Chirps from Center Ice

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

Split Town — Pens LOSE 5-3


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If I told you Thursday that the Penguins would split with the Charlotte Checkers, would you have taken it?

Don’t lie, you probably would. I would have.

But, after Wilkes-Barre dominated the AHL’s best team on Friday beating them 5-1 and making no lineup changes Saturday, Penguins fans were hoping for a clean sweep.

But Charlotte isn’t the best team in the AHL by dumb luck. A first period where the Checkers players figuratively returned to the parking lot and drove their automobiles onto the ice and ran over the Penguins skaters, out scoring the Penguins 3-0 and outshooting them 14-3, it was too big of a hole for Wilkes-Barre to dig out of.

But they did make it interesting, cutting the deficit to one on two occasions, but ultimately fall 5-3 in Charlotte and earn a split with the Checkers.

Tristan Jarry opposed Alex Nedeljkovic.

Lines were…

…essentially unchanged from Friday night.

First Period: The Penguins were freight trained in the period. Charlotte scored as many goals as WIlkes-Barre had shots.

Julian Gauthier at the high slot at 1:14 put the Checkers on the board early, then about three and a half minutes later Morgan Geekie went unmarked and floated to the high slot and ripped one and scored to make it 2-0.

Charlotte would add a third on a power play which took all of seven seconds. A face off win, a soft shot off the pads of Jarry to Zach Nastasiuk who swept the puck across the line to make it 3-0 for Charlotte.

Here are all three goals in one tweet:

It was a bad period for the Penguins, to say the least. They had this one sequence I am about to show you that summed up their period.

In on a two on one, they get chased down by Haydn Fleury and don’t get a shot or pass off. It was Anthony Angello with Cam Brown in on a two on one when Fleury just erased the play entirely.

Wilkes-Barre was outshot 14-3 in the period. Not good.

Second Period: Much better period by the Penguins in contrast to the first, but down 3-0 to an offensively explosive team in Charlotte meant that you need to capitalize on your chances when you can quickly.

Wilkes-Barre had a 4:00 power play off the hop that they didn’t score on but they did get several good looks on.

Then Cam Brown brought the Penguins on the board when a shot off the post by Anthony Angello was put in by Brown for his first as a Penguin.

Then the Penguins capitalized on a power play when Ethan Prow scored to bring Wilkes-Barre back to within one.

But then a bad pinch by Matt Abt put the Checkers on a break that became a scramble that was just too much to recover from. Nicolas Roy made it a two goal game.

Momentum with the Penguins, a whole other period to play, and Abt pinches and puts his team in a bit of a hole going into the…

Third Period: Penguins got nabbed with a too many men on the ice penalty that they were able to negotiate out of okay but when you need to score goals with time your enemy, taking penalties is not a recipe for success.

Cam Brown was stopped on one of Alex Nedeljkovic’s better saves of the night.

Jeff Taylor got the Penguins to within one with this goal here with under ten minutes to play.

Wilkes-Barre would continue to buzz and roll, hit another post but with time winding down Clark Donatelli would call time out and with Jarry pulled, Nicolas Roy intercepted a Penguin breakout and hit the empty net to ice the game away.

The Good: No quit in the team who were the better side in the second half of the contest. I like Cam Brown on the top line, he was one of the better players for WIlkes-Barre tonight.

The Bad: This one is a layup. The Penguins will want that first twenty minutes back.

Three Stars: 3) Zach Nastasiuk (goal) 2) Nicolas Roy (two goals, assist) and 1) Julian Gauthier (goal, two assists)

Around the Division: Good night, overall. Bridgeport loses at home to Hartford 4-2. Hershey finally beats Lehigh Valley in Allentown via an Ilya Samsonov shutout 3-0. Providence beats Springfield 4-3.

Setting up Your Sunday: Three games in the AHL, and two of them involve Atlantic Division teams. Home and home rematches of Hershey and Lehigh Valley and Providence in Springfield. You want a Bears win and the Providence / Springfield game to finish in regulation.

Standings: Charlotte 59 — Bridgepor 50 — Lehigh Valley 43 — Penguins 43 — Springfield 42 — Providence 41 — Hartford 40 — Hershey 34

Wheeling Update: 

Box here. The Indy Fuel were the opponent.

Video Highlights: If one of the teams puts them up, I will edit them in here when the other games go final.

Pens will fly home Sunday, probably have a few days off before a Friday home date against Rochester. News and other stuff as it comes here on the blog. If not, check out my Power Rankings Thursday morning.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Charlotte 1/12


Who: Charlotte Checkers

Where: Bojangles’ Coliseum

When: 6:00 p.m.

Last Game / Last Meeting: Last night in Charlotte, the Penguins won 5-1. Tristan Jarry stopped 28 of 29 shots, Teddy Blueger and Anthony Angello both had a goal and an assist each. Andrew Poturalski scored for the Checkers.

Record: For WBS: 19-15-4-1 (43 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division) // For CHA: 27-9-3-0 (57 pts., 1st place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Michael Markovic / Brandon Blandina

Linesmen: Paul Carnathan / Ken Radolinski

Why You Should Care: Last night was fun, wasn’t it? Tonight should be different because Charlotte is well coached and too talented to have a repeat performance from last night. But expect the Pens to bring the same starch that got them the win last night. Wilkes-Barre can really start to open some eyes around the division if they manage to somehow sweep the Checkers clean with another regulation win tonight.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is new and improved and a lot cheaper. Tonight’s game is also free on AHL TV, provided you have an account.

Other Game to Watch: Providence has been good of recent, they travel to Springfield who the Pens are neck and neck with right now for the four seed in the Atlantic.

Next Five Games: vs. RCH 1/18, vs. HER 1/19, vs. LV 1/21, @ BRI 1/23, @ BNG 1/26

Checkers Checked — Pens WIN 5-1


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I am assuming that you saw this tweet this afternoon about a former Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins alum.

Tristan Jarry sure did.

Facing a sudden uncertain future with the organization he plays for, Jarry goes out and pitches a gem as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins take down the American Hockey League’s best team 5-1 tonight in Charlotte.

That’s four straight wins for Tristan Jarry. If you were wondering, like me, how the Penguins netminder would respond in his next game in the wake of the DeSmith extension against the best team in the AHL, you have your answer.

Jarry can ball. He should get the start again Saturday in the rematch against a likely pissed off Checkers team to really show his value, but that decision rests with Clark Donatelli, not this writer.

He opposed Scott Darling.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Cam Brown goes top line with Blueger and Angello. Hayes goes 2RW with Johnson and Lafferty. Cramarossa drops from first to third with Dea and Haggerty. Scarfo goes in w Ölund and Burton. On defense, Chad Ruhwedel was recalled after his 14 day stay on conditioning so Jeff Taylor jumped in and was paired with Tim Erixon.

Garrett Wilson was recalled earlier in the week when Zach Aston-Reese broke his hand in a fight and Patric Hornqvist left Pittsburgh’s last game with a concussion. Aston-Reese was placed on injured reserve.

First Period: I said in my Gameday setup that the Penguins almost needed to play a perfect game against Charlotte if they wanted to have success. Well, they got it in the period. Here is how.

1) Relentless forechecking.
2) Great special teams.
3) Solid goaltending.

Jarrett Burton would open the scoring when an Ethan Prow shot is blocked and the rebound is collected and a pass swept over to Jarrett Burton to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.

Linus Ölund would score short handed to give Wilkes-Barre a 2-0 lead.

Tristan Jarry was making saves like a ninja in the crease to keep the highly potent Checkers offense in the cold with saves like these.

And Anthony Angello, who had been stymied by Scott Darling, with this fitting goal here that would end Darling’s evening and gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead.

Enter Alex Nedeljkovic.

Second Period: Penguins score quickly out of the gate when Cam Brown dropped a pass to Teddy Blueger on a three on one that Blueger finished off for a 4-0 Penguins lead.

Just defensive breakdowns by the Checkers all over the place. The Penguins to this point were reading all of the passes like they knew where they were going to go before they were even made.

Checkers finally go on the board when Andrew Poturalski scored on a two on none to cut Charlotte’s deficit to three.

Wilkes-Barre managed to kill a penalty soon after the goal scored against without any issues. Charlotte found themselves in late penalty trouble. You would have like to have seen the Penguins score a goal here to really ice the game away, but they could not.

Third Period: You wanted to see the Penguins maintain the pressure and keep pushing vs. playing to protect a lead or as I sometimes like to say, “playing not to lose.” It was working. Wilkes-Barre continued to apply pressure and get good looks throughout the period.

Wilkes-Barre would be the beneficiary of two power plays in the period and finally cashed on this J-S Dea marker that would essentially ice the game away late and made it 5-1.

The Good: Penguins played that perfect game that I mentioned in the Gameday setup this afternoon. I don’t think there is any doubt that the Penguins play better depending on the quality of the opponent. Charlotte is a team that only lost eight games in regulation coming into tonight.

The Bad: Nitpicking again cause they got one and the game really wasn’t close, but the power play could have iced this game away way earlier than with less than ten minutes to play in regulation.

Three Stars:

Around the Division: Bridgeport beats Utica 4-3 in overtime. Big win for the Sound Tigers who were winless in their last three straight comings in….Lehigh Valley loses 2-1 at home to a suddenly hot Binghamton Devils team….Springfield beats Hershey 6-2 and Providence doubles up Hartford 6-3.

Standings: Charlotte 57 – Bridgeport 50 – Lehigh Valley 43 – Penguins 43 – Springfield 42 – Providence 39 – Hartford 38 – Hershey 32

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were shutout 3-0 at home by the Utah Grizzlies.

Video Highlights: 

Pens and Checkers are back at it again Saturday at 6 o’clock. Gameday setup is yours here on the blog Saturday at 2.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Charlotte 1/11


Who: Charlotte Checkers

Where: Bojangles’ Coliseum

When: 7:00 p.m.

Last Game: Last Saturday at home against Milwaukee, the Pens lost 5-3. Anthony Angello had a goal and an assist in the loss. For Charlotte, the Checkers shutout the Toronto Marlies 5-0 on this past Sunday. Alex Nedeljkovic had a 34 save shutout. Five different Checkers scored.

Last Meeting: November 17 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins lost 6-5 in overtime. Adam Johnson had a pair of goals but Aleksi Saarela scored at 1:26 of overtime.

Record: For WBS: 18-15-4-1 (41 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division) // For CHA: 27-8-3-0 (57 pts., 1st place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Michael Markovic / Brandon Blandina

Linesmen: Tim Lyons / Scott Senger

Why You Should Care: Penguins head to Charlotte to take on the best team in the AHL this weekend for a two game set. Very important series for a Penguins team who has been playing better as of late and probably better than the last time they played the Checkers. Limit mistakes and see what happens against a Charlotte team that doesn’t quit.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is new and improved and a lot cheaper. Tonight’s game is also available on Facebook Watch.

Other Game to Watch: Chicago heads to Tucson for a weekend series against the Roadrunners. Last time these teams met it was a good series.

Next Five Games: @ CHA 1/12, vs. RCH 1/18, vs. HER 1/19, vs. LV 1/21, @ BRI 1/23

AHL Power Rankings: Week 14

We are hitting mid-January and things remain the same at the top of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings in Week 14.

Charlotte remains the top team. They can play a man short and beat you. They can play with eleven forwards and seven defensemen and beat you. No lead is safe on them, by the way. Don’t believe me? It’s what they did this past week against the opponents they played.

San Jose is still second and are starting to feel the heat from the hottest team in the AHL in San Diego who are third.

Central Division foes Chicago and Iowa round out the top five.

Click past the Wild if you didn’t link in direct to see where the rest shook out this week.


Last Week: CHA 4 @ BEL 1, CHA 6 @ BEL 3, CHA 5 @ TOR 0
It is starting to become obscene with how good this team is right now. Starting to open up a lead on Bridgeport (9).


This Week: vs. WBS 1/11, vs. WBS 1/12, vs. BRI 1/15, vs. BRI 1/16
Record: 27-8-3-0


Last Week: SJ 3 @ SD 4, SJ 2 @ ONT 1, ONT 1 @ SJ 3
San Jose starting to open up a bit of a lead on second place Tucson now. It’s four points right now as we hit mid-January.


This Week: vs. ONT 1/11, vs. STK 1/13
Record: 21-7-1-3


Last Week: SJ 3 @ SD 4, SD 4 @ ONT 1, SD 7 @ STK 4
There is no hotter team right now than the San Diego Gulls. Points in their last 12 games and just six points from the Barracuda for tops in the Central. A Central Division trip is going to prove to be a big test.


This Week: @ MIL 1/12, @ IA 1/14, vs. TEX 1/16
Record: 18-11-1-3


Last Week: SA 3 @ CHI 0, SA 1 @ CHI 3
Split a fun series with San Antonio but are feeling the heat from Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and back in the division. Head to Arizona this weekend.


This Week: @ TUC 1/11, @ TUC 1/12, vs. GR 1/16
Record: 21-12-3-1


Last Week: RFD 0 @ IA 3, IA 2 @ RFD 6, IA 4 @ SA 5
Two losses this week close things up on the Wild’s grip on the Central Division as we enter mid-January. Dangerous games ahead.


This Week: @ SA 1/11, @ TEX 1/12, vs. SD 1/14
Record: 20-10-4-3

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Aye! Admiral! — Pens LOSE 5-3


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If you were in attendance at Saturday’s game agains the Milwaukee Admirals, you may be thinking that the referees, Alex Ross and Mitch Dunning were awful and cost the Penguins the game. One that the Penguins lose 5-3.

Here is where I am going to tell you you are dead wrong.

Let me set it up for you. The Penguins were in a 4-1 hole early in the third period when J-S Dea and Teddy Blueger scored goals a little over 90 seconds apart from one another and it’s a one goal game all of a sudden. Wilkes-Barre was rolling and the Admirals heads were spinning. Milwaukee head coach Karl Taylor called time out to try to calm things down a bit.

Then, Emil Pettersson puts this shot on net.

I am sorry. That shot needs to be stopped.

Those are not spectacular numbers from your back up. The Penguins play a bunch of Friday-Saturday hockey games in the month of January with the exception being a 1:05 start on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and a 10:30 Wednesday kids day road start in Bridgeport on January 23. The moral of the story is that if I am Clark Donatelli, I tell Tristan Jarry that he better eat his Wheaties cause it’s his net from now on.

The Penguins are in a dogfight for a playoff spot. They are in an OK spot for now, but it’s games like these that will have Wilkes-Barre kicking itself if it is mid-April and a playoff spot still isn’t sewn up. With numbers like Peters has been giving you lately, you have to take the option and either let Tristan Jarry play all the games or call up your NHL contracted goaltender in John Muse from Wheeling and let Muse back up or get starts.

On Peters, the Cincinnati Cyclones own his ECHL rights, so the Penguins can’t just send him to Wheeling. The Cyclones and Nailers play in the same division so sending Peters down is a fighting with your family situation. Unless the Penguins flip Peters in a trade, they are in a precarious position unless Peters can regain the magic of old.

He opposed Troy Grosenick.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Haggerty and Cramarossa swap spots. Burton up to third with Dea and Haggerty, Cam Brown yields to Linus Ölund on fourth line.

First Period: Patrick McGrath and Mathieu Olivier fought. A draw in my book but you can be the judge.

Anthony Angello connected on a power play goal on a double minor to Jeremy Gregoire for high sticking and the Pens were on the board first.

Off the post and in.

Second Period: Pens give up a shorthanded goal to Emil Pettersson which tied the game at one.

Frederic Allard hooked Sam Lafferty down on a breakaway and the Penguins were on the power play. A power play which included Jimmy Hayes getting ice time which I cannot explain, but Allard served his two minutes, was sprung on yet another breakaway against given up by Wilkes-Barre but was denied by Peters. Yet, Nicholas Baptiste was there to clean up the wreckage and the Admirals went on top 2-1.

Refs Ross and Dunning may have or may not have, depending on your view, started losing control of the game. They called Anthony Angello for a cross checking penalty when a linesman couldn’t drop a puck the right way. That set the Penguins off a bit because it seemed at the time that the game was spiraling out of control and the Admirals were getting all the calls.

Ex-Penguin and current Admirals captain Jarred Tinordi scored in a pile with players draped all over Peters that made it 3-1.

Third Period: Tanner Jeannot connected with a power play goal on the front end of a Sam Lafferty double minor for high sticking and it was 4-1.

J-S Dea and Teddy Blueger score on top of one another and it’s 4-3…

Nice setup from Jimmy Hayes.

Blueger hits the post, Anthony Angello collects the puck and feeds Blueger again for the goal. Nice play.

You already know from the lede what happened next. Emil Pettersson from the slot and it’s a hole that Wilkes-Barre can’t dig out of.

Jarrett Burton fans on a wide open net on a nice feed which could have maybe changed the complexion of the game. Burton has to bury that chance.

Ben Sexton got crushed on an open ice hit and left the game with a probable concussion.

Matt Abt had a nice hit.

Big deal. That will probably get him a few more games when Chad Ruhwedel gets recalled at the end of his conditioning stint. He’s been questionable too, even paired up with the All-Star Ethan Prow.

The Good: The fight that the Penguins showed in the third period early is a promising sign. It was game that they should have won.

The Bad: The backup goaltending is a mess. You have a guy in Peters on an AHL deal that can’t get sent to your ECHL affiliate because of a technicality and a NHL contracted goaltender buried in the ECHL. Sorry, there is no time to “play your way” out of a funk especially with how tight things are now for the #3, #4 and #5 spots in the Atlantic and most especially with a road trip to Charlotte coming up next weekend. If a plan is to give Tristan Jarry only one game next weekend, then call up Muse and bring him to Charlotte and have he and Jarry split Friday / Saturday. Anthony Peters should not see the net in a live fire game for the rest of the month, in this writers opinion.

But like I say countless times before, I just blog about this team, I don’t coach it.

Three Stars: 

Around the Division: Charlotte wins again with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen in Belleville 6-3. That team is just not fair….Bridgeport drops its third straight, this time in Binghamton 3-2…Lehigh Valley loses in Hartford 3-1…Springfield beats Providence 5-3 and Hershey beats Grand Rapids 6-4.

Standings: Charlotte 55 — Bridgeport 48 — Lehigh Valley 41 — Penguins 41 — Springfield 39 — Hartford 38 — Providence 35 — Hershey 32

Lehigh Valley and Springfield play Sunday. You just hope that it doesn’t get to overtime.

Wheeling Update: 

Box here. John Muse stops 29 of 31 shots and was names third star.

Video Highlights: 

Pens are off until next Friday in Charlotte. If there are news and notes I will note it here. Power Rankings next Thursday for sure.

Let’s Go Pens!


Blame the referees all you want tonight, the Penguins were rolling in the third, digging out of a hole and cut it to one but could not get a save from back up Anthony Peters and on a night where Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport lose in front of the Penguins, they lose 5-3 to Milwaukee.

More in a bit.