Chirps from Center Ice

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

Asked and Answered 10/15

Opened up the Mailbag for your questions after four games. Let’s jump in…

Scarfo up. I wonder if there is an as yet undisclosed injury in WBS.
– CyGuy

Here’s a little insider information for anyone that wants to get ahead of these things. Normally, when a guy is coming up from Wheeling it is tipped a day in advance in the ECHL Transactions which always hit around 5 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time. The ECHL has very complex rules about rosters and such that I frankly don’t care to comprehend. Anyway, in the Transaction release Monday, Scarfo’s name was on it. Coal Street later made it official Tuesday morning.

I don’t think it’s an injury per se as much as it is just trying to get a look at what you have depth wise. Mike Vellucci went with the same forward lineup and didn’t switch up the lines at all Sunday in Hershey from Saturday at home against Utica. For all of he misconceptions about the way that Clark Donatelli ran a bench, he always switched things up. Perhaps its a coaching philosophy thing, I don’t know.

Here were Sunday’s lines…

Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi and Adam Johnson are all in Pittsburgh. That leaves you with…

  • Ben Sexton. Hurt.
  • Justin Almeida. They kind of forced him into duty Friday in Allentown when Andrew Agozzino was returned to Wilkes-Barre late that day. I didn’t notice him as much as I should have but collectively, the Penguins were bad Friday.
  • Jamie Devane. Hurt.

So it does make sense to have an extra healthy forward if you aren’t going to use Almeida with Devane and Sexton are still a few weeks away. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice Nick Hart on radio call out that a player was missing on the bench Sunday. They didn’t practice Monday so we will have to wait and see if someone did pick up a knock, but I like my theory better.

Steve Oleksy was released Saturday. Seems they didn’t really give him a shot.
– Dave

I disagree. They have nine defensemen on the NHL roster that they don’t know what do do with and a lot of defensemen in Wilkes-Barre on NHL contracts. They also have a veteran overage problem when healthy. Oleksy has those two things (he’s a veteran defenseman) working against him. There is no practical room for yet another defenseman, a veteran no less, eating up minutes that your rookie defenseman could be in the same situation in. It’s just how development at this level works.

Who do you think Matt Abt has incriminating photos of?
– Mike

I know I haven’t released my expanded charts quite yet because of the busy week of the mailbag, a Wednesday home game and the AHL Power Rankings coming Thursday, but Abt has been on the ice for six total goals against (five at even strength). I’d counter that Abt in comparison to his other defensive partners has company, because everyone as a unit have all been bad. Wilkes-Barre is only carrying seven defensemen right now, with Michael Kim as the extra. There are no players with Pittsburgh right now other than John Marino and Juuso Riikola who can come down without waivers. (Zach Trotman maybe, but he is currently injured and needs waivers) In Wheeling you have Blake Siebenhaler and Macoy Erkamps as viable recalls. Both are righties (Abt is a southpaw) and the only right hander on the WBS blue line is Niclas Almari. So you are kind of really stuck with Abt right now on a defensive unit who hasn’t really lit the world on fire through four contests. Hang in there.

Jason, your crystal ball please: barring a trade, who comes back when/if Pittsburgh gets healthy?
– John M.

I think it’s simple. Of the injured guys you have Evgeni Malkin, their second best player; Alex Galchenyuk, a guy they acquired when they traded Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust who they wanted playing with a line with Malkin and Galchenyuk. Pittsburgh’s entire fourth line on Sunday against Winnipeg was Wilkes-Barre call-ups. That said, provided no one else gets hurt, you’re looking at Joseph Blandisi, Sam Lafferty and Adam Johnson all heading back at some point, unless there is a trade. You aren’t sitting any combination of Malkin, Galchenyuk or Rust for Lafferty, Johnson or Blandisi, you just aren’t. So they will all be back in due time.

What is going on with Dustin Tokarski?
– Barbara T.

Good question. Honestly, they are trying to swing a trade for one or two of their excess defensemen and probably Tristan Jarry. So essentially what they want to do is continue to have Emil Larmi develop as a backup, keep letting Casey DeSmith get starters reps and let Tokarski rest up for good what ever it has been which has been ailing him. He’s a pro who has won two Calder Cups. He doesn’t need the miles on him now if there’s a logjam organizationally. Eventually, something will happen where Jim Rutherford swings a trade that frees up movement where DeSmith is recalled again and order is restored with Tokarski and Larmi as your one-two in Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins least worry right now is in goal. You basically have a Calder Cup winning goaltender waiting on the shelf ready to play whenever the coach taps him on the shoulder. This is a good thing.

Good mailbag again. Solid questions. Thanks for participating. We will do it again the final week of October after five more games to see where we are at that point.

Mailbag Monday 10/14

After a weekend three in three, the first of seven total for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this season, it’s time to reopen the Mailbag for your questions this week. What you’ve liked, what you didn’t like, what can be improved after the Penguins 1-2-1-0 start.

If you participated in the first mailbag, then you know how this goes. Leave your name (it doesn’t have to be a real one) and your thoughts / comments in the form below. Depending on input, I’ll string together a post Wednesday morning or afternoon before the Gameday setup against Binghamton at home later that evening.

This Mailbag is closed. Check back for another on on or around October 28, 2019!

Boy Oh Boyd — Pens LOSE 5-1


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The Penguins looked tired and non-competitive in a Sunday afternoon start in Hershey and lost 5-1. Travis Boyd had a big day, scoring two goals and assisting on another. The Penguins are 1-2-1 after four games and went 0-2-1 on the weekend, with a pair of losses to in-state rivals.

You can write it off to call-ups. Adam Johnson, Sam Lafferty and Joseph Blandisi are in Pittsburgh. That’s a good chunk of offensive bite missing from the lineup early on.

Friday, they took a bunch of shots from the perimeter that Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon ate up easily.

Saturday, they failed to close out the resilient Utica Comets, got a point but lost in OT.

Sunday, feeling the strain of a third game in three nights, they were obliterated in Hershey against a Bears team that only traveled to Allentown Saturday and had off Friday.

Callups happen all the time to all 31 teams in the AHL. Would some offense have helped this weekend? Sure, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Casey DeSmith opposed Pheonix Copley.

Lines were…

And for the Bears…

Lineup: No changes up front for the Penguins at all. Lines were the same as they were Saturday in Utica. Matt Abt was with Jon Lizotte and Niclas Almari was with Kevin Czuczman. Joseph and Warsofsky stayed paired with one another.

First Period: Pens looked flat to start, Hershey hit two posts, but the Penguins got their legs under them but then ran into penalty troubles and found themselves down 2-0 after the Bears scored two power play goals.

Travis Boyd on the first power play…

…and then Matt Moulson scored on a goal assisted by Boyd when Stefan Noesen picked up an extra instigator after a fight with Erik Burgdoerfer after Burgdoerfer had a big hit on the wall on Jake Lucchini.

Here’s the hit that led to the second Hershey power play.

I mean, I don’t know what they expect to do anymore with these instigators they are handing out like candy at Halloween. Burgdoerfer runs over a guy and has to answer with a fight. Punches were thrown, yet Noesen picks up the instigator? Get out of here with this, just outlaw fighting altogether if you are going to call garbage like this.

Second Period: The hits continued for the Penguins, who saw Hershey score two more goals on them in the middle frame.

Travis Boyd again on the wraparound. Shades of Game 7 in overtime from a few years ago dancing around my head…

So much wrong with this play. First DeSmith pulled way out of his net, then Boyd’s attempt was going to go wide but it went off of Abt’s skates and into the net for a 3-0 Hershey lead.

The Penguins then went on a power play only to see Martin Fehervary beat Casey DeSmith on a two on one shorthanded to make it 4-0 Bears.

😬 😬 😬 😬

Third Period: Penguins couldn’t get anything going offensively. Mike Sgarbossa scored to extend the Hershey lead to 5-0.

Niclas Almari scored on a late power play goal to break up the Copley would be shutout bid that made it 5-1. Great setup by Chase Berger from behind the net.

Three Stars: 3) Matt Moulson (goal, assist) 2) Martin Fehervary (goal) and 1) Travis Boyd (two goals, assist)

The Good: Hard to come up with one. They looked flat, sometimes overmatched and let their goaltender get shelled. Kasper Bjorkqvist had a good game I thought, he was hooked on a breakaway which led to a Penguins power play chance late in the third.

The Bad: Where to start? Special teams seems to be a work in progress. Hershey seemed a step quicker which I think you can write off to Wilkes-Barre playing Friday with Hershey off.

Turning Point: Stefan Noesen getting sent off for 17 minutes of play time took out a large offensive piece for Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.

Around the Division: Rochester beats Hartford 3-2 in overtime….Springfield picks up a big win in Providence beating the Bruins 5-2.

Standings: Hartford 7, Providence 6, Hershey 5, Charlotte and Springfield 4, Lehigh Valley, Bridgeport and the Penguins 3.

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: 

This Week: Mailbag Monday morning for you. I suspect there will be a lot to talk about….Pens are back in action Wednesday at home against Binghamton….Power Rankings this Thursday. I haven’t decided when or where I am going to run the chart this week with all the stuff going on the blog this week. I may just delay them to next week with the Penguins having only played four games thus far and only one game this weekend in Bridgeport. I may just do that instead.

Keep the faith. Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Hershey 10/13


Who: Hershey Bears

Where: Giant Center

Last Game: The Penguins had their home opener against Utica last night and lost in overtime 4-3. Stefan Noesen continued his hot start, scoring a goal. Noesen has four goals in three games for Wilkes-Barre. Hershey was in Allentown Saturday and won in overtime 4-3. Travis Boyd with the overtime game winner with a second left to play in OT.

Last Meeting: Last Saturday in Hershey, the Penguins won 4-3. Stefan Noesen had a pair of goals in his Wilkes-Barre debut and Garrett Pilon had a pair of assists for the Bears.

When: 5:00 p.m.

Record: For WBS: 1-1-1-0 (3 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division) // For HER: 1-1-1-0 (3 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Patrick Hanrahan / Alex Ross

Linesmen: Colin Gates / Richard Jondo

Why You Should Care: Looking to close out the weekend on a positive note and in the win column, the Penguins head to Hershey for another date with the Bears. We liked what we say from the Pens Saturday night against the Comets, so applying that this afternoon against a Bears team is going to be crucial.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is back for another season and better than ever.

Other Game to Watch: Springfield visits Providence this afternoon in the only other divisional action this Sunday.

Next Five Games: vs. BNG 10/16, @ BRI 10/19, @ BNG 10/23, vs. SA 10/25, vs. SA 10/26

Lack of a Finnish (and a team full of them) — Pens LOSE 4-3 (OT)


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The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have four Finns on the team this year, it was a trivia question during one of the stoppages in play.

With all that Finn on the team, the Penguins lack finish right now in this very early season.

They fell into a 2-0 hole in the first.

They battled back on the efforts of two power play goals and tied it in the second.

They edged ahead in the third, only to see the Comets score with under three minutes left to force overtime.

Six shots for the Penguins in the overtire period, one fro Utica. That one counted. Utica wins 4-3 in overtime.

Four Finns. No finish, though.

To be clear, none of the Penguins Finnish players cost the Penguins anything tonight. I thought the team as a whole played great, battling back from a two goal deficit to level it then when things started getting heavy in the third, they stayed step fro step with Utica, throwing the body. This team will be fine in the long run with the leadership group and coaches in place.

Emil Larmi opposed Zane McIntyre.

Lines were…

And for Utica…

Lineup Notes: Essentially Andrew Agozzino for Justin Almeida, which was inevitable with Agozzino’s demotion Friday. Shake ups here and there with the lines, but otherwise no changes.

First Period: A much better start in comparison to Friday in Allentown. Larmi made a lot of good saves in traffic tonight. He was beat twice late in the period by Reid Boucher who collected a puck on a face off win, took a step and wired one past Larmi for a 1-0 Utica lead.

Again, on a power play.

Second Period: Stefan Noesen continues his white hot start, scoring on a power play to cut the deficit to one.

Thomas DiPauli and Davis Warsofsky had a two on none and failed to connect for a goal. Later, Utica was caught with too many men and David Warsofsky, the captain, connected on a power play goal from the point for a tie game.

The game was opening up for the Penguins with Agozzino getting a chance on a breakaway but his shot sailed wide. It was fun and gun and great to see. Message received and message delivered in the second period coming out of the first intermission for the Penguins.

Emil Larmi stopped a Jonah Gadjovich penalty shot to preserve the tie.

Third Period: Game remained deadlocked and it started to get chippy. Anthony Angello wanted to engage Kole Lind but Lind wanted nothing to do with him. Jon Lizotte, who I thought was exposed in a bad way Friday in Allentown, had a huge reclamation game and found Angello coming hot out of the box and Angello streaked in on McIntyre and scored to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead.

With 2:19 left, Carter Bancks whacked at a puck thrown in the crease and it went in for a tie game again.

What a response by Utica. They were getting run over, run around and could have tucked tail and ran. Instead they kept their nose down and kept scrapping.

Overtime: Man, these three on three overtime sessions are fun, aren’t they? Penguins had six shots in overtime, but that’s Zane McIntyre in net for the Comets and not easy to score on. Plus I think he has the keys to the Mohegan Sun Arena in his bag, he owns this place.

Lukas Jasek scores on the only shot of the overtime period for the Comets and wins it for Utica.

Three Stars: 2) Reid Boucher (two goals) 2) David Warsofsky (goal, assist) 1) Lukas Jasek (overtime game winner)

The Good: The response in the second was great to see, especially getting back into the game with two power play goals.

The Bad: They seemed to let off in spurts and one of those sequences caught them where Bancks scored to force overtime.

Turning Point: In a game full of them, Jasek’s goal that brought the game to the end wins out.

Around the Division: Hershey wins in overtime with one second remaining as Travis Boyd does the honors there and wins 4-3….Providence is 3-0 after a 3-2 win at home against Rochester….Hartford is also 3-0 after a 3-1 win against Springfield….Charlotte earns a split with Bridgeport, winning 4-1.

Standings: Hartford and Providence 6, Charlotte 4, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Wilkes-Barre and Bridgeport 3, Springfield 2

Wheeling Update:

Box here.

Video Highlights: Are here.

Pens close out the three in three weekend with a 5 o’clock meeting in Hershey. Gameday setup here Sunday afternoon at 1.

Let’s Go Pens!


They fell down 2-0, got up and tied it at two then went ahead before getting scored on late and again in overtime. Pens lose 4-3 in overtime.

Seems they may have an early closing problem. That game was there for the taking late on and they let it slip through.

Jon Lizotte has a hell of a game after looking awful last night in Allentown. Stefan Noesen scored again, Anthony Angello has the at the time go ahead goal. There’s potential, but you have to play a full 60.

More in a bit.

GAMEDAY: vs. Utica 10/12


Who: Utica Comets

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: For the Penguins, they were in Allentown last night against the Phantoms and lost 4-1.  Stefan Noesen scored the only goal for the Penguins. For Utica, the Comets were last in action last Saturday when they opened their season on the road in Binghamton and won 4-3. Bingo scored two goals in the third and three goals on just 22 shots. Reid Boucher scored a pair of goals and assisted on another, Kole Lind had three assists.

Record: For WBS: 1-1-0-0 (2 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For UTI: 1-0-0-0 (2 pts., 5h place North Division)

Referees: Olivier Gouin / Carter Sandlak

Linesmen: Jud Ritter / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: Penguins had a very poor effort last night in Allentown. Utica comes in rested having not played last night. Expect a shakeup on defense for Wilkes-Barre as they host their opener in front of an amped up crowd.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is back for another season and better than ever.

Promotion(s): The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins open the home portion of their 2019-20 season with a matchup against the Utica Comets.  The first 5,000 fans will receive a 2019-20 magnetic schedule, courtesy of Geisinger.  It’s also a McDonald’s FAN-Tastic Night, with packages including a ticket to the game, a Penguins hat and McDonald’s meal voucher, starting at just $17.50*

Other Game to Watch: Lehigh Valley and Hershey renew old acquaintances tonight in Allentown for the first of twelve regular season meetings.

Next Five Games: @ HER 10/13, vs. BNG 10/16, @ BRI 10/19, @ BNG 10/23, vs. SA 10/25

* – promo information credit to