Chirps from Center Ice

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

2021-22 Divisional Alignment / Schedule Quirks Announced 6/7

First bit of worthwhile news in what seems like forever came out of Springfield today. Divisional alignments, schedule formats and options as well as a teaser with playoffs announced today.

Let’s get into the division first.

Pens are back in the Atlantic Division with the following teams:

Hershey
Lehigh Valley
Bridgeport
Hartford
Springfield
Providence
Charlotte

The League is bringing ALL of the teams that play in the AHL in 2022-23 to a 72 game schedule. The Pacific Division and their 68 game exception? Gone. But that is next year and not this coming year.

The AHL is giving teams the option to play either, 76, 72 or 68 games in 2021-22. The Pacific Division will play 68 games. The Penguins are among 10 teams which will remain on the 76 game format this season. Divisional foes Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Springfield are on the 76 game train. The other divisional foes (Bridgeport, Hartford, Providence and Charlotte) are electing to play 72 games.

This means three things.

  1. The Sunday games as well as the weekday games are staying for now.
  2. Teams will be ranked by points percentage.
  3. You are probably going to see more of your 76 game brethren than you are your 72 game brethren, which means get ready for 10+ with Hershey and Lehigh Valley as per usual.

Color me surprised that the AHL was able to convince a) the Pacific Division teams (which consist of nearly a third of the AHL at this point and will likely balloon to 10 teams when Palm Springs comes in next season) to play more games and b) the traditional heavyweight teams like Hershey, Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids and others to accept less dates next season. I think that teams electing to play 76 games willingly this season were a hard no on accepting less games, but with a league make up of 10 teams (eventually with the addition of Palm Springs) and all the other teams electing to play 72, majority rules.

Hey, if it means less Sunday and Wednesday games, I am all for it.

The League also announced plans to expand the amount of teams which will qualify for playoffs next year, but details on that will be announced later, most likely when they announce a playing schedule later in the summer.

Woo, that’s a lot to cover on this hot day in June. Enjoy your summer.

Finally Over — Pens LOSE 5-2

Thank god this “season” is over.

Never have I been more disinterested in a feeble of an attempt to play hockey. First, you only play four opponents, in front of no one, have a training camp delayed, other games delayed or rescheduled and then go in with an inexperienced team which is by some miracle a .500 team.

I really don’t feel like recapping this. Brett Brochu made his debut in goal for the Penguins in Hershey. He is the youngest player ever to play for the Pens at 18 years and some months. Hershey played a man short, were busted up and really it felt like a preseason game.

Hershey runs the Pens up to a 3-0 lead. Wilkes-Barre gets two back to make it a 3-2 game and make it interesting for a bit. They get in a few scuffles (more so than usual) and Hershey gets two more for a 5-2 final.

You expect better by coming and reading the blog, you really do and I didn’t give it to you this season because I just wasn’t interested. There would be several times this season I would just scan Twitter and half ass a game story off of that, vs. watching hem play this season. For that I apologize.

Better luck next year, I suppose. Hopefully under better circumstances.

Have a good summer.

GAMEDAY: @ Hershey 5/16

Who: Hershey Bears

Where: Giant Center

When: 3:00 p.m.

Last Game: Last night in Allentown the Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Alex D’Orio made 23 saves, Kasper Bjorkqvist scored his first goal of the season for the game winner….For Hershey, they hosted Binghamton yesterday and won 3-2. Connor McMichael had a goal and an assist in the win. With the win, the Bears won the North Division title, despite not even playing Syracuse, Rochester or Utica.

Last Meeting: May 1 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins lost 4-3 in overtime. Sam Miletic had a goal and an assist for the Pens but Connor McMichael scored in overtime to win it for the Bears.

Record: For WBS: 13-12-4-2 (32 pts.) — For HER: 23-7-2-0 (48 pts.) — UPDATE RECORD AND POINTS

Referees: Jordan Deckard / Rob Hennessey

Linesmen: Tom DellaFranco / Tom George

Why You Should Care: Last game of the season for both teams and you want your team to win their last game heading into the summer.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Better Effort — Pens WIN 2-1 (OT)

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Much better effort the last time these teams met this past Sunday in a scrappy, tight affair.

Phantoms get a goal in the third to force overtime, but Kasper Bjorkqvist’s goal in overtime wins it for the Penguins in the second to last game of the season. Pens win 2-1 in overtime. They play in Hershey Sunday afternoon.

Here’s how they lined up.

First Period: Jon Gruden on the back door past the half way point of the first on a nice feed by Nick Schilkey.

Pens outshot the Phantoms 13-6 in the period.

Second Period: No scoring, but there was this kick ass save by D’Orio in the dying embers of the period.

Third Period: Phantoms really poured it on, outshot the Pens 12-3 and Ryan Fitzgerald finished this one off to tie it at one.

Alex D’Orio has emerged as the goalie of the future for the Penguins. Remember Emil Larmi? Yeah, me either. Shane Starrett started hurt, played in a few games, got shelled and was never heard from again. Yes, Larmi, Starrett and D’Orio all played in front of this tinpot defense, but D’Orio made the best of a bad situation and has him set up as the #1 goalie come the Fall.

Overtime: About half way through, Bjorkqvist puts away the rebound of a Jordy Bellerive attempt. Ballgame.

Three Stars: 3) Alex D’Orio (23 saves) 2) Ryan Fitzgerald (goal) 1) Kasper Bjorkqvist (goal)

The Good: I think they have a good base of what will work and what won’t come the Fall.

The Bad: Have paid zero attention to the League this year, but the Penguins have not shutout a team yet this season. Almost had one tonight.

Turning Point: Overtime game winning goals are the easy obvious choice to Bjorkqvist’s goal gets it here.

Season finale Sunday afternoon in Hershey.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 5/15

Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: PPL Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Last Sunday in Allentown, the Pens lost 6-2. Felix Robert and Josh Currie scored for the Penguins. Lehigh Valley beat Binghamton 2-1 in Newark Wednesday. Zayde Wisdom assisted on both Phantoms goals. 

Last Meeting: Was last Sunday, recapped above. Brennan Saulnier scored a natural hat trick in the first period against the Penguins. The second time that has happened to Wilkes-Barre / Scranton this season.

Record: For WBS: 12-12-4-2 (30 pts.) — For LV: 18-7-3-1 (41 pts.)

Referees: Jordan Samuels-Thomas / Jeremy Tufts

Linesmen: John Rey / Jud Ritter

Why You Should Care: Thank god this farce of a forced season is almost over. 

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Remaining Game: @ HER 5/16

Six Game Streak Stopped in Allentown – Pens LOSE 6-2

Brennan Saulnier’s natural hat trick in the first period game the Lehigh Valley Phantoms all the momentum they needed as the Phantoms rolled past the Penguins 6-2 in Allentown Sunday.

Was out with my mother for a Mothers Day meal so didn’t catch any of the game. Doesn’t seem like the Penguins were competitive at all from the drop of the puck in this one. It happens. The season will be over in a week, with no playoffs really nothing to it.

The Hershey Bears could have won the division if the Penguins won today. They didn’t so the Bears have to wait.

Felix Robert and Josh Currie scored for the Penguins. Tommy Nappier stopped 20. His counterpart and thorn in the Penguins side Zane McIntyre stopped 29.

Penguins outshot the Phantoms 11-2 in the third. The Pens gave it away in the first and tried to get it back in the third. It didn’t work out that way with a good team like the Phantoms.

Back at it again in Allentown this Saturday before closing the books on 2021 in Hershey next Sunday.

Let’s Go Pens! Happy Mother’s Day!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 5/9

Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: PPL Center

When: 3:05 p.m.

Last Game: Last night at home against Binghamton, the Penguins won 4-1. Nick Schilkey had a pair of goals and Tommy Nappier won his first game as a pro. Lehigh Valley played Hershey last night in Hershey and were shutout 3-0.

Last Meeting: April 28 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Tim Schaller had the game winner, Alex D’Orio stopped 41 shots on his birthday.

Record: For WBS: 12-11-4-2 (30 pts.) — For LV: 16-7-3-1 (37 pts.)

Referees:  Peter Schlittenhardt / Furman South

Linesmen: Tyler Loftus / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: Penguins closed out their home set of the season and now have three road games with the first coming today in Allentown. Happy Mothers Day!

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV

Remaining Games: @ LV 5/15, @ HER 5/16