Chirps from Center Ice

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

No, Canada! – 12/21 Pens at Marlies Postponed

Includes the December 21 game the Penguins were supposed to play up North. Instead, the Pens will just head to Rochester where they will play the Americans on Wednesday.

Logistically, this is a nightmare. The Pens and Marlies play four times this season, two home and two away. Wilkes-Barre isn’t scheduled to go back to Toronto till March 23. That’s a Wednesday. My guess is that it will likely be a back to back to some type, either a Tuesday-Wednesday or a Wednesday-Thursday. If they do Thursday, they have to make an exception because the League eliminated four games in five nights a few years back. After the Pens head to Rochester, they are finished with the Americans this season, so it’s not like they can just cross over the next time they play Rochester, after Wednesday there is no next time.

Probably worse for Toronto, because their two games at Grand Rapids this weekend were also postponed. Again, logistical nightmares.

More tomorrow after the Hershey game. I just can’t commit to putting a preview series out when everything is so volatile.

From Canada to Syracuse

One of them is the December 3 game that the Pens were supposed to play in Syracuse. That gets moved to Sunday, March 27. Wilkes-Barre will be wrapping up a FRiday stop in Belleville and a Saturday trip to Laval. Instead of bussing straight home, the Pens will play in Syracuse that Sunday at 5.

All but one game (the December 5 game in Hershey) needs to be rescheduled. Edit: This game was rescheduled for February 22. Thank you Brian for the correction. The Charlotte game that the Pens were supposed to play at home after the Friday trip to Syracuse was moved to the middle of April. Yesterday’s game played was supposed to be last Wednesday’s game.

Old Age Don’t Come Alone — Pens LOSE 4-1

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So Tuesday was my birthday. My father, who is still alive and kicking, still has some sage advice for me in his advanced age.

Old age don’t come alone.

I have all my teeth, have never had a cavity and every dentist I have ever seen has a picture of me on their wall as their best patient. Not really, but what I am getting at here is that as you age, you could possibly lose your teeth.

I still don’t know where I am going with this but the Penguins tonight had a toothless attack and lost 4-1.

They managed just 19 shots and went 0/3 on the power play. Ouchie.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: None. Juuso Riikola, Sam Pouling, Jan Drozg and Alex D’Orio remained in COVID protocols.

First Period: Pens spent a ton of time in the offensive zone, but it was Joe Snively getting smashed into the boards by PO Joseph then picks himself up and cuts back to the slot where he scores to put the Bears up 1-0.

Second Period: Pens lose Michael Chaput to a lower leg / ankle / foot injury. He needed help off and wasn’t putting any weight on his foot.

Jurusik was keeping his team in the game, but as I have said all along, goaltenders don’t score goals, they prevent them.

So Hershey scores twice within 63 seconds late in the period. Here’s one of the goals that the Bears GIFed, they didn’t do the other one.

Kody Clark had the other goal.

Pens had just 5 shots in this period, to the Bears 12.

Third Period: The toothless attack continued. The Pens went the first eight minutes of the period without a shot, and even had a laughable power play tossed in there. Also, while not mentioned by Nick Hart on radio, the Pens may have lost Vallteri Puustinen and Niclas Almari to injury as they were noted by Zach Fisch on the Bears side as not on the Penguins bench.

Just dandy.

P-O Joseph busts up Copley’s shutout bid with a shot from the point that goes in to make it 3-1.

But Matt Moulson scores to make it 4-1 later on to snuff out any faint hopes for the Penguins possible comeback.

Gotta move things along here, it’s a Tuesday and a work night, no GIFs here.

Three Stars: 3) P-O Joseph (goal) 2) Kody Clark (goal) 1) Joe Snively (goal)

The Good: Nothing to see here.

The Bad: Toothless attack. Hershey is an extremely average AHL team, but they have some offensive punch. These are the same Penguins who pumped the Springfield Thunderbirds for six goals Sunday. Was Springfield really that bad Sunday? My guess is yes, which isn’t good for Springfield’s prospects as they stand today.

Turning Point: Penguins waited for something to develop and instead, were developed, Kody Clark’s goal that made it 2-0 was really all Hershey needed to cakewalk the rest of the way. That the Penguins didn’t muster anything resembling an offensive attack in the third period but for the Joseph goal made it easy for them.

Around the Division: It could always be worse. We could be Rochester Americans fans. They witnessed their team lose 11-1 to Charlotte. Yes, eleven to one.

Standings: Bears to fourth, Pens to sixth. Pens are .500, and will probably play there all season.

Pens and Bears rematch Saturday in Wilkes-Barre’s only action of the weekend. I may preview that one and the two games midweek next week with Toronto and Rochester.

I’ll be back at the next Penguins home game on December 27 against Hershey. Can’t actually wait for that one.

Let’s Go Pens!

Power Rankings — Not Today, COVID

There were no Power Rankings last week because when you had nearly an entire division in the Atlantic out of action the first weekend in December, you can’t fairly grade and come up with Rankings like that. COVID-19 would have been the number one team. People are dying from this, you can’t really make a joke out of it. So I thought it would be best to just not do one last week.

Anyway we are back at 100%, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, and have the Rankings back and better than ever this week.

Utica goes back to number one, but really throw a blanket over the top three teams and either one can be the number one side.

Here’s the full list…

RankTeamBlurbLast Week
1Still tearing through teams. When do we start having the conversation of Utica being an all time great team?+1
2Haven’t lost in ten straight. Now, beating up on last place Texas for three games isn’t that impressive. The Wolves are a literally wolf in a sheeps den of other teams in the Central.+5
3Pasted San Jose 10-1 last Tuesday. This is what good teams do to bad teams. Don’t really see any problems schedule wise with this team so the run should continue.+3
4Returned from COVID protocol and lost a shootout in Allentown on Sunday. Rematch this Friday at home with the Phantoms, then an important home and home with Springfield.n/a
5Came out of COVID protocol and faced Utica and managed to win in overtime which was impressive. Also managed to beat Laval this week. Head to Charlotte for a midweek trip.-4
6Senators are back to .500 and looking to make more noise. Successful weekend trip through Providence and Bridgeport.+4
7Bruins were patient zero in the AHL’s Atlantic and were rewarded with a three in three coming out of protocol. Almost unfair. Managed 4 of 6 points with a shutout of the Thunderbirds tossed in there Saturday.+2
8Play Chicago in a kids day game Thursday with a chance to make up a bit of ground that the Wolves have on them.+4
9Played a home and home with San Diego where the home team in each contest was victorious. Are .500 and among a ton of other teams in the Pacific who are the same.-1
10We have reached the “slightly above average” portion of teams in the Pacific, with Tucson playing at a 6-4 in their last ten clip, including a shootout win over the Stockton Heat, who are in their own stratosphere currently.+7
11Dropped all of the offense Wednesday in Syracuse (8 goals) then lost in Utica and in Allentown. Five game homestand begins this Thursday with visits from Utica and Chicago.-6
12Has been pretty business as usual for the Checkers, who split a pair of 5-3 decisions with Syracuse this past weekend. Rochester and Bridgeport are in this week.+3
13Are the Bears extremely average?+6
14Eagles use Bakersfield and Tucson on their schedule to make a run up to fourth in the Pacific. Big test this weekend in Stockton.-3
15Split a pair out in Rockford. There is a lot of average in the Pacific and the Silver Knights are one of them.+3
16Penguins take advantage of a rag tag Springfield group Sunday and pick up their first shutout since January 2020 with a guy they signed on a PTO from ECHL Idaho. Stuff of legends.+9
17Some teams managed to make it out of COVID protocols OK (like the Penguins) and then there is Springfield, who has been pillaged lineup wise. Back to back shutout losses this past weekend with Providence and Wilkes-Barre.-14
18When I got to the IceHogs I was expecting them to be a lot worse than third in the Central, especially when I saw Henderson paste Rockford 5-0 last Friday.+4
19Went win – loss – loss this weekend through the Northeast. Host Syracuse then head to Grand Rapids this weekend.-5
20Griffins are highly inconsistent. Marlies drop by this weekend.-4
21Admirals are on a four game win streak – does this survive through a home and home with the Wolves this weekend?+5
22North Division’s most inconsistent team. Beat Manitoba, lost to Rochester then went to Hershey and made a 2-2 in the third period into a 4-2 win.+5
23Haven’t won in seven straight, getting swept by lowly Milwaukee this last weekend. Admirals travel to Des Moines Tuesday, which starts a six game homestand for the Wild.-10
24Seven game homestand opens with a win over the Reign. Bakersfield and San Jose stop by this weekend.-4
25Have stayed COVID free and picked up two wins in the process. Big tests this week with Belleville, Hartford and Rochester coming.+6
26Picked up a win against a suddenly struggling Marlies team on Saturday and lost to a suddenly hot Belleville team on Sunday.-3
27Split a pair in Charlotte. That can be something to build off of.+3
28Have had a few COVID delays. They have played like it too, going 2-5-1-2 in their last ten. Schedule doesn’t relent. Stockton and San Diego are this weeks opponents.-7
29Road trip wraps up in Henderson. Canucks have the sixth best power play in all the AHL, bested only in the division by, you guessed it, Stockton.n/a
30Salvaged a split with Abbotsford. Four game road trip after the Eagles swoop in this Wednesday.-2
31Stars kickoff their long homestand with the Wolves drubbing them for 19 goals across three games. Schedule doesn’t lighten up with Rockford this week and Manitoba next week.-7

Jurusik Park — Pens WIN 6-0

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This headline is probably the easiest one I will write all season.

Penguins sign Matt Jurusik out of Idaho from the ECHL to a PTO Friday evening because Alex D’Orio has COVID, Louis Domingue has a lower body injury and so does Filip Lindberg.

So it’s essentially Tommy Nappier and Matt Jurusik tending nets for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

If I would have told you that it would be a PTO on a call up from Idaho of all places that would have gotten the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins their first team shutout since January 11, 2020, you wouldn’t have believed me.

Hell, I wouldn’t have even believed myself.

28 saves for Jurusik, 14 different Penguins players record a point and it’s the biggest, easiest win of the season by far for the Penguins who crush the Springfield Thunderbirds 6-0.

Jurusik opposed Colten Ellis.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: 500th professional game fro Taylor Fedun….Sam Poulin, Juuso Riikola, Jan Drozg, and Alex D’Orio remain in COVID protocol. Jordy Bellerive and Justin Almeida returned to the lineup from their COVID protocol taking the place of Nick Hutchinson and Will Reilly.

First Period: Matt Jurusik had a bit of a baptism by fire stopping all 13 shots faced in the first period. He had a good stop on Hugh McGing where the shot popped out of his glove and into the air. He tracked it and made another save with Nathan Moon buzzing close by.

Anthony Angello scored a shorthanded goal.

Anthony Angello scored a shorthanded goal.

Yes, I typed it twice and yes I did it deliberately because I still don’t believe it.

Good period overall.

Second Period: To quote an ex-Penguin radio voice, OK if you like perfect.

Felix Robert on a rebound and it’s 2-0.

Then the Penguins score :26 apart and make it 4-0. P-O Joseph from a ridiculous angle that makes it 3-0 and then Matt Bartkowski from the blue line with no one in front of him that beats Ellis on a howitzer for a 4-0 lead.

Joel Hofer came in on relief for Colten Ellis, but Ellis would return for the start of the third.

Hofer fared no better, as a Bartkowski shot deflects off of Kyle Olson’s chest and in to the net to make it 5-0.

Third Period: Basically in runaway games like this it’s all about preserving the good and trying to minimize or eradicate the bad or anything that can be construed as bad. Springfield didn’t make Jurusik work because the Penguins didn’t let them, and the Penguins got another goal for good measure when Justin Almeida put home his first of the season in the AHL off a nice feed by Nathan Legare.

Three Stars: 3) Matt Bartkowski (goal, assist) 2) P-O Joseph (goal, two assists) and 1) Matt Jurusik (28 saves)

The Good: Nice to have that monkey off the back and pick up a shutout, first in nearly two years. Way overdue.

The Bad: Nothing to see here. The Penguins played an almost perfect game. They didn’t allow their opponent to score and picked up a clean sheet for their try out guy from the ECHL. What more can you ask for?

Turning Point: Go back to that save that was highlighted above where Jurusik plays it out of the air after making the initial save. He was dialed in from the get go. Good to see the kid pick up the first shutout in nearly two years for the Penguins.

Around the Division: Lehigh Valley beats Hartford 4-3 in a shootout. Providence roughs up Toronto 5-1. Hershey is playing Laval when this goes up. Box here.

Standings: Can’t given them fully because the Bears are still playing when this goes up but the Pens are above .500 and on .525 percentage points good for fifth place as things stand now.

If Coal Street tosses together a highlight package and I can work in an edit it will go here.

Last Wednesday’s postponed game against Hershey will be played this Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre at 7:05. More then. Power Rankings maybe Tuesday will be back before.

Let’s Go Pens!!

Overtimed Out — Pens LOSE 3-2 (OT)

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Full disclosure, I didn’t type up a weekend preview for this weekends games because I wasn’t totally sure they were playing the games this weekend.

Also, I’ll be back at the games in person on December 27. COVID caused my Thanksgiving to be spent alone, I don’t want the same for Christmas.

Both the Penguins and Bears returned from about a two week hiatus from COVID and met Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre.

You could tell. Game was scrambly at times, really even between the two COVID ravaged sides and it rightly was decided in overtime. Hershey wins 3-2.

Both teams are back at it Sunday afternoon, but against different opponents. The Bears head home to host Laval and the Pens stay in town and host Springfield, who is also dealing with COVID and call-ups.

Tommy Nappier opposed Pheonix Copley.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Penguins made a bunch of transactions this week trying to construct a healthy lineup. Jan Drozg, Justin Almeida, Jordy Bellerive, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Sam Poulin, Chris Bigras, Juuso Riikola were out of the lineup. Louis Domingue was hurt in practice, lower body and is day to day. Bjorkqvist’s injury is a bad laceration.

First Period: Teddy bear toss night at the arena, so Valtteri Puustinen didn’t waste time to get the fur flying.

Bobby Nardella would even the game just north of halfway for the visitors.

With both teams playing their first game in the month of December on the 11th day of December, it was a pretty even period otherwise.

Second Period: Goals :28 apart by both sides opened the action in the middle frame.

Cody Franson scores off a face-off play that gives the Bears a 2-1 lead.

But like the tweet above said, it was a lead that didn’t last long because Felix Robert was left alone in the slot and scored to make it 2-2.

Tommy Nappier is really good at handling the puck. He started a rush up the ice with a pass that ended up on Nathan Lagare’s tape that the Penguins rookie nearly scored on.

Pens took three penalties in the period, back-to-back-to-back, but were able to negotiate out of them without any damage.

Third Period: Pens had the only power play of the period and failed to score on it. The teams picked things up in the final five minutes with furious rushes, but it was off to…

Overtime: Flubbed outlet pass pounced on by Hershey and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby called game.

Three Stars: 3) Valtteri Puustinen (goal) 2) Felix Robert (goal, assist) 1) Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (game winning OT goal)

The Good: Good to see the Penguins (and Bears for that matter) returning to health after COVID derailed the start of their December and delayed their (Wilkes-Barre’s) first four games.

The Bad: 0/5 on the power play.

Turning Point: OT winners usually get these.

These Saturday at 6:05 starts are great because they get people home sooner but with the rest of the division starting at 7 it really throws a monkey wrench into the blog and the out of town recaps.

Springfield is in here Sunday at 3. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!

Postpone / Re-Schedule / Re-Schedule

Wednesday’s game against Hershey postponed to next Tuesday, December 14. Last Saturday’s game with Charlotte moved to Wednesday, April 13 at 7:05.

Yes, teams are slowly getting back to practice, but with 12 or fewer skaters and with one goaltender, on the photos I saw from Hershey’s practice and Providence. The same case likely applies to Wilkes-Barre as well.

Penguins have game scheduled for this Saturday against Hershey and this Sunday against Springfield. For now.