Chirps from Center Ice

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

The Mask Goes Over Your Nose

Today, I guess in conjunction with Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement earlier in the day easing some pandemic restrictions notably to indoor events, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced that beginning March 19 they will begin to allow fans into the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

From the release it reads, in part…

The Penguins have targeted Friday, Mar. 19 as the first game to welcome fans back to the arena. This date gives the arena staff ample time to complete updates aimed at giving visitors the safest experience possible when attending games.

Penguins Season Ticket Members will be given priority to purchase tickets to upcoming games with exclusive access to pre-sale dates, determined by their current ticket plans. Detailed information concerning on sale dates will be sent directly to season ticket holders later this week.

Any tickets not purchased by Season Ticket Members will be made available to the general public as available.

Mohegan Sun Arena has been in the process of undergoing numerous enhancements to the venue to ensure patron safety including replacing restroom tile flooring with resin epoxy, installation of touchless bathroom fixtures, plexiglass partitions around concessions areas, removal of fabric seating with easy-to-clean vinyl coverings and activation of the ASM Global VenueShield program providing the highest levels of safety, security and consumer confidence, in alignment with approvals from local government officials and health care experts.

Fans attending games will be required to adhere to social distancing protocols while inside the arena, and mask wearing will be mandatory for all fans over the age of two. Additional safety protocols will be announced prior to the first game.

The Penguins have a total of 10 home games left in the season, which runs out to the middle of May.

Five year season ticket members (STMs) get priority first, then three year STMs, and so on and so forth.

I’m not here to tell you right from wrong. If you are fully vaccinated and want to go, go. Just remember to wash your hands, wear a mask and stay six feet apart. Nothing in the Wolf announcement changes that. The Penguins are a top class organization and wouldn’t announce this and host people if they didn’t think it was safe.

If you don’t want to go because of concerns, that is fine too. No one should judge your decision, either way.

Just remember, the mask goes over your nose.

Stay safe.

Sweeps Week — Pens WIN 5-4 (OT)

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They were in a tight one tonight with a good team.

Back and forth they went, punching and counterpunching with Lehigh Valley.

Wilkes-Barre wins this one 5-4 in overtime. It was the battle of the backups, Shane Starrett for Wilkes-Barre and Felix Sandstrom for Lehigh Valley and I would say that both goalies showed themselves well.

The Penguins sweep the week against in state rivals and get six points out of the week. Not bad.

Lineup: 

Lineup Notes: Schilkey and Drozg swap spots. New third line with reinforcements back from Pittsburgh; Sam MIletic and Jordy Bellerive, Stevens and Joly went out for those two. Defense pairing unchanged. Shane Starrett made his debut in net for the Penguins.

First Period: Seems like both teams chased a bit all period and it was fair that it was 1-1 after 20 minutes.

Felix Robert opened the scoring with this nice goal leading a two on one.

But then Zayde Wisdom had a no look pass to Max Willman who connected for a goal which tied the game.

Wilkes-Barre would kill consecutive penalties.

Pretty even period. Shots nine a piece. I don’t think either team really liked they way that they played in the period.

Second Period: Jody Bellerive opened the scoring with this nice play from a pass from Sam Miletic.

I couldn’t tell live and still can’t really tell on replay if the puck ever even touched the ice when it got to Bellerive when he shot it. I mean it had to, right? What a play that gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

But, as the theme went all night, the Phantoms would score again when Max Willman continued his terror over the Penguins with this shot…

Which pinballed off of two Penguin defenders and handcuffed Starrett. Tie game yet again.

This time, the Phantoms would take the lead when Ryan Fitzgeral would clean up a puck to the right of Starrett and put it home to give Lehigh Valley a 3-2 lead on a power play.

But the Penguins would respond in kind.

Thank you Taylor for the description there and the video. You saved me a few keystrokes.

What a wild period with momentum swings flying in each direction.

Third Period: :27 in and Sam Miletic, fresh from reassignment from Pittsburgh, gives the Penguins a 4-3 lead.

Rebound of a Bellerive offering there I think.

Things settled a bit from here on the scoring front until Zayde Wisdom scored a power play goal. Penguins think they have it, go to clear, turn it over and before you know it Jon Pizotte is doing pirouettes in the slot and it’s a tie game yet again.

Overtime: 

Just :40 in and Freddy Gaudreau takes a gift of a turnover by Max Willman and goes to the net and scores to win it for Wilkes-Barre.

Just a bonehead turnover there. Goalie had no chance.

Three Stars: 3) Jordy Bellerive (goal, assist) 2) Max WIllman (two goals) 1) Freddy Gaudreau (overtime game winning goal, assist)

The Good: They seemed unfazed tonight in a game they very well could have lost. In this forced season in the midst of a pandemic, you aren’t playing 10+ opponents like you have in years past. Just be good against Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Binghamton and Syracuse. It seems like that is the plan and it looks like it’s working.

The Bad: I thought referees Mike Dietrich and Mason Riley were fine tonight. The Penguins had just one power play attempt and the Phantoms had five. You have to button that up going forward.

Turning Point: You all would have been happy with five of six points, so the Gaudreau goal that gave the Penguins the win is the obvious choice here. It gave the Penguins maximum points for the week.

I’ve decided to not pay any attention to the division play unless or until there is an announcement on playoffs. I don’t think there will be, so I don’t honestly think what Hershey, Syracuse, Utica, Rochester, Binghamton or Lehigh Valley do when the Penguins aren’t playing them matters. If there is something that comes down from Springfield that forces me to, then that will go here.

They are off now until a midweek game against Syracuse which will be televised again locally and out in Pittsburgh at 5. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!

Stay safe.

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 2/27

Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: PPL Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game / Last Meeting: Last night in Wilkes-Barre the Penguins won 4-2. Jan Drozg, Felix Robert and Jon Lizotte scored a goal and assisted on another. Zayde Wisdom and Max Willman scored for the Phantoms in the loss.

Record: For WBS: 3-2-1-0 (7 pts.) — For LV: 4-1-1-0 (9 pts.)

Referees: Mike Dietrich / Mason Riley

Linesmen: John Rey / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: Can the Penguins keep this momentum they have going? Seems like they can’t do anything wrong and they have been p[laying some airtight hockey. How does that translate away from the friendly confines of Mohegan Sun Arena?

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Next Five Games: vs. SYR 3/3, @ BNG 3/6, vs. LV 3/8, @ SYR 3/13, vs. LV 3/19

Pretty Convincing — Pens WIN 4-2

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Seems like they are coming together.

You could see it last Saturday in a close game and loss in Hershey. They said all the right things, it felt like a win despite a loss, etc.

Wednesday in the rematch with Hershey they play a complete game, probably the best game of the young season and hand the Bears their first regulation loss of the season.

Easy to replicate against the Phantoms, yeah?

In this case, certainly. A 4-2 win against the first of many with Lehigh Valley, handing the Phantoms their first regulation loss of the 2021 season.

These Penguins are trending in the right direction. Up.

Max Lagace opposed Zane McIntyre.

Lineup: 

Lineup Changes: 

Narrator: Anthony Angello was already recalled, you dummy. Pittsburgh re-assigned Jordy Bellerive at 5.

First Period: Pens struck first and quickly, Will Reilly with a shot through traffic that beats Zane McIntyre through the five hole to give that gives Wilkes-Barre an early 1-0 lead.

Wilkes-Barre would find itself in a bit of penalty trouble when they had to kill off a five on three. Lehigh Valley’s power play was dead last coming into today’s action or else the Penguins would have been in big trouble. A late block of a pass by Kevin Czuczman, playing in his 400th AHL game, at the end of the period while Wilkes-Barre was still killing the two man disadvantage was a key point.

Second Period: Jon Lizotte beats McIntyre through the five hole for a goal that gives the Pens a 2-0 lead.

About :20 later, Phantoms rookie sensation Zayde Wisdom does this:

You aren’t supposed to be able to that that at his age in this league. Two defenders riding him, he steps by them like they aren’t even there, makes another move and flips it into the net to respond.

Penguins would get McIntyre again through the five hole when Jan Drozg tips in a Lizotte shot which gave the Penguins a two goal lead.

Third Period: Felix Robert scores on an absolute dart to make it 4-1 Penguins.

High quality snipe by the neophyte, if I can steal a line from Clyde Frazier.

Max Willman would respond about :40 later as an uncontrolled, pinballing puck is collected by Max Willman and put in to bring the Phantoms back within two.

(Taylor didn’t GIF this one, use your imagination)

They clamped it down from there, I was almost waiting for them to make a mistake but that never happened despite Lehigh Valley getting some power play opportunities.

Three Stars: 3) Felix Robert (goal, assist) 2) Jon Lizotte (goal, assist) 1) Jan Drozg (goal, assist)

The Good: Doesn’t seem like there are any leaks right now with this team. The earlier issues have been buttoned up, team looks great.

The Bad: When you are struggling to come up with something, you know it was a good game.

Turning Point: Going to give it to Robert tonight and his goal that gave the Penguins a 3 goal lead at the time in the third period. The Willman goal got the Phantoms closer, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The two teams rematch Saturday in Allentown.

Around the Division: I don’t even know if Rochester or Utica or those other teams in the division are playing or not. Hershey and Binghatom are. That box is here. I don’t think there is going to be a playoff this season. If there was, you would think they would have announced something by now. They haven’t.

Gameday setup here Saturday at the more conventional 3 pm.

Highlights will be posted as a later edit provided I can get back around to a computer screen.

Let’s Go Pens!

Stay safe.

GAMEDAY: vs. Lehigh Valley 2/26

vs. 

Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena

When: 5:00 p.m.

Last Game: Wednesday at home against Hershey, the Pens won 4-2. Radim Zohorna had a pair of goals and assisted on another. For Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms were in Newark taking on the Binghamton Devils on Wednesday and won 5-4 in overtime. Max Willman had a pair of goals, including the one in overtime.

Record: For WBS: 2-2-1-0 (5 pts.) — For LV: 4-0-1-0 (9 pts.)

Referees: Reid Anderson / Patrick Hanrahan

Linesmen: Richard Jondo / Tyler Loftus

Why You Should Care: First time this season that these rivals meet. Always a measuring stick, always competitive and depending on what side you are on, always fun. The Pens dealt the Bears their first regulation loss on Wednesday, can they do the same for the Phantoms tonight?

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Next Five Games: @ LV 2/27, vs. SYR 3/3, @ BNG 3/6, vs. LV 3/8, @ SYR 3/13

Loco for Zoho! — Pens WIN 4-2

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Maybe too early to call it a breakout game for Radim Zohorna, who had a pair of goals and assisted on another in this 4-2 Wilkes-Barre win Wednesday night, but more games like this from the rookie and you can probably point back to this night as to where it all started.

The Penguins deal the Bears their first regulation loss of the season in probably their most complete game of the 2021 campaign. They were close Saturday when the last played against these Bears, but they didn’t get any offense and one player, Connor McMichael, supplied all of the offense for the Bears. Tonight, I didn’t hear play by play man Nick Hart say McMichael’s name very much and the Penguins get a good win against a hated rival.

Max Lagace opposed Ilya Samsonov.

Here is how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: 

First Period: Pens killed 1:06 of five on three quite effectively with some nice stick work by Will Reilly who broke up a pass attempt.

Bears got on the board first with a goal from Will Graber.

(the Bears didn’t GIF any goals and Taylor took the night off)

Radim Zohorna answered right back with a goal that tied it.

Nice play here. Guy riding him, he keeps control of the puck and scores the goal.

Second Period: Anthony Angello stuffed in a rebound of a Freddy Gaudreau shot to give the Pens a 2-1 lead.

Which didn’t really last long because Mike Sgarbossa inadvertently blocked a teammates shot, collected the puck and shot it in for a goal that tied the game at two,.

Radim Zohorna scores his second goal of the night with a very nice crossover move that put the Pens ahead. Just look at this…

Nifty move.

Third Period: Zohorna would set up Nick Schilkey for his first goal of the season with this nice pass and better shot that gave the Penguins a two goal cushion.

Penguins played it cool from there but not without some close calls. Mike Sgarbossa hits the post twice on one shift, for example.

The Bears would pull Samsonov but never found any success. Zohorna missed a chance at the wide open net and his hat trick bid.

Three Stars: 3) Nick Schilkey (goal, assist) 2) Anthony Angello (goal, assist) 1) Radim Zohorna (two goals, assist)

The Good: As I mentioned in the open, probably the most complete game of the young campaign. Seems like the wheels are chugging in the right direction.

The Bad: Can’t really come up with anything other than the start, taking three straight penalties to start the game and giving the Bears a five on three says to me that you weren’t prepared to play the right way. Thankfully, they came away unscathed.

Turning Point: Schilkey’s goal that gave the Penguins the two goal lead gets the nod here. Play an almost perfect game and get a goal to go up two, the opponent probably isn’t coming back from that.

Lehigh Valley and Binghamton also played Wednesday. Box here. They are ranking the teams by percentage because the Bears have more points than the Phantoms, but the Phantoms are ahead of the Bears coming into Wednesday’s action.

Wilkes-Barre’s next game is another televised deal on Friday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, at 5 pm.

If Coal Street runs a video package, it will go in this spot.

Let’s Go Pens!

Stay safe.

GAMEDAY: vs. Hershey 2/24

vs. 

Who: Hershey Bears

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena

When: 5:00 p.m.

Last Game / Last Meeting: This past Saturday in Hershye, the Pens lost a close one 3-1. Connor McMichael’s hat trick did in the Penguins. Zach Nastasiuk scored for the Penguins.

Record: WBS: 1-2-1-0 (3 pts.) — For HER: 3-0-2-0 (8 pts.)

Referees: Reid Anderson / Dan Kelly

Linesmen: Tom George / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: Penguins took a lot of positives out of the loss Saturday in Hershey. Lets see what they come up with this evening in Wilkes-Barre.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Next Five Games: vs. LV 2/26, @ LV 2/27, vs. SYR 3/3, @ BNG 3/6, vs. LV 3/8