Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

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.

Bye Bye Bigras

This kinda came out of left field today…

Future considerations trade. Usually means the Wolves pay for the first round of drinks at the League Meetings over the summer. Or, it’s a gussied up way of saying they gave the guy away for nothing.

I don’t know if Bigras wanted out or anything. He has only played in 28 games due to being out with an injury which cost him about a month. He has 10 points. It’s not a trade that hurts Wilkes-Barre at all. Bigras is an expendable player. Warm body for warm body.

It’s also a, “play your kids” deal too. Bigras is not in the future for the Wilkes-Barre or Pittsburgh Penguins. Clayton Phillips, whom the Penguins drafted in the third round in 2017, signed an ATO last week with Coal Street. Pittsburgh signed free agent defenseman Colin Swoyer Monday. These kids are the potential future of the organization, not some lineup yo-yo defenseman who has played 28 games for a team battling for its playoff life.

More Wednesday, for the Weekend Preview teeing up Hartford, Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport this week.

Power Rankings – Play That Funky Glenn Frey Music!

It’s a nearly all Pacific Division top five this week as the Stockton Heat take over the top spot in the Rankings this week unseating the Utica Comets.

If you don’t understand the headline, the Heat’s goal song is, “The Heat is On” by Glenn Frey. I think it is subtly awesome, personally.

The Heat are followed closely by the Ontario Reign, who took three of four points out of Stockton this weekend and the Bakersfield Condors who are on a hell of a run.

A note about Springfield, they bumped up big this week. Call it a market correction.

Here’s the whole list:

RankTeamBlurbLast Week
1Boy that was a fun series with Ontario this past weekend. Heat remain tops in the Pacific with a shootout win Saturday. Home and home with Bakersfield this weekend. +1
2Reign get three of four points out of Stockton. They scored three power play goals Saturday against the Heat. +2
3Busy week for the Condors coming up who were in a run and gun with Silver Knights last weekend. One with Ontario and then a home and home with Stockton. Abbotsford in on Wednesday. +3
4Dropping Utica out of the top spot because last place Cleveland beat them. Toronto and Rochester on the menu this week. -3
5Important game Saturday in Providence coming. Wolf Pack beat Rochester in OT this past Saturday. n/a
6Swept Texas last week. This week: one in Chicago, one with Rockford, then three with the Moose. All winnable and the Admirals will be looking to move even higher in the Central.+2
7Busy February continues for this team. Five game road trip starts Wednesday in Belleville. +7
8Thunderbirds getting hot at the right time. This is the thick of the season. Trip to PA where the Thunderbirds haven’t had much luck this season. +14
9Every week I come to the standings expecting to see a new face on top of the Central and every week it is still Chicago. 3-3-2-2 in their last ten. Rockford got them twice this weekend. -2
10Wolves are floundering and the Moose go out to Abbotsford and get trounced. Now three with Milwaukee, the hottest team in the division? Eek!-7
11The wins over Chicago are nice, but it’s the rest of the division that the IceHogs have to figure out. Iowa and Milwaukee this week then a home and home with Grand Rapids. +6
12Marlies did not play this past week. Get Utica in an important midweek matchup then a home and home with Belleville. n/a
13Wild holding onto last playoff spot in the Central. Schedule is a bit heavy this week with a pair with the Wolves and one with Rockford. +3
14Took 4 of 6 out of Pennsylvania. Return home for key matchups with Laval and Toronto, suddenly winnable games for the Senators. +5
15Split a series with Tucson. I’m sorry but if you want to contend in this bloated division, you shouldn’t be giving points away to Tucson of all teams. Henderson stops in this week and the Silver Knights aren’t a pushover.-5
16Sweep the Moose at home in impressive fashion. Bakersfield and Colorado make for good tests for these Canucks.+14
17Six game February road trip continues this week in Colorado and Tucson. Winnable games to keep pace with the top two teams in the Pacific. -2
18Bears have losses wrapped around a win Saturday at home against Belleville where the power play saved the Bears (Hershey went 3/5) – trip out to see Providence and Bridgeport this weekend.-9
19Depleted by injuries and callups, again. But got a gutty win Friday at home against Rochester via shootout.-6
20Hit a bump midweek in a loss in Rochester and again Friday at home with Belleville. Very important games midweek with Charlotte for fifth in the division. -9
21Phantoms go 5-1-1 against the Bears this past Sunday with a big win. Problem is the other teams in the division. -3
22Rocky trip to the Atlantic, but managed to get loser points. Trip continues this week. -1
23Big showdown at home this week against the Penguins before the Monsters stop in.-3
24Won their only game this week against the Barracuda. Home and home against the Reign this weekend. +4
25Won Thursday in OT in Des Moines then got smoked the next night by the Wild. n/a
26Schedule doesn’t relent with Henderson this weekend. +1
27Split down in Charlotte. Host Rochester / Hershey / Hartford this week. -4
28Managed a win in Utica, which doesn’t happen much. Trip to Charlotte this weekend. +3
29Swept by Milwaukee. Grand Rapids then San Jose drop by. These are winnable, must win games for the Stars.-3
30Crunch continue to free fall, getting thumped by Laval three times. One more with the Rocket this week before a different opponent (Rochester) drops by this week.-6
31Busiest part of the month coming up here for the Barracuda who only play seven games this month. San Jose have three this week with San Diego and a pair in Texas.-2

Power Rankings – Comets, Again

Class of the field in the East is Utica. Class in the West is Stockton. It hasn’t been close all season. The Heat have a pair with the Reign this week and that may change, but for now, your top two teams this week are Utica and Stockton.

Here’s the whole list:

RankTeamBlurbLast Week
1Still the team to beat in the division and conference. Ho hum.+1
2Good team on a hell of a run. Showdown at home this weekend with Ontario.+1
312 round shootout win Sunday over Texas in their only action in the week due to weather. Moose travel down to Texas his week looking to move closer to the Wolves in the standings.+1
4Reign head back west where the Stockton Heat await. Division lead implications at stake.+2
5Got their reinforcements back from them taxi squad and sit atop the Atlantic. 7-2-1-0 in their last ten and on a roll. Springfield and Rochester drop by this week. +2
6Hottest team in the Pacific is actually Bakersfield, who methodically took down the white hot Colorado Eagles.+2
7Have been blandly average but built up enough of credit to not let it affect their positioning in the standings. -2
8Great resurrection for Milwaukee. 8-1-0-1 has them as one of the hottest teams in the AHL.+3
9Beat a struggling Cleveland team. Everyone does that these days. Lehigh Valley sandwiched in between a stop in by Belleville.+6
10Season long winning streak ends in Bakersfield and the Eagles bring home a losing streak! -9
11One of the hottest teams in the division, hold the final spot which qualifies for a playoff spot. If they keep up this run of play, they won’t have to worry about that. +1
12Neat run that the Marlies are on, but we will see how good this team really is this Wednesday when they host the Comets.+5
13Stopped the skid in a tight affair in Wilkes-Barre, claiming OT victory. +3
14Extremely busy month continues with three straight against Syracuse.-5
15Beat up the last place San Jose Barracuda to adjust things a bit. Trip out to Bakersfield this week.+4
16Split with Rockford with identical 4-2 results. Host struggling Grand Rapids this week.-3
17Have hit a bit of a slide here. Home and home with Chicago doesn’t make things any easier. -7
18Saw a two goal lead turn into a two goal deficit Saturday in Hartford. This team will continue to struggle.-4
19Senators have been good recently but they head to the vipers pit known as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania this week.+8
20Return home for six straight. Winnable games too. Bridgeport up this weekend. -2
21Amerks have hit a cold patch and host one of the hottest teams in the Atlantic this Wednesday when Wilkes-Barre stops by.-1
22Struggled this week, but still maintain the top three spot. Utica, Hartford and Providence this week is probably the toughest schedule in the AHL this week. n/a
23We think that the Islanders are the best last place team in their division, if that makes any sense.-2
24Nice bit if a turnaround after a struggle these past few weeks. Three straight in Laval, QC when these two teams are neck and neck in the North Division standings. +4
25Split with Ontario, head out to Des Moines for a pair with the Wild. +4
26Took them all weekend to get to Winnipeg to lose a 12 round shootout. Host the Moose this week, then the Admirals this weekend.-1
27Road trip continues to Abbotsford this week after a split in San Diego.-1
28Chance to get some points out of San Jose this weekend in their only game this week (Friday)+3
29Barracuda only play in seven contests this month. One of them with San Diego this Friday. +1
30Good chance that the 0-3 skid ends with struggling Tucson this weekend. -7
31Pair of 4-1 setbacks against Hershey this week. Schedule doesn’t get any easier, Chicago and Utica on the menu this week.-7