Chirps from Center Ice

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

Bears bite Pens – win 1-0

One of my biggest concerns tonight in this 1-0 Hershey shutout of Wilkes-Barre here at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh was the fact that Hershey is “big game tested” by winning two straight Calder Cup Championships. I was concerned that the Pens would come out doe-eyed and be overwhelmed by their surroundings and the opponent. Well partially tonight at least, Hershey’s goal came late in the second off of a Keith Aucoin point shot which batted around and in behind goaltender Brad Thiessen’s net. The Pens would come close more often than not, but “close” only happens in horseshoes and hand grenades.

I could probably leave it at that and call it an evening, but you expect more out of me so here goes…but before we do, my view for this evening:

Braden Holtby v. Brad Thiessen tonight. Joe Vitale took warm ups but was the scratch. In his place, Geoff Walker. You have to think Hynes wanted him to test the leg in warm ups to see how it felt and if it felt good sit him and play Saturday v. Norfolk.

Then I saw this guy:

Then Tux and Iceburgh had a family reunion I captured:

Bobby Day made the trek from Wilkes-Barre to serve as our public address announcer.

Alright. To the game.

First period: Back and forth action. Fourth line had the best shift of the game to that point. The teams would trade penalties which would overlap so we saw 4 on 4 hockey for a spell. No one would score in the feeling out period.

Second period: Before a crowd of 13,567 Corey Potter and Steve Wagner played more shoddy defense which was bailed out again by Brad Thiessen. Brett Sterling was everywhere. He has big game experience in playing for the Chicago Wolves and at Allstate Arena in Rosemont Illinois to a packed house of nearly 10,000 on weekends. You could tell he really wanted to put on a show. Hershey’s sticks were in all of the passing lanes though. More Thiessen seeing the puck well also. Late in the second he gloved a Hershey deflection. Ryan Craig would get whistled for slashing on an odd play where Tim Wallace looked like he took a puck to the teeth. The ensuing power play would see Keith Aucoin score. Jesse Boulerice and Patrick Wellar would fight and the period would end.

At this point and even prior to it, I felt that Wilkes-Barre needed to get scored on to wake up and take control of the game. I was fully expecting something along those lines in the third period.

Third period: More Brett Sterling looking for a goal that never came. Playoff-like intensity was felt by me at least. Folks I spoke with after the game found it to be a boring hockey game. Define boring? Hershey would kill two penalties and that was it. The Pens would pull Thiessen and Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi would have the game on their sticks but did not score.

Again, it all game down to the “big game” experience I think for Hershey to hang on and win.

Three stars were Keith Aucoin, Brad Thiessen and Braden Holtby.

Around the Division: Charlotte defeated Norfolk in overtime 4-3. That was it. Hershey plays Syracuse tomorrow in a game I will keep my eye on.

Standings: It’s going to get tight around here I think. WBS sticks on 50 points for first. Norfolk sit in second with 44 points. Charlotte has 42 points in third. Hershey has 41 for fourth. Binghamton has 34 points good for fifth. Albany-Syracuse sit in sixth and seventh with 26 points each and Adirondack is last with 16 points.

I return home to Northeastern Pennsylvania tomorrow morning with the booster club. Huge game vs. Norfolk New Years night.

Thanks for having me Pittsburgh. To quote General Douglas MacArthur if I may, “I shall return.”

Go Pens.

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