Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Postgamer

Preseason Game #1 – Pens 1, Phantoms 4

Preseason for bloggers too so in seasons past, nothing too dressed up for you tonight. Apologies on the formatting issues if there are any.

Alex D’Orio opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were as follows:

Ryan Scarfo – Jordy Bellerive – Jan Drozg
Kasper Björkqvist – Chase Berger – Yushi Hirano
Jake Lucchini – Miles Powell – Brandon Hawkins
Jamie Devane – Chris Brown – Renars Krastenbergs

Matt Abt – Macoy Erkamps
Michael Kim – Aaron Titcomb
Craig Skudalski – Blake Siebenaler

Alex D’Orio – Emil Larmi

Matt Abt wore the C with Chase Berger and Jake Lucchini in the A’s.

Pens got run over in the first, taking two penalties and getting scored on once when Steven Swavely popped in a rebound of an Isaac Radcliffe shot a little past half way at even strength.

Pens had just three shots on goal, and one of them came on the penalty kill, an innocuous clearing bid from their own end that they counted.

In the second, penalty trouble bit the Penguins as the Phantoms scored twice on the man advantage. Pascal Laberge put in a pass / shot from Greg Carey and then Carey again with another setup to Matt Strome for a 3-0 lead.

Things settled from there for the Pens who started to get a few power plays which looked sharp. Finally Jordy Bellerive scored on the back door on a power play to make it 3-1. A really nice setup for Jake Lucchini, who I thought was the Pens best player tonight.

Things evened out a bit in the third but when you’re down two goals and chasing the bad start you had you start to run out of time. Alex D’Orio did his part in keeping it a two goal deficit but the Pens wouldn’t draw closer. Then with under five to play and D’Orio vacated, Greg Carey hit an empty net for a three point night and it was 4-1.

It ended that way.

Impressions: I thought Jake Lucchini was far and away the Penguins best player tonight….Alex D’Orio is probably going to start the season in Wheeling but if he played like he played tonight it shouldn’t be for long. He did all he could to keep the Penguins in the game but all Wilkes-Barre did was take penalty after penalty. Take those two power play goals out of the equation and it’s a completely different game.

Penguins head coach Mike Vellucci told Tyler postgame that Emil Larmi will start and play the full 60 against Hershey Friday. Let’s hope the Penguins play a little better in front of Larmi as they did in front of D’Orio.

More then unless there’s breaking stuff Thursday.

On a Winning Note — Pens WIN 5-2


  2                                          5

The goal for any hockey club is to win the last game of the season.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins did that Sunday afternoon, 5-2 over the Binghamton Devils. Sadly, they don’t qualify for a playoff berth and that’s all she wrote on the season.

Clark Donatelli put a lineup out Sunday that looked like this:

Felt like a preseason game with all of the rookies, unheard of kids and Wheeling guys in the lineup, but it was the fourth line of the Penguins that did the most damage Sunday with Cedric Lacroix scoring a pair of goals in the Penguins win. Nice win for 6’6 Matt O’Connor and the ATO guys continue to look promising.

Binghamton jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Ryan Schmelzer deflected a Nick Lappiun shot that gave the Devils a 1-0 lead.

Penguins trailed at the end of the first and after a zamboni breakdown in the first intermission that delayed the start of the second period by ten minutes when it was decided to simply skate on the ice from the first period, the Penguins offense roared to life.

Sam Lafferty kept it on a two on one rush and the Penguins tied it at one…

Then Cedric Lacroix stepped in to a Binghamton clear, took it in deep fired and scored his first AHL goal to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

Seconds after, Sam Miletic scored to make it 3-1.

To add to a long period, referees Beau Halkidis and Matt Menniti took a long look at a Binghamton would be goal that lasted well over five minutes. After the lengthy review it was deemed to be no goal and play continued.

Penguins scored three times in the span of 3:25 in the second period and capitalized on Binghamtion’s mistakes.

In the third, Jake Lucchini added a power play goal which made it 4-1.

Then Yushi Hirano, the first ever Japanese skater to play in the AHL, put a shot on that Lacroix was there to put the Pens ahead 5-1.

John Ramage added a power play goal for Binghamton that made it 5-2.

And that was all she wrote.

They will end the season in sixth place, a 36-30-7-3 record, good for 82 points. That is five off of Providence for the last playoff spot which was already decided on Friday. Lehigh Valley won five straight games to close out their season and get fifth place.

Video highlights….

It ended a lot sooner than we would have liked, but this concludes yet another season of blogging up this team, my first where playoffs do not occur. It’s been fun, as always and my pleasure to bring you my insights of this team from Northeastern Pennsylvania. Thank you for engaging with me on Twitter, Facebook, in person or e-mail.

I’ll be by Monday with my autopsy of the team and season, then Tuesday I will have the final AHL Power Rankings. Wednesday I will preview the Calder Cup Playoffs all the way to the Finals. Maybe I will come back in June to see how right or wrong I was.

And of course, most important, I will have my thoughts on the lease goings on between the Arena and the Penguins. I joked with a few people today that the main hangup on lease negotiations is who pays for the badly needed two zambonis.

Thanks again for reading, have a great summer and Let’s Go Pens!

Young Tigers Lose to Paid Ones — Pens LOSE 5-2


  5                                          2

They dressed a youthful lineup tonight and, but for a :26 span in the the third period, were staying step for step with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers who win tonight 5-2 to secure home ice over the Hershey Bears in their first round playoff series that opens late next week.

Here is how they actually lined up:

Guys like Ryan Haggerty, Adam Johnson and Joseph Cramarossa were given the night off up front. Jeff Taylor and Tim Erixon on defense. Alex D’Orio, who is the future of the franchise in goal, got a start.

Fan Appreciation Night started with some awards.

– Defensive player of the year: Jarrett Burton
– Media Award: Kevin Czuczman
– Rookie of the Year: Sam Lafferty
– Three Stars Award: Ryan Haggerty
– Community Service: Chris Summers
– Ethan Prow picked up his award for being named to the second team all star squad.
– Fan Favorite: Tristan Jarry (absent) Andy Chiodo accepted on his behalf.
– MVP: Tristan Jarry

Can’t argue with Rookie or MVP. Blueger was probably in the mix, but Jarry got the Pens close when Blueger was already up in Pittsburgh.

Wilkes-Barre got the jump 1:07 in when Ben Sexton scored to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.

Steve Bernier was the last to deflect a shot from the point that beat D’Orio on a power play and it was tied.

Patrick McGrath had a dangerous head contact with the elbow on Captain Ben Holmstrom. Holmstorm was clearly disoriented and needed help off the ice and didn’t return. McGrath was ejected and had to fight Kiefer Bellows. Bellows was given an instigating penalty.

A lot of stuff I don’t agree with here but lets start with the instigator. Your captain just got blindsided, is flopping on the ice wondering what year it is, and you expect Bellows to just stand there, top McGrath on the shin pads and say nice hit? Gross over officiating by Peter MacDougall and Carter Sandlak in that regard. They were fine the rest of the game, but that over reach didn’t sit well with me.

Mitch Vande Sompel finished off a one timer low near side on a two man advantage that gave Bridgeport a 2-1 lead.

Jake Lucchini finished off a nice pass by Sam Lafferty on a power play to tie the game at two.

Otto Koivula got lost on transition and scored to give Bridgeport the 3-2 lead.

Alex D’Orio, for what it’s worth, played a good game. Give him a summer working under Andy Chiodo and the Pittsburgh brass and we have another goaltending stud coming through Wilkes-Barre.

Jon Lizotte had three shots as the Pens had the Sound Tigers pinned deep but couldn’t score. That was their best chance to tie it because Oliver Wahlstrom walked three defenders and leaked one past D’Orio to give the Sound Tigers a 4-2 lead. Vande Sompel made it 5-2 :26 later.

Here’s the Wahlstrom goal.

That was it. Bridgeport clinches home ice with Hershey in the first round.

Here are your three stars:

Also this,

I have stayed mum here on the blog regarding ongoing Arena negotiations. They have a confidentiality agreement in place. Anyone who thinks they know anything does not know anything. This is a bit of an empty announcement that doesn’t hold much of anything, but it’s something. Hopefully soon. My season tickets should be paid off for next year already.

Video highlights below.

They are back at it again Sunday afternoon with Binghamton in the regular series finale. Gameday setup is yours Sunday morning at 11.

Let’s Go Pens!

Thanks For The Fish* — Pens LOSE 8-1


1                                          8

I will be by at some point next week with a postmortem of what went wrong in the 2018-19 season for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, who were eliminated from playoff contention after a 8-1 loss to the Utica Comets Friday night in Central New York. To preview, there is a cost when your parent team wins two Stanley Cups in the last three years. To reiterate, the AHL is a developmental league and whatever happens here, as long as the prospects develop here, nothing matters. Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger are prime examples. I am fine with that. Don’t take this as a complaint that me as the AHL fan of the team doesn’t want to see the NHL succeed because somehow AHL>NHL. No, it’s an explanation as to one of the many reasons why the Penguins didn’t make a playoff appearance for the 17th straight season.

Long odds as they were, the Penguins could have went down with a fight. They lost 10-6 in Allentown and were swept in the mini series in the Lehigh Valley last weekend. After entering the second period down a very manageable 1-0 Friday night in Utica, the Comets outscore the Penguins 6-1 to carry a 7-1 lead into the third period in a game that ended 8-1.

To note, the Comets have won just three games in the last three weeks. Injuries have ravaged them, but that is no excuse for what I just watched Friday night and a gross disrespect to the opponent just expecting that the result would continue because you are a team that has made playoffs for sixteen straight seasons.

Fight they did in the second period. Five fights to be exact, which is the most that I can remember for a period of AHL hockey associated with this team in a long time. The game was slipping out of hand with Reid Boucher completing a hat trick in the second period and the Penguins lost control of the game and their emotions and it snowballed from there.

Unpopular opinion but Clark Donatelli, who I will address in kind next week in my autopsy of the team, did all he could to keep the team afloat and relevant till the fortnight of the regular season. With the way that the teams were playing in the season and all of the head to head meetings backloaded on the schedule this season, the Penguins saw a way into the playoffs though the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. With call ups and injures, Wilkes-Barre relied heavily on amateur tryout guys to help salvage a season. It worked to a point, a point of exhaustion. It fell apart last weekend in Allentown and the cracks started to show in the first period Friday in Utica before the dam broke in the second period.

John Muse opposed Marek Mazenec. Muse was yanked at the end of the second and Matt O’Connor made his Penguins debut and just allowed one goal in the third period in relief.

In the lineup notes, there were no changes up front but for a few shuffles here and there on the lines. Michael Kim and Jeff Taylor were back in for Jon Lizotte and Tim Erixon on defense.

Jarrett Burton scored the only goal for the Penguins in the game, coming in the second period on a rebound left by Mazanec which he swept across the line to break up the shutout bid.

Taylor Haase, who you have seen all season long on the blog here as she was nice enough to permit me embedding her tweets of the goals that she GIFed during the year, had a nice post mortem of her own on the Penguins season you can read here if you don’t want to wait for me next week. A lot on what she hit on there is relevant to what I will explain next week.

Pens will close out the 2018-19 campaign Saturday and Sunday at home, with Bridgeport and Binghamton respectively. Gameday setup hits the blog Saturday at 3 for the Sound Tigers and Sunday at 11 a.m. for the 3 p.m. finale with the Devils.

* – in case you were wondering about the headline this time, explanation here

Say Goodnight, Gracie — Pens LOSE 10-6


6                                          10

They are burned out.

In just trying to keep pace with Providence, who won 3-1 today at home against Utica, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins went to Allentown in search of points against a Phantoms team that really didn’t have anything left to play for and came up short last night.

Sunday, in a game that can best be described as bonkers, the Penguins lose 10-6.

They got it back to 8-6 in the third period before time and desperation started to set in and the Phantoms salted the game away for good.

So Providence just has to get two points in order to lock up the fourth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic. Hershey clinched today with the Penguins loss. If the Bruins win Friday at home against these Phantoms, then the Penguins final two regular season games are meaningless, they will be eliminated from playoff contention.

Tristan Jarry opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Brandon Hawkins and Ben Sexton swap lines, Jake Lucchini went back in on the fourth line, replacing Jordy Bellerive. Cam Brown went back in for Chase Berger. On defense, Jon Lizotte debuted with Summers, replacing Calen Addison and Tim Erixon replaced Jeff Taylor.

First Period: The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 start in the games first 1:02 before Lehigh Valley rattled off four straight goals. It was a wild and crazy start to a Sunday afternoon hockey game.

Jake Lucchini scored on a Philippe Myers turnover…

Sam Miletic potted a rebound that made it 2-0 before the Phantoms knew what hit them.

But the Phantoms responded with aplomb, starting with Greg Carey with a bomb that made it 2-1.

Then Chris Conner scored the first of back to back goals. First was a bit of a controversy with Jarry getting knocked over, legally, in the eyes of referral’s Olivier Gouin.

Then Conner scored on a three on two and it was 3-2.

Penguins didn’t really have a response, and whatever they tried to do in the form of Adam Johnson, Lyon was there to stop him. He had help with the par, then went post to post to flick out the pad to deny Johnson’s would be opportunity.

Connor Bunnaman blocked unintentionally a TJ Brennan shot, spun, fired and scored to make it 4-2.

Both teams lit up the scoreboard in the first. The Penguins were looking to come out of the locker room in the second looking for a response.

Second Period: Long period with stoppages and delays. John Muse replaced Tristan Jarry in net. It didn’t really matter, as the Phantoms scored three more goals to go up 7-3 at the end of the period.

Corban Knight tipped in a Myers shot from the point that made it 5-2.

Jon Lizotte scored his first professional goal in his debut, the only offense mustered by Wilkes-Barre in the period.

Alex Lyon continued to haunt the Penguins, stopping Joe Blandisi on a two on one.

Carsen Twarynski scored a power play goal that extended the lead to 6-3 for the Phantoms.

There was a very long review by the referees but the call on the ice was confirmed.

Nic Aube-Kubel burned past the Penguins defense to make it 7-3 and if the route wasn’t already on, it was on.

Third Period: James de Hass scored to make it 8-3, then the Penguins rattled off three straight goals from Chris Summers on a tip, Jake Lucchini when Lyon misplayed a puck and then Ethan Prow with a shot from the point that made it 8-6.

Bonkers as the game was, the Pens stopped GIFing goals so as a result, so do I.

Carsen Twarynski cashed a penalty shot that made it 9-6. Then Colin McDonald scored on an empty netter that put up the ten spot.

Three Stars: 3) Philippe Myers (three assists) 2) Carsen Twarynski (two goals) 1) Chris Conner (two goals, assist)

That’s pretty much it. But for breaking news, look for the next thing to come here on the blog with the Power Rankings Thursday.

Let’s Go Pens!

Pendulum Swings — Pens LOSE 4-2


2                                          4

Just expecting to go into another teams building because of past success in said building against said opponent is a dangerous way to do business when you are pursuing a playoff spot.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms didn’t have a single power play goal tonight but still managed to get two special teams goals by Cole Bardreau and defeat the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins 4-2.

The Penguins, the control car in the Atlantic Division for other teams magic numbers, help Hershey lower their magic number to two and the Providence Bruins, the only other team besides the day’s opponent that matters to the Penguins lower theirs to six.

The Bruins lost in Bridgeport 4-3 in regulation tonight. They host Utica, who shutout Hartford down the road in Connecticut tonight 4-0 on Sunday. Each team has four games left. The Penguins cannot be a playoff team by the end of the weekend.

Flat effort all around by the Penguins tonight. Lehigh Valley jumped on the Pens from the beginning and I got the sense that all Wilkes-Barre needed to do was withstand the rush by the Phantoms and let the game come to them but the hits kept coming.

Regroup and get back at it Sunday.

Tristan Jarry opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Top three lines untouched, Jordy Bellerive made his professional debut, centering Chase Berger and Jimmy Hayes. Calen Addison, fresh off of signing a three year entry level contract with Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, was paired with Chris Summers. Bellerive replaced Chase Berger and Addison replaced Michael Kim. John Muse backed up.

First Period: Flurry of offense from the Phantoms, who get one to go in a pile of bodies when Tyrell Goulbourne scores to give the Phantoms the lead.

Felt at the time that all the Penguins needed to do was get out of the mad rush by the Phantoms to win the game in the first ten minutes and then take control.

Alex Lyon was dialed in early, stopping a Kevin Czuczman shot teed up for him by Sam Lafferty.

Penguins were headed to a power play, the only of the period, and it was a chance to level things.

Only Cole Bardreau had other ideas.

Steals it from Haggerty, dances past Prow and leaves defenders in his wake. Rough goal to give up in the sequence for Wilkes-Barre.

But then, on the same power play, Sam Lafferty dangles his way in, dishes to Ryan Haggerty and scored on his knee a goal that cut the deficit to one.

Penguins somehow outshot the Phantoms 7-6 despite the lollygag start.

Second Period: Very contentious period. The Penguins were robbed of a goal that should have counted and allowed yet another shorthanded goal to fall down a pair of goals.

First, the disallowed goal. Adam Johnson was hooked driving to the net and still managed to get a shot off and it went in.

Only the referee, I couldn’t tell if it was Mike Duco or Mike Dietrich down there in the corner, washed the would be goal out. Take a look.

Two things. First, hit play on the video above and watch Lyon’s glove, then watch the referee make the move to his mouth. You have the hand being quicker than the eye and the intent to blow. You would have liked to see the other referee jump in there and say that Lyon never had the puck covered, but I don’t think they can overrule intent to blow. It sucks, given the circumstances.

What sucks even more, is that Cole Bardreau scored his second shorthanded goal of the game that extended the Phantoms lead to two.

Penguins couldn’t get anything going by way of a later power play, almost playing too cautious to not allow a third shorthanded goal, so it was 3-1 Phantoms heading off to the…

Third Period: Byron Froese, the stone in the shoe of the Penguins for a while now, scored on a wraparound to effectively salt the game away with this goal that made it 4-1.

Brandon Hawkins scored with just south of six minutes remaining to make it a two goal game and you started to think if the Penguins could stage yet another third period comeback in Allentown that would be epic.

But, with Jarry pulled for the extra attacker, no more offense would come.

Pens would go on to outshoot the Phantoms 35-23. Lyon was good for Lehigh Valley and their penalty kill was better.

Three Stars: 3) Alex Lyon (33 saves) 2) Byron Froese (goal, assist) 1) Cole Bardreau (two shorthanded goals)

If Lehigh Valley sets up video highlights and I can work an edit tin before now and 11 am Sunday I will work it in here. 11 am Sunday is the Gameday setup for the rematch in Allentown.

Let’s Go Pens!

Devil in the Details — Pens WIN 4-0


  0                                          4

This game, a 4-0 Wilkes-Barre / Scranton win over the Binghamton Devils, was a lot closer than the scoreline would indicate. Yes, the Penguins pretty much had their way with the last place Devils tonight and yes, John Muse had a 33 save shutout, his second of the season  but for about 55 minutes of regulation, it was only a two goal lead. You and I have seen our fair share of games that go bad for the Penguins.

Wilkes-Barre keeps pace with fourth place Providence, who wins 8-6 at home against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Bruins remain three points ahead (83) of the Penguins (80) for now. The Sound Tigers are in a tail spin. They have not yet clinched a playoff spot and scored six goals and still lost. How often do you see the losing team score six goals and loose? It doesn’t happen often. Those two teams rematch Saturday in Bridgeport. That was the only divisional game that mattered to the Penguins tonight.

John Muse opposed Evan Cormier.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: The Penguins have 37 players on their roster and half of them are guys on amateur tryout contracts or ATO’s. Just this week alone I think the Penguins added like seven players and the more household names like Calen Addison and Jan Drozg didn’t even dress for the Pens tonight yet were added to ATO’s.

Anyway, for tonight the line was not touched. Adam Johnson was returned by Pittsburgh earlier Friday and Ben Sexton returned back from injury. Brandon Hawkins (ATO) debuted on third line. Michael Kim (ATO) debuted on defense. Cam and Chris Brown, Patrick McGrath and Tim Erixon were the odd men out from Tuesday. Cam Brown took the warmup.

A note about Kim and Hawkins. Neither looked out of place. I really liked what I saw from Hawkins, who forechecked and hit and from Kim who created turnovers, just standing guys up at his own blue line.

First Period: Men against boys period with the Penguins dominating pace and play yet at the end of the first period the Penguins only led by one goal on account of this Chris Summers goal. Summers swooped in and cleaned up a shot by Sam Lafferty.

Kim’s first professional point. Rookie defensemen out of Boston College wearing number eight. I know someone from there that came through here wearing that number. His name is Brian Dumoulin.

Pens couldn’t do a think on long stretches of power play time, and even more two man advantage time, squeezing their sticks a bit too tightly. Otherwise, they score two or three and the game turns into a laugher, quickly.

Second Period: Lafferty got his goal to go this time, finishing off a cross ice pass by Ethan Prow to make it 2-0.

Penguins carried the play through much of the period again. John Muse stood up to the few chances that the Devils offered easily.

Third Period: Zipped by, you were waiting for something to happen really good or bad, and finally Joseph Blandisi scores with a second left on a Colton White kneeing penalty to make it 3-0.

Capping off a great debut as a professional, Brandon Hawkins scores an empty netter with a nice assist from Jarrett Burton.


Three Stars: 

The Good: Clark Donatelli’s decision to give Tristan Jarry the literal night off and go with Muse. Alex D’Orio (yet another ATO) backed up Muse, leaving Tristan Jarry as the man in the nets in Allentown for two games this weekend there against the Phantoms.

The Bad: The lack of success on the power play in the first period was a sight to see. Binghamton is a last place team and the Pens had long stretches of two man advantage that they didn’t get many shots on Cormier on.

Turning Point: Blandisi’s goal late in the third took the game from, “I hope we win,” to “We are going to win.”

Setting up Saturday: Five games left for Providence and Wilkes-Barre. Bruins rematch with the Sound Tigers on Saturday while the Pens travel down the Pennsylvania Turnpike to set up shop in Allentown to take on the Phantoms, who were off tonight. You’ll probably see more ATO guys rotate in, although I would be fine leaving who played tonight in Saturday but like I have said countless times before, I don’t coach the team, I just write a blog about them.

Video Highlights: 

Gameday setup vs. Lehigh Valley will hit the blog Saturday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!