Chirps from Center Ice

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

RAPID RECAP – Pens LOSE 5-3

Wild one in Wilkes-Barre. Pens lose 5-3 to Texas in what became a contentious game late.

Pens jumped out to a 3-2 lead on back to back power play goals but it was a time out by head coach Derek Laxdal that kind of righted the ship for the Stars and settled his team down.

Emil Larmi deserved a better fate really, he took the loss in net.

More in a bit.

GAMEDAY: vs. Texas 12/7

vs.  

Who: Texas Stars

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game / Last Meeting: It took ten years for the two teams to meet for the very first time, so they will meet twice less than forty eight hours. Last night, the Penguins lost 4-3. Joel Kiviranta had a pair of goals in the second period. Pierre-Olivier Joseph scored his first pro goal for the Penguins.

Record: For WBS: 13-7-2-1 (29 pts., 3rd place Atlantic Division) // For TEX: 8-13-1-2 (19 pts, 8th place Central Division)

Referees: Mitch Dunning / Michael Markovic

Linesmen: Julien Fournier / Ryan Knapp

Why You Should Care: Penguins will be looking for revenge against the Stars tonight. The Penguins need better starts to their periods as the Stars took control of all three periods with hot starts. It’s probably Emil Larmi vs. Landon Bow tonight in goal.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is back for another season and better than ever. // Tonight’s game is also going to broadcast locally on WBRE.

Promotion(s): TEDDY BEAR TOSS NIGHT — It’s a holiday tradition!  Join us on Saturday, December 7 for the annual Teddy Bear Toss, benefitting Tobyhanna’s Operation Santa Claus.  Bring a new, unwrapped, plush toy to the game, and toss it onto the ice following the Penguins’ first goal.  All toys will be collected and delivered to children in need throughout the area, in an effort to brighten the season.*

Other Game to Watch: Laval visits Springfield tonight in a battle of two teams off to good starts looking to continue on a path of success here through December.

Next Five Games: @ HER 12/8, @ ROC 12/11, @ CLE 12/13, @ CLE 12/14, vs. PRO 12/18

* – promo information credit to http://www.wbspenguins.com/promo-schedule/

Kiviranta’s Pikkujoulut — Pens LOSE 4-3

          vs.          

4                                              3

Pikkujoulut is a Finnish term for “Little Christmas” and goes hand in hand with Finnish Independence Day, which also happens to fall on December 6 every season. December 6 is the first time that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and Texas Stars met up in a competitive ice hockey game for the first time ever.

Joel Kiviranta is Finnish. His two goals in the second period propel the Texas Stars to a 4-3 win over the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins Friday night.

It’s a bad loss for the Penguins for a number of reasons. First, the Texas Stars had one road win all season coming into tonights game. Second, the Stars are in last place in the Central Division. Third, that Central Division is in the Western Conference, a Conference which the Penguins do not play in. Fourth, with Friday’s results, the Penguins drop to third in the Atlantic Division in a race which is as tight as ever here in December.

Casey DeSmith opposed Jake Oettinger.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Lucchini slotted in the top line replacing Noesen, Martinsen replaced Noesen as the veteran and David Warsofsky returned. Matt Abt took the warmup.

First Period: The Penguins came out extremely flat and the Stars were really to play.

Riley Tufte led a charge up ice, put a shot on and Michael Mersch was there to collect the rebound and put it in to give the Stars an early 1-0 lead.

Andreas Martinsen took a puck off of Oettinger and wrapped around and tucked him his first as a Penguin that tied the game at one.

There was calamity in front of DeSmith’s net. David Warsofsky blew a tire, gifting a puck to the Stars who, in three attempts by my count, don’t score on a prone DeSmith on his belly.

Shots were 12-7 Stars, with a  majority of them coming early on in the first.

Second Period: Stars jumped out of the gate with another goal when Joe Cecconi drove to the net and dished to Kiviranta who was boxing out Niclas Almari for an early tap in that made it 2-1.

Penguins had about a minute of two man advantage, but it was a block party by Texas who easily killed the penalty. I don’t think the Penguins had a shot on the power play.

Stars would tack on a third goal. Kiviranta again on his country’s Independence Day, with a quick move through a few defenders and it was 3-1 Texas.

Wilkes-Barre would score two goals in a span of :38 to get even again.

Andrew Agozzino finished off a one timer with David Warsofsky on a power play.

Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s first professional goal tied it at three.

Quite the turn of events. Penguins go from rattled to tied in a span of about a minute.

Third Period: Nicholas Caamano’s goal in the opening minutes of the period made it 4-3 Stars. Five hole on DeSmith.

This was right as a penalty expired.

The Stars got 14 saves from Oettinger in the period and rode it out for just their second win on the road this season.

Three Stars: 3) Pierre-Olivier Joseph (goal, assist) 2) Joel Kiviranta (two goals) 1) Nicholas Caamano (game winning goal)

Off ice guys got it wrong in my opinion. Michael Mersch had a goal and two assists.

The Good: The Penguins picked themselves off the mat in the second period and erased a two goal deficit.

The Bad: Continuing with the fight card analogy, they lost on points when they weren’t able to get another goal to tie it.

Turning Point: That sequence where the Penguins were on a five on three in the second period and didn’t negotiate anything resembling a threat against a team coming in with just one road win sticks out.

Expect a better response tomorrow for the Penguins. The Stars didn’t score quickly despite the hot start in the first, but got goals in the first two minutes of the second and third, where the third period goal stood up for the remainder of crunch time.

Around the Division: Bridgeport takes down Utica in a shootout 5-4….Hershey beats Lehigh Valley in a contentious game in Allentown 2-1. Those teams rematch Saturday in Hershey….Providence crushes Binghamton 6-2….Rochester shuts out Charlotte 4-0….Hartford beats Springfield 5-2.

Standings: Providence 33 — Hartford 31 — Penguins 29 — Springfield 28 — Hershey and Lehigh Valley 25 — Bridgeport 22 — Charlotte 21

Wheeling Update: Nailers beat Kalamazoo 6-2. Brandon Hawkins had a had trick.

Video Highlights: 

Rematch Saturday. Gameday setup here Saturday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

RAPID RECAP – Pens LOSE 4-3

Well Texas is on hell of a run here of late.

Just the Stars second win on the road this season, they win 4-3 over the Penguins on Friday night.

Casey DeSmith took the loss in net, stopping 25.

Bad loss considering Texas is last in the Central and that division is in an entirely different conference.

More in a bit.

GAMEDAY: vs. Texas 12/6

vs.  

Who: Texas Stars

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Last Saturday at home against Bridgeport, the Penguins won 5-2. Matt Abt and Oula Palve scored their first AHL goals of their careers. Chase Berger had his first fight and also had a goal and an assist. For Texas, the Stars ended the Milwaukee Admirals 13 game winning streak this past Tuesday at home where they scored four goals on all four shots attempted in the second period. Jake Oettinger stopped 39 of 40 shots.

Record: For WBS: 13-6-2-1 (29 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division) // For TEX: 7-13-1-2 (17 pts, 8th place Central Division)

Referees: Dan Kelly / Tim Mayer

Linesmen: Bob Goodman / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: It’s the first time ever that these two teams have met in head-to-head competition. Texas comes in on a five game point streak riding a high of ending division rival Milwaukee’s 13 game winning streak in impressive fashion. Will that carry over to the Eastern Time Zone here in Wilkes-Barre who have ate 8-1-1 in their last ten games?

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Promotion(s): EYEWITNESS NEWS FAN FRIDAY — It’s another EYEWITNESS NEWS FAN FRIDAY when the Texas Stars make their first ever trip to Wilkes-Barre.  Lower bowl tickets are available for just $15, grab select draft beers for just $2 from 6:00-7:30pm, and enjoy postgame autographs from a pair of Penguins players.*

Other Game to Watch: The Hartford Wolf Pack take on the Springfield Thunderbirds tonight in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, the Thunderbirds sustained a 63 shot barrage from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and won 3-1. Have the Thunderbirds turned a corner? Can the Wolf Pack get back to the top of the Atlantic?

Next Five Games: vs. TEX 12/7, @ HER 12/8, @ ROC 12/11, @ CLE 12/13, @ CLE 12/14

* – promo information credit to http://www.wbspenguins.com/promo-schedule/

Starry, Starry Weekend Preview

For the first time in each teams respective franchise histories, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and Texas Stars will meet up, in the same arena, playing a competitive hockey game where two points are on the line.

To mark this momentous occasion, Stephen Meserve from the website 100 Degree Hockey reached out to me this week and asked me a bunch of questions about the Penguins. You can find that here. In return, I asked Meserve some questions myself about the Stars.

I’m low key excited about this first time meeting between these two teams who have been in the American Hockey League for more than ten seasons (Stars debuted in 2009-10) meeting for the very first time. Let’s get right to it.

Jason Iacona: Texas sit at 7-13-1-2 which included twelve games without a win. The Stars only have four regulation wins so far too. What’s been the main reason for the slow start?

Stephen Meserve: Texas bet big on prospects. Really big. The Stars lost major chunk of their scoring from last year when Justin Dowling, Travis Morin and Erik Condra all departed through various routes (promotion, retirement, signing elsewhere). With some flashy rookies and European signings coming in, Texas went all in on a roster with nine rookie players and 11 total playing their first season in the AHL. Inconsistency and a tendency, during the losing streak, to get down on themselves and let a one-goal deficit drain them and turn into a 2 or 3 goal one were both fatal. They’ve gotten better at that, and it’s turning into wins as their resiliency is kicking in.

JI: The Stars are riding a five game point streak, beating Rockford and Iowa twice before losing narrowly to white hot Milwaukee in OT Sunday and then ending the Admirals 13 game winning streak in impressive fashion Tuesday. I caught the second period of that game and saw the Stars score four goals on all four shots in that period against a Milwaukee side that have not been dominated like that. Has a switch been flipped or is it a style meeting a fight type of thing with this five game point streak you’ve been on?

SM: Coming off the last answer, it’s about the team believing in itself. Losing streaks are as much about lack of confidence as anything. Use whatever trite phrase you want.. “gripping their sticks too hard” comes to mind. But the players felt it. It took a barn burner 7-6 SO win against Rockford to break the streak, but the room was like they’d won the Cup after that victory. The true test was against Milwaukee, where they earned 3 of 4 points, got amazing goaltending and saw their prospects contribute. That’s what is going to take them to the playoffs, if they make it.

JI: Seems like since Travis Morin retired, that left a huge hole in the leadership end of things which have gone a long way in the slow start, as someone looking at the team from 1,670 miles away here in Wilkes-Barre. You have had recalls as any AHL team has and have tinkered with the lineup with trading for Anthony Louis. Is it still a work in progress or, since you’re coming East riding a five game point streak, finally starting to come together for Texas?

SM: It’s really coming together. Texas signed veteran center Tanner Kero in the offseason but he’s been snakebitten in the scoring department, goals at least, and is now injured. Michael Mersch is coming on a bit more recently but hasn’t stepped up as the team would have liked. The team is a work in progress, but the big thing that led to that aforementioned 7-6 win was the lineup shuffle that Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal did. He noted that certain players were not contributing up to expectations and healthy scratched four: Ben Gleason, Adam Mascherin, Tye Felhaber* and Brad McClure. The motivation worked. As they’ve filtered back into the lineup, they’ve contributed. For example, Adam Mascherin has goals in back-to-back games now after scoring only one in the previous 19.

Edit: Felhaber was assigned to the ECHL last night after this Q&A was completed.

JI: Looks like Landon Bow and Jake Oettinger have split the starts for the Stars in net for Texas. Was that the plan coming into the season?

SM: Bow is the grizzled veteran for Texas at all of 24 years old. I talked to him before the season and he noted that many clubs are going this route in the AHL as the ‘journeyman’ goalie becomes less and less common. He welcomes the challenge. Oettinger is a raw rookie, coming out of BU after his junior season. He had been on the bench for a bit recently as Texas looked to break the streak. He credited Texas Stars goalie coach Jim Bedard for working with him the last few weeks to get him ready for a return, where he stopped a career high 39 en route to a 5-1 win. You can say 1a/1b as far as the plan, but it’s clear based on usage that when things get tough, Texas is going to lean on Bow. He wants to have a big year to make it clear that he is the next in line for the backup role behind Ben Bishop. Anton Khudobin’s contract expires this year, and the role is open if he wants it. Oettinger is the Dallas heir apparent at this moment, so he’ll be in Cedar Park for a while.

JI: Give fans here in Wilkes-Barre a player to watch on the Stars this weekend.

SM: OK, I’m going to break the rules a bit here. I’ll give one forward and one defenseman… and a bonus. At forward, #18 Jason Robertson is one of those highly touted rookies. He led all of major junior in points last year and is just heating up for Texas. On defense, Emil Djuse is a European import who is known for his offensive knack. He has 14 points in 23 games and is #2 in team scoring. He freely admits he is still adjusting in the defensive zone, which also makes him interesting to watch. Finally, a wildcard: Diego Cuglietta. I think staff writer Ryan Pennington summarized it best when he said, “It may not always work out for him, but Diego Cuglietta always plays every shift like he won’t get another.” If that is true, he’s definitely an entertaining watch. However, he may not get as many shifts as Laxdal is running three lines hot in this point streak. Cuglietta centers the fourth line.

JI: Besides the San Antonio Rampage, give me the Stars biggest rival.

SM: This is an interesting one. Hot take alert, but I wouldn’t even consider San Antonio to be the biggest rival of Texas if we’re being honest. Don’t rivals have to be good at the same time at least once in their history? Texas and San Antonio have never made the playoffs in the same year in the eleven years that they’ve been in the league together. But back to the question, oddly the Rockford IceHogs are a team that Texas always seems to step up a level against. They have had a few playoff matchups but the regular season has been nasty as well. The 7-6 win to break the streak was against Rockford for example. I’m sure Stars fans would have other opinions. While they were still in the league, I think Houston or OKC were better rivals.

You can follow Stephen on Twitter @100DegreeHockey

Gameday setup for Friday’s contest against Texas hits the blog later at 3 p.m.

News on a Monday 12/2

Bunch of stuff to get to on this Monday.

There is a method to the madness. There’s always a reason.

For Noesen, it’s deserved. He’s been a wolf in sheeps clothing all season for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. Injuries are piling up by the day for Pittsburgh, hell they can’t even get through practices (Hornqvist, Monday) or morning skates (Rust, Friday) without picking up injuries. Brian Dumoulin had surgery on his ankle tendons Sunday and is shelved eight weeks. It just never ends.

Blandisi hitting waivers means if no one claims him, Noesen will go up. He was in Pittsburgh Monday.

Here’s a quick refresher on Noesen for you if you are just dropping in and aren’t entirely familiar with his body of work. You’ll need to click below for it to open in a separate window for you.

Also, Casey DeSmith was named AHL Goalie of the Month in November. A 7-1 record with a 1.60 GAA and a .951 SV% with two shutouts will do that for you.

I think that covers everything for now.