Chirps from Center Ice

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

Zatkoff’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve — Pens WIN 2-0

HER        vs.        WBS

0                                         2

The Penguins may have a lineup stripped of all of their scorers and stars, but one steady remains. His name is Jeff Zatkoff. His numbers this month? 6-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and a .955 save percentage, including two shutouts.

If that isn’t enough to win AHL’s Goaltender of the Month for December, I would love to see the guy who does.

Zatkoff’s 24 save performance is enough to propel the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins to a 2-0 win over the rival Hershey Bears and a four point cushion over Hershey in the East Division Standings.

Zatkoff was opposed by Philipp Grubauer, starting his second game in less than 24 hours. Grubauer aided the Bears to a 2-1 win over Norfolk last night.

Wilkes-Barre got help from Pittsburgh in the form of Dominik Uher and Brian Dumoulin. That said, this is what the lines looked like tonight…

Conor Sheary – Nick Drazenovic – Tom Kostopoulos
Sahir Gill – Carter Rowney – Josh Archibald
Tom Kuhnhackl – JS Dea – Dominik Uher
Pierrre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Zack Torquato

Taylor Chorney – Brian Dumoulin
Reid McNeill – Barry Goers
Nick D’Agostino – Alex Boak

Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray

Notes: Reid McNeill was back from his illness. It was reported yesterday that he was being isolated from his teammates and tested for possible mumps….Clark Seymour took warmups but was scratched.

First Period: Went scoreless. Wilkes-Barre had three power play opportunities in the period but were up against the AHL’s top penalty killing unit in Hershey.

Second Period: Hershey got a power play chance. Wilkes-Barre really took advantage of opportunities shorthanded, Carter Rowney had a Grade A chance. Fun fact, the Penguins have yet to score or be scored on shorthanded.

Conor Sheary was everywhere this game. He created chance after chance. Late, Cameron Schilling was booked for interference with under a minute to play. On the ensuing power play, Brian Dumoulin found space at the top of the blue line, fired and Tom Kostopoulos got a stick on it for the deflection goal to put the Pens ahead 1-0.

Big goal at the time, because to this point, it was a chess match.

Third Period: Grubauer would exit with a lower body injury. He would go down to make a save and not get back up. He needed assistance off. Just prior to, he absolutely robbed Sheary with the pad. Sheary never was able to elevate the puck.

Enter Pheonix Copley. Penguins power play. Nothing doing.

Tom Kostopoulos and Hershey captain Dane Byers fought. Byers took down Kostopoulos with a big overhand right.

Wilkes-Barre had to then kill two consecutive penalties. With shot blocking and big time saves from Jeff Zatkoff, they were successful.

Dominik Uher picked off a Bear right in front of Copley and scored with under a minute to play to make it 2-0. Uher’s birthday is December 31.

Three Stars: 3) Dominik Uher (goal, +1) 2) Tom Kostopoulos (goal, even) 1) Jeff Zatkoff (24 save shutout)

Around the Division: Binghamton beat Lehigh Valley at home 6-2. Norfolk was off.

Standings: Penguins 41 — Hershey 37 — Binghamton 33 — Lehigh Valley 33 — Norfolk 25

Conference: 1) MCH (48) 2) SPR (46) 3) WBS (41) 4) SYR (44) 5) HFD (38) 6) HER (37) 7) PRO (35) 8) POR (35)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off today. They are in Fort Wayne, Indiana Friday.

You Tube highlights…

Worth noting that Pittsburgh is finally getting healthy again. It looks like a defenseman and two forwards will be on the way back soon, likely in time for Friday’s game vs. Binghamton. I may drop a blurb in on the blog here Thursday. If not, next blog update will be the Friday setup vs. Binghamton.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

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