Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Wheeling Enforcements

Hartzell Down, Murovich Signed, Blog of the Year

A few things to mention today as my AHL Previews continue….

– Coal Street was active Thursday afternoon, signing Tyler Murovich to an AHL contract and assigning him to Wheeling. Murovich was recently let go by the Pens this week, but picked up and signed today.

– Eric Hartzell will begin the season with the Wheeling Nailers, having been sent down Thursday. At this stage of Hartzell’s development, the Penguins felt that he would be better suited as a number one goaltender vs. backing up Jeff Zatkoff, fresh off of being an NHL backup to Marc Andre Fleury last season. I don’t consider Hartzell starting the year in the ECHL a bad thing at all. He’s not going to be number one in Wilkes-Barre, he’s a second year pro and not a rookie, let him prove his worth in Wheeling in the ECHL. Matt Murray, a rookie and Zatkoff’s backup, will get plenty of opportunities to show that he belongs in the AHL. Most likely we will see Murray start a game next weekend in St. John’s. If Murray falters and Hartzell shines, the two are easily interchangeable.

– The Penguins also announced their broadcast schedule. All games will be heard on WILK Newsradio and there will be eight television games. They will be all Saturday games and are as follows: October 11 vs. Lehigh Valley, December 6 vs. Hershey, January 31 vs. Lehigh Valley, February 21 vs. Providence, March 14 vs. Hershey, March 21 vs. Binghamton, April 4 vs. Lehigh Valley and April 18 vs. Norfolk.

– On Wheeling, they extended Head Coach Clark Donatelli for three more years and signed a three year extension with WesBanco Arena, guaranteeing that the Nailers remain in West Virginia through 2017-18.

– The Great Mike Fornabaio broke down the rules changes this season in the AHL. A good read for a rules nerd like me.

Oh, one more thing. I was notified today that Chirps from Center Ice won “Sports Blog of the Year” as part of the NEPA Blog Con contest that ran a few weeks ago. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me and this blog. Again, as I have said before in the past, this blog is a hobby which I enjoy very much. To see that my hobby is being rewarded with an award is very humbling. So thank you to all who voted for the blog. I honestly do very much appreciate the support.

We close out the AHL Previews with the East Division at noon tomorrow. Barring any more breaking news, the Gameday Setup vs. Lehigh Valley will be on the blog Saturday at 3 p.m.

All-Stars and Non

Interrupting the AHL Previews with a note on some news of the day…

Coal Street made cuts today.Tyler Murovich, Patrick McGrath, Jonathan Narbonne, Carter Rowey, Kevin Ryan and Clark Seymour were released. McGrath, Rowney and Seymour will go to Wheeling. The other guys were on ECHL deals elsewhere.

NHL rosters have to have 23 names on them by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Only Chris Kunitz (illness) and Kasperi Kapenen (went home to see family) did not practice today for Pittsburgh. Guys like Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta did practice and could be ready for the start of the season, so it’s still possible that we see a name or three find their way back to Wilkes-Barre later today or this week. Front runners in my opinion are Taylor Chorney and Zach Sill, but who knows. Every time I try to talk myself through who can or can’t get sent back here I only end up confusing myself further. Who comes, comes.

Edit: After I published this, Pittsburgh announced that Oskar Sundqvist was returned to his Swedish club, Scott Harrington was assigned here and Andrew Ebbett, Taylor Chorney and Zach Sill were sent to Wheeling of the ECHL. Release here. The ECHL moves are so the team can get under the salary cap. I’d expect Sill, Chorney and Ebbett to be recalled back to Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Springfield announced where they are having the All-Star Classic this year. It’s Utica, home of the Comets. They will return to the East vs. West format that they’ve used in the past. Last year it was a cast of AHL All-Stars vs. Farjestad in St. John’s, while the NHL was on the OIympic break. I think fans like the East v. West format. I know I do. Tickets go on sale November 1.

Big day for minor league hockey as the ECHL announced it has granted membership to the seven remaining Central Hockey League teams; Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder. Details here. It brings the number of ECHL clubs up to 29, with Las Vegas sitting out this season while they finalize details on a new home to play in 2015-16.

Look for the next non-AHL Preview blog piece to come in the form of the Gameday setup vs. Lehigh Valley Saturday at 3 p.m.

Remember, you can always keep up with me @nafsnep on Twitter.

Appointment Viewing

The wait is nearly over…

I’ll have the full breakdown of the Penguins who’s, when’s and where’s tomorrow here on the blog probably sometime after lunch.

Only other Penguins new related tidbit was the announcement that the Wheeling Nailers have extended their affiliation with the Penguins family.

See you tomorrow.

Cleanup in Aisle Tuesday

Very minor things to catch up on since the last time we did this…

– Penguins Developmental Camp is underway from Pittsburgh. Link here with information as to who was invited. Names familiar to fans of the AHL club include Nick D’Agostino, Brian Dumoulin, Reid McNeill, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp, Josh Archibald, Tom Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary, Dominik Uher and Anton Zlobin to name a bunch. They all scrimmage on Saturday.

– The Norfolk Admirals have a new Head Coach. His name is Jarrod Skalde.

– Coal Street produced a summer podcast series. Their first installment was Mike O’Brien speaking with Conor Sheary. A good listen.

– No labor strife on the horizon for the AHL and their players union, as it appears as if the Collective Bargaining Agreement was extended for another year.

– Stephane Da Costa is taking is talents to Moscow of the KHL next season. Da Costa had been with Binghamton last season.

– Ex Penguin and current Calder Cup Champion player Toby Petersen was named Assistant Coach of the Springfield Falcons.

– Depth signings to announce. Alex Boak and Clark Seymour, both giant defenders which were around late last season during Wilkes-Barre’s run. I project they start the season in Wheeling next season and are the first call-up to fill a bottom six role on defense, should the need arise. Both Boak and Seymour are in Pittsburgh this week for Developmental Camp.

Bobby Farnham also re-signed. I’ve updated the 2014 Offseason Moves List to reflect the re-signing of Farnham, and the additions of Boak and Seymour.

That’s all for now.

You Can’t Trademark That

Remember the Brian Gibbons Breakaway of the Game™?

He’s back.

With Pittsburgh knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the news was made official today that Brian Gibbons has been assigned to Wilkes-Barre. Gibbons should be available this weekend to play, from Jonathan’s Thursday update.

Zach Trotman for Providence is day-to-day with an injury. He was injured in Game 3, this news coming from Bruins beat writer Mark Divver.

Also, as soon as Derrick Pouliot is officially assigned and gets here and is acclimated to the Wilkes-Barre system, the Penguins will be at or near the best they’ve been all year. Could you remember a Penguins team more potent than this one? Think about it. No major injuries and we are running at full strength with both Pittsburgh and Wheeling out of the playoffs.

Speaking of Wheeling, Jonathan said that Tom Kuhnhackl, Peter Merth and Dustin Stevenson are on the way up as part of the Black Aces. There could be other guys, such as Cody Sylvester and Christian Minella are also eligible. Denver Manderson was hurt in the Nailers series with Greenville, so his status is doubtful to come here.

Oh, I started looking at last night’s numbers of who was on ice / off ice for the charts and Anton Zlobin is no longer perfect. He was on the ice for two of the Providence goals scored. On Simon Despres’ first goal, there were four forwards on the ice. (Zach Sill, Chuck Kobasew, Harry Zolnierczyk and Conor Sheary) I don’t think that’s right, but that’s what the scoresheet says. I’ll have a chart refresh this weekend, probably Sunday.

Game 4 goes tomorrow from Providence. The Gameday setup hits the blog at 3 p.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

Wednesday Notebook

A bunch of stuff to get to. Here we go…

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun was assigned to Wilkes-Barre today on a conditioning assignment.

In a reactionary move, G Eric Hartzell was sent to Wheeling to get games in. Also in that release is the recall of Cody Sylvester.

Scott Wilson has signed his ATO.

Two other teams are in playoffs. Reservations made for the St. John’s IceCaps and the Abbotsford Heat.

Kris Letang is back.

Andrew Ebbett is back too.

Jonathan had an update on the days news, with quotes from Vokoun. Coal Street put together an audio package that you can listen to here.

Some footnotes: The Ebbett re-assignment puts the Pens one over the veteran limit again. In case you were wondering, having Tomas Vokoun in town on conditioning does not affect the veteran limit because goaltenders are exempt from this rule…Cody Sylvester had his appendix removed a few days ago and was called up to get looked at medically here.

The AHL started rolling out its end of year awards. Schedule here. The All-Rookie Team was announced today. None of the Penguins were on it. But that game me an idea nevertheless. My own Chirps from Center Ice End of the Year Awards. We can do the standard Rookie of the Year, Best Forward, Best Defenseman, Best Goalie and MVP and any other category that comes to me within the final two weeks of the season. The good people at WordPress who host my blog allow me to use polls, so I am going to put it to you, the reader to decide who wins. Look for that in the coming weeks.

Next blog update will probably be the Friday afternoon setup for the game in Syracuse.


AHL Trade Deadline Wrapup

The AHL trade deadline came and went today. For the East Division, one team made a move.

Hershey acquired Kris Newbury from Adirondack in exchange for Derek Whitmore. For Whitmore, he’ll finally get to play as he’s been a scratch for the Bears. For Newbury, a chance to win with a contender. Newbury was second on the Phantoms in scoring.

Acquiring Newbury doesn’t solve the Bears veteran situation, either.

The Penguins, Senators, Admirals and Crunch went about their Wednesday and didn’t make any moves.

For Wilkes-Barre, they sent Tom Kuhnhackl and Harrison Ruopp back to Wheeling and retained G Eric Hartzell. Turns out that WBS had their goaltending coach in town and wanted Hartzell along with Jeff Deslauriers and Peter Mannino all on the ice for instruction.

One other piece of news, WBS signed Conor Sheary to an amateur tryout contract today. Sheary captained the UMass Minutemen and led them in points (9-19-28) this season. He’s signed to an AHL deal for next season, too.

So you are wondering what type of player the undrafted Sheary is. So am I. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look far:


I really don’t excited for kids coming out of junior or college because it’s a totally different game, playing with men. Take ex-Penguin Casey Pierro-Zabotel for example. He comes over from leading the Western Hockey League in points in 08-09 and joins the Penguins. He goes on to play 9 games, registering one assist. He was sent to the ECHL and has never been seen again.

Reasonable expectation for Sheary is maybe a game in late March or mid-April or after the Penguins have clinched a playoff spot.

Next update here will likely be the Gameday setup for the Friday home game vs. Hamilton.


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