broke through and got the tying goal. Jayson Megna threw a puck on net that J-S Dea whacked in through a pile of bodies to tie the game at one. That was enough to force…

Overtime: Megna and Dea had a bunch of chances to end the game in overtime, but never did so it was onto….

Shootout: Josh Archibald and Petr Straka cashed on their attempts, Conor Sheary and Jason Akeson missed theirs. Tom Kuhnhackl and Taylor Leier scored theirs. Jayson Megna missed his and Nick Cousins deked Murray down to score his and the Phantoms took the extra point home with them.

Three Stars: 3) Petr Straka (goal, +1) 2) Anthony Stolarz (44 saves on 45 shots) and 1) Nick Cousins (shootout game winning goal, -1)

Around the Division: No matter what happens in tomorrow’s game against Hershey, the Pens will stall lead the East Division by at least a point, maybe five. That is because the Bears beat the Binghamton Senators by a score of 5-2…. Norfolk beat Springfield 4-3.

Standings: Penguins 33 – Hershey 30 — Binghamton 27 — Lehigh Valley 25 — Norfolk 22

Conference: 1) SPR (37) 2) MCH (36) 3) WBS (33) 4) SYR (35) 5) HFD (31) 6) HER (30) 7) POR (28) 8) PRO (28)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers lost to the Reading Royals by a score of 2-1. Eric Hartzell took the loss, stopping 21 of 23 shots.

SendToNews Highlights: Phantoms will probably have them and when they do I will link in.

Pens wrap up the weekend with a 4 p.m. start against the Bears. Gameday for that will be up a high noon Sunday.

Let’s Go Pens!

Love Me Two Times — Pens WIN 4-1

BRI         vs.         WBS

1                                              4


Facing a Bridgeport Sound Tigers team that came into the weekend with the AHL’s best power play, the Pens were awfully lucky they didn’t blow the game in the first 10 minutes.

That was when referee Darcy Burchell whistled three consecutive penalties against the Penguins. But the Penguins managed to bend but not break and hold the League’s top power play units at bay and weather the storm and skate away with the 4-1 win.

Bryan Rust had two goals. Derrick Pouliot had a highlight reel goal that you need to see to believe. Tom Kostopoulos scored the other one. The Penguins, actually, were the ones that had success on the man advantage, scoring twice. Jeff Zatkoff made 26 saves.

News of the day, announced at around 9 a.m. today was that Coal Street locked up Head Coach John Hynes and Alain Nasreddine to multi-year extensions. This should be the least shocking news that you should read this month. Hynes on Sunday, eclipsed the 200 wins mark and Nasreddine’s defense has consistently been tops in the AHL since he has been running the blueliners.

The aforementioned Jeff Zatkoff vs. Kevin Poulin.

Taylor Chorney returned from injury. With that reinforcement in the lineup, here’s what it looked like, line by line…

Tom Kostopoulos – Carter Rowney – Adam Payerl
Dom Uher – JS Dea – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Conor Sheary – Josh Archibald
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Scott Harrington – Taylor Chorney
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray.

Alex Boak skated the warmup as the extra.

First Period: The Penguins got an early power play that Bridgeport disposed of then the Penguins took essentially three straight. Bridgeport took another, as time expired on the Penguin power play, Barry Goers tossed a shot on net that Tom Kostopoulos tipped in for a 1-0 Penguin lead.

Second Period: Jeff Zatkoff was pushed into and was knocked down and never recovered enough to get back to his feet and square, about five seconds later ex-Penguin Colin McDonald throws a shot on net that deflects off of Kael Mouillerat and in. Burchell initially looked as if he was going to blow it down on account of the initial interference on Zatkoff but awarded the goal. Right call in my mind, the interference happened, five seconds ticked by and the shot went in without interference.

The Penguins were unflappable though, and soon Brett Gallant was boxed for interference. It was a golden opportunity for the Penguins to retake the lead on the power play. They did just that. A Conor Sheary shot from the wing rebounded straight to Bryan Rust for the rebound goal.

The Penguins never looked back. Hold onto your stomachs, you are about to see a disgusting goal…


In hindsight, that goal let a lot of air out of the Sound Tigers. Because I don’t think they ever recovered enough to make any kind of pushback in the third period. Speaking of…

Third Period: Rust with his second of the night from the high slot. He took a pass from Domimik Uher on the far wall, waited in the slot for his chance, loaded up and fired for the 4-1 lead. That was the highlight of an overall blah period. The Penguins were not going to do anything to lose the lead and Bridgeport couldn’t amount anything that resembled a comeback.

Three Stars: 3) Jeff Zatkoff (26 saves on 27 shots) 2) Derrick Pouliot (goal, assist, -1) and 1) Brayn Rust (two goals, +1)

Around the Division: Hershey lost in Syracuse 4-1. A tight game that was 1-1 late in the third and the Crunch got two bang-bang goals and an empty netter to take the win….Binghamton beats Lehigh Valley 3-1 and Norfolk, dressing a lineup with a bunch of NHLers on conditioning assignments, still can’t beat Springfield and lose 3-1.

Standings: Penguins 32 – Hershey 28 — Binghamton 27 — Lehigh Valley — 23 — Norfolk 20

Conference: 1) SPR (37) 2) MCH (34) 3) WBS (32) 4) SYR (33) 5) HFD (31) 6) POR (28) 7) HER (28) 8) BNG (27)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were down 5-1 to Reading at one point and mount a comeback that comes one goal short and lose 5-4. Zack Torquato had a goal. Clark Seymour had an assist. Here is a story that ran in the papers out there on local product Patrick McGrath earlier this week.

SendToNews Highlights: Better yet, how about a YouTube package?

Penguins take to the road to Allentown for a 7:00 game against the Phantoms. Gameday for that will be up at 3:00.

Let’s Go Pens!

I’ll Take Penguins Win for 200, John — Pens WIN 3-2

WBS        @       HER

3                                         2


There were technical difficulties on the AHL Live feed tonight so I was not able to listen to the away feed and the call of Mike O’Brien. The alternative was ex-Penguins broadcaster Scott Stuccio, which is always a treat.

Anyway, after the end of the second period of what was a 2-2 game, Stuccio said that these two teams have played each other twice in two nights, and it felt like eight games. Even for the broadcasters.

You can count the bloggers too, Stoosh.

The Penguins, after being dealt a setback the night before on home ice by these same Bears, battle back and re-claim first place in the division with a thrilling 3-2 victory.

The victory was Head Coach John Hynes’ 200th win as Penguins head coach. Here’s the info graphic from Coal Street.

Jeff Zatkoff vs. Philipp Grubauer

Lineup wise. Matia Marcantuoni was in for Sahir Gill up front and Alex Boak was back in for Clark Seymour.

Obie said in pre game that Taylor Chorney will likely start practicing again this week and Nick Drazenovic will continue, but in a limited role.

First Period: :39 in, Steve Oleksy put the Bears on the board with a goal that unleashed the teddy bear toss that took a grand total of 22 minutes to clean up. 17,000+ bears were flung to the Giant Center ice. The Penguins went back to the locker room during the delay. When play started back up again, they slowly built up momentum that led to this Derrick Pouliot goal that tied the game at one. Pierre Leblond was boxed for a penalty, the Penguins killed it and into the clear, Leblond found himself leading a three-on-one. He never got a shot off but maintained possession to Tom Kostopoulos who found a cutting Pouliot who put it in for the evening goal.

Wilkes-Barre maintained momentum throughout the remainder of the period. Carter Rowney had Grubauer dead to rights and had an empty net, but put the puck off the far post and not in.

Second Period: Penguins had a double minor they were killing to open the period then Stan Galiev held Tom Kuhnhackl. Neither team scored 4-on-4 and when Galiev was freed from the penalty box, he had the puck passed to him in the slot. He did the rest, with an NHL cabiber wrist shot that beat Zatkoff cleanly.

Soon after that, the Bears fail to clear a puck which eventually finds its way to Alex Boak. Boak then shoots the puck towards the net and it deflects off of Bobby Farnham and in to tie the game again.

Then, the Penguins were gifted an opportunity to take the lead with a double minor to Steve Olesky. Cam Schilling then put the puck out of play giving the Penguins a full two minutes of five on three. The Penguins never managed anything that looked like a good opportunity and Hershey killed the entire two minutes and then the back end of the Oleksy double minor. Penguins would get another crack at the power play, but never managed a shot on goal.

Third Period: The story of this game was that the Penguins were good on the penalty kill when they needed to be and the Bears couldn’t stop taking penalties against the Penguins. Finally, it bit them, when Derrick Pouliot unleashed this slap shot from the blue line that put the Penguins ahead in the game, for good. Pouliot is 2-2-4 in six games against the Bears this season.

Final ten minutes felt like it was all Hershey who tried everything to get the equalizer, but with Zatkoff back there, he made sure that there would be no Bears comeback. There was one sequence where the Penguins had a defensive breakdown but Zatkoff was there to make the save and calm things down. As time dwindled and with Grubauer out and Bears coach Troy Mann calling time out, the Bears never got the goal they were looking for.

Three Stars: 3) Chris Conner (two assists, +1) 2) Tom Kostopoulos (two assists) 1) Derrick Pouliot (two goals, +1)

Around the Division: Binghamton had their five game losing streak ended in Hartford as the Wolf Pack won 4-2. The losing streak continues for the Norfolk Admirals with another loss in Manchester by a score of 5-2. Lehigh Valley beats Bridgeport on the back end of a home and home between those two teams by a score of 5-3.

Standings: Penguins 30 – Hershey 28 — Binghamton 25 — Lehigh Valley 23 — Norfolk 18

Conference: 1) SPR (35) 2) MCH (32) 3) WBS (30) 4) SYR (29) 5) POR (28) 6) HER (28) 7) ALB (27) 8) HFD (27)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers never made it to Brampton for their scheduled game against the Beast today. Transportation issues was the cause of the cancellation. No make up game has been announced yet.

SendToNews Highlights: Are here.

Week 9 AHL Power Rankings hit the blog Monday at 4. Be on the look out for those at that time.

Let’s Go Pens!

Pheonix Rising — Pens LOSE 2-1

HER        vs.        WBS

2                                         1


If you didn’t watch the game tonight and all you looked at was the score line, you would think that the Penguins lack of scorers all on recall to Pittsburgh did Wilkes-Barre in tonight.

You’d be wrong. This game involved a chess match intertwined between a goaltenders duel. Two players scored for their respective teams. One just did it twice, and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins lose the game 2-1 and the East Division lead.

Rookie goaltender Pheonix Copley turned in a dazzling 28 save performance for the Bears. They say that Penn State University is “Linebacker U” – well, Hershey may as well be known as, “Goaltender U” with the depth and vast amount of backstoppers that have given the Penguins teams fits through the years.

An overall not bad performance by the Penguins. They just ran into a more stiffer team in Hershey that knows how to kill penalties and knows how to play this Penguins team. If there is a team in the AHL that has the Penguins number this season, I would be hard pressed to find one that isn’t anyone other than the Hershey Bears.

The aforementioned Pheonix Copley vs. Matt Murray. Battle of the backups tonight.

(And yes, I know that he spells his name wrong. It is what it is.)

With Bryan Rust’s demotion back to Wilkes-Barre this afternoon from Pittsburgh and the Penguins wanting to see what they have on defense, Matia Marcantuoni was out and Rust was in, and Alex Boak was out for Clark Seymour.

One thing worth mentioning was the fact that a PTO guy like Sahir Gill got a second game in a row while a draft pick like Marcantuoni watched this game from the stands.

First Period: Bears had a great opening jump to the game but the Penguins stood tall. Later the Penguins would get a power play but fail to convert against Hershey’s top penalty killing unit. Reid McNeill slashes a stick to break up a two on none and :18 later, Chris Conner undresses Scott Harrington and slips the puck under Murray for a 1-0 Bears lead.

Second Period: Bobby Farnham had a breakaway when the puck found him off of a funny bounce off the boards. He missed, but then goaded Chris Brown into taking a penalty. The Penguins appeared to have scored on the power play on a Scott Harrington point shot, but referee Terry Koharski was in perfect position and immediately waved the goal off on account of a high stick. I think that the AHL Live feed they use in the arena is a camera across from my center ice seat in the corner, so the replay that they showed on the video board never caught up to the players at the front of the net to see if the puck went in off of a high stick or not.

Third Period: Pens were given golden opportunities to score goals on the power play, but the glove or blocker of Phoenix Pheonix Copley kept the Penguins off of the board.

Later, puck caroms off of a linesman’s skate to Chris Conner, who tacked on his second goal of the night with a quick wrist shot. Puck beat Murray clean. It was one that he probably would have liked to have back.

Bryan Rust had seen enough. He started in from his own blue line and skated in past everyone, whiffed on his shot and in the second effort beat Copley to put the Penguins on the board. But the Penguins could never find the equalizer after pulling Murray.

Three Stars: Pheonix Copley (28 saves on 29 shots) 2) Bryan Rust (goal, +1) and 1) Chris Conner (two goals, +1)

The Penguins are 0-for-the-season on the power play against Hershey. But the Penguins play disciplined when they play the Bears and don’t hand them power play after power play. when they do however, it costs them, most of the time.

Around the Division: Binghamton beats Adirondack 5-3. Lehigh Valley loses to Bridgeport 3-2 in a shootout. Norfolk loses to Manchester 5-2.

Standings: Hershey 28 — Penguins 28 – Binghamton 25 — Lehigh Valley 21 — Norfolk 18

Conference: 1) SPR (35) 2) MCH (30) 3) HER (28) 4) SYR (29) 5) POR (28) 6) WBS (28) 7) ALB (27) 8) BNG (25)

Wheeling Update: Nailers are seemingly unfazed by all of the raiding the Penguins are doing to their roster. They hang seven goals on the Utah Grizzlies and win 7-3. Patrick McGrath, on Mcgrath bobble fist night, had a goal and was named first star of the game. Eric Hartzell stopped 32 of 35.

SendToNews Highlights: Are here. Nothing in the highlight package that shows anything conclusive on whether the Harrington shot from the point should have counted or not.

Rematch tomorrow at 5 in Hershey. Gameday setup here Sunday afternoon at 1. Giant Center has been a house of horrors for the Pens as of late, they have lost eight in a row there.

Let’s Go Pens!

Less is More — Pens WIN 5-1

button_lv200       vs.       WBS

  1                                           5


Ex-Penguins radio play-by-play man Tom Grace used to have a saying that seems apropos after the Penguins handed the Lehigh Valley Phantoms a 5-1 defeat tonight…

“It was OK if you like perfect.”

A roster stripped of four of its top six scorers due to call ups to Pittsburgh, injuries to key contributors here and the Friday afternoon trade of Philip Samuelsson to the Arizona organization and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins play their best game in a while, if not all season.

Think about it for a second. These guys are professionals. The call-ups from Wheeling, guys like Sahir Gill, don’t want to go back to the ECHL and want to show that they belong at the AHL level. Guys like Tom Kuhnhackl and Conor Sheary want to prove that they are worthy of being next in line should the need for a call-up need to be made again in Pittsburgh. Mix in all these variables and you get the results that showed tonight.

Jeff Zatkoff vs. Rob Zepp

Lines looked like this…

Conor Sheary – J-S Dea – Josh Archibald
Dom Uher – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Kuhnhackl – Sahir Gill – Adam Payerl
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Nick D’Agostino – Alex Boak

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

First Period: The Penguins jumped all over the Phantoms in the first. Sahir Gill made an immediate impact with a nice goal line pass on the backhand to Tom Kuhnhackl who scored on the one timer to put the Penguins on the board first. Gill created unlimited chances for the Penguins on a later power play and was all over the place tonight. Slowly, as the period wore on, you could feel the momentum tipping the Penguins way. Later, Scott Harrington throws a shot on net that Tom Kostopoulos got a stick on to deflect in for a 2-0 Penguin lead. The Penguins were running the Phantoms all over the place, bottled them up and had them on tilt. The first period ended with the Pens on a 5-on-3 heading into the….

Second Period: Wilkes-Barre fails to score on the power play, but Tom Kostopoulos shovels a puck past Zepp on the far side to make it 3-0 Penguins. This was the Penguins captain first two goal game since January 10, coming against these same Phantoms, only when they were known as the Adirondack Phantoms.

Later, Adam Payerl uses his body to create interference in front of Zepp’s net and a puck squeaks to Conor Sheary who buries it short side to give the Penguins the 4-0 lead. That goal would send Zepp Over the Hills and Far Away. Enter Anthony Stolarz.

Third Period: Was a period where the Phantoms finally awoke and threw all that they could against the wall at Zatkoff and the Penguins. The first half of this period turned into a goaltender duel. Finally, the Phantoms broke through when Brett Hextall poked a puck past Zatkoff. An argument could have been had that the Phantoms played the puck with a high stick prior to the puck getting to Hextall but referee Tim Mayer never looked at a replay.

Derrick Poulot skated to the slot and went high on Stolarz to squelch any thoughts of a Lehigh Valley comeback late.

Three Stars: 3) Tom Kuhnhackl (goal, +1) 2) Conor Sheary (goal, two assists, +3) and 1) Tom Kostopoulos (two goals, +1)

Overall, an impressive win by the Penguins given the patchwork lineup John Hynes, one that you wish you could bottle up and use whenever the need arose.

Around the Division: Hershey dispatches the Bridgeport Sound Tigers by a score of 6-3. Someone other than Stan Galiev scored in that game, but Galiev scored the first two goals for good measure anyway….Binghamton continues to rack up points and goals with a 4-1 win in Rochester…Norfolk lost to Springfield 3-2. The Falcons have won a franchise record 10 games in a row.

Standings: Penguins 28 — Hershey 26 — Binghamton 23 — Lehigh Valley 20 — Norfolk 18

Conference: 1) SPR (33) 2) MCH (28) 3) WBS (28) 4) SYR (27) 5) ALB (27) 6) POR (26) 7) HER (26) 8) BRI (25)

Tonight’s postgame info graphic provided by Brian Coe & Company is here.

SendToNews Highlights: How about YouTube instead?

Wheeling Update: The Nailers felt the brunt of the call-ups and injuries also, but that didn’t stop them from beating the Utah Grizzlies at home tonight by a score of 5-2. 

Penguins are back home Saturday against the Bears. Gameday setup will be at 3 p.m. here on the blog.

Let’s Go Pens!


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