Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

AHL Power Rankings: End of December 2019

Not much has changed at the top of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings this week from the last time we did this two weeks ago. Tucson and Milwaukee remain at the top of the heap with their remarkable runs. These teams combined are 45-9-3-2 good for 95 points.

Rochester bumps to third after a good two weeks, Hartford has resurrected back to the top of the Atlantic in fourth and the hottest team of them all winners of eight straight, your Hershey Bears are in the top five.

Jump past the Bears if you didn’t link in direct to see where your favorite team ended up.


Last Games: TUC 2 @ SA 1 (SO), TUC 3 @ TEX 1, ONT 3 @ TUC 6, ONT 0 @ TUC 8
Tucson is making it look easy, feasting on an otherwise average Pacific Division palette of opponents.


Next Games: vs. COL 12/28, vs. COL 12/29, vs. SD 12/31, vs. SJ 1/3, vs. SJ 1/4
Record: 23-5-0-0


Last Games: CHI 1 @ MIL 4, MIL 2 @ CHI 3 (OT), SA 1 @ MIL 2, CLE 0 @ MIL 4
Thirteen point lead on the division lead and they are playing strong in Milwaukee. Will feast on Griffin wings through the New Year.


Next Games: @ GR 12/27, vs. GR 12/28, @ CHI 12/29, @ CLE 1/3, @ CLE 1/4, vs. GR 1/8
Record: 22-4-3-2


Last Games: ROC 3 @ LAV 2, ROC 5 @ LAV 0, ROC 1 @ BNG 2, BNG 0 @ ROC 3, UTI 4 @ ROC 3
Amerks get some separation between them and Toronto going 7-3 in their last ten. Belleville twice and Toronto highlight this next fortnight.


Next Games: vs. BEL 12/27, @ BNG 12/28, @ UTI 12/31, @ BEL 1/3, @ TOR 1/4, vs. BNG 1/8
Record: 19-6-2-2


Last Games: LV 0 @ HFD 4, HFD 2 @ LV 4, HFD 3 @ CHA 6, HFD 1 @ CHA 7, PRO 0 @ HFD 3
Still waiting on the Wolf Pack to stumble and they haven’t yet. Get used to seeing Hartford’s name at the top of the Atlantic.


Next Games: @ BRI 12/27, vs. PRO 12/28, v s. BRI 12/31, @ PRO 1/3, vs. UTI 1/4, @ HER 1/8
Record: 17-7-2-5


Last Games: BRI 2 @ HER 5, LV 1 @ HER 3, SPR 1 @ HER 2 (OT), SPR 2 @ HER 3
Eight straight wins for Hershey. This team right now isn’t getting enough talk about outside of Central Pennsylvania.


Next Games: @ UTI 12/27, vs. WBS 12/28, @ LV 12/29, @ WBS 1/3, vs. BRI 1/4, vs. BRI 1/5, vs. HFD 1/8
Record: 17-9-2-3

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Stefan Noesen Claimed by San Jose Sharks, Larmi Re-assigned 12/20

Didn’t want to do it, but here the post is as alluded to in the close of last nights recap of a toothless display by the Penguins where, they generated close to 40 shots against the Providence Bruins, but didn’t come close to scoring but for an Adam Johnson attempt early in the first period.

From what I have read, the Sharks needed help at right wing. Noesen will provide that. Now if in a month or whenever San Jose should waive Noesen the Penguins can, as they did last year with J-S Dea, reclaim him and assign Noesen back to Wilkes-Barre. Remains to be seen if that happens.

You can look at this two ways. First, a mission accomplished for a coach in Mike Vellucci getting his player in Stefan Noesen full time NHL work again. It’s a coaches job at the AHL level to graduate players, no matter how old they are or how much experience they have, to the next level.

Or, you can look at it as a raw deal for Wilkes-Barre, who are yet again robbed of a player with Noesen’s offensive prowess. Noesen came into the season as a player on an AHL contract, Pittsburgh signs him, has him play a handful of games and loses him on waivers. Was Ryan Haggerty’s phone broke that day? Did Andrew Agozzino not pay his phone bill for the month as part of a prank pulled by the rookies? It was a gamble if or when Noesen was inevitably signed by an NHL team and another gamble when Noesen would have been ultimately exposed to waivers again for the purposes of an AHL assignment.

I’m not choosing a side on this one. Just pointing out both ends of an argument which can be made here.

In other news Thursday, Coal Street assigned goaltender Emil Larmi to their ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers. Just a matter of time here and long overdue once Tristan Jarry, who the Penguins actively tried to trade in the summer, essentially took over the #1 starters job in Pittsburgh and is arguably the best goaltender in the NHL at this juncture.

Back Friday at 3 with the Gameday setup for the rematch with Providence.

Ryan Haggerty Traded 12/17, Other Stuff

I would suppose that there is a benefit to having the head coach of your hockey team also act as the general manager.

It was announced Tuesday afternoon that the Pittsburgh Penguins have traded Ryan Haggerty to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Kevin Roy. It’s essentially a trade between two AHL teams involving NHL contracts. I wonder if there is a trade fee with NHL Central Registry and how much it is and how it compares to the one in the AHL.

Anyway, it solves the veteran problem for Wilkes-Barre as Roy does not count as a veteran. Roy has played 23 games and is tied with two other players on the Panthers AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, in points with fourteen (4-10, fourth overall) – seven of those points have come on the power play (2-5) so the Penguins 12th ranked power play (as of December 17) clicking at nearly 20% (19.1) gets better.

I don’t think it’s change of scenery for either guy per se. Haggerty was a good piece here in Wilkes-Barre. He should have been named captain when Garrett Wilson was promoted to full time NHL work last year. He remained that way this season but because the AHL limits the amount of veterans you can dress every night, became a rotating piece that came in and out of the lineup and you never knew when you’d see him again because of the overage of veterans already on the roster. Penguins Head Coach and General Manager Mike Vellucci obviously knows this and did something which improves his team.

This resets things a bit for Haggerty, who will likely start getting more regular playing time with Springfield.

In other news…

– The AHL tagged Cleveland Monsters forward Calvin Thurkauf with a two game suspension for this hit on Zach Trotman on Friday.

Tyler reported that there weren’t any updates on any injured guys after practice Tuesday morning at Coal Street. Adam Johnson is a maybe for Wednesday vs. Providence, Trotman, Sam Miletic and David Warsofsky were absent.

– Bruins here Wednesday and Friday, here’s some pre-scout reading for you.

AHL Power Rankings: Mid-December 2019

It’s the middle of December and while it is cold outside, some AHL teams are staying hot or heating up. Some who started hot have cooled off.

It is business as usual at the top of the heap. The Tucson Roadrunners are making it look easy, the Milwaukee Admirals are running away with the Central, the Toronto Marlies and Rochester Americans are playing a game of leapfrog and the Hartford Wolf Pack are back, jack.

Go past Hartford if you didn’t link in direct to see where your favorite team ended up this week.


Last Games: TUC 2 @ SD 6, COL 3 @ TUC 6, COL 1 @ TUC 2, TUC 4 @ IA 1, TUC 2 @ IA 0
I feel like, because they play in a division that plays 68 games, that teams in the Pacific don’t get enough respect from a league wide basis. Tucson is one of these teams. Playing at nearly an .800 clip, the Roadrunners are an elite side.


Next Games: @ SA 12/13, @ TEX 12/14, vs. ONT 12/20, vs. ONT 12/21
Record: 19-5-0-0


Last Games: MIL 4 @ SA 3 (OT), MIL 2 @ TEX 1 (OT), MIL 1 @ TEX 5, IA 1 @ MIL 7, MIL 5 @ RFD 2, MIL 1 @ RFD 2 (OT)
Admirals yield the top spot to the Tucson Roadrunners for now. Milwaukee is running away with the Central, so as the trend continues, the Admirals should be back at the top soon.


Next Games: vs. CHI 12/13, @ CHI 12/14, vs. SA 12/18, vs. CLE 12/20
Record: 19-4-2-2


Last Games: TOR 3 @ ROC 2 (OT), UTI 4 @ TOR 3, UTI 3 @ TOR 5, TOR 0 @ ROC 4, SA 2 @ TOR 3, SA 1 @ TOR 4, TOR 4 @ UTI 6
Marlies stay ahead of the busy North through a coaching change. Not a lot of games for Toronto between now and Christmas.


Next Games: vs. BEL 12/14, vs. RFD 12/15, @ BEL 12/21
Record: 17-5-2-1


Last Games: TOR 3 @ ROC 2 (OT), ROC 3 @ CLE 2, TOR 0 @ ROC 4, CHA 0 @ ROC 4, CHA 3 @ ROC 1, WBS 2 @ ROC 4
Amerks had a 12 game point streak come to an end against Charlotte last weekend, but that was a minor bump in the road, they outclassed Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday. Play like this, it won’t be long till Rochester gets to the top of the North.


Next Games: @ LAV 12/13, @ LAV 12/14, @ BNG 12/18, vs. BNG 12/20, vs. UTI 12/21
Record: 16-4-2-2


Last Games: HFD 1 @ LV 2 (OT), HFD 3 @ HER 4 (OT), HFD 5 @ SPR 2, BNG 2 @ HFD 5, HFD 4 @ PRO 1, BNG 1 @ HFD 3
Full marks to the Wolf Pack for picking themselves off the mat and back to the top of the Atlantic Division. Should be interesting to watch Hartford in this position.


Next Games: vs. LV 12/13, @ LV 12/14, @ CHA 12/17, @ CHA 12/18, vs. PRO 12/21
Record: 15-4-2-5

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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.

AHL Power Rankings: End of November 2019

Happy Thanksgiving if you are reading this on Thursday. The End of November Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings are here with a bit of a shakeup as we conclude November this weekend and head into December.

The Milwaukee Admirals are on a tear, and they are your new number one team.

Right behind the Admirals are the ever dangerous Toronto Marlies.

The potent offense and stingy defense of the Tucson Roadrunners are third.

Rochester is fourth followed by Providence in fifth. We could have gone three different directions with four and five each, but pop past the Bruins if you didn’t link in direct to see hwere your favorite team ended up this week.

And if you happen to be Canadian, happy Thursday.


Last Games: MIL 5 @ LAV 2, MIL 4 @ BEL 2, MIL 6 @ IA 5 (SO), MIL 3 @ GR 2, GR 0 @ MIL 5, MB 3 @ MIL 6
Eleven game win streaks will put you at the top of the AHL Power Rankings in a jiffy. There is no stopping the Admirals at this point.


Next Games: @ SA 11/30, @ TEX 12/1, @ TEX 12/3, vs. IA 12/6, @ RFD 12/7, @ RFD 12/10
Record: 14-3-1-2


Last Games: TEX 4 @ TOR 8, TEX 3 @ TOR 4, LAV 1 @ TOR 2 (OT), MB 2 @ TOR 4, MB 1 @ TOR 4
So the cream is starting to rise here in the North with Toronto picking off six straight wins against some stiffer competition save for Texas (sorry, Stars fans) – Marlies look to keep it rolling as December fires up.


Next Games: @ ROC 11/29, vs. UTI 11/30, vs. UTI 12/1, @ ROC 12/4, vs. SA 12/7, vs. SA 12/8, @ UTI 12/11
Record: 13-2-2-1


Last Games: TUC 5 @ STK 2, TUC 1 @ SJ 7, TUC 8 @ SJ 2, ONT 1 @ TUC 4, ONT 2 @ TUC 3, TUC 8 @ BAK 3
We’ve been here with Tucson, out to a hot start only to fizzle. This year seems different as the offense is highly potent and explosive. That alone is enough to win you hockey games at this level.


Next Games: @ SD 11/30, vs. COL 12/3, vs. COL 12/4, @ IA 12/7, @ IA 12/10
Record: 15-4-0-0


Last Games: CLE 2 @ ROC 3 (OT), ROC 4 @ UTI 3, HFD 0 @ ROC 4, ROC 4 @ BNG 2
Unbeaten in their last eight, 7-1-1-1 in their last ten, the Amerks are right there in a dangerous North Division with a slew of other dangerous teams.


Next Games: vs. TOR 11/29, @ CLE 11/30, vs. TOR 12/4, vs. CHA 12/6, vs. CHA 12/7, vs. WBS 12/11
Record: 12-3-1-2


Last Games: HFD 3 @ PRO 4 (SO), PRO 2 @ HFD 5, BRI 0 @ PRO 5, PRO 4 @ SPR 5 (OT), HER 3 @ PRO 6, PRO 7 @ HER 6 (SO)
Bruins are winning and if not, getting points. The same thing that Hartford was doing at the start of the season and now look, Providence sit at the top of the Atlantic.


Next Games: @ CHA 11/30, @ CHA 12/1, vs. BNG 12/6, vs. UTI 12/7, vs. HFD 12/8, vs. SYR 12/11
Record: 12-7-1-2

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