Chirps from Center Ice

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

Ustimenko? UstiStinker! — Pens LOSE 5-3

           vs.            

5                                                      3

We are going to do a mailbag for Monday just so you know, so get started on your questions now.

I want to mentioned it now because as you read this recap of a 5-3 Penguins loss, you may quit halfway through like the team tonight only to remember that you have a tab open on your phone and finish strong but come up short, just like the team tonight.

I say that because it could be masked that Emil Larmi had a bad game tonight. He certainly started that way, allowing three goals on seven shots, but the Penguins, who were playing in front of the biggest crowd of the season on military appreciation night (no love for the Space Force, what the heck!) let a Lehigh Valley team run over them and run away with the game and all the Penguins did was take penalty after penalty (five total, most at inopportune times) and give up a shorthanded goal (that was one of three early ones let in by Larmi)

Kirill Ustimenko started in his first AHL game tonight for Lehigh Valley and stopped 38 of 41 shots. At times, you could have sworn that he was playing in his 100th AHL game, not his first. The Phantoms played a rounded, disciplined game and have quietly won three straight. The Penguins now have loudly lost two straight and with Charlotte’s overtime win at home against Hartford, have overtaken the Penguins for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division.

Isaac Ratcliffe beat Larmi shortside for a 1-0 Phantoms lead. Then Jamie Devane beat the tar out of Kurtis Gabriel off of the ensuing face-off. Then Kevin Roy scored to tie the game.

The Penguins started great, producing a lot of shots at Ustimeko, but after the Roy goal nothing got by.

Lehigh Valley scored a shorthanded goal when Maksim Sushko scored. Sushko scored again to make it 3-1. Penguins had to kill back to back penalties before the end of the first.

In hindsight, if I am Mike Vellucci, I pull Larmi for Casey DeSmith. The Penguins don’t play again until Wednesday and it’s a two goal deficit with time to make up ground to start the second, but he didn’t.

Kevin Roy had a breakaway that Ustimenko stopped.

But Kyle Criscuolo scored with a give and go play and it was 4-1 Phantoms.

In the third, a lollipop of a shot caromed off of Larmi and in scored by Gerry Fitzgerald.

Larmi didn’t allow anymore gaffes in net, the Penguins only took two penalties in the period offset by two taken by Lehigh Valley and then Myles Powell scored his first Penguins goal by driving the net. Later, Jan Drozg scored with seconds left to make it 5-3.

Oh, and the Penguins lost Chase Berger to injury in the first and Kevin Czuczman to injury in the second. I didn’t see what happened to Berger, but Czuczman ran into DiPauli and was knocked out. He was staggered getting helped off the ice by two other players.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was that play?

Here’s how they lined up.

Niclas Almari came out or John Nyberg.

In the division, Hershey beat Springfield 5-2 to go tops in the Atlantic after Hartford lost 4-3 in overtime to Charlotte. Bridgeport beat Providence 4-2.

Hershey leads with 65 points followed by Hartford with 64 then Charlotte and Providence with 57 then the Penguins (56) Springfield (54) Lehigh Valley (48) and Bridgeport (39)

I can’t think of anything good to come out of this. The bad was probably the shorthanded goal that they gave up early in the first. The Phantoms took the lead from there and never looked back, it’s probably the turning point too.

Reading beat Wheeling 5-3. Ryan Scarfo had a goal. Craig Skudalski did too. Funny story about Skudalski, he worked at the Ford dealership I buy my trucks from and gave me a ride over to work the one morning I dropped it off there for service.

Don’t forget about the mailbag for Monday. Pens are back in action Wednesday on the road.

Let’s Go Pens!

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