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Pens vs. Wolf PackOctober 15th, 2016
47 days to go.
A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
No, it’s a trophy.
The Lake Erie Monsters have won the Calder Cup.
How good we as Lake Erie? They swept three of four series and lost only twice in the postseason. A 1-0 win over the Hershey Bears in Game 4 of the Finals Friday in overtime with 1.9 seconds left and the Monsters win Cleveland’s first Calder Cup since 1964 in the AHL’s 80th year.
No reason to hang your head if you are the Hershey Bears. The Bears gave the Monsters a hell of a fight and every game was close. There is no reason that it could not be the Bears celebrating their 12th Cup but the Monsters were that much better.
A feather in the cap for Ryan Craig, who captained Lake Erie and was the captain here in Wilkes-Barre for a year. Brad Thiessen was on that team but didn’t appear in a game.
So that does it for the AHL’s 80th season. In the ECHL, the Allen Americans defeated the Wheeling Nailers in sixth games on home ice Thursday. No reason to hang your head there either, as the Nailers gave the Americans a hell of a fight but again, much like Lake Erie, Allen was just that much better.
So enjoy these next few weeks of down time before free agency fires up again in July. More on that and what that means for the blog as the caldendar gets ready to flip to July.
How are you enjoying your summer?
Coupla notes to keep up with the goings on in the AHL and hockey world.
Lake Erie took Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals in Hershey Wednesday by a score of 4-1. Daniel Zaar scored twice, and Anton Forsberg stopped 26 of 27 shots as the Monsters steal home ice from the Bears and snap Hershey’s five game winning streak in the postseason. Game 2 Friday in Hershey. Lake Erie plays a heavy game and had multiple breakaways in the contest. If you follow the AHL on Twitter, there were GIFs of the goals and some of the breakaways. Hershey will need to respond Friday or else they could be in deep trouble against a Lake Erie team that beat Ontario in the Western Conference Finals, and the Reign are probably the masters at playing the heavy game.
We have our first defection in the offseason. Dominik Uher, set to be a restricted free agent this summer, comes home and signs with HC Sparta Praha of the Czech League. After a shoulder injury cut short Uher’s season at the end of January and the ascension of names like Jake Guentzel, Uher would have been playing from behind on the depth chart come the Fall. He could continue to fight and scratch it out over here or go home and get paid tax free money playing in his own country. He chose the latter, and who could blame him?
The 2016 Offseason Moves List has been updated appropriately.
The Wheeling Nailers are up 2-1 on the defending champion Allen Americans in the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals after a 3-2 win Wednesday at WesBanco Arena. Ty Loney, Anton Zlobin and James Melindy all tallied in the contest and Franky Palazzese stopped 28 of 30 to give the Nailers the 2-1 series lead. Game 4 goes Friday.
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are still awaiting word on their second round opponent. They can find out as soon as tomorrow night or as late as Sunday evening.
The Portland Pirates can close the series out with the Hershey Bears with a win Saturday after a 2-1 win in triple overtime Thursday. Rob Flick scored the game winning goal and Mike McKenna stopped 41 shots. Both teams went a combined 0/16 on the power play.
Head Coach Clark Donatelli and his staff made the short trip down to Hershey to take in Game 3 Thursday, per WBS media. They certainly got their money’s worth and more.
Elsewhere in the Calder Cup Playoffs…
Albany and Toronto will meet in the North Division Finals after Albany closed out Utica in Game 4 Thursday and Toronto stormed back from a 4-1 deficit over the Sound Tigers and swept Bridgeport by a 6-4 score.
That series will be one to watch. The schedule for that series will be out Friday.
In the West, Grand Rapids and Lake Erie both swept their series and the California teams San Diego and Ontario are both up 2-1 in their series and can close out the first round Friday.
In the ECHL, the Wheeling Nailers closed out the Florida Everblades in six games after a 2-1 win Monday. The Nailers welcome the Reading Royals for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday night.
So for the weekend, I will probably drop in a brief blog update Saturday night on either the series with Portland or the winner take all between the Bears and Pirates if Hershey forces a Game 5. I’ll have a schedule for a preview of coming attractions this weekend at some point this weekend.
In a well deserved nomination, it was announced by the American Hockey League on Friday that Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins forward Carter Rowney was named AHL Player of the Month for the month of March.
Rowney’s March production saw him score 7 goals and assist on 10 others. He had a career high 9 game point streak and a hat trick during March and was far and away the Penguins best player.
Rowney told Seth after practice today…
In other news….
— Pittsburgh recalled Oskar Sundqvist on Wednesday after learning that Bryan Rust is sidelined with a lower body injury, day to day.
— Coal Street swapped back up goaltenders Thursday. Brian Foster up while Franky Palazzese went down. Head Coach Clark Donatelli told reporters Wednesday that this was a planned move to let Foster find his swagger down in Wheeling. In March, Foster put up a 3-1-1-1 record with a .920 SV% and a 2.16 GAA. He also had a 30 save shutout.
— Will O’Neill was named the Penguins nominee of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. There were four other ex-Penguins also nominated, Matt Carkner (Bridgeport) Brandon DeFazio (Providence) Ben Street (San Antonio) and Ryan Craig (Lake Erie)
— Sahir Gill is on track for an April 15 return. Ethan Prow is in town but couldn’t practice because his gear got lost.
The Penguins will likely sew up a playoff spot this weekend. With the Penguins off tonight, their magic number can shrink to two if Hershey beats Hartford tonight. There is a caveat, however. A Bears win puts them back in first place over the Penguins. When I queued some of the fan base on Twitter, the results were mixed. Basically the tone being that playoff seeding is going to be paramount and that the Pens want to avoid Providence at all costs.
It ain’t supposed to be easy.
Gameday for Saturday’s home game with Bridgeport goes up on the blog Saturday at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!
I wasn’t expecting to have a blog entry today, but the events of the day almost require it.
The organization is finally getting healthy.
Starting up top, the Pittsburgh Penguins reassigned forward Conor Sheary to the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins today. This after word from the morning that basically everyone practiced today including injured players like
Broke Beau Bennett, Eric Fehr and even Ben Lovejoy. It was a full compliment of players. 15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goaltenders. Almost like the week before the regular season when the final cuts need to be made.
Then news today out of Coal Street that Oskar Sundqvist practiced in full and should be good to go for Saturday against Bridgeport. That is good news for the Penguins because getting the firepower of Sheary injected back into the lineup with Sundqvist balancing out your third or even fourth line is certainly welcome.
Defenseman Niclas Andersen is recovered from his illness and is looking like he is ready to go again for this weekends games.
Goaltender Tristan Jarry did not practice. Donatelli indicated today that he is, “getting better.”
I would guess that the braintrust feels he will be good to go as they sent Brian Foster along with forwards Derek Army and Anton Zlobin back to Wheeling today. Franky Palazzese remains up and is projected to back up Jarry in both games this weekend with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The thought here with many is that Foster was a mess last night and Palazzese won the game for the Penguins without giving up a goal in his AHL debut. I don’t agree with that at all. The Penguins are most successful when they play in front of goaltenders not named Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry when they are successful at shot suppression. They limited Hershey to five shots in the third period Sunday in a 5-4 game in the third game in three nights for both teams. They limited Lehigh Valley to three shots in the third period yesterday playing in front of Palazzese and one shot in overtime. They need to insulate whoever the backup is to Jarry as best they can in order to have a chance at winning. It is that simple.
The Pens reassigned three to Wheeling today in what I am guessing is a sign of things to come from Pittsburgh. I would assume that you will see one more transaction at least from Pittsburgh before Saturday nights game against Bridgeport. You may even see a second. But who?
I think the Pittsburgh Penguins are at an interesting crossroads when it comes to Derrick Pouliot. Pouliot has been scratched the last two games in the NHL while the Penguins worked Justin Schultz into the rotation. Ben Lovejoy is getting healthy enough to play. In practice today Pouliot was on the fourth defensive pairing. Pittsburgh is in a fight for its playoff life amidst a battle with its Metropolitan Division brethren. Every point is crucial for them going forward so Head Coach Mike Sullivan needs to dress the best players available now that everyone is seemingly healthy again. Does the organization want to stunt the continued progress of Pouliot by burying him in the press box night after night or do they want him to play top defensive minutes?
Maybe I am grasping at air falling backwards, but don’t be surprised if you see Derrick Pouliot back in Wilkes-Barre sooner rather than later.
Who knows. Certainly I don’t or else they would be paying me to write these things. Time will tell.
Let’s Go Pens!
A couple of things to get to as the Penguins begin a three-in-three weekend where they do not leave the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Defenseman Barry Goers is back, given the green light to play in games this weekend. It’s expected that if all goes well, Goers will play Friday in Lehigh Valley and Sunday home against Hershey. The initial plans are for Goers to not play in back to back games as he eases back into the lineup.
Dustin Jeffrey participated in his first Penguins practice Thursday at Coal Street…
Look for Jeffrey to center Kael Mouillierat and Dominik Simon this weekend. I have a sense that could be a dynamite pairing for the Penguins this weekend. With the Tom Kostopoulos and Carter Rowney chemistry, the Penguins could actually have two good lines that may generate offense this weekend.
Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli had an update on Conor Sheary.
Donatelli also mentioned that Tristan Jarry will start two of the three games this weekend in goal meaning that conceivably Brian Foster gets a game. I am thinking that is this is the case, give Foster the start tomorrow vs. Lehigh Valley and let Jarry start the back-to-backs against Hershey in the home and home Saturday and Sunday. Simply, the Penguins can’t allow to let Hershey get away from them if they are serious about overcoming the Bears again for the division lead. If Jarry starts tomorrow in Lehigh Valley then Foster is starting one of the two against Hershey and that will probably not bode well for the Penguins and likely signal the end of their pursuit of the division lead. at least in my opinion. I guess we all find out around 6:20 on Friday.
One more thing, the Penguins are sending Tyler Biggs, John McCarron, Harrison Ruopp and Clark Seymour to Wheeling this weekend. With the regulars starting to get healthy and some help coming back from Pittsburgh in the forms of Conor Sheary and Dustin Jeffrey, why keep an excess of bodies around when both Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre are going to be playing basically right next door to one another this weekend with the Nailers in Reading Friday and Saturday with the Pens in Allentown and Hershey on the same days.
Gameday setup for Friday’s meeting with Lehigh Valley will be on the blog tomorrow afternoon at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!
Besides the news earlier today that the Penguins traded away Sergei Plotnikov for Mattias Plachta, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Arizona Coyotes were not done doing business with one another.
Pittsburgh traded away Matia Marcantuoni for Dustin Jeffrey and two ECHLers in Dan O’Donoghue and James Melindy. Marcantuoni goes to Springfield, Jeffrey to Wilkes-Barre from Springfield. O’Donoghue and Melindy from Rapid City of the ECHL to Wheeling.
Not a bad haul if you ask me for the farm from Pittsburgh. The markets were too expensive for the already cap strapped Penguins so they shored up things with the affiliates in Wilkes-Barre and Wheeling.
Regarding Jeffrey, here are a few tweets…
Apparently Oskar Sundqvist was injured this past weekend, apparently during the 3-2 loss yesterday to the Providence Bruins. I watched the whole game and nothing stood out to me regarding an injury to Sundqvist.
There were other moves today.
David Warsofsky was placed on waivers yesterday for the purposes of reassignment to Wilkes-Barre. Well, at noon today we learned that the New Jersey Devils claimed Warsofsky. That’s the second Ray Shero / John Hynes waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. Earlier this season the Devils claimed Bobby Farnham. Hynes saw his full share of Warsofsky, facing against the defensemen in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and also coached him in the U.S. Development program.
More on Plachta.
According to the Penguins transaction page on theAHL.com, the Pittsburgh Penguins assigned Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Conor Sheary, Matt Murray and Derrick Pouliot were assigned to Wilkes-Barre thus making them eligible to play again in the AHL this season. There was an interesting twist, however. NHL teams don’t normally announce AHL paper moves on trade deadline day. They made a formal announcement on the reassignment of Conor Sheary. Pursuant to the transaction page mentioned earlier, Rust, Wilson, Murray and Pouliot were “recalled” back to Pittsburgh while Sheary remained.
That could be procedural, as NHL teams are limited now to just four callups. Teams skirt the rules under “emergency” reasons, so conceivably Sheary could return to Pittsburgh tomorrow. Time will tell, but it is fun to speculate…
Skating on the Susquehanna has a nice summary of the days proceedings.
Elsewhere in the Division…
The Washington Capitals traded Chris Brown to the New York Rangers and in return received Ryan Bourque. Both players will report to their respective AHL teams. Bourque, joining his brother in Hershey and Brown to Hartford. Later, Connor Carrick was traded to Toronto in a deal involving NHL players.
Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley stayed quiet.
Boston / Providence got ex-Penguin Max Talbot and Joonas Kemppainen and Zac Rinaldo to the Rhode Island capital. Providence is a perfect dark horse in the Atlantic.
Springfield was pillaged, losing Corey Potter to Nashville, in addition to Jeffrey and Plachta.
Bridgeport and Portland didn’t make any moves that jumped out.
Overall, not a bad haul for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. They lose a key defenseman and a power play quarterback in Warsofsky to waivers but gain an elite AHL scorer in Jeffrey, shore up their ECHL affiliate with O’Donoghue and Melindy and add Plachta who I am thinking the change of scenery will do him well.
So there you have it. Wilkes-Barre is setup to claw back against Herhsey and regain the Atlantic Division lead. The Penguins play the Bears twice this weekend.
Let’s Go Pens!