In case you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, I wrote the game story for the Citizens’ Voice tonight. Look for that in Sunday’s paper.
I wanted to lead that story with something like John Hynes must want his ECHL lineup back. That’s because the Penguins have lost again, this time 4-3 to the Syracuse Crunch with a lineup more similar to his November lineup than his December lineup, that won 7 games and extended their lead on the East Division.
I can’t really put my finger on what is up with this team. Norfolk is big up front and that caused the Penguins issues. It has to be more than, “Syracuse is a good team.” Maybe it is and the Penguins have gotten here on smoke and mirrors. I doubt it. Wilkes-Barre is just going cold as other teams around them in the division is getting hot. It happens.
Two lineup changes for the Pens tonight. Alex Boak was in for Nick D’Agostino on defense and was more noticeable than D’Agostino was last night. I had people ask me why Boak over D’Agostino and the answer is simple. He’s a draft pick and the AHL is a developmental league. The other lineup change was Sahir Gill for Nick Drazenovic. It was a surprising move, as Drazenovic was all set to play in the game on the top line but was scratched late for Gill, who took warmups but didn’t take part in line rushes.
This game was a “I told you so” game if I ever saw one. Here’s why…
— Jasyon Megna scored two goals for the Penguins in the first period, the only offense for Wilkes-Barre in the game. It’s no secret that I don’t really like Megna. Most of it is schtick at this point, I respect him as a player but at times he makes boneheaded moves. The AHL is a developmental league and I have to remember that next time Megna does something dumb.
— Andrei Vasilevskiy won AHL Goaltender of the Month for December and even collected his award pre-game. He played in just five games in the month of December and in my opinion didn’t deserve the award. He replaced starting goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis after the first period when Gudlevskis was beat by Megna twice.
Syracuse jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when ex-Penguin Joey Mormina fired through a crowd of bodies and Philippe Paradis tipped in in and past Zatkoff.
The Crunch jumped ahead of the Penguins in the second period. Jonathan (don’t call me Audy) Marchessault scored when he batted down a high pass and backhanded a shot over the right shoulder of Zatkoff then Mike Blunden tipped in a Luke Witkowski shot after he got free when Brian Dumoulin fell down on after a Syracuse offense zone face-off win.
Wilkes-Barre mustered nothing that even resembled a comeback in the third period. Syracuse held the Pens to just a single shot on goal for much of the period. Henri Ikonen added an insurance goal off of a pass from the wall by Joel Vermin.
Late, Carter Rowney scored a goal with eight seconds left on the power play with Zatkoff vacated. Too little, too late.
Vasilevskiy was the third star after stopping 10 of 11….Marchessault took home second star honors with a goal and an assist…Mike Blunden was the first star with a goal.
Around the Division:
Nate Schmidt Hershey beat Norfolk 3-1. Nate Schmidt, down from parent Washington earlier today, nearly scored all three goals for the Bears in the win, his shot was tipped by Casey Wellman on the third Bears goal. The two teams rematch tomorrow and Hershey can jump ahead of the Penguins with a win. Lehigh Valley beat St. John’s on The Rock 4-2. The Phantoms have five games in hand on the Penguins and two games in hand on the Bears. Binghamton lost 6-1 to the Manchester Monarchs. The Senators have lost five in a row.
Standings: Penguins 44 — Hershey 43 — Lehigh Valley 39 — Binghamton 34 — Norfolk 31
Conference: 1) MCH (54) 2) SPR (53) 3) WBS (44) 4) SYR (51) 5) HFD (44) 6) HER (43) 7) POR (41) 8) LV (39)
Wheeling Update: The Nailers win at home against the Elmira Jackals 4-2. Eric Hartzell picked up the win after stopping 24 of 26. Zack Torquato had three assists.
SendToNews Highlights: Are here.
Pens get a week to regroup. They are in action again Saturday in Worcester, as they have two in New England next weekend against the Sharks and Sunday against the P-Bruins.
Content wise, I will have the Week 14 AHL Power Rankings on Monday, a post on this chart that I have been keeping up with on Tuesday and the Second Quarter Grades on Wednesday. This will be a good way to space out the content when the Pens aren’t on the ice.
In closing, thanks to the Great Jonathan Bombulie for allowing me to pinch hit for him tonight. Make sure you read all about in the paper tomorrow.
Let’s Go Pens!