Chirps from Center Ice

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

Unnecessary Points — Pens LOSE 3-2 (SO)

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Amassing points is fine, but here’s what happened with this 3-2 shootout loss at the hands of the Hershey Bears Tuesday night.

– Wilkes-Barre goes up 1-0 1:09 into the game.
– Then 2-0 a few minutes later.
– GIANT Center was a graveyard. The Bears were lifeless.
– Bears get level with two goals.
– Pens are gift wrapped a 5:00 power play to open the third period and score.
– But Hershey scores again.
– Wilkes-Barre doesn’t do anything with possession with the puck in overtime.
– Hershey wins in shootout, scoring the only goal in the activity.

Seemed like a winnable game, and they let it get away from them. Maybe it’s a game they straight up lose three weeks ago.

I don’t know, just seemed like an unnecessary point to just give away because of a lack of closure by the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins on Tuesday.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Nick Hart mentioned this in the game, but the Bears were the #1 defensive team in the AHL, and the Penguins were the #2 team. Shepard had a 1.69 GAA coming in and Tokarski a 1.70, so a goalie battle was about to ensue one would think.

Lineup wise, Raivins Ansons was out for Lukas Svejkovsky up front and Mark Friedman (sick) was out for Taylor Fedun.

First Period: Pens caught the Bears flat footed and scored two goals. Drake Caggiula just 1:09 in.

Nice.

Valtteri Puustinen with a tip in front and the Pens were up 2-0.

Hershey finally gets going with a Mason Morelli goal with under five minutes to play to get the Bears on the board.

Second Period: Jake Massie scored to bring the Bears level with the Penguins.

Penguins had more posts hit (2) than shots (1) for most of the period.

Tokarski stayed sharp, however, denying Penguin killer Ethen Frank on a breakaway to keep the score deadlocked at two.

Kale Kessy, who always plays a burr in the saddle type of game, was stirring it up all night, getting into it in the first period with Dustin Tokarski, then in the second period with Drew O’Connor. He was assessed an instigator and a fighting penalty which gave the Penguins a 5:00 power play heading into the…

Third Period: Pens get one, just one, goal on the 5:00 major power play to open the period. Nathan Legare with the goal.

+1 on the pun usage from the folks at Coal Street.

Bears net the tying goal, the third one of the game via a tip, when Mike Vecchione gets one to go past Tokarski for a 3-3 game.

Game fell into a lull where overtime felt inevitable and the feeling became a reality.

Overtime: Pens played either too conservative or too cute with the puck in the overtime period. They had the possession time in their favor but couldn’t manufacture much of anything shot wise. Hershey’s chances were fast and furious, but neither team scored.

Shootout: Third in a row for the Penguins. Sam Anas trips and scores in the bottom of the second. Alex Nylander, Sam Poulin and Drake Caggiula can’t in that order and that’s the ballgame.

Three Stars: 3) Drake Caggiula (goal, assist) 2) Jake Massie (goal, assist) 1) Sam Anas (game winning shootout goal)

The Good: Seems like they have snapped out of their funk and they are gathering points.

The Bad: As I said in the open, this result seemed unnecessary. You would win games when you go up 2-0 and/or are gift wrapped a 5:00 major power play with fresh ice in the final period of a hockey game.

Turning Point: Game seemed like it had a million of them, but that last sequence I gave you above with the Anas goal and the Shepard stop on Caggiula is the one that gets it here.

Around the Division: They all watched us.

Standings: Providence 29 – Hershey 28 – Bridgeport 26 – Charlotte 25 – Penguins 23 – Lehigh Valley and Springfield 18 – Hartford 15

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: 

They are off Friday, host Bridgeport Saturday before rematching with the Bears Sunday. Expect more in the way of effort. They were lucky, I think, in getting away with just a point.

Let’s Go Pens!

Comeback Redux — Pens WIN 3-2 (SO)

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They did it Friday, and they repeated the same feat again Saturday. Going down early, battling back late and winning in a shootout. This time 3-2 in a shootout against the Springfield Thunderbirds Saturday.

Seems like they are getting their swagger back too. It doesn’t look like anything can faze this team. They never seem out of it, etc.

Give these loser points to out of division opponents though. They gave a loser point to the Phantoms last night and the Thunderbirds Saturday. These two teams aren’t going anywhere.

Dustin Tokarski, fresh off his 200th AHL win Friday, got the night off and it was Filip Lindberg for the Pens in net against Joel Hofer for the Thunderbirds.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Corey Andonovski for Lukas Svejkovsky up front, Jon Lizotte for Taylor Fedun on defense.

First Period: Teams traded power plays but no scoring. There were an eye popping 27 shots recorded on net in the period (14 for the home team, 13 for the visitors) and one of them went in for the Thunderbirds with Hugh McGing scoring with under a minute to play with a shot. Seemed like a blown defensive coverage with a lot of standing around and pointing.

Second Period: Pens tie it on a Sam Poulin goal off of a face-off on a tip of a Lizotte shot…

But then Springfield ties it again in the final minute of the period. Will Bitten.

Third Period: I guess the way to beat the Penguins is to go up three or more goals on them because if you let them hang around they will find a way.

Valtteri Puustinen gets a glint of daylight and scores. Tie game.

That’s enough to get them to…

Overtime: Probably the most exciting one to date. Multiple chances for the Penguins to score. They couldn’t and neither could Springfield, so it was off to a…

Shootout: Both sides score in the first. No one scores in the second and Sam Poulin scores in the bottom of the third to win it for the Pens and takeaway two points from Springfield.

Three Stars: 3) Hugh McGing (goal) 2) Filip Lindberg (33 saves) 1) Sam Poulin (goal, shootout winning goal)

The Good: They never seem out of it.

The Bad: Yeah, the Cardiac Penguins are soooo back, man.

Turning Point: They bang and bang and bang and knock the door down and Valtteri Puustinen delivers for them and ties the game to get them the rest.

Around the Division: Utica beats Charlotte 3-2 in overtime…Hershey beats Hartford 1-0 in a shootout. Both goalies get shutouts in that situation. Providence beats Syracuse 6-5 in overtime. Lehigh Valley dominates Rochester 5-1, outshooting them 40-15.

Standings: Providence 29 – Hershey 26 – Charlotte 25 – Bridgeport 24 – Penguins 22 – Lehigh Valley and Springfield 18 – Hartford 15

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off Saturday.

Video Highlights: Again the AHL VideoCenter is probably for best bet for this.

Back at it Tuesday in Hershey.

Let’s Go Pens!

Drake’s Short Hands, Mr. 200 — Pens WIN 3-2 (SO)

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So Dustin Tokarski will get all the plaudits Friday night, as the 16th AHL goaltender to win 200 games, but he has Drake Caggiula to thank for getting him there.

The Penguins forward was everywhere for the Penguins in a 3-2 shootout win Friday night. When the game was at it’s dullest, Caggiula was there stirring things up. It was Caggiula’s shorthanded goal late in the third period when all hope appeared lost that propelled the Penguins to an overtime and then a shootout. It would have been perfect if Caggiula had the game winning goal in the shootout round, but his number wasn’t called.

Back to Tokarski. The Penguins may actually have him to thank in the win, as without him and the bombing of shots put on him in the second period, the game could have gotten out of hand and quickly. He’s someone to be thankful for, highlighted by this piece here by the venerable Patrick Williams.

Tokarski opposed Pat Nagle.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Shuffling of guys with lines (Puustinen up to the top line) but no lineup changes. Looks like Corey Andonovski played his way out of the lineup as he took warmups. Something may be up with Jon Lizotte though.

First Period: Louie Belpedio throws a shot at the net at the expiration of a Phantoms power play and Tyson Foerster gets a tip on it to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

(no GIFs of any of the Phantoms goals, must not be their bag)

Second Period: Goaltending adventurism by Nagle, who leaves his net to play a puck and there’s a few Penguins around but no one can put the puck in a vacated net.

Pens come in later on a 2-on-1 and Drake Caggiula can’t get one in past Nagle. Play really started to open up.

Third Period: Lukas Svejkovsky and Jordy Bellerive trade chances of being unable to score unmarked in front of the opposing goaltender.

Later, Elliot Desnoyers scores to double the Phantoms lead and the thought at the time, with the dry luck the Penguins were having offensively that since Tokarski was doing everything but score, there was no way back for the Penguins.

Well, until Valtteri Puustinen had other ideas.

His shot from the near side goes in past Nagle and in with Drew O’Connor screening. Pens down 2-1. Here’s where you think maybe they can come back.

Then, referee Mason Riley tags Kyle Olson for a baby soft trip call late and here’s where you think it’s over.

Well Drake Caggiula with the help of Filip Hållander had other ideas.

Hållander sets up Caggiula for a goal and his league leading sixth straight game with an assist when ex-Penguin Garrett Wilson plays too cute with the puck and gives it away for a goal and a tie game.

That was enough to carry the sides to…

Overtime: :05 in and Drew O’Connor draws a penalty, but the Penguins can’t score on the ensuing power play. It was then off to the…

Shootout: Alex Nylander scores in the top of the first. Dustin Tokarski denies all three skaters he faces and the seemingly impossible comeback is complete.

The Good: The never say die attitude of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

The Bad: The Cardiac Penguins are back.

Turning Point: Said to myself at the time that the Desnoyers goal that made it 2-0 is either the put away goal or the kick in the pants Wilkes-Barre needs to win. The latter proved true on this night.

Around the Division: Rochester beats Bridgeport in overtime 6-5…Charlotte does the same to Utica but 3-2…Hershey beats Hartford in regulation 2-1…Providence beats Syracuse 5-3. Springfield was off.

Standings: Providence 27 – Hershey 24 – Charlotte 24 – Bridgeport 24 – Penguins 20 – Springfield 17 – Lehigh Valley 16 – Hartford 14

Wheeling Update: Nailers lose 4-1 in Kalamazoo. Sean Josling with the goal for the Nailers.

Video Highlights: If I see them I will post them.

More Saturday after the tussle with the Thunderbirds.

Hit Hard, Hit Often — Pens WIN 5-2

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They ramped up the physicality tonight and it paid off. Wilkes-Barre wins the rematch with the Checkers on Wednesday night 5-2.

Recipe for success? Seems like they ground down the Checkers and that aggression paid off in the form of goals. See if the same level of aggression makes the flight home for a game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday. Phantoms are a lot better than the last time we saw them about a month ago.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Nathan Legare for Sam Houde up front and Jack St. Ivany for Jonathan Lizotte.

First Period: You could tell they were a lot more physical with the Checkers as opposed to Monday. Valtteri Puustinen feeds Sam Poulin on the back door for a goal to give the Pens a 1-0 lead early on.

Wilkes-Barre had to kill a penalty and Dustin Tokarski stayed busy, stopping a breakaway with a minute to play on Aleksi Heponiemi. Tokarski stopped 9 shots in the first.

Second Period: Checkers get even on the Pens when Gerry Mayherw sonnets with Henry Bowlby for a goal.

 

But then the Penguins turned up the intensity and get three goals in 2:43 to stun the Checkers.

Valtteri Puustinen with a goal on a breakaway and it’s 2-1.

Drew O’Connor takes a puck fluttering around the crease and puts it in for a two goal lead and it’s 3-1.

Tyler Sikura a few short moments later and it’s 4-1.

Here they are all in the order they occurred.

Pens get a power play, their first of the game looking to turn it into a runaway but aren’t able to convert.

Charlotte kept coming and Tokarski was pressed into some saves that kept it a three goal lead for the Penguins.

Third Period: Checkers scored to cut the deficit to two. I know what you are thinking. Here we go again. Fluky play that sees Michael Del Zotto get credit for it when the shot is deflected off of Penguins defensemen Mark Friedman and in past Tokarski.

Eyes indeed.

Pens had a power play but that hasn’t clicked in a while and was of no benefit to them here.

Charlotte puts 14 shots on and but for that fluke goal by Del Zotto, Tokarski and the Penguins defense was fine.

Friedman, in a bit of redemption, hits an empty net for a goal that iced the game away for a 5-2 Penguins lead for good.

Three Stars: 3) Michael Del Zotto (goal) 2) Filip Hallander (two assists) 1) Valtteri Puustinen (goal, assist)

The Good: I liked the response and subsequent result. Push teams around and get what you want and get out of there.

The Bad: It’s nitpicking because of the no doubt result, but there are still gaps that need to be sewn up. If the Pens don’t blow it open in the second, it’s probably a lot tighter like it was on Monday.

Turning Point: That 2:43 run they went on in the second carried them across the line.

Around the Division: Bridgeport doubles up Hartford 6-3…Hershey skates past Springfield 2-1…Providence lose a lead against the Rochester Americans and lost in OT with 5 seconds left. Americans win 4-3.

Standings: Providence 25 – Bridgeport 23 – Hershey 22 – Charlotte 22 – Penguins 18 – Springfield 17 – Lehigh Valley 15 – Hartford 14

Wheeling Update: Nailers beat the Indy Fuel 4-2. Josh Maniscalco with a goal and an assist.

Video Highlights: I probably won’t get to these. The AHL Video Cenetr will have this if you really want to see the highlights. Happy Thanksgiving!

More Friday after the Black Friday game against the Phantoms.

Let’s Go Pens!

DenisenkOH NO! — Pens LOSE 5-4 (SO)

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The resilient Charlotte Checkers went down three times in this game Monday night and picked themselves up and eventually won the game with the Penguins 5-4 in a shootout.

After going down 1-0, the Checkers tie it. Then they go down 3-1, and battle back to 3-3. They even the score again 4-4 on a two man advantage in the third period.

Resiliency was the name of the game. Both teams had it, and the gimmick of the shootout gives the Checkers the extra point.

Grigori Denisenko had the game tying goal for the Checkers and shootout goal in the bottom of the fourth to win it.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Taylor Fedun was back in on defense after missing the last game with what ended up being a minor injury, replacing Jack St. Ivany. Up front, Raivis Ansons and Lukas Svejkovsky were in for Corey Andonovski and Nathan Legare on the fourth line.

First Period: Pens couldn’t cash on a 3-on-1 and Charlotte comes the other way and cashes when Checkers captain Zac Dalpe scores on the backdoor to open the scoring.

Penguins would respond in kind with a pair of goals before the end of the period, getting goals from Filip Hållander on a tip and Jonathan Gruden on a shorthanded breakaway to give Wilkes-Barre a 2-1 lead heading into the middle frame. Here are the goals.

Second Period: Wilkes-Barre extends their lead to 3-1 with a nice Alexander Nylander tip here.

But the Checkers would not back down, evening the score before the dawn of the third period.

Logan Hutsklo hauls the mail up the ice and puts a shot on Tokarski that is saved but the rebound comes to Patrick Giles who scores to cut the deficit to one for the home team.

Then on a power play for Charlotte, the Penguins can’t get a clear and Aleksi Heponiemi scores on a laser of a shot that made it three all.

Third Period: Drew O’Connor scores on a power play that gives the Penguins a 4-3 lead.

Sick angle, great shot.

But Charlotte would see themselves on a two man advantages for 1:15 Grigori Denisenko scores to tie the game at four.

No more regulation scoring so they were off to…

Overtime: But hold on, they probably don’t even get to overtime if it weren’t for Dustin Tokarski, who made a bunch of ten bell saves in the third, none finer than this denial of a Connor Bunnaman chance late in the period.

On the overtime period, a couple of close chances, but no scoring.

Shootout: Here it is summarized in a  tweet from yours truly.

Three Stars: 3) Patrick Giles (goal) 2) Alex Nylander (goal, assist) 1) Grigori Denisenko (goal, assist, shootout game winning goal)

The Good: They scored two power play goals.

The Bad: So did their opponent.

Turning Point: One of those power play goals came on a two-man advantage. Gotta start disciplined late when you are nursing a lead in a back and forth game.

Around the Division: No one plays on a Monday in the AHL. What the hell are we even doing here?

Standings: Providence 24 – Charlotte 22 – Bridgeport 21 – Hershey 20 – Springfield 17 – Penguins 16 – Lehigh Valley 15 – Hartford 14

Wheeling Update: No one plays on a Monday in the ECHL either.

Video Highlights: 

These two teams rematch Wednesday.

Let’s Go Pens!

You’re Killing Me Smalls — Pens LOSE 4-2

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It was the penalty kill that got them tonight.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins go 3-for-5 on the penalty kill. They lose 4-2. They took a 2-2 game into the third period and saw the Islanders score early and then an empty netter at the end.

It was a winnable game too because the Islanders were slumping. It’s the Penguins now who go back to square one with a pair of games down in Charlotte, NC starting this Monday.

Here’s how they lined up…

Lineup Notes: No changes to the forwards. Jon Lizotte was back after this two game absence. Taylor Fedun was out with what JD Forrest told Nick Hart with a minor lower body injury.

First Period: Seemed a bit marred by early penalties, but the Penguins were the beneficiary of a goal out of an Islanders penalty when Ty Smith scored to put Wilkes-Barre on the board:

The Penguins were 2/2 on the kill in the first.

Second Period: Penguins fund themselves in some penalty trouble and it cost them.

William Dufour scores to tie the game at one on a power play.

Penguins would get the lead back on a Sam Poulin breakaway set up by a nifty breakout.

But then Otto Koivula scored on the power play to tie the game again, this time at two to bring the Islanders even yet again with the Penguins.

Penguins, 2/2 on the penalty kill in the first period, went 0/2 in the second.

Third Period: Kyle MacLean breaks the deadlock and scores to give the Islanders the lead. Bridgeport was building a crescendo with the chances to open the period.

(sorry, no GIF of the goal here or of the Koivula goal from the second)

Penguins get back to back chances on the power play but couldn’t come up with anything to get back on even terms with the home team. They did hit four frustrating posts in the contest.

With Lindberg pulled, Parker Wotherspoon scores an empty net goal from about 180′ away.

Three Stars: 3) Kyle MacLean (goal) 2) Otto Koivula (goal, assist) 1) William Dufour (goal, assist)

The Good: I liked the start. That was about all I liked. Bridgeport is a sneaky good team.

The Bad: Obviously the penalty kill sunk them tonight. The power play didn’t help them either there late in the third.

Turning Point: Failing to score on back to back power plays there in the third. Don’t know what happens if they do, but it’s highly likely they get to overtime and at least a point. It’s a point they are going to wish they had in April.

Around the Division: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are on a heater. They go into Providence and sweep the league leading Bruins in a weekend pair of games, tonight defeating the Bruins 3-2 in a shootout….Hershey jumps all over Hartford and beats them 6-1….Charlotte throttles Springfield 4-1.

Standings: Providence 23 – Hershey and Charlotte 20 – Bridgeport 19 – Penguins, Springfield and Lehigh Valley 15 – Hartford 12

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: If I see them I will post them. AHL VideoCenter may be your best bet with these, they seem to have all of them.

Back at it Monday in Charlotte.

Let’s Go Pens!

That’s How You Do It — Pens WIN 4-0

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So they kept it simple, navigated through a rough second where they should have gave up a goal or two, and win 4-0. Dustin Tokarski with a 26 save shutout.

Penguins only had 22 shots. Four of them went in.

This game was less about luck and just more about methodical execution. It paid off where their goaltender picked up a shutout. He also had an assist.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: I have to get the skinny on what’s up with Jon Lizotte. The reinforcements were in from Pittsburgh.

First Period: Drake Caggiula scored off a rebound to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

First lead for the Penguins in a long time. First first goal for the Penguins in a long time as well. I gave you the when’s and where’s of that in the Weekend Setup. It’s been a while.

Wilkes-Barre went 1/1 on the penalty kill in a relatively clean period.

Second Period: Bears limited the Pens to just a shot about 12 minutes into the period. It was a lopsided period favoring the Bears. Penguins escape danger when a shot by Vincent Iorio deflects off Ty Smith and into the net, but Kale Kessy made contact with Tokarski and referee Matt Menniti waves off the gol as a result of that.

Third Period: The Penguins started rough. more carryover from the second and the Bears had :20 of a two man advantage. The Penguins would kill it all entirely.

Then, the Penguins started to finally pull away. Jonath Gruden would score off the bar and in to make it 2-o Wilkes-Barre.

Dustin Tokarski would assist on that goal.

Then Sam Houde would take a nice pass from Tyler Sikura and score to open the lead up to 3-0.

Filip Hallander into an empty net salted the game away.

I used to have a standing rule that I didn’t show empty net goals but the Pens put it out there so I may as well, you know?

Three Stars: 3) Jonathan Gruden (goal) 2) Drake Caggiula (goal) 1) Dustin Tokarski (26 save shutout, assist)

The Good: They kept it simple, methodically took it a shift at a time and took down their biggest rival.

The Bad: Took five penalties. Still won, though.

Turning Point: Getting out of that early two man disadvantage in the third period I think took the air out of the sails for Hershey. It was a 1-0 lead at the time and the Bears had all the momentum. Penguins keep not simple (sense a theme?) and got out it all unscathed.

Around the Division: Lehigh Valley takes down the top team in the AHL in the Providence Bruins with a 4-2 win…Charlotte beats Bridgeport 4-1. Hartford and Springfield were off.

Standings: Providence 22 – Hershey 18 – Charlotte 18 – Bridgeport 17 – Penguins 15 – Springfield 15 – Lehigh Valley 13 – Hartford 12

Wheeling Update: Nailers beat the Walleye 2-1 in Toledo. Seasn Josling, recently assigned, had a goal.

Video Highlights: Will be up soon and I can see if I can work an edit in the morning.

Bridgeport Saturday. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!