Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Wheeling

Weekend Update 9/14

Another week closer to the start of the hockey season. NHL camp started Friday in Pittsburgh. But since the last time I blogged, there were some newsy items I just want to hit on here:

Tom Sestito has retired. He was mulling an offer with an AHL team out west, but told Lindsay Kramer:

“It came to do I want to move the family across country again or call it quits?” he said. “I had enough, I guess. I think I just don’t have it mentally to play another year.”

What Kyle was referring to…

That playoff series with the Bears was probably one of my most enjoyable to cover as a fan and a blogger. It had everything. Sestito was a giant part of that. Sestito may have retired, but legends never die.

Other news…

Penguins rookies went 0-3 and weren’t competitive at all against the three other teams they played last weekend. Take nothing away from this. It was a four day tournament for a bunch of teenagers and players still years away from the AHL. Adam Johnson shined in the tournament, but that’s because he has the experience playing at this level of hockey.

(If you think I am late with this stale news, sorry, I’m trying to enjoy the final knockings of summer and don’t get worked up over rookie tournaments that will be an afterthought come October)

On AHLTV, Stephen Meserve from 100 Degree Hoickey spoke with AHL VP of Communications Jason Chaimovitch about how the whole thing came about. They listened to you about an antiquated AHL Live system that overstayed its welcome and was grossly overpriced. It’s a good read.

Wheeling shores up its goaltending situation with the signing of Evan Cowley. The coaching staff is high on this guy.

Pittsburgh announced its training camp roster. No surprises of the names invited. Ryan Haggerty, on AHL contract only with Wilkes-Barre, gets an invite.

A notable absence on that roster list is Kevin Czuczman. He’s injured. He had offseason shoulder surgery and is out until December. Probably went straight to the operating table after the series with Charlotte and is still rehabbing. If I had to guess, it’s a rotator cuff and without giving away what I do for full time work, it’s a six month recovery period, barring complications.

As noted by Tyler here, Pens are deep on defense, so while Czuczman will be missed, his absence shouldn’t hurt Wilkes-Barre too badly out of the gate.

Too good not to share, Derrick Graffius had his own thoughts on Penguins training camp.

So that’s that. Look for Wilkes-Barre top put a camp roster out at some point during the coming days, probably later next week. When they do, I will have words here.

Enjoy the weekend.

The Very Humid and Flooded Notebook

I didn’t think, going back and compiling the bits and pieces of information I had stockpiled since the last time I blogged here in the summertime that I had a lot of stuff to blog about.

Well, I do. So here goes.

First, if we are Facebook friends and you get your information on when I post stuff on here through that platform, I regret to inform you that Facebook killed that avenue as of August 1. Blame the Russians I suppose. I will try to remember to cut and paste after stuff gets posted on here over there, but in the off chance that I miss, keep the blog as part of your internet bookmarks. I will not be creating a Facebook Page (apparently the posting from WordPress to Facebook still works on that platform) because it’s too much work and there enough pages out there.

Anyway, now to the good stuff…

Penguins announced their promo schedule to their season ticket members. They also announced the hat designs for the McDonald’s giveaways. They are….

Mike Bavis was announced as the new coach of the Wheeling Nailers. If you are wondering why the Wheeling Nailers now have two head coaches, well their old new coach, Mark Dennehy was named head coach of the Binghamton Devils. Extremely coy of the New Jersey Devils organization to sweep in and and ask for permission from Pittsburgh to interview a coach already under contract like that. You’ve think you’ve seen it all in this industry and then that happens. Anyway, Bavis looks like Ed Kopec from Edward’s Garden Center in Forty Fort, for some local local inference / humor.

Wilkes-Barre signed D Johnny Austin. Some information on him…

Pittsburgh was listed #23 on Corey Pronman’s Farm System Rankings over on The Athletic. Subscription required and highly recommended to read his thoughts on Penguins prospects here.

This happened at some point during the summer and yes I am channeling my 14 year old self with this proud accomplishment…

Ex-Penguin and current now former Hershey Bear Zach Sill signed with HC Sparta Praha.

Coal Street is offering a neat little internship to college students. You will probably cross paths with me at some point! Yay education!

Finally, Tom Sestito’s name popped up in the news cycle. He’s probably headed West, story here from out of Syracuse. Sestito is from nearby Rome, NY.

Less than 50 days to the start of the new season. Spend these days wisely.

Updates 5/31

Getting closer to the start of summer, there have been a few things rolling around that don’t get a whole blog post dedicated to it, but have built up enough to warrant one now. In sum,

— Pittsburgh signed Juuso Riikola to an entry level contract. He’s a Finnish defenseman. Undrafted, steady handed puck mover was second on his Liiga team in points last year.

— The guys from the Pittsburgh faction of The Athletic had a feature piece on him that you can, as long as you are a subscriber, can check out here.

— Lukas Bengtsson made it official and signed in the SHL for next season. It’s a three year contract. Don’t be surprised if the Penguins simply protect his North American rights going forward, but his days are done on Coal Street.

— There is a new ECHL team in St. Johns, Newfoundland and they have a kick ass logo. They will be a Toronto affiliate.

— Etienne Marcoux, who was one of 167 goaltenders the Penguins used at the position last season, earned himself an AHL deal with the Laval Rocket.

— Wheeling has a new head coach. His name is Mark Dennehy. He has ties with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan. A great hire.

— The AHL extended Dave Andrews through 2020.

— Ex-Penguin Bobby Farnham re-signed with the Springfield Thunderbirds.

— Mama, it’s those men again. Another Athletic piece on Jordy Bellerive, who is a man against boys with Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. He may make NHL team out fo camp in the fall, but if he doesn’t, he will need to go back to the Hurricanes because he’s too young to play in the AHL.

Hitting on the news, I don’t see Riikola coming over here to play 50+ games in the AHL personally, but if he wants to learn the North American game he may have to….Dennehy is a good hire because he did more with less at tiny Merrimack College which was a small fish in the big pond known as college hockey in the Northeast….There are a lot of things I don’t like about the AHL (teams playing 68 games, linesmen who are in over their heads on a nightly basis, a training ground for referees who are cast in a bigger spotlight who are sometimes in the same boat, the high price of AHL Live, etc.) but the one constant is Andrews and his vision has catapulted the AHL into the second best brand of hockey in North America and some would say the world. The League will be at 31 teams in 2018-19 with the inclusion of the Colorado Eagles and may get to 32 if NHL Seattle is granted a franchise, so what better man to keep running the ship than Andrews. It was said that he was close to retiring, but he was talked into staying around for a little while longer. The League will be better for it.

Toronto swept Lehigh Valley in four games and Texas dispatched pesky Rockford in six. These two will play for the Calder Cup starting Saturday in Toronto.

That’s pretty much it. When news builds up on me I’ll drop another post in, but for now enjoy the warm weather.

The Caravan is Here

With the Wheeling Nailers season ending last weekend, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins recalled seven players from their ECHL affiliate.

They are forwards Reid Gardiner, Troy Josephs and Cody Wydo, and defensemen Kevin Spinozzi and Dylan Zink. Cam Brown, a forward and defenseman Kevin Schulze were signed to professional tryout agreements.

Also, Anthony Angello, who Pittsburgh signed last week out of Cornell University, was signed to an amateur tryout contract.

I believe that the Penguins can lock up home ice over the Providence Bruins with a win in Springfield with a Bruins loss to the Charlotte Checkers. That would put Wilkes-Barre five points up on Providence with two games left to play for each team. Charlotte after Friday has one game left. All the Penguins would need to do would win one more game to get home ice in the first round because that would put them at 98 points. Charlotte can only max out at 96.

It’s still all up in the air and nothing is decided yet in the Atlantic but for the fact that Lehigh Valley is number one. Stay tuned, I guess and pick your poison for your first round opponent.

Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday. I do not believe that Pittsburgh will be sending any reinforcements. Dominik Simon would be the one name that I would watch for, but not yet.

I have the Penguins winning in five over the Flyers, by the way.

But for anything breaking, check me out again here on the blog Friday at 3 for the Springfield setup.

News, Notes, Returns 1/23

A couple things to touch on before a midweek road game in Hershey Wednesday.

Pittsburgh re-assigned Daniel Sprong back to Wilkes-Barre Monday. Sprong had been a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh in their last two games and only played into the second period in Anaheim last Wednesday. Instead of letting him waste away up top, he was returned to the AHL with likely homework to do from Mike Sullivan and his coaching staff. Bryan Rust is set to return from injury any day now.

Wilkes-Barre recalled Jeff Taylor and Freddie Tiffels from the Wheeling Nailers Monday. This move preceded the Sprong move. Wilkes-Barre went with seven defensemen and eleven forwards on Sunday in Hartford, so this was not a surprise.

Edit: Then Tuesday afternoon, Wilkes-Barre sent Taylor back to Wheeling. Thanks for the fish, Jeff.

Tuesday, the following news came out of practice at Coal Street.

Tom followed up…

Big news, for sure. Donatelli was not fully committed to the trio being 100% enough to where they will most definitely return, but regardless this is a positive sign and step in the right direction.

Finally, up top, Casey DeSmith will start his third straight NHL game, with Sullivan telling old pal Jonathan Bombulie that he is staying with the hot hand. Pittsburgh hosts Carolina tonight at 7.

Gameday setup for Hershey Wednesday will hit the blog at 3. Check back then.

That’s All-Star Casey DeSmith to You…

The American Hockey League announced on Thursday afternoon the playing rosters for the All-Star Classic which will be held in Utica, NY on January 28 and 29.

Staying with the four divisions that make up the “teams” that will compete in a round robin four on four and three on three tournament, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will have two nominees head to Central New York in a few weeks.

Forward Daniel Sprong and Goaltender Casey DeSmith were named today. First selections for both. Sprong is in his rookie year, DeSmith his sophomore season. Release from Coral Street here.

Sprong is currently with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s the Atlantic Division roster…

Penguins are among the Providence Bruins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms to have two players represent their teams out of the 12 players selected for the Atlantic Division team. Hershey, Springfield, Charlotte and Hartford are only sending one representative.

Full roster and league release here.

Quotes…

Sounds like Clark is speaking in past tense regarding Sprong. Your interpretation may vary.

The ECHL also named their All-Star squads. They are adopting the same format as the AHL this year. Their games are being held in Indianapolis this year and will be hosted by the Indy Fuel. Wheeling’s Cody Wydo, currently up with Wilkes-Barre, was the lone Nailer selected.

Notes from practice today…

Casey DeSmith was not at practice on Coal Street today. Donatelli told media that he’s essentially in purgatory and playing, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash at his apartment on repeat waiting on whether he is being recalled to Pittsburgh. Only part of that last sentence is true, I’ll let you decide which is correct. Of note, Tristan Jarry participated in practice with Pittsburgh earlier. The Pens host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight before traveling to Brooklyn to take on the Islanders Friday.

Zach Trotman and Adam Johnson were also at practice at Coal Street today. I’d suspect that if a recall was going to be made, it would have been done already.

Sebastian Caron was at practice again today. The plan is to go with DeSmith and Anthony Peters this weekend, but if that can’t happen because Pittsburgh does recall DeSmith, then the plan is to go with Peters the starter and Caron the backup. Personally I find this plan nonsensical but as I always say, I blog about the team, I don’t run it.

Gameday setup for Friday’s matchup vs. Springfield, provided they are able to get here safely with the winter weather, hits the blog Friday at 3.

Busy Tuesday 1/2

Hope you all had a great New Year, lots to get into, so gets get going.

Pittsburgh sent a trio of players down to Wilkes-Barre on Monday, Casey DeSmith, Andrey Pedan and Garrett Wilson were returned while Pittsburgh recalled Dominik Simon. Simon was a man against boys Saturday in Hershey when Pittsburgh swapped him for Daniel Sprong, who the Pens recalled earlier that day. Simon scored the overtime game winning goal against the Bears.

Pittsburgh continues to struggle offensively and while Sprong’s two-way game hasn’t rounded into complete form, everything I have read from the brass up top was that his scoring is a punch that the NHL team desperately need. My take is that with Simon wrecking shop against the Bears in Hershey, that the Pens find a way to get the duo into the lineup and start winning games. Pittsburgh visits Philadelphia tonight.

Wilkes-Barre recalled Cody Wydo and Reid Gardiner Tuesday morning, after their brief stint with the Nailers on Saturday.

In a separate transaction, with DeSmith back in town, the Pens released Adam Morrison from his PTO. Morrison returns to Wheeling.

Michael Leighton was not at practice Tuesday, according to Pens media, Casey DeSmith was in one net and Anthony Peters was in the other.

Tom dropped in with injury updates….

In a move that had no effect on the AHL Penguins, the Wheeling Nailers traded their fourth leading scorer, Hunter Fejes, to Orlando for Chris Francis and Michael Turner, who combined have a total of eight points between them. Fejes, the one constant for the Nailers this year amongst a turnstile of recalls to Wilkes-Barre, had 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points with the Nailers.

Seems strange to me, but then again, I don’t manage or coach these teams, I just blog about them.

Finally, Daniel Sprong was named AHL Rookie of the Month for December. Sprong had nine goals, three of them game winners and five assists good for 14 points in 12 games. Sprong joins John Curry and Jake Guentzel as former Penguins to be named rookie of the month. Amazingly, Guentzel and Curry were both rookies of the month of December as well. Must be something about that month.

Pens are back in action Wednesday at 7 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Gameday setup hits here Wednesday afternoon at 3.