Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

Just an FYI…

I’m skipping preseason entirely this go around for a number of reasons this year.

1) A 10:30 a.m. preseason game, let alone the first game played this year does nothing for me. A midweek game tailored for kids (school day game) isn’t my cup of tea. Plus I have a lot going on work wise, so it’s out.

2) Last camping trip of the season is scheduled for next weekend, so Friday and next Sunday are out.

3) Midweek road game in Allentown next week is usually a dress rehearsal for the fringe guys and a warmup for the regulars. They don’t televise these and so it’s a pass for me.

Pens socials should have it all covered for you if your itching for coverage. I’ll be back with a preview of everything when I get back from my camping trip. I think I’m running a league wide preview and will have the weekend setup for the opener against the Phantoms and the Monday road game in Utica.

Anyone have six more weeks of summer they can let me borrow? No? Damn. Talk to you in about ten-ish days.

2022-23 AHL Schedule Released

Ho hum with these anymore.

League release here. Penguins release here.

TL;DR every team in the Eastern Conference like last year, Hershey and Lehigh Valley 12 times each. You see one schedule release, you see them all. But, for posterity, let’s do the thing.

1) Do you have a schedule matrix of opponents? Anyone in the Conference we are not playing?

2) Longest road trip? Longest home stand?

Four game home stand in March, spanning a week. No more than three games on the road. Charlotte trip around Thanksgiving, a Canada trip around Christmas and the other Charlotte trip in January.

3) How many three in threes?

Two. One in October. One in March. The benefit of a 72 game schedule.

4) Can I borrow your highlighter? I want to circle and highlight all the Sunday and worknight home games!

Two Sunday home games. One in February and one in March. Ten Wednesday games.

5) Show me more charts!

6) Any, “I have to close the door and act busy at work” dates on the calendar?

Nope.

7) The All Star Classic, are they doing that this year?

Laval. February 5 and 6, provided COVID doesn’t derail it like it has the last two seasons.

8) Anything else I need to know?

The Saturday home games start at 6:05 again. I don’t mind it, but they started it last year with something in mind with the earlier start and never did anything with it. But the 6:05 starts on Saturday home games remain a thing.

9) Playoff structure?

From the League release, cited above, it will stay the same. 23 teams make it.

The playoff field will include the top six finishers in the eight-team Atlantic Division, the top five finishers each in the seven-team North and Central Divisions, and the top seven teams in the 10-team Pacific Division. First Round match-ups will be best-of-three series; the two highest seeds in the Atlantic, the three highest seeds in each of the North and Central, and the first-place team in the Pacific will receive byes into the best-of-five Division Semifinals, with the First Round winners re-seeded in each division. The Division Finals will also be best-of-five series, followed by best-of-seven Conference Finals and a best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals series.

10) You mentioned preseason games yesterday. Where are they?

A Wednesday morning preseason game against Hershey? Oof.

Schedule Tomorrow – Summer Vacation

AHL schedule will be released on Thursday.

It’s the same thing, different year with these things. Only difference this year is that all AHL teams are playing 72 games.

For the Penguins, they will host the (you guessed it) Lehigh Valley Phantoms on October 15.

Included in that release is the mention of preseason games that will be played as well.

In past years, the Pens weren’t the opponent for any other team and their home opener. Not this year.

You might be wondering why a Monday.

Makes sense for them.

Pens aren’t done being other teams home openers.

If I see any more additional teams tweet who they are playing and if it includes the Penguins, I’ll edit this space. Usually the AHL adds a link of all the home openers in the evening.

My question is whether they get everyone in the Eastern Conference like they did last year. Also, what will the Eastern Conference look like? There hasn’t been any mention of what the divisional alignment will look like for 2022-23. How many games with Hershey and Lehigh Valley?

I’ll be back at some point Thursday to break it all down for you.

Oh, and in case you are wondering where the blog has been and why I haven’t updated anything? I’m loving summer too much. Here’s a link to the offseason signings made by Coal Street so far this year.

Penguins / Thunderbirds Series Snap

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins outlasted the Hershey Bears in the best of three First Round Series over the weekend. The Penguins advanced in three games, in thrilling fashion after blowing a two goal lead late in Game 3. Alexander Nylader, who came over from the Rockford IceHogs in a midseason trade, scored the overtime game winning goal propelling the Penguins into a series with the two seed Springfield Thunderbirds. It was the first series win for the Penguins since 2016, when they ousted the Providence Bruins, but were beaten in overtime in Game 7 by Travis Boyd and the aforementioned Bears.

Springfield, meanwhile, earned a First Round bye on account of finishing in the top two in the Atlantic Division, thereby getting the second highest seeded remaining team to make it out of the First Round. The Thunderbirds have not played since April 29, blanking the Providence Bruins 3-0. They come into the playoffs on the heels of back to back to back shutouts of their opponents.

Infographic time. If you can’t make it out on the screen you are looking at the blog on, click the image and it should enlarge for you. The infographic also has the series schedule for you as well.

It’s going to be Tommy Nappier for the Penguins again in net and most likely Charlie Lindgren, whom the Penguins did not see in the regular season at all in the nets for the Thunderbirds. Nappier’s backup to start the series is likely to be Samuel Harvey, until Tristan Jarry heals up from his foot injury and the Penguins get Alex D’Orio back. Lindgren is going to likely be backed up by Joel Hofer (or vice versa) so it’s going the Thunderbirds way in goal in this department.

What the Penguins need to do to beat the Thunderbirds: Stay out of the box. Springfield’s power play is lethal with names like James Neal, Sam Anas, Matthew Peca. Despite this, it has run into problems playing against the Penguins as the infographic above shows. Yet, that is fire I do not want to play with. Also, if the Penguins want to beat the Thunderbirds, they are going to have to beat them once at the Mass Mutual Center since it’s best of five now and the Pens do not have home ice.

What the Thunderbirds need to do to beat the Penguins: Defend home ice, get your power play going, be the better team in all areas. Look at the infographic again. Springfield’s top three scorers have more points than the Penguins highest scorer and this isn’t even factoring in James Neal who joined Springfield around mid-year and missed some games due to injury. However, despite all that, this is a matchup problem for the Thunderbirds. They were Aces against everyone else, but the Penguins who were the ones who gave them problems.

X-factor for Wilkes-Barre: Radim Zohorna. Three games, five points for the Penguins in the Hershey series.

X-factor for Springfield: Either Charlie Lindgren, who had impressive numbers for the Thunderbirds in goal or James Neal, an elite NHL sniper playing at the AHL level. The Penguins haven’t seen Lindgren yet this season, so he’s a big, big unknown.

What they are saying:

If you see any other predictions, leave them in the comments below.

I still like the Penguins in five. Here’s why. Foregone conclusion that they probably lose Game 1 tonight against the Thunderbirds based off of the amount of games, the type of games and the travel to and from Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and Springfield which they endured. The Penguins win Game 2. It comes back to Wilkes-Barre where they split and Springfield wins one in overtime or something in Game 4 forcing it back to Massachusetts. Head to head, I like the Penguins chances. I’m not confident that it goes the distance here because I could absolutely see a scenario where Springfield drops both at home and the Penguins either sweep or finish the Thunderbirds in four. Vice versa on that too, if the Thunderbirds power play stays hot and gets ripping against the Pens and Lindgren becomes an impenetrable wall for the Pens, it easily could be Springfield in a sweep or moving on in five or less games.

Still, styles make fights and that will be evident in the series. A series which in my opinion still favors the Penguins, all considered.

Who is running the show? Games 1 and 2 officiating crews are out. Nothing for Game 3 yet. It will be Jeremy Tufts and Conor O’Donnell with Justin Johnson and Brent Colby on the lines in Game 1 and Casey Terreri and Conor O’Donnell with Justin Johnson and Kevin Briganti on the lines for Game 2.

More tonight after Game 1.

Penguins / Bears Series Snap


Two rivals going after it in the First Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs is a tale as old as time, as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears write another chapter in their story when the best of three series kicks off Friday night in Wilkes-Barre.

I don’t know if you pay attention to anything that the AHL puts out on social media, but they have been posting infographics, so instead of me typing out a schedule, here it is in visual form. Click the image to enlarge if you can’t see it all the way on whatever device you are taking in this blog from:

And the infographics, which have ALL the good stuff:

It will be Tommy Nappier in net for the Penguins, backed up by Samuel Harvey, who the Penguins signed from the Fort Wayne Komets this week after Casey DeSmith left Game 1 of in the series with the New York Rangers. Alex D’Orio went up Wednesday to back up Louis Domingue, who started Game 2.

Much quieter for the Hershey Bears, who get the services of Joe Snively on a conditioning loan for the first round only. It’s bending the rules, as Snively wasn’t on a the roster at he trade deadline for the Bears, it’s a loophole that Washington / Hershey exposed that anyone can. It’s smart business.

What the Penguins need to do to beat the Bears: Stay out of the penalty box, defend home ice, punish their forwards, don’t take risks defensively. The Penguins were a hot team on home ice down the stretch. Don’t let Hershey’s power play numbers fool you. There are going to be penalties, that’s a fact of life, so minimize the stupid stick fouls, keep cool post whistle and don’t beat yourself.

What the Bears need to do to beat the Penguins: Get to Nappier with a ton of shots. There is no viable backup, as Wilkes-Barre is thin without Louis Domingue. Just pump shots, wear down the Penguins defense, get the crowd out of it early and get your forwards rolling.

X-factor for Wilkes-Barre: Filip Hallander. A rising tide floats all boats. Get Hallander going and you get Poulin going. Get Poulin going and you get Valtterti Puustinen going. It trickles down from there.

X-factor for Hershey: Bears leading scorer Mike Vecchione. You are probably going to see a line of Vecchione, Garrett Pilon and Joe Snively at some point during this series, if not right out of the gate on Friday.

This all said, it may be a defensive struggle.

What are they saying: If they you mean I, I like the Penguins in three. It’s not going to be easy. Probably won’t finish in a sweep after a tumultuous week of transactions and it’s going to be edge of your seat action from bell to bell. Don’t expect a 6-4 result. Expect 2-1 or lower. That favors the Penguins. That means Nappier is dialed in and shots aren’t getting through. But, the longer this goes, especially when you are in an overtime situation, one shot ends your season.

Who is running the show? Game 1 crew is Cody Beach and Jeremy Tufts with Mitchell Hunt and Patrick Dapuzzo on the lines. In Game 2, Beau Halkidis and Jim Curtin get the assignment with Jud Ritter and Jon Rey on the lines.

More later after Game 1.

2022 Calder Cup Playoffs Preview

Time to herd cats, or in this case, predict the unpredictable. Time for the Calder Cup Playoff Preview, my look at each series from the first round play-in games to the Calder Cup Finals.

Now, I expect these to be very wrong, but give a strong case for each on why they could be very right.

Twenty-three teams qualified for the postseason. Eight did not. Let’s pour one out for the Iowa Wild, Grand Rapids Griffins, San Jose Barracuda, Tucson Roadrunners, Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Hartford Wolf Pack, Cleveland Monsters and the Toronto Marlies. Better luck next year, guys. Enjoy the tranquility of the postseason and we will see you in October.

Your formats are as follows, the first round is a best of three. The division semis and finals are best of five. The Conference Finals and Calder Cup Finals are best of seven. Here’s a handy graphic from the folks at the AHL.com:

Alright, enough bloviating, let’s do this, starting in familiar territory.

Atlantic Division

First Round Byes: Charlotte and Springfield

First Round, best of three.

(3) Providence vs. (6) Bridgeport: Starting off with the first upset. The Bruins were hot and cold all season long. They are missing key pieces in a series which starts Monday. Chris Terry and either goaltender Jakub Skarek or Corey Schneider are the X factors for the Islanders, who advance in three.

(4) Wilkes-Barre / Scranton vs. (5) Hershey: Expect a war and two games that go into overtime. Hershey’s inconsistency at the end of the season bleeds over to the playoffs. Penguins steal the series in three.

Division Semi-Finals, best of five.

(1) Charlotte vs. (6) Bridgeport: Islanders luck runs out, but they take the Checkers the distance. Charlotte survives a real scare in five.

(2) Springfield vs. (4) Wilkes-Barre / Scranton: Another series which likely goes the distance, Springfield was good, but inconsistent through the regular season and should have won the division running away. The Penguins know how to beat the Thunderbirds and do so in five.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Charlotte vs. (4) Wilkes-Barre / Scranton: Charlotte’s guns, their success on the power play which wasn’t on full display the series earlier against Bridgeport, finally kick it into gear and they dispatch the Penguins in four.

Central Division

First Round Byes: Chicago, Manitoba, Milwaukee

First Round, best of three.

(4) Rockford vs. (5) Texas: Pesky Stars give the IceHogs all they can handle and advance in three.

Division Semi-Finals, best of five.

(1) Chicago vs. (5) Texas: Cinderella meets midnight and the Wolves, who were class of the Central for much of the season, dismiss their first victim in four.

(2) Manitoba vs. (3) Milwaukee: Moose played second fiddle to the Wolves for the entire season it seems, but are the only team in this division to advance in a sweep. Moose in three.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Chicago vs. (2) Manitoba: Here it is, a chance for the Moose to take down the Wolves and yet, as we have seen time and time again this season, Chicago always finds a way. Wolves in five.

Pacific Division

First Round Bye: Stockton

First Round, best of three.

(2) Ontario vs. (7) San Diego: San Diego finished with a sub-.500 record and is gifted a playoff spot because they were the best of the dregs in the Pacific. Ontario kept pace with Stockton for pretty much the entire season. No Cinderella’s in this forum here when you have a guy in your lineup in T.J. Tynan who scored close to 100 points this season. Ontario in two.

(3) Colorado vs. (6) Henderson: One of a handful of series which will all be played at one venue, this being the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado which is a raucous place to play to start with. Eagles were nearly 10 games over .500 at home while the Silver Knights were sub-.500 on the road. You know how this goes, Eagles in three.

(4) Bakersfield vs. (5) Abbotsford: Probably the most dead even matchup in the entire first round. Condors lost just 9 games in regulation at home all season. Another series being played all at one place. Give the edge to the real home team, Condors in three.

Division Semi-Finals, best of five.

(1) Stockton vs. (4) Bakersfield: You can make a case for an upset here for the Condors with the way that the Heat sputtered down the final few weeks of the season but that’s a risk I don’t take. The Condors win a game, if that, Heat in four.

(2) Ontario vs. (3) Colorado: Not the matchup the Reign wanted in the second round because the Eagles had the Reign’s number in the regular season. Eagles in five.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Stockton vs. (3) Colorado: The edge in a series like this where the team that is supposed to be here (Stockton) meets the team they weren’t expecting (Colorado) which beat the team they were expecting (Ontario) usually works out well for the team with the expectations coming into the series. Heat in five.

North Division

First Round Byes: Utica, Syracuse, Laval

First Round, best of three.

(4) Belleville vs. (5) Rochester: The expectations for the Americans is such that they shouldn’t have needed the final day of the regular season to qualify. However, people are going to learn quick to not bet against Belleville Head Coach Troy Mann. Senators in three.

Division Semi-Finals, best of five.

(1) Utica vs. (4) Belleville: Another one of those matchup problems for a team that ran the North wire-to-wire. Comets survive a real scare, probably come back from being on the brink down 2-1 in the series, but advance in five games.

(2) Syracuse vs. (3) Laval: I toss out matchups in a lot, but sometimes teams go on runs. I see it here with the Crunch, evidenced by the 8-2 stretch they used to close out the regular season. Syracuse in four.

Division Finals, best of five.

(1) Utica vs. (2) Syracuse: Ah yes, two teams and fan bases who hate each other. Utica owned the Crunch in the regular season, but the Crunch take the Comets to the limit in probably the most entertaining series of the entire playoffs, but Utica survives. Comets in five.

Eastern Conference Finals, best of seven.

(1) Utica vs. (1) Charlotte: Comets will have home ice since they won the Conference running away. Intriguing matchup here. Utica went 3-0-1 against the Checkers this year. But, the Checkers are fairly fresh and rested whereas the Comets have scars from the exposition that the Senators displayed in the semis and the war from Syracuse in the division finals. Charlotte in six.

Western Conference Finals, best of seven.

(1) Chicago vs. (1) Stockton: The only scare Chicago faces is already behind them in the series with the Moose. Stockton makes a couple games close, but go out quickly and Chicago advances in six.

Calder Cup Finals, best of seven.

(1) Chicago vs. (1) Charlotte: After two years of season and postseason cancellations due to COVID, am I really forecasting a Calder Cup Finals rematch from the last time there was a Calder Cup Final? I guess I am, only this time, it’s the Wolves who are the victors. Sometimes the best team in the regular season stays that way and remain the best team in the postseason. Wolves in five.

That’s how I see it playing out this year. All chalk, a couple scares, a few sweeps, not many upsets. The action gets going Monday. If you have a team in it, enjoy the ride.

Home Sweet Home – Pens Clinch Fourth Place

Syracuse beat Hershey in the later game this Sunday afternoon 5-3 and this result gives the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton fourth place in the Atlantic Division and home ice over the aforementioned Bears.

There should be a schedule put out later tonight and I’ll run an edit with that schedule. The series is a best of three, so getting home ice advantage in said series is likely crucial in what is sure to be a razor thin, edge of your seat series.

EDIT: Schedule here.

Game on.