Chirps from Center Ice

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

Winning Wednesdays — Pens WIN 5-1

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It had to end sometime. It did tonight. Penguins win 5-1 against a good St. John’s team that plays better than its last-in-the-Atlantic-Division record indicates.

Goals from the veteran leader, Tom Kostopoulos, two from rookie Conor Sheary, one from Bobby Farnham, on a breakaway of all things. 25 saves by Matt Murray and the Penguins are back to their winning ways.

Before the game, a bunch of news items were announced. First, Bobby Farnham and Derrick Pouliot switched places. Eric Hartzell was recalled to Wilkes-Barre in place of Jeff Zatkoff who was hurt in practice Tuesday. Also, the AHL announced starters for the AHL All-Star Classic to be played in Utica on this coming Monday. Both Tom Kostopoulos and Derrick Pouliot were named starters. There hasn’t yet been an announcement or a final decision on whether Jeff Zatkoff will participate in the events or if a replacement will be named. If I am the Penguins and Zatkoff, I call Springfield and tell them to look for a replacement and let Zatkoff have the time off. Who knows what will happen.

I wrote that last paragraph this afternoon so I didn’t have to throw the links in at 10:30 on a work night, but Tom Venesky from The Times-Leader tweeted after the game that Zatkoff is out till after All-Stars. Jonathan also had more here. I stand by what I crossed out, Zatkoff shouldn’t play. Let someone equally deserving and healthy go to Utica.

Matt Murray vs. Connor Hellebuyck

Taking the veteran option on handwriting out the lines tonight, as I have to get up for my big boy job Thursday morning. So here are Mike O’Brien’s tweets of the line rushes…

With Jeff Zatkoff and Bryan Rust injured and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond serving the first of his three game suspension, the Penguins has no healthy scratches.

First Period: Penguins killed an early penalty, then Nick Drazenovic won an offensive zone faceoff to Tom Kostopoulos who blasted it past Hellebuyuk and in for a 1-0 Penguins lead.

Moments later, Bobby Farnham scored on a breakaway. I wish I had a Vine of this, I am sure that Coal Street will have that as part of the highlight package. Farnham picked up the puck at center ice and zipped down the ice and put the puck over Hellebuyuk’s glove and in.

Penguins must have gotten the message. Jump on them. Finish your chances. The shots were 12-5 Wilkes-Barre.

Second Period: Penguins manufactured a goal out of thin air. Literally. Drazenovic passed it straight to Sheary who put the puck past Hellebuyuk and in for a 3-0 lead. This was a play that didn’t look like it was going to develop into anything and Sheary got the goal.

After that, St. John’s picked it up. To this point, the IceCaps had just 6 shots on goal. They began to pepper Murray and forced him into some rapid fire saves from all angles. Late, with Nic Blanchard in the penalty box for an elbowing call, the IceCaps quickly transitioned into a two on one rush and Keaton Ellerby scored a shorthanded goal against the Penguins, the second allowed this season by Wilkes-Barre.

Third Period: Felt at the time that the next goal, whenever it was scored, would be a huge goal. Penguins got a power play and the IceCaps turned it over tight to Conor Sheary who wasted no time and scored to make it 4-1 Wilkes-Barre. Penguins clamped down from there, time melted off and Scott Wilson tacked on an empty net goal to put it away for the Penguins.

Three Stars: 3) Bobby Farnham (goal, +1) 2) Tom Kostopoulos (goal, assist, +1) and 1) Conor Sheary (two goals, even)

Around the Division: The Bears keep it three ahead of the Penguins with a 7-2 drubbing of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown….Josh Manson’s goal at 7:00 of overtime (don’t know how that’s possible) give the Norfolk Admirals a 3-2 overtime win over the Charlotte Checkers at Scope tonight. The Penguins travel there tomorrow. Binghamton was off.

Standings: Hershey 49 — Penguins 46 – Lehigh Valley 43 — Binghamton 38 — Norfolk 36

Conference: 1) MCH (57) 2) SPR (56) 3) HER (49) 4) SYR (53) 5) HFD (51) 6) WOR (47) 7) POR (47) 8) ALB (46) 9) WBS (46)

Penguins still are out of a playoff spot as virtually everyone ahead of them won a game or got points.

Wheeling Update: The Nailers are off on the All-Star break for the ECHL.

SendToNews Highlights: YouTube instead….

Pens travel to Norfolk tomorrow for the 7:30 start Friday against the Admirals. Unless there is anything major Thursday, expect the next blog update to be your Friday Gameday setup against the Admirals at 3:30 p.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: vs. St. John’s 1/21


Home Game: 23

AHL Game: 608

Who: St. John’s IceCaps

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game: Sunday in Providence, the Penguins lost 5-4. Scott Wilson scored two goals and added an assist. For St. John’s, they hosted the Portland Pirates on Saturday and won 3-2 in overtime. Carl Klingberg netted the overtime game winner.

Last Meeting: November 29 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins won 1-0. Matt Murray had a 22 save shutout and J-S Dea had the goal for the Penguins in the win.

Record: For WBS: 20-17-1-3 (44 pts., 2nd place East Division) — For STJ: 17-19-5-1 (40 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division)

Why you should care: Alright. Penguins are not hitting the panic button yet, but if they go another game and come away with no points, they are going to start looking for the directions to the panic button. St. John’s plays better than their record indicates.

Referee(s): Cameron Voss / Pierre Lambert

Linesmen: Jud Ritter / Francis Trempe

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay // @IceCapsAHL

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /stjohnsicecaps

Instagram: wbspenguins / stjohnsicecaps

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie / @TLTomVenesky // @telyrobinshort / @telybrendan

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For STJ: Brian Rodgers

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep / @CharlesMDart

Radio: For WBS: WILK Newsradio / For St. John’s: Listen Live

Television: AHL Live

Promotion(s): None

Other Game to Watch: The Phantoms host the East Division leading Hershey Bears at the PPL Center in Allentown.

Next Five Games: @ NOR 1/23, @ NOR 1/24, @ SPR 1/30, LV 1/31, SPR 2/3

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond Suspended Three Games

The headline says it all. The AHL announced this afternoon that the Penguins winger has been suspended for three games for this hit he laid on Providence’s Seth Griffith….

As a result, Leblond will miss Wednesday’s home game against St. John’s and the weekend road trip to Norfolk. He’s eligible to return next Friday against Springfield.

AHL Power Rankings: Week 15

After a perfect weekend in Norfolk, the Hartford Wolf Pack are this weeks beneficiaries of the top spot in the Week 15 Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings as teams in front of Hartford slipped a bit this week.

Last weeks number one team Oklahoma City, slid down one spot after a wild 8-7 shootout loss at home against the Rochester Americans.

It’s a dogfight in the Eastern Conference. Four points separate 6th to 12th. There is little margin for error. You could be in one night and out the next.

Jump though to see where your favorite team ended up.

Read more of this post

Last Shot Wins — Pens LOSE 5-4

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When it rains, it pours.

The Penguins have been struggling to score goals in this winless slump. They have scored just five goals in the last games.

So they go to Providence today, and score four. Two on the power play, three in the second period.

They largely dominated puck possession today vs. Providence and allowed the P-Bruins just four shots on goal in the third period of a 4-4 game.

So it’s only fitting that in a, “kick ya when you’re down” world that the Penguins would turn the puck over in the neutral zone, and Penguin assassin Alexander Khokhlachev scores with 1:29 to push the Bruins ahead of the Penguins late in the game and win 5-4.

Jeff Zatkoff vs. Jeremy Smith

Lines were…

Conor Sheary – Nick Drazenovic – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Carter Rowney – Jayson Megna
Bobby Farnham – Matia Marcantuoni – Josh Archibald
Pierre Leblond – Dominik Uher- Tom Kuhnhackl

Taylor Chorney – Brian Dumoulin
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

Lines were jumbled from last night. Drazenovic was up centering the first line, Rowney was up centering the second line with Wilson and Megna, down from the first line. Farnham was bumped from the fourth line to the third with Matia Marcantuoni and Josh Archibald. Pierre Leblond was on a fourth line with Dominik Uher and Tom Kuhnhackl.

The defensive pairings remained the same.

Bryan Rust was a surprise scratch and the explanation given was a lower body injury. Rust was injured in the third period in Worcester. He’s yet to be evaluated and with the Penguins off till Tuesday they won’t know anything until at least then.

Jean-Sebastien Dea took warmups but was a scratch. Alex Boak was the 7th defenseman who was scratched.

First Period: Pierre Leblond was dismissed from the game with this hit he laid on Seth Griffith. Leblond was thrown out of the game and assessed a 10 minute match penalty for boarding. By rule, Leblond is suspended pending league review. Griffith left the game with an upper body injury and P-Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told Mark Divver of The Providence Journal after the game that the Bruins will submit tape to the league to review.

The AHL can do two things. 1) Nothing and say that the punishment fit the crime or, 2) Leblond is suspended x amount of games.

We will see what happens. The AHL usually announces punishment on Tuesday.

In the full five minute power play that the Bruins had as a result of the Leblond penalty, they only managed a single shot on net.

Another thing that the box got wrong was this goal scored by Tom Kostopoulos that was credited to Scott Wilson. Wilson took the shot that Kostopoulous appeared to have tipped. This was on a power play that the Penguins scored on right after the kill on the Leblond major.

Second Period: Six goals scored this period. They went,

- Ben Youds pinching and scoring on a blind pass to make it 2-1 Providence on a power play at 3:42.
Tom Kuhnhackl at 9:37 on a power play through a pile of bodies in front off of a Brian Dumoulin shot.
Carter Rowney spin-o-rama shot at 10:59 even strength that put the Penguins ahead 3-2.
– Ben Youds booming slap shot at 12:09 on a power play for the Bruins.
Scott Wilson from a ridiculous goal line angle at 13:22 to make it 4-3 Penguins.
– Matt Lindblad tip of a Steve Eminger shot from the half wall that made it 4-4.

Third Period: Penguins had two power plays in this period and failed to score on them. Closest they got was a Nick Drazenovic knee drop one timer that hit the post. The Penguins only allowed the Bruins a single shot on goal in the first ten minutes.

Late, Nick Drazenovic was mugged by two Bruins in the neutral zone, was dispossessed and then Khokhlachev scored to make it 5-4 Bruins to essentially seal it with 1:29 left.

Three Stars: 3) Scott Wilson (two goals*, assist, +1) 2) Alex Khokhlachev (game winning goal, -1) 1) Ben Youds (two goals, +2)

Around the Division: Hershey beats Lehigh Valley at home 5-2 to extend their lead over the Penguins to three points. Hershey still has a game in hand on the Pens and the Phantoms have three. The Phantoms have a game on the Bears. Binghamton beat Springfield 6-3.

Standings: Hershey 47 — Penguins 44 – Lehigh Valley 43 — Binghamton 38 — Norfolk 34

Conference: 1) MCH (57) 2) SPR (56) 3) HER (47) 4) SYR (53) 5) HFD (49) 6) POR (47) 7) WOR (45) 8) ALB (44) 9) WBS (44)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were stunned in the final seconds by the Brampton Beast and lost 2-1.

SendToNews Highlights: Are here.

Penguins are off till Tuesday, then play host to the St. John’s IceCaps on Wednesday before taking to the road again for a Friday and Saturday matchup in Norfolk.

My Week 15 AHL Power Rankings will hit the blog tomorrow at a special time, 12 p.m., with Chicago and Rockford playing in a 2 p.m. Martin Luther King Day kids game Monday afternoon.

Let’s Go Pens!

* – maybe

GAMEDAY: @ Providence 1/18


Away Game: 19

AHL Game: 597

Who: Providence Bruins

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center

When: 3:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game: Last night in Worcester, the Penguins were shutout by the Sharks 4-0. The P-Bruins were in Manchester last night and lost in overtime 2-1. Brian Ferlin scored the only goal for the Bruins in the loss.

Record: For WBS: 20-16-1-3 (44 pts., 2nd place East Division) — For PRO: 18-16-5-1 (42 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division)

Why you should care: Penguins have gotten by with subpar efforts for long enough and managed to stay ahead of the East Division. But they have been passed by the Hershey Bears and now have to keep pace. Last night was last night, today is a new day. The Penguins are in Providence facing off against the equally struggling Bruins. Be the better team should be the theme this afternoon.

Referee(s): Jon McIsaac / Terry Koharski

Linesmen: Todd Whittemore / Brian MacDonald

Twitter: @WBSPenguins / @WBSGameDay / @AHLBruins

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /providencebruins

Instagram: wbspenguins / ahlbruins

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky / @MarkDivver

Broadcasters: WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / PRO: Nick Gagalis @NickGagalis

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep 

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For Providence: WNRI 1380 AM

Television: AHL Live

Other Game to Watch: Lehigh Valley travels to Hershey today for an important East Division matchup that will have implications on the Penguins no matter what.

Next Five Games: STJ 1/21, @ NOR 1/23, @ NOR 1/24, @ SPR 1/30, LV 1/31

Sharknado! — Pens LOSE 4-0

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The Worcester Sharks are a really good hockey team of late. They had won four games in a row at home and are on a five game win streak coming into tonight’s game against the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. They beat the Conference leading Manchester Monarchs twice this week, with a rematch tomorrow.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins got a cavalry back from Pittsburgh this week, were the rested team, but none of this mattered as Troy Grosenick and the Worcester Sharks defeat the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins by a score of 4-0.

Whatever it is that is ailing the Penguins, they will need to figure this out on the road, as six of the next seven are away from the friendly confines of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

With five players re-assigned from Pittsburgh this week, the lineup looked drastically different. Here’s a look….

Tom Kostopoulos – Conor Sheary – Jayson Megna
Scott Wilson – Nick Drazenovic – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Josh Archibald
Dominik Uher – J-S Dea – Bobby Farnham

Taylor Chorney – Brian Dumoulin
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

Derrick Pouliot’s first action since December 19. Bryan Rust’s first since December 12 and Scott Wilson’s first Wilkes-Barre game since November 29.

Matia Marcantuoni was a scratch but participated in warmups. Alex Boak and Pierre Leblond were the other scratched. Anton Zlobin and Adam Payerl are still injured.

First Period: Period started out fine for the Penguins, who controlled the puck and the possession for the first ten minutes. After the midway part of the period, Worcester started to chip away…

– A J-S Dea turnover to Daniil Tarasov, who marched down the slot, made a bunch of moves and deked Zatkoff for a 1-0 Sharks lead at 12:11.
— Freddie Hamilton fires a puck at Zatkoff using D’Agostino as a pick to make it 2-0 at 15:05. A really nice shot by Hamilton that handcuffed Zatkoff.
— Ex-Penguin Bryan Lerg cleans up a rebound of a Jeremy Langlois shot from the blue line while the Sharks were on the only power play of the period that made it 3-0 at 19:31.

Three goals in a span of 7:20 in the final eight minutes of the period.

Second Period: Penguins would make a change in goal as Matt Murray would come in to relieve Jeff Zatkoff in goal. You really could not fault Zatkoff on any of the three goals he gave up in the first period, but the Penguins to this point were on a four game slide so Head Coach John Hynes decided to make the change in goal.

Wilkes-Barre would outshoot Worcester 12-4 in this period. Many of the shots from the Penguins would come on a power play where Grosenick was outstanding. Later, Taylor Fedun would finish off a tic tac toe pass as a Sharks power play had just expired to extend the lead to 4-0 for the Sharks.

Third Period: Nothing by the Penguins resembled any kind of comeback, and nothing by the Sharks resembled anything that looked like they wanted to pile on. What Grosenick saw, he stopped. John Hynes mixed up the lines that I listed earlier.

Three Stars: 3) Matt Taormina (two assists, +1) 2) Bryan Lerg (goal, +1) and 1) Troy Grosenick (25 save shutout)

Around the Division: Hershey takes over the East Division lead with a 5-4 overtime win against the Albany Devils. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms win at home in front of their largest crowd of the season with a 5-1 win over the Binghamton Senators. Hartford shutout Norfolk 3-0.

Standings: Hershey 45 — Penguins 44 – Lehigh Valley 43 — Binghamton 36 — Norfolk 34

Phantoms travel to Hershey tomorrow. It’s a Catch-22 for the Penguins. The Phantoms have three games in hand on the Penguins, so a win tomorrow by the Phantoms and Penguins would put the Penguins back over Bears by a point but the Phantoms would be in second place and trail the Pens by a point. A Bears win and a Penguins win would separate the Phantoms from the East lead but the Bears would still have a game in hand on the Penguins.

Bottom line, if the Penguins win tonight, none of tomorrow really matters. And the Penguins have lost five straight, so a guarantee that a win happens tomorrow in Providence is far from a guarantee.

Conference: 1) MCH (57) 2) SPR (56) 3) HER (45) 4) SYR (53) 5) HFD (49) 6) POR (47) 7) WBS (44) 8) WOR (43)

Pit of vipers from 7 on back. Expanding, Lehigh Valley is the 9 seed with 43 points, Albany is 10 with 43, Providence is 11 at 42. Bridgeport is 12 with 41. St. John’s is 13 at 40.

Wheeling Update: Nailers hang seven goals on the Brampton Beast tonight. The Beast are at the bottom of the Central Division in the ECHL and the Nailers were pummeled by call-ups to Wilkes-Barre, so the 7-2 win is welcome. Eric Hartzell stopped 22 of 24 to pick up the win.

SendToNews Highlights: Not up yet. Doubtful that I go back and make an edit here. If you’ve clicked through before, you know where to find them if you want to see them.

Penguins look to regroup tomorrow afternoon in Providence. Gametime is at 3 p.m. Gameday setup hist the blog Sunday at 11 a.m.

Let’s Go Pens!


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