Chirps from Center Ice

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

AHL Power Rankings: Week 28

Year Two of another season of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings is in the can. This has been my most popular segment that is run here on the blog, viewed hundreds of times when it is published. Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting. When I put these together on a Sunday night, I often wonder if there is anyone in Milwaukee, Chicago or Portland that would care if I don’t give full effort on a capsule. To know that I have readers in other cities that visit and share the rankings and even pass off words of, “how can you underrate us?” (I am looking at you, Utica) is a real treat because the intent with these wasn’t to just put the Penguins at the top every week, it was to grow a readership base and let other people in other cites know that there is a blogger in Wilkes-Barre that doesn’t just “cover” his local team but also keeps tabs on the other 29 teams in this great League.

In keeping with last years theme, winners of the Eastern Conference and Western Conference are 1-2 in the season finale of the Rankings and the divisional winners fill out spots three through six. All the other playoff teams fill out the top 16 and then the best of the rest fill out the rest of the rankings.

I have a boatload of other stuff to write this week, so I won’t keep you any longer. Click through the jump to see where your favorite team ended up in the final offering of the 2014-15 Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings and rest assured that we will be back and better than ever again in 2015-16.

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That Escobedo’d Quickly — Pens WIN 5-1

WBS       @       button_lv200

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If you follow the Penguins, even casually, you know that Head Coach John Hynes and Assistant Coach Alain NAsreddine are all about defense. The Penguins as a team, pride themselves on it.

Well, for the fourth time in five years, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will have the best defense in all the American Hockey League.

And it was, interestingly enough, a defenseman, that stole the show today. Sean Escobedo had a career day today, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. The Penguins close out the regular season on a winning note, with a 5-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Penguins now turn their attention to the Syracuse Crunch, and open up the Calder Cup Playoffs Friday night in Wilkes-Barre.

Jeff Zatkoff opposed Rob Zepp. Here was a look at the lines….

Conor Sheary – Jayson Megna – Josh Archibald
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Bobby Farnham – J-S Dea – Adam Payerl
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni

Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers
Sean Escobedo – Alex Boak
Danny Syvret – Clark Seymour
Steven Shamanski

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

The Penguins gave Tom Kostopoulos and Andrew Ebbett the afternoon off and went 11 forwards and 7 defensemen.

Prior to the game, the Pens made official the signing of Ryan Parent. Parent is a veteran defenseman with a lot of experience and experience is what the Penguins need, especially on the back end with all of these ECHL guys playing defense. Parent is a great add.

First Period: The Penguins, with pretty much nothing to play for, probably wanted to get a quick lead and give the ECHL rich defense some run. It worked.

Penguins found themselves on a 5-on-3 power play. After a few cycles with nothing, John Hynes called his time out.

J-S Dea cleaned up this rebound….

… that made it 1-0.

Then Tom Kuhnhackl zipped this shot past Zepp as the 5-on-4 power play expired…

It was the first AHL assist for Sean Escobedo.

Pens would successfully kill two consecutive penalties.

Second Period: Bobby Farnham made it 3-0 with this nice side step and back hand off of the wall…

Sean Escobedo had his second assist of the day with that Farnham goal.

Phantoms got on the board with an Olivier Lauridsen shot that beat Zatkoff short side.

Penguins got a power play, but it came and went. Wilkes-Barre bottled up the neutral zone. Jason Akeson tried a shot through bodies that hit too many that deflected away.

Third Period: Escobedo would finish a perfect cross ice pass from Carter Rowney on this power play…

The Penguins continued to pile on the offensive pressure. Josh Archibald took a puck in the corner that drew two men to him. Jayson Megna picked up the loose puck and zipped one home for the 5-1 Penguin lead…

Penguins would have to kill an Adam Payerl double minor for high sticking and did so perfectly. At this point, with the game decided, it was all about not getting hurt and the Penguins came out of it unscathed.

Notes: Tom Kuhnhackl is 5-6-11 in his last nine games. What a surge to end the season by Kuhnhackl….The Penguins ended the season with a 45-24-3-4 record, good for 97 points. That is better than last year when they were 42-26-3-5 and 92 points and was a 6 seed.

Three Stars: 3) Oliver Lauridsen (goal, even) 2) Jeff Zatkoff (28 saves, 29 shots) 1) Sean Escobedo (goal, two assists, +1)

Around the Division: Everyone else was off.

Standings: Hershey 100 — Penguins 97 — Binghamton 76 — Lehigh Valley 74 — Norfolk 64

Conference: 1) MCH (109) 2) HER (100) 3) HFD (95) 4) WBS (97) 5) SYR (92) 6) PRO (91) 7) WOR (88) 8) POR (87)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers come home for Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs Wednesday with the series tied 1-1.

SendToNews Highlights: May be up later and I may link in then.

Content wise, busy week. Final AHL Power Rankings hit the blog tomorrow. Fourth Quarter Grades will go up at some point this week. Western Conference and Eastern Conference Previews and a Preview of the Syracuse series all coming this week.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 4/19


Away Game: 38

AHL Game: 1138

Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: PPL Center

When: 5:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Lats Game: Last night at home, the Penguins beat the Norfolk Admirals 5-5. Jayson Megna had a hat trick, the first Penguins hat trick at home since Eric Tangradi in 2012. For Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms were in Hershey last night ad lost 5-1. Brett Hextall scored the only goal for the Phantoms in the loss.

Last Meeting: April 8 in Allentown, the Pens won 3-0. Matt Murray had a 30 save shutout.

Record: For WBS: 44-24-3-4 (95 pts., 2nd place East Division) — For LV: 33-34-7-1 (74 pts., 4th place East Division)

Why you should care: If Matt Murray starts, he has a chance to tie the record for AHL shutouts in a season. If not, it’s a carefree day because the Penguins really don’t have anything to play for with the 4 seed locked up and a date with the Syracuse Crunch already set.

Referee(s): Jon McIsaac / Garrett Rank

Linesmen: Tom George / Ryan Knapp

Twitter: @WBSPenguins and @WBSGameDay / @LVPhantoms

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins / /LehighValleyPhantoms

Instagram: wbspenguins / lehighvalleyphantoms

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky / @gblockus

Broadcasters: WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For Lehigh Valley: Bob Rotruck @BobRotruck

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep

Radio: For WBS: WILK Newsradio / For Lehigh Valley: Fox 1470

Television: AHL Live

Other Game to Watch: Portland is in Worcester today. A loss by the Pirates gives the Springfield Falcons, who are idle today, the 8 seed. A win by Portland and they are in.

Too Close For Comfort — Pens WIN 5-4

NOR          vs.          WBS

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That was dangerously close.

The Penguins, up 5-1 at one point and Jayson Megna scoring the first Penguins home hat trick since 2012, see Norfolk rattle off three straight goals and narrowly hang on to win 5-4 and lock up the four seed and a first round date with the Syracuse Crunch in Round 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Here is a look at the schedule:

Friday 4/24
Saturday 4/25
Wednesday 4/29
Thursday 4/30
Saturday 5/2

Home games in bold. Penguins release here. All games in Wilkes-Barre start at 7:05. The games up in Syracuse start at 7.

Penguins still have a game left tomorrow in Lehigh Valley. Hynes told Tom that he doesn’t plan on resting many guys with the Penguins cemented in the four seed with nothing more to play for. We will see tomorrow.

Before we get ripping on the post game recap, the Norfolk Admirals played their final AHL game tonight.

Norfolk has been an up and down team from my memory. They have either been really really good (28 was in a row and a Calder Cup) or really really bad (this year) – they will play in the ECHL next year as an Edmonton Oilers / Bakersfield Condors affiliate. I have a lot of people that read the blog, shared the blog and linked to the blog. A lot of good people in Virginia. I think that the Admirals of the ECHL will be a force that will need to be reckoned with. Who knows, with all of this shuffling that goes on, maybe you see Norfolk back on the AHL landscape like you saw Winnipeg in 2015. Who knows. No one can take that Calder Cup away from the fans of the Norfolk Admirals. Fans in Wilkes-Barre would give you an eyeball for one. Be proud of what you accomplished and be happy that you still have hockey to watch on Hampton Roads.

Jeff Zatkoff vs. Ryan Faragher

Lines were…

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Josh Archibald – Jayson Megna – J-S Dea
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers
Danny Syvret – Steve Shamanski
Sean Escobedo – Alex Boak

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

Kasperi Kapanen took warmups and was scheduled to skate on the third line with Archibald and Megna but must have been injured because after the game, Hynes told the WBS media that he is day to day. Sean Escobedo was in for Clark Seymour.

Also a report out of St. Johns, Ryan Parent is on his way to Wilkes-Barre. Parent is a defenseman with over 100 NHL games, that was on a PTO with the St. John’s IceCaps. Stability for the Pens vs. dressing a bunch of ECHL guys.

First Period: Jayson Megna would score a power play goal early in front of Faragher that put the Penguins on the board early. The Pens needed this jump because of the clunker they laid last night vs. Albany.

The parade to the penalty box continued for the Admirals, yet they managed to outshoot the Penguins 11-10 in the period and tied the game on a Brandon Montour shot from the point that deflected off of a Penguins player and in for a tie game heading to the…

Second Period: Penguins were in trouble. The entire first four minutes were played in front of Jeff Zatkoff. He held the Admirals out of the net and this was your turning point.

Barry Goers blast at the top of the point. 2-1 Penguins.

Alex Boak breaks up a would be John Kurtz breakaway.

Jayson Megna cashes on a  power play goal. 3-1 Penguins.

At this point, with the Penguins defense and the way that Norfolk wasn’t converting, it was over, right?

Third Period: Wrong.

Tom Kuhnhackl finishes a Dominik Uher pass to make it 4-1. Megna gets hit hat trick that makes it 5-1. The rout is on. The Penguins are clinching home ice and everything is turning up roses….

LOL at you. These are the Cardiac Penguins.

Louis Leblanc roofs one over Zatkoff to make it 5-2 on a power play.

Mike Sgarbossa snakes through everyone and slips one past Zatkoff that makes it 5-3 on another Norfolk power play goal.

Time dwindling, Joe Cramarossa scores with Faragher pulled that makes it 5-4.

Time ultimately won and the Penguins held on for the win.

I bet John Hynes will not be happy with the way that the Penguins almost lost that game.

Three Stars: 3) Tom Kuhnhackl (goal, even) 2) Barry Goers (goal, +1) and 1) Jayson Megna (hat trick, +1)

Around the Division: Hershey wins 5-1 over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and get to 100 points….Binghamton shuts out Rochester 5-0.

Standings: Hershey 100 — Penguins 95 — Binghamton 76 — Lehigh Valley 74 — Norfolk 64

Conference: 1) MCH (109) 2) HER (100) 3) HFD (93) 4) WBS (95) 5) SYR (92) 6) PRO (89) 7) WOR (88) 8) SPR (86)

Wheeling Update: Nailers are all tied up at a game a piece 1-1 as the Toledo Walleye win 2-1 in overtime in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Game 3 is in Wheeling on Wednesday.

SendToNews Highlights: YouTube instead:

Gameday for the regular season road finale against Lehigh Valley will be up at 1 p.m.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

RAPID RECAP — Pens Win 5-4

Closer than we wanted it to be, but the Penguins wrap up home ice in the first round of the playoffs and are the 4 seed. They will face the Syracuse Crunch. This is the schedule: 

Friday 4/24 home

Saturday 4/25 home

Wednesday 4/29 road

Thursday 4/30 road

Saturday 5/2 home

As for this game, Jayson Megna broke out and had a hat trick. The Penguins scored two power play goals. 

Late push by Norfolk, playing in their last ever AHL game, made it interesting. Norfolk was down 5-1 and scored four three straight goals. 

Regular season concludes Sunday in Allentown with the Penguins having absolutely nothing to play for. I wonder what team will dress for that game. 

Full recap to follow shortly.

GAMEDAY: vs. Norfolk 4/18


Home Game: 38

AHL Game: 1138

Who: Norfolk Admirals

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game: Last night vs. Albany, the Pens were shutout 4-0. For Norfolk, they hosted Lehigh Valley in their final home game as an AHL franchise and won 4-2. Shea Theodore had a goal and an assist for second star honors.

Last Meeting: January 24 in Norfolk, the Penguins won in overtime 3-2. Tom Kostopoulos scored the game winning goal.

Record: For WBS: 43-24-3-4 (93 pts., 2nd place East Division) — For NOR: 27-38-6-4 (64 pts., 5th place East Division)

Why you should care: Penguins gave up the East Division Championship to Hershey last night but can still clinch home ice in round one with a win and a Syracuse loss. They battle a Norfolk team that will be emotionally drained after playing their final AHL home game in Virginia last night. The Admirals won’t be a pushover though as they will battle to the bitter end in their final game as an AHL franchise.

Referee(s): Jon McIsaac

Linesmen: Leo Boylan / Scott Pomento

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @NorfolkAdmirals

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /NorfolkAdmirals

Instagram: wbspenguins / NorfolkAdmirals

Beat Writers: @CVBombulie and @TLTomVenesky

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For NOR: Pete Michaud @AdmiralsVoice

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep / @BeneathTheScope / @ShawnDulin

Radio: For WBS: WILK News Radio / For Norfolk: AM 1650 WHKT

Television: AHL Live

Promotion(s): Fan Appreciation Night, sponsored by McDonald’s / Penguins Jersey Off Their Backs

Other Game to Watch: At this point it’s all about Syracuse, who host Bridgeport tonight.

Remaining Game: @ LV 4/19

The Devil You Say? — Pens LOSE 4-0

ALB          vs.          HER

4                                               0

I hate when I foreshadow bad things….

The Albany Devils are locked up in a playoff battle for the eighth and final seed in the Calder Cup Playoffs with three other teams. The Penguins, without key defensemen and some scorers, didn’t match the intensity that the Devils had and fell flat and lost by a score of 4-0 tonight.

Call it a matchup problem. Call it half of the usual defense corps either hurt or on recall to Pittsburgh. Just don’t call it Matt Murray’s fault.

Matt Murray was not named AHL MVP today. That honor went to Manchester’s Brian O’Neill. I can’t explain why a player that was named as a Second Team AHL All-Star was nominated as the league MVP, but the Texas Stars media contingent put it into words nicely. Check that out if you are so inclined.

Anyway, back to matters at hand. The Hershey Bears won 3-2 tonight over the Binghamton Senators and the Bears are the East Division Champions. It really never was or shouldn’t have been in doubt that the Bears were going to win the Division, the Penguins just made it interesting and really controlled their fate the entire time.

Matt Murray opposed Scott Clemmensen, who by rights was great when he needed to be.

Lines were…

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Josh Archibald – Jayson Megna – Kasperi Kapanen
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Nick D’Agostino – Barry Goers
Danny Syvret – Alex Boak
Steven Shamanski – Clark Seymour

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Remember those days when Barry Goers was the seventh defenseman? Those were the days.

First Period: Historical matchup problems against the Albany Devils coupled with a first period that had absolutely no flow whatsoever played right into the hands of the Devils, who got two goals in the period. The first by Stefan Matteau, swooping in on a puck unmarked to give the Devils a 1-0 lead and again by Joe Whitney, who was the beneficiary of a bad turnover in the neutral zone by the Penguins that made it 2-0.

Second Period: Came and went with no scoring that had better flow. Penguins had some chances but Clemmensen was up to task.

Third Period: Albany quickly made it 3-0 off of a set face-off play. Soon after, a puck banked in off of Murray and it was 4-0 and the rout was on. Penguins called time out after that, looked better, but were held off of the board. Teams traded the only power plays awarded all game late in the third but did not score and that was it.

Three Stars: 3) Stefan Matteau (goal, +2) 2) Darcy Zajac (goal, assist, +2) and 1) Scott Clemmensen (22 save shutout)

Around the Division: You already know about the Bears winning and congrats to them on the East Division Championship. Remarkable turnaround from last season, missing playoffs. Norfolk beat Lehigh Valley in their last ever AHL home game by a score of 4-2. Both teams with long bus rides back to Pennsylvania. Norfolk to Wilkes-Barre, Phantoms to Hershey. I’m guessing Hershey, with the division in hand and the 2 seed locked up, will dress a bunch of new guys against the Phantoms.

Standings: Hershey 98 — Penguins 93 — Lehigh Valley 74 — Binghamton 74 — Norfolk 64

Conference: 1) MCH (107) 2) HER (98) 3) HFD (93) 4) WBS (93) 5) SYR (92) 6) PRO (89) 7) WOR (88) 8) SPR (84)

Syracuse lost in overtime to Adirondack tonight and Worcester beat Providence. Worst that Wilkes-Barre can finish now is fifth. They can lock up the four seed with a win tomorrow and a Syracuse loss for sure. After that, well….I wish I was good at math.

Wheeling Update: The Nailers are off, but they beat the Toledo Walleye Thursday for a 1-0 series lead in that best of seven. Game 2 goes Saturday.

SendToNews Highlights: Aren’t up yet. I wonder if the Penguins will even bother.

Pens back at it against Norfolk tomorrow at 7. Gameday for that up Saturday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!!


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