Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: WBS

2018-19 Schedule Matrix Announced

I think Hershey was the first team to announce a schedule matrix of opponents for 2018-19 on Thursday. Other teams followed suit slowly. Well, Friday it was the Penguins turn.

No real changes from last year but for the addition of the Cleveland Monsters to the schedule docket. Wilkes-Barre will play every Eastern Conference team at least once and also go back to Grand Rapids, Rockford and Milwaukee.

Breakdown goes as follows….

Opponent Home Road   Opponent Home Road
Binghamton 2 2 Milwaukee 1 1
Bridgeport 4 4 Providence 3 3
Charlotte 2 2 Rochester 1 1
Cleveland 2 2 Rockford 1 1
Grand Rapids 1 1 Springfield 3 3
Hartford 3 3 Syracuse 1 1
Hershey 6 6 Toronto 1 1
Lehigh Valley 6 6 Utica 1 1

Thoughts:

  • I am not a fan of playing Charlotte, a divisional foe, just four times. Those games matter.
  • Further, I’m not a fan of playing Syracuse just twice. Those games turn into premier games in that it’s the only time all season that you will see the club. I don’t associate that at all with the Crunch.
  • Easy fix is to simply take two games off of the Hershey and Lehigh Valley series, only play the Phantoms and Bears 10 games, and add a game to the Charlotte series and one more to Syracuse.
    • That would likely mean that the Penguins would have to play three straight in Charlotte. I don’t know that they would want to do that because of distance.
  • The Cleveland series will likely be a back to back Friday-Saturday series in Cleveland.
  • I’m not complaining, but I would have liked to have seen Iowa and Chicago on the matrix instead of the same combination of Milwaukee, Grand Rapids and Rockford. But hey, they are Western Conference teams.

Overall, pretty business as usual. Schedule should be out pretty soon, once the Calder Cup Finals wrap up in about a month.

The Offseason Moves List has its own dedicated page now, which you can access here or just use the tab at the top of the blog.

Next blog update will be the Conference Finals Preview. Toronto is in, awaiting the winner of Lehigh Valley and Charlotte. Texas is a game away from advancing past Tucson and Rockford has Manitoba in a 3-0 hole. Look for that very soon.

Penguin Contract Statuses

I figured I would bring this back from the dead after not doing it last season. It’s the contract board for the offseason for the Penguins.

I discuss only players that played in the AHL for Wilkes-Barre. In my next blog post, whenever that is, I will pin this to the top of the blog and add it to a page and edit it as the summer goes on.

Here we go, in no particular order.

Player Position Status Description
Dominik Simon C RFA Serviceable enough that the Penguins may qualify him. If not, he’s definitely a upper echelon tweener type player.
Josh Jooris C UFA Didn’t really have much of an impact after coming over in the Greg McKegg trade. Was a full time NHLer when the trade happened with Carolina. Could fit in nice somewhere else.
Andrey Pedan D RFA Rumor is he is KHL bound. PIT may qualify his North American rights.
Thomas DiPauli LW RFA Should get qualified. Injury cut short the remainder of his season.
Ethan Prow D RFA Should be a lock to be qualified and will be playing meaningful AHL minutes in 18-19.
Teddy Blueger LW RFA Had an NHL cup of coffee but never dressed in a brief call-up. Expect him to be qualified.
Lukas Bengtsson D RFA May have a European deal lined up. Has health issues which has kept him from playing a full season.
Tobias Lindberg LW RFA Was one of the minor keys in the move that brought Derek Brassard to Pittsburgh. Never played a game with WBS.
Daniel Sprong RW RFA GM Rutherford indicated on breakup day that he expects Sprong to be with Pittsburgh in the Fall. In order for that to occur he must be qualified.
Kevin Czuczman D UFA He’s the type of player you want to see come back next season. I think he moves on though.
Frank Corrado D RFA He’ll be 26 next year and has played in just 7 games for PIT. I let him walk. We’ll see what happens.
J-S Dea C RFA Didn’t really do much to establish himself this season in the AHL. He’s an interesting case.
Tom Sestito LW UFA Have a sense that if he decides to re-sign, he does so here in WBS as I get the sense that he has enjoyed his time here. Otherwise, I think he retires.
Jarred Tinordi D UFA He may be looking for NHL work elsewhere, but that ship may have sailed.
Zach Trotman D UFA Same as Tinordi above, Trotman is a year older, too.
Michael Leighton G UFA At age 36, that’s a lot of tread on the tires. He’d fit in perfect next year with Anthony Peters as his mentor as PIT doesn’t have any other goalies under contract eligible to play in the AHL next year.
Vincent Dunn C RFA Was one of the minor pieces in the Derek Brassard mega deal and never played in WBS.
Tristan Jarry G RFA Question becomes did Jarry establish himself enough to be Matt Murray’s backup for next year. Casey DeSmith is already under contract so Jarry is already behind the proverbial 8-ball. Plus, Jarry would need waivers.

Below are the players on AHL contracts only.

Ryan Haggerty RW UFA Wilkes-Barre re-signed him last summer. I’m sure they would like to to the same, but will he return for a third year?
Christian Thomas RW UFA While auditioning for international work, still managed a good year in the AHL. He’s high on my list to get back here in 18-19.
Jarrett Burton C UFA He’s a love him or hate him type player. The coaching staff seemed to love him as Burton was a staple in the lineup night in and night out.
Joseph Cramarossa C UFA Hard nosed, lunch pail type player. More success with WBS then with Stockton, where he came over from in a trade for Colin Smith
Cody Wydo LW UFA ECHL depth player. I don’t see a fit here with the crop of draft picks at forward coming down the pipeline.
Reid Gardiner RW UFA Sort of got lost in the shuffle after getting re-signed by WBS out of juniors. Can he carve an AHL niche? Sure. Will it be with the Penguins? Remains to be seen.
Patrick McGrath RW UFA Local product limited to 19 games because of one dimension.
Kevin Spinozzi D UFA Made team out of training camp and was used as ECHL depth.
Kevin Schulze D UFA Dime a dozen defender.
Cam Brown C UFA Decent year in the ECHL with the Nailers. Was contracted out to two AHL teams, the Penguins had his services for one game.
Gage Quinney F UFA AHL depth. Plays a role, but so do a lot of other guys in a similar boat.
Troy Josephs C UFA? I can’t find anything on his status as far as U/RFA. I think it’s fair to say he was lost in the shuffle this season.

Disappointed, But Not Surprised — Pens LOSE 7-3

       vs.       

7                                          3

Sucks that the season had to end this way, a season full of promise and a season which is Tom Kostopoulos’ final.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins bow out of the playoffs in a three game sweep to the Charlotte Checkers by final score of 7-3 and the season is over.

Charlotte is an extremely complete team. They may not be favorites in the next round against either Lehigh Valley or Providence and definitely won’t be a favorite in the Conference Finals if they happen to make it that far but do not underestimate this team going forward.

I actually had two versions of ledes written tonight, one if the Penguins were to extend the series to Game 4 and one if they bowed out and were swept. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that I have to get up for work in the morning so let’s get right to it.

Here were the lines….

Garrett Wilson – Gage Quinney – Daniel Sprong
Christian Thomas – J-S Dea – Tom Kostopoulos
Joseph Cramarossa – Jarrett Burton – Josh Jooris
Adam Johnson – Teddy Blueger – Anthony Angello

Chris Summers – Ethan Prow
Andrey Pedan – Lukas Bengtsson
Niclas Almari – Zach Trotman

Tristan Jarry – Michael Leighton

For the Checkers:

Lineup Notes: Kevin Czuczman and Jarred Tinordi were out injured, Almari and Prow slotted in for them. Up front, Christian Thomas for Ryan Haggerty and some jumbling of the lines from Game 2.

First Period: Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a goal from Anthony Angello, his first as a professional, when Teddy Blueger put a shot on, hot nailed by a hit and Angello was there for the rebound.

Wilkes-Barre doubled the lead with a goal by Christian Thomas. Zach Trotman put the shot on and Thomas tipped it in. Checkers were under relentless pressure.

Here they are in GIF format:

Checkers quick strike offense was on full display. Lucas Wallmark put a shot on from the point after relentless Charlotte pressure. After the faceoff, ex-Penguin Greg McKegg stole a puck, weaved through bodies and scored unassisted :21 later to tie the score.

Here were the Checkers goals:

Wilkes-Barre has a strong start and a weak finish. Charlotte with a weak start and a strong finish. Pretty simple.

Second Period: Extremely even period to start. I remember looking up at the clock after stoppages to see the score tied and the shots even. This series has been so dead even.

Aleksi Saarela put a shot on through bodies near the goal line that went off of every piece of Jarrett Burton’s equipment and went in. A crushing own goal conceded in a tie game with a season on the line.

Third Period: Penguins opened with a carryover power play. They failed to score. Later, Clark Bishop jammed home a puck that extended the Checkers lead to two. A puck dug off the back wall put on Bishops tape and slammed in.

A few moments later, Andrew Miller sniped mid slot over Jarry’s glove using a defenseman as a screen and it was 5-2.

Anthony Angello scores his second of the game as a puck leaked through Nedeljkovic to bring Wilkes-Barre to within two.

The Penguins had life, until they didn’t, as Tom Kostopoulos took a late penalty that put the Penguins back on the penalty kill.

Checkers hit two empty nets to turn it into a rout in tomorrow’s papers.

Three Stars: 3) Anthony Angello (two goals, +1) 2) Valentin Zykov (two assists, +1) and 1) Andrew Miller (goal, assist, +2)

 

So that’s it. another season of disappointment for the Penguins who make it to the playoffs for the sixteenth consecutive season and come up short of the ultimate prize at the end. You can look back on the season and be wrong if you thought that the cupboard was raided by Pittsburgh. Zach Aston-Reese is a bonafide NHL player, Dominik Simon put in too much time at the AHL level for too many seasons to just get shipped away again and the Penguins botched the Antti Niemi backup goalie situation from the start which necessitated the call-up of either Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry. But none of those reasons can be pinned on Wilkes-Barre going out in the first round again. Don’t listen to anybody that tries to sell you on that pile of trash.

The Penguins were strong in goal all season, playing with a rotation of DeSmith and Jarry, trading for one of the greatest goaltenders of all time in the AHL in Michael Leighton and finding a diamond in the rough with Anthony Peters. The defense was as stout as its ever been and as deep. The Penguins coughed up a lead in Game 1 in the third period and lost in overtime and couldn’t score a power play goal when they needed it the most in Game 2. These reasons, in a five game series where the margins for error are razor thin, put the Penguins behind the eight ball and Charlotte, being the complete team that they are, weren’t going to be the next Providence or Bridgeport in the history books they keep at 40 Coal Street.

Thanks for playing along this year and reading. I think I have carved out a niche as a blog that people read and respect and for that I say thanks. I still believe that the Penguins will have their day.

Enjoy your summer.

Atlantic Division Semifinal Game 3: Charlotte Checkers (CHA leads 2-0)

vs.     

Atlantic Division Semifinal — Game 3

Who: Charlotte Checkers

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Series: Charlotte leads 2-0 (Best of Five)

Last Game: Saturday night in Charlotte, the Penguins and Checkers were 1-1 late in the third period when Josiah Didier scored to give the Checkers the lead. Charlotte scored two empty net goals and took Game 2 4-1. Joseph Cramarossa scored in the games opening minute to give the Penguins at the time, a 1-0 lead.

What to watch for: It is going to have to be a micromanaged game for those that dress tonight for the Penguins. One more loss and the season is over for Wilkes-Barre. The Checkers won seven straight coming in and the first two games in the series for a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. Penguins absolutely must capitalize on opportunities given. One power play goal may not do it tonight. But, as history has indicated, if there is any team that can come back from a deficit, it is these Penguins.

Referee(s): Reid Anderson / Jeremy Tufts

Linesmen: Ryan Knapp / J.P. Waleski

When is Game 4?: The Penguins have to win tonight for that to become a reality. If they do, it’s Saturday at 7:05 in Wilkes-Barre.

Don’t Brink — Pens LOSE 4-1

       @       

1                                          4

The keys to the game I gave you last night in Game 1 were as follows in bullet point. What follows in parenthesis was the result tonight in Game 2.

  • Stay out of the penalty box. (The Penguins took two penalties. They were both in the third period.)
  • Maintain your composure. (The Penguins took no after whistle penalties and there were no pull apart would be brawls.)
  • Limit mistakes. (In what was seemingly relentless pressure, the Penguins didn’t make many mistakes that cost them goals when the game mattered.)

So why did the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins lose the game 4-1 and now face must win Games 3, 4 and 5 back at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza next week?

In a close game, like this game in particular was, one play against you costs you. Josiah Didier’s shot through traffic with 5:42 left in the third period was the match on a dry pile of leaves that ignited two empty net goals for the Checkers with the Penguins were in desperation mode.

The Penguins had three opportunities to score on the power play tonight; one in the first after Charlotte had tied it at one, one in the second when the Checkers were coming in droves and one in the third when the Checkers had just scored to go up 2-1.

It usually takes a well rounded team to win a Calder Cup. The Penguins are a tough team that are hard to play against, but the power play is a joke and it cannot come through when it matters the most. In a close game against two evenly matched teams, it’s one bounce (last night in overtime and tonight through traffic) that has the Charlotte Checkers one game away from sweeping and eliminating the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins from the Calder Cup Playoffs.

They have done it before, down 0-3 to Providence a few years ago, the Penguins came back to win four straight to stun the Bruins. They need three against a Checkers team that is, in parts, a mirror image of the players skating with a muscular penguin on skates in front of an upside down yellow triangle.

But that team back in 2013 was a well rounded team that stunned a Providence team that fell apart at the sign of disparity and, once realized they were beat, withered away and that Penguins postseason team mounted a historic comeback. This version of Penguins postseason can’t score a power play or even enter the zone from the neutral zone, when they need it for their playoff lives.

Lines were…

Garrett Wilson – J-S Dea – Daniel Sprong
Adam Johnson – Gage Quinney – Ryan Haggerty
Joseph Cramarossa – Jarrett Burton – Josh Jooris
Anthony Angello – Teddy Blueger – Tom Kostopoulos

Chris Summers – Kevin Czuczman
Andrey Pedan – Lukas Bengtsson
Jarred Tinordi – Zach Trotman

Tristan Jarry – Alex Nedeljkovic

Lineup Notes: Jarrett Burton and Anthony Angello were in for Tom Sestito and Christian Thomas. Donatelli said pregame that Burton is good on the kill and Angello is a big guy whose size they want to use.

Here was Charlotte’s lineup, I was going to add this new feature and debut it last night, but wasn’t able to because I was called away…

No changes from Game 1 for Charlotte.

First Period: Penguins wasted little time in establishing a lead, taking just :22 seconds for Joseph Cramarossa to score his first of the playoffs with this goal…

Penguins had two chances burning Checkers defenseman Trevor Carrick tries by Anthony Angelo and Adam Johnson by Nedeljkovic, who struggled with the first shot he saw in Game 2, locked it down the rest of the period for his side.

Charlotte is a quick team, so all of the icing that they were doing of the puck early on wasn’t helping them. But they finally figured the clearances out and through a relentless forecheck, finally solved Jarry when defenseman Haydn Fleury banked a shot off of Jarry that went in…

Jarry was stopping what he was seeing, including this two on one chance that the Checkers had…

Wilkes-Barre had the only power play of the period and that was a total mess. They failed to crack through the zone to get anything of value set up.

Second Period: Charlotte was coming with each shift with aplomb but Jarry kept closing the door. The Penguins were then awarded a power play and didn’t do anything with it and in fact allowed Warren Foegele to get a shorthanded opportunity that Jarry denied.

Penguins had a good chance to re-take the lead when Teddy Blueger stripped Nedeljkovic when the Charlotte goaltender went out of his net to play the puck. Blueger passed to Tom Kostopoulos who fanned on the shot on what would have been on the open net.

Third Period: The Penguins lost Jarred Tinordi to and injury and Kevin Czucaman played most of the third with one arm. Penguins killed two Charlotte penalties with relative ease. Penguins hit a post shorthanded.

Then Josiah Didier scored on a seeing eye shot through a screened Jarry that gave the Checkers the lead…

Daniel Sprong was stopped point blank by Nedeljkovic right after. Then the Penguins were gifted a power play with the game on the line.

They failed to score. Immediately, Tristan Jarry came off for the extra attacker and as soon as that happened, the Checkers scored on the empty net to make it 3-1. They then made it 4-1 after another Wilkes-BArre attempt at the extra man.

Ballgame.

Three Stars: 3) Joseph Cramarossa (goal, -1) 2) Josiah Didier (game winning goal, +3) and 2) Haydn Fleury (two goals, +4)

Clark Bishop scored the other empty net goal if you are scoring from home.

So where do we go from here?

Gameplan needs to remain the same. Stay out of the box, limit mistakes, maintain composure. Add, score a power play goal to that, although I mentioned that in my series preview so just add more emphasis to that last one.

Keep the faith.

Let’s Go Pens!

Atlantic Division Semifinal Game 2: Charlotte Checkers (CHA leads 1-0)

@     

Atlantic Division Semifinal — Game 2

Who: Charlotte Checkers

Where: Bojangles Coliseum

When: 6:00 p.m.

Series: Charlotte leads 1-0 (Best of Five)

 

Last Game: Friday night in Charlotte, the Penguins had a 2-0 lead going into the third period thanks to goals by Andrey Pedan and Daniel Spong but the Checkers charged back for two to tie in the third before scoring in overtime to win Game 1 3-2.

What to watch for: Penguins must win this game to bring it back to Wilkes-Barre 1-1 for potentially three games on home ice to advance. They need to, again, limit penalties, mistakes and maintain composure against a high octane offense that the Checkers employ if they have any hopes of a spit in North Carolina.

Referee(s): Pierre Lambert / Beaudry Halkidis

Linesmen: Libor Suchanek / Ryan Townsend

When is Game 3?: Not till next Thursday, April 26 in Wilkes-Barre.

Get Your Wings, Track One — Pens LOSE 3-2 (OT)

       @       

2                                          3

I was called out of the area this afternoon and was not able to watch or listen to about 95% of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Charlotte Checkers and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins so I relied on Twitter to keep me updated. I guess you can say the tables turned.

From what I gathered from Twitter, the Penguins were in control through 40 minutes of play and had a 2-0 lead on the Charlotte Checkers going into the third period. Tristan Jarry was dialed in.

If you don’t get the headline, you must not be an Aerosmith fan. It was the same old story and same old song and dance for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

The keys to the game tonight were simple. Stay out of the penalty box, maintain your composure and limit mistakes against this high octane, offensively gifted Charlotte Checkers team. For two periods it worked, for the third and final period, it didn’t.

I played basketball in college. One of the million things that resonated with me from my time away from home in Northeastern Pennsylvania still to this day was my coach telling us in certain situations that we are not playing to win, we are playing not to lose.

In the third period of Game 1 tonight, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins had a 2-0 lead and played not to lose.

Stay out of the penalty box, maintain your composure and limit mistakes were the goals. The Penguins didn’t accomplish any of them, giving up two goals in the third, one on a power play after a bonehead turnover and the Penguins trail 0-1 in this best of five with Game 2 set to go off Saturday at 6 in Charlotte.

Game 2 basically becomes must win for Wilkes-Barre. It’s a tough spot. No lead will be safe based off of the third period collapse tonight. The Penguins know that and more dangerously Charlotte knows that. If the Penguins want to win tomorrow, it may take a 5-0 lead after the first period and just going into a shell for the final 40 minutes.

Tristan Jarry came to play tonight, stopping 35 shots. The Penguins tweeted out about four GIFs of his saves. It’s the team in front of him that played not to lose and now face a seemingly must win situation in Game 2 Saturday.

Since I didn’t watch the game, that’s pretty much it. Andrey Pedan scored late in the first on a power play and Daniel Sprong scored on a boffo shot from center ice in the second. Aleksi Saarela scored on a snipe to start the comeback in the third, and leading regular season goal scorer Valentin Zykov scored on a power play about five minutes later to tie it. The Penguins never possessed the puck in overtime and Lucas Wallmark tipped in a shot through a mess of bodies which may or may not have been interference on Jarry and the Checkers take game one 3-2 in overtime.

I have no idea if the Checkers are going to put out a highlight package. So here are the Penguins goals starting with Andrey Pedan…

And Sprong….

And all three Checkers goals in one tweet.

Game 2 goes tomorrow at 6 from Charlotte, meaning that the Gameday setup here on the blog will be out Saturday at 2.

Let’s Go Pens!