Chirps from Center Ice

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

Power Rankings – Thunderbirds Soar!

Back for Week 2 with some movement this week in the second version of these Power Rankings. There is some Atlantic Division bias here with five teams in the top ten. Sorry!

This week belongs to the Thunderbirds, who are off to a hot start. I think we knew that Ontario was going to be good and they are number two, but Utica at number three? That’s an early surprise.

Here are the rest for you in order.

RankTeamBlurbLast Week
1I mean we have seen this before with previous iterations with Springfield, but this is a good start. Wilkes-Barre and Charlotte in for some early tests.+4
24-0 start with one shootout loss to start the year, top of the Pacific. Trip to Abbotsford this weekend.+8
3Surprising start. Surprising in that if you watched this team in Binghamton last year, you never saw this. Leagues stingiest team (4 goals allowed)+5
4Bit of a drop, but not far for the Bears out of the top spot. Home cooking this week with Syracuse and Cleveland.-3
53 of 4 points from Hershey isn’t bad by any stretch.+6
6Tidy sweep of Rockford at home has the Wild at the top of the Central.+13
7Worked overtime to beat Hartford and Lehigh Valley this weekend. Will face rested Hartford and Springfield this weekend after another match midweek with the Phantoms.+5
8Good start for the Wolf Pack, racking up early points.+1
9Swept Grand Rapids at home. Hosts Iowa this weekend.+7
10Heat have the momentum on their side and are amongst the stingiest teams in the Pacific with big wins over San Diego and Bakersfield.+6
11Sweep the Admirals in a home and home and the Carolina affiliation looks better than it did last week.+17
12So that offense we talked about last week with the Crunch dried up a bit and only got the Crunch four goals against some surprising teams in Utica and Rochester.-10
13The other stingiest team in the Pacific is the Barracuda, who are winning games with defense early on. Trip to Stockton Sunday makes for an interesting matchup.+13
14Abbotsford hosted and swept Henderson in hockey’s return to the Fraser Valley this past weekend. Hosts the top team in the division Ontario this weekend.+9
15the ebbs and flows of a season. Pair of wins to start the season, pair of losses now. How will the Condors respond against Colorado and Henderson this week?-12
165 out of 6 points from the weekend is a great start to the young season. Tough road trip this week out to Syracuse then down to Hershey.+14
17Huge wins by big margins over some old rivals in Toronto and Syracuse have the Americans in third in the North.+8
18The fun and gun they displayed at home against Colorado last week was shut down in Abbotsford this weekend, including getting shutout.-14
19Stayed busy last weekend with a good old 3-in-3. Shutout a tired Laval team Sunday.+5
20Split a weekend pair with Tucson. Splits seem to be the norm with the Stars early on here.+1
21Split a pair with the Stars and are .500. Last place San Diego is in this weekend.-3
22.500 start for the Marlies, which is right where the may play all season.-2
23Swept by the Wolves this weekend. One more with Chicago then a stop in Grand Rapids.-17
24Rocket get some home cooking this week in the likes of Toronto and Rochester. Should be an interesting early matchup with the Americans.-11
25Not the best start for the P-Bruins at 1-2-1-1, one point out of a three game weekend with Charlotte and Bridgeport in next.-18
26Tight contests in Winnipeg this past weekend with the Griffins coming out on the losing end. Wins will come, eventually.-11
27Cleveland held this team to just one goal in two games. Such as life in this league and the schedule doesn’t get much easier this week.-13
28IceHogs have given up the most goals in the AHL so far.-6
29Rough start of the season for the Eagles who are in search of their first win.n/a
30Leagues best offense on paper has least amount of goals scored in the league. Oof.+1
31The only team yet to register a point. Maybe it comes this weekend in Tucson.-4

Two U’s, Two Goals, Two Points — Pens WIN 2-1 (OT)


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Masterful performance by Louis Domingue in net today a bit overshadowed by the fact that he lost a shutout in the dying embers of regulation. How long as it been since the Penguins shutout their opponent?

Anyway, Valtteri Puustinen’s two goals, one in the first and one in overtime, guarantee that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins take four points out of the weekend with a 2-1 overtime win in Allentown against Lehigh Valley Sunday.

Louis Domingue opposed Samuel Ersson. Here is how they lined up:

This visual is not correct, Jordy Bellerive was out and Michael Chaput was in. That’s the swap up front. With Kris Letting run COVID protocol up top, Pittsburgh recalled Juuso Riikola. In his place Sunday was Niclas Amari.

For the Phantoms…

First Period: You had the Puustinen goal here that highlighted the period:

Second Period: Then you had the Louis Domingue show, highlighted with this save at the death of them second period.

Penguins outshot the Phantoms 13-8 in the period, despite Lehigh Valley’s four power play opportunities.

Third Period: They kept gift wrapping power plays to Lehigh Valley and Domingue kept bailing them out. With :46 left in regulation and Ersson pulled for the extra attacker, Max Willman cleaned up a rebound of a shot from the point.

Tie game. Domingue had to make one more save at the end of the game to preserve a point for his side.

Overtime: Possess the puck. On the off chance you don’t have it, hope your goalie bails you out. With two less guys out there, there is space to make plays.

Valtteri Puustinen to the microphone.


Three Stars: 3) Sam Ersson (28 of 30 saves) 2) Max Willman (goal) 1) Valtteri Puustinen (two goals, overtime game winner)

Laughable that PPL Center has two guys in the third star selection, including the goalie that gave up the goal to end the game. Homerism at its finest, but such is life at this level.

The Good: Undeterred, they went though a methodical takedown of a floundering, faltering Phantoms offense. How good has Puustinen been?

The Bad: Nitpicking, but you would like to see them complete the job and get their goalie their shutout.

Turning Point: Puustinen’s goal in overtime gets it. You could maybe mix in a Domingue save or two, but no one remembers those, sadly.

Around the Division: Bridgeport blanks Laval 3-0….Springfield is going to be your new #1 team when the Power Rankings come out Tuesday with a 4-1 win in Providence, the Thunderbirds have yet to lose in regulation.

Wheeling and Standings: Nailers kicked off the campaign yesterday and lost. Pens, with the OT win today, bump to third in the division.

Pens and Phantoms rematch Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre.

Video Highlights: Coal Street quick on them this evening…

Power Rankings Tuesday, Weekend Preview Wednesday. I still don’t like weekday hockey games.

Let’s Go Pens!

A Good Bjork — Pens WIN 2-1 (OT)

Instead of a bad Bjork or break. Hey, it’s something.

The Penguins and Wolf Pack nearly skated to a stalemate in Wilkes-Barre Friday. There were chances aplenty for each side but no finish for either as the Penguins and Wolf Pack needed overtime to decide this one. A goal by Kasper Bjorkqvist is the deciding goal and the Penguins win 2-1 in overtime and improve their record to 2-1 on this very young season.

Filip Lindberg opposed Keith Kinkaid.

Here’s how they lined up:

Hartford didn’t post theirs. Hell, they didn’t even send a radio broadcaster. Keith Kincaid got the start, as I predicted. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again.

Lineup Notes:

No need to recall anyone for Tristan Jarry as it was a false positive. Jarry practiced today in Pittsburgh.

First Period: Both teams navigated through a penalty kill. Penguins break through off a rush where Filip Hallander scored on a rebound of a Nathan Legare shot. First pro point for Legare. First non-Finn goal scored for WBS.

With :23 left, a puck from the point hits PC Labrie who corrals it and passes to Anthony Greco who snaps it past Lindberg for a goal that tied the game at one heading into the…

Second Period: Forgettable. They had just three shots in the period despite three power plays. The power play looked disjointed, and that’s saying something after watching 10 years of this team trying to properly execute a power play.

Third Period: Better fortunes for the Penguins shot wise. Not a lot of penalties but for an offsetting roughing call. You got the sense as the game wore on that it was going to be next shot wins.

Nothing developed in the period but for this near miss by Nathan Legare that went off the post.

Seemed like there were a lot of breakaways in the game, but no one wanted to score.

Overtime: Hartford with a good 90 seconds of possession and shot after shot after shot. Then the Penguins regained possession and then were able to slowly gain entry to the offensive zone. Jordy Bellerive flips a shot that goes off of Keith Kinkaid’s pads and, well I will just let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

Three Stars: 3) Filip Hallander (goal) 2) Filip Lindberg (30 saves on 31 shots 1) Kasper Bjorkqvist (overtime game winning goal)

The Good: They managed a way to win. It was not pretty by any means, but sometimes that is what it takes.

The Bad: You can take the last sentence from above and apply it here. Seemed like the Penguins had more talent on paper but Hartford was just better in a few areas. Get a team in with more talent than Hartford and you can run into a problem.

Turning Point: The obvious goal by Bjorkqvist.

Around the Division: Charlotte beats Hershey in the Checkers home opener 5-3….Utica clips Providence in overtime 2-1….Springfield is off to a 3-0 start with a 3-1 win over the Islanders.

Standings: Still too early for these. Pens bump from 6th to 4th in the division.

They are off Saturday and back at it Sunday at 3 in Allentown. More after then.

Let’s Go Pens!


It took them forever, but they finally got the knockout blow they didn’t seem to find in regulation.

Kasper Bjorkqvist scored in overtime to sent the Penguins home 2-1 winners in overtime against a pesky and quick Hartford Wolf Pack club.

More soon.

Weekend Preview: Phantom Wolves

I don’t know about you, but I think “Phantom Wolf” would make for a hell of a team name. Maybe there is a high school somewhere in Nebraska who are known as the Phantom Wolves. All black jerseys, big, howling wolf that just intimidates opponents.

The Setup

Penguins coming off opening night weekend with a Jekyll and Hyde performance against Lehigh Valley (a win) and Charlotte (a loss) where they looked like two different teams. A gritty 2-1 win against the Phantoms followed up by a dud the next night with a 4-1 loss to the Checkers. 

Hartford comes in Friday, having their 2021-22 campaign begin with a good ol’ three in three. They beat Bridgeport last Friday 2-1 in their home opener, then lost 2-1 the next night in Springfield and then finished off the three in three weekend with a gritty 4-3 shootout win against the Providence Bruins. 

Then Penguins get Saturday night off, then square off against Lehigh Valley in what will end up being a home and home, Sunday in Allentown and next Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre. Lehigh was in Hershey last Sunday and lost 2-1. By the time the Pens face them Sunday, they will have played the Wolf Pack this Saturday night.

The Records

Coming into this weekend’s action, the Pens are 1-1, .500 and 6th in the Atlantic Division. The Wolf Pack are 2-1, .667 and 4th in the Atlantic and Lehigh Valley is in last place, 0-2 with a .000 percentage point.

Who’s in Goal

I got this completely wrong last week. I expect that to continue heading into week two, but here goes. Filip Lindberg will get one of the games, my guess Friday, and since Alex D’Orio was reassigned to Wheeling on Monday of this past week, either Tommy Nappier or maybe Louis Domingue coming off injury gets the road start Sunday in Allentown. But Domingue or Lindberg may be headed up, as it was revealed Thursday that Tristan Jarry was placed in COVID protocol. So, one of either Domingue / Lindberg are likely going up. With three goalies here, you don’t need to recall D’Orio. For the opposition, my guess is Keith Kinkaid for the Wolf Pack Friday and, with Lehigh playing the night before, backup Samuel Ersson for the Phantoms Sunday afternoon.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Oh boy, where to start. They looked like two completely different teams in each game. You want more of what you saw Saturday, obviously, than you did Sunday. But, it is a young team that will probably be chomping at the bit after a week of hard practice to get out there again for another home game Friday and then for a road trip to Allentown Sunday. Hartford can run and gun it looks like, so the Pens will need to keep that in check. Normally you know where you stand in the first ten minutes of a hockey game after a bad performance like the one you saw Sunday. Then, with Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms are getting these same Wolf Pack on Saturday, having off Friday. No one can discount the firepower that the Phantoms possess. Gotta keep that in check in a hostile environment Sunday. 

Who is running the show?

Scheduled referees as assigned by the American Hockey League are Rob Hennessey and Beau Halkidis Friday night in Wilkes-Barre and Dan Kelly, who you may remember as a referee last year and Tyler Loftus on the lines. Kelly switched to linesman late last season. For Sunday, it’s Halkidis again joined by Patruck Hanrahan calling penalties with John Rey and J.P. Waleski handling the lines.

Looking ahead…

Lehigh Valley is in next Wednesday to pay off the home and home, then the Pens take to the road with a game in Hartford next Friday and then a Saturday game in Springfield to close out the month of October.

Give us a bold prediction…

The Penguins score five goals this weekend and win both games. 

Power Rankings – Week of the Bear

To start, I want to let you know that I want to simplify things with these Rankings. They were a bear to put together each week, and a bear to maintain. I don’t like to dabble in HTML but I had to in order to make things simple every week. Not anymore. If you want to know who the Chicago Wolves, or any team, play this week or how the Stockton Heat, or any team, did last weekend, you can go here and here. If you are wondering what the record of the Laval Rocket is or, for that matter, any team, navigate here. These parts in large parts were what made the whole concept so difficult because you had to maintain 31 teams capsules of scores, records and schedules each week for each team. Again, it’s a massive project that takes away a lot of my day / week. I do this as a hobby and debated just scrapping these altogether, but decided to bring them back. It was either this or the silly stat charts, but really, who wants to look at percentages and do math? Not me anymore!

What I don’t know is where or when or really how often I will run these. Let’s go with Tuesday’s, for now, and consider it a weekly feature again.

Rank, team, blurb and where they were last week is what I am giving you. I want to keep it as simple as I can make it this year. Not only for myself but for the reader.

Anyway here they are. Theme this week is Jekyll and Hyde. Every division has one and some have two. Here they are, in all their glory.

RankTeam BlurbLast Week
1As good as we thought they would be; 2-0 and at the top of the Atlantic Division.
2Good lord that offense is potent. Down multiple goals in both games against Cleveland, Crunch storm back and win both games.
3Beat San Jose Sunday 1-0 with just 15 shots to the Barracudas 34. Reigning Pacific Division Champs are in familiar territory, at the top of the division at 2-0.
4Played fun and gun against Colorado in a pair of home contests and swept the Eagles.
5Good start for the new affiliation with St. Louis, 2-0.
6Pasted Grand Rapids in their only game of the weekend. They should all come this easy!
7Ultra competitive division and every point is going to matter. 3 out of a possible 4 points isn’t bad, but Hershey was perfect, just saying.
8It’s one game (and it was against Rochester) but a good start for the new Devils affiliate.
9Hartford outgunned opponents this weekend. Hardly sustainable, but a 2-1 start nevertheless.
103 of 4 points to start the season isn’t bad at all.
11Two more cracks against the Bears at home this weekend. Could be an early season indicator on how good the Checkers will be.
12Jekyll and Hyde performances for the Pens this past weekend against Lehigh Valley and Charlotte.
13Split a pair with Belleville in similar fashion. Good test with Providence coming Saturday.
14See Laval. They get Cleveland at home for a pair.
15Blow out win (Rockford) and a blow out loss (Milwaukee) Jekyll and Hyde? Jekyll and Hyde!
16See Grand Rapids, but substitute Toronto as the opponent.
17Split a pair at home against Tucson in front of about 2000 fans combined for both contests, and you thought your teams attendance was bad.
18This is why a power rankings at the beginning of the season is a fools errand. Roadrunners are .500 after a pair of games against Stockton. It may take a while to figure these .500 teams out.
19Bunch of teams are 1-1 in the Central, Wild are one of them.
20Jekyll and Hyde performances against Manitoba (5-1 win, 5-0 loss) – Rochester up next then Cleveland.
21Split with the Wild in close contests. Rockford next.
22One of many .500 teams in the Central.
23First win in franchise history as the top affiliate of Vancouver in shootout fashion against Ontario Sunday. Home opener against Henderson this weekend.
24Two shootout losses already. Already? Already.
25It’s one game, against Utica, but you lost to Utica!
2634 shots Sunday in Bakersfield Sunday and no goals. Held the Condors to 15 and still lost.
27You can’t take much from just one game. Gulls won’t be in last place in the Pacific for long.
28Not a good start with the new Carolina affiliation, but it is just one game.
29Gave up 11 goals in Nevada this weekend, more than any other team.
30Yeah you aren’t going to compete in this division, or any division really, when you throw away multiple goal leads.
31Potent offense on paper scored just two goals on ice. That’s why you don’t play games on paper.

Comments are there for you if you want them. I’ll be back next week, maybe, with week two.

No D’Accord — Pens LOSE 4-1


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Well, you can’t win them all.

After looking like world beaters Saturday night against Lehigh Valley, it seemed like the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins couldn’t get out of their own way Sunday, losing 4-1 to the Charlotte Checkers.

What may have helped is that the Checkers had a hell of a hand playing goal for them also.

Joey Daccord, a Seattle Kraken prospect playing in Charlotte this season with the Checkers dual affiliation, was lights out Sunday, stymieing the Penguins offense and stopping 26 shots. He was beat once, when the Penguins had a late power play and pulled starter Tommy Nappier for an extra attacker. Felix Robert was a beneficiary of a puck careening off of the back wall right to him for a goal, spoiling an otherwise stellar appearance by Daccord.

Juuso Riikola was a -3 today. The rest of the defensemen weren’t great either but Riikola was on the ice for two of the even strength goals against and was caught watching when Max McCormick skated in behind the defense midway into the third period which made it 3-0.

Tommy Nappier was the hard luck loser in goal. Kid can’t buy any run support when he is in the nets. His record in the AHL drops to 1-3 (going back to last years exhibition season)

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Felix Robert for Jan Drozg up front, the third line stayed intact. P.O. Joseph was sent down Sunday morning and replaced Chris Bigras. Alex D’Orio backed up.

“Minor” lower body injuries to Anthony Angello and Louis Domingue.

First Period: No scoring. Penguins had two power plays and didn’t score. Charlotte gave up two power play goals to Hershey the night prior, but their PK looked excellent.

Second Period: Lucas Carlsson’s shot through traffic goes in to open the scoring for the visitors:

Later, Chase Priskie with a shot that Alex True deflects in for a 2-0 lead on a power play.

Jonathan Gruden had no puck luck, multiple occasions for would be tap in goals didn’t go for him.

Third Period: Max McCormick with a stick lift on Michael Chaput and he’s in all alone for a goal.

Penguins respond with a goal late with Nappier pulled when Felix Robert breaks up the Daccord shutout bid.

I want to thank Taylor for allowing me to again run her video recaps of plays here on the blog this year.

Zac Dalpe hit an empty netter that made it the final, 4-1.

The Good: If you find something good that came out of this game, let me know.

The Bad: Man that defense stunk today. Look for changes Friday against Hartford, I would assume.

Turning Point: When they could’t score early on those two first period power plays nor muster anything indicative of a high danger scoring threat, you knew it was going to be an uphill battle.

Three Stars: 

I just noticed that the graphic doesn’t say who did what. True had a goal and an assist, Carlsson the same and Daccord stopped 26 of 27.

Around the Division: Could be worse, could be Lehigh Valley. Phantoms lose 2-1 to Hershey. Phantoms had eight power plays in that game to Hershey’s two. Hartford, here Friday, beats Providence 4-3 in a shootout. It’s the Wolf Pack’s third game in three days. Springfield beat Bridgeport 4-3 in a shootout also.

Standings: Too soon, but the Penguins are where I have them being at the end of the regular season, and that’s presently in sixth place. .500 right now. Again, it’s too soon. I’ll pick this up in due time.

Week of practice one would assume then a game Friday assist Hartford before a Saturday off then a road trip to Lehigh Valley. If not anything during the week, talk to you either Thursday or Friday for the Weekend Setup.

Let’s Go Pens!