Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Wheeling

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.


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.

The Walking Wounded

It’s times like these when I miss baseball.

Guy goes out of a game in the second inning, limping off and is replaced. Later, in the fifth inning, the play by play guys cut down to the sideline reporter who reports up that the player is out with a knee injury and than an MRI has been scheduled for tomorrow. Manager comes in to his press conference the next day and says that the player that left the game the day before had an MRI that showed a tear in the meniscus and that he’s being referred to the surgeon and will be out of action for at least eight weeks.

In hockey, they speak in secret alphabet. Day-to-day, week-to-week, longer term, et cetra. It is what makes it a niche sport in my opinion because a casual fan doesn’t have time to listen to the coach speak with the media after the game and say he doesn’t have an update on the player that took the slapshot off the leg in the first period. I mean, do you think we are stupid?

Anyway, I can go on and on regarding this pet peeve of mine. The purpose of this entry today is to inform you of the following injuries affecting the organization at present.

Last night in their shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost Bryan Rust and Chad Ruhwedel to injury. The update this afternoon from Head Coach Mike Sullivan was as follows:

Before we get to the fallout, here’s Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins Head Coach Clark Donatelli’s update from the M*A*S*H unit:

Let’s unpack the transactions known so far. First, Coal Street sent Cody Wydo back to Wheeling. Pittsburgh recalled defenseman Frank Corrado. I don’t think that Pittsburgh may pull a forward up if Wilkes-Barre let Wydo go, it really doesn’t make sense to me to release then recall Wydo over the course of 24 hours if Pittsburgh was going to take someone for Rust.

I’ll update the story in a later edit once confirmations come down as to who exactly has been recalled, but you can expect Casey DeSmith to go up to back up Tristan Jarry, since Matt Murray, who played the whole 65 minutes plus shootout last night against Columbus, is day-to-day. As far as where it leaves the AHL team, with Michael Leighton day-to-day after he backed up DeSmith Wednesday, Coal Street may need two goaltenders from somewhere, as they don’t have any other goalies on NHL or AHL contracts to call upon. In Wheeling, Colin Stevens is on IR and the Nailers have Adam Morrison and Will King on the roster. They could call upon Anthony Peters again from Cincinnati, or go a different direction. They may need only one, depending on how bad the Leighton injury is, but let’s just assume they need two.

EDIT: Pittsburgh made three recalls. Casey DeSmith, Andrey Pedan and Garrett Wilson get the call. Pens place Kris Letang, Chad Ruhwedel and Bryan Rust on injured reserve.

Hopefully DeSmith gets to start a game. For Pedan, the Penguins want to get a look at him since he was the return for Derrick Pouliot. Pedan is a bite your lip type of player from my perspective. Some nights, he’s a beast. Others, he’s a bonehead. For Garrett Wilson, he is not what the fans were expecting in Daniel Sprong, but I am guessing that they have learned their lesson in not rushing him as they had with names like Luca Caputi, Beau Bennett, Eric Tangradi and the aforementioned Pouliot. To bring him up to have him sit, play seven minutes a night or stick him on a fourth line doesn’t do anything for him.

Coal Street in one fell swoop re-signed G Anthony Peters from ECHL Cincinnati to another PTO and Adam Morrison from Wheeling. The Nailers in a separate transaction reactivated Colin Stevens and will roll with him and Will King in goal for this weekend against Fort Wayne on the road Friday, Toledo Saturday and Indy Sunday at home.

Anthony Peters stayed busy in between his stints with Wilkes-Barre. He was involved in a goalie fight against Indy.

Pitchers and catchers report February 12, by the way.

Hartford is coming in Friday, the Wolf Pack are 6-1-1-2 in their last ten games. They will be without the services of Peter Holland, who was supsended two games earlier this week. Holland had three assists in the Wolf Pack’s win over the Penguins on December 15, and Vinni Lettieri, who was recalled to the Rangers on Thursday. Lettieri has 12 goals and 9 assists in 31 games for Hartford this season.

Pens travel to Hershey Saturday, and the Bears got a boost in the form of Nathan Walker who was re-assigned Thursday. Hershey has been struggling as bad as the Penguins have as of late, mired in sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

One more thing out the door, I wanted to bring back the Tyrell Goulbourne goal that should not have counted yesterday. I ran a morning update to my postgame story from last night with video highlights that Coal Street put out. In case you didn’t see, I’m just cutting and pasting from the morning update to keep it fresh.

Video Highlights: 

Tyrell Goulbourne’s goal should not have counted. Also, there is no reason why there should not have been a review of the goal. First, here it is with the benefit of slow motion.

From the AHL Rulebook on video review… In part, Rule 79.3, subsection vii…

79.3 Situations Subject to Video Review – The following are the only situations subject to video review by the Referee:

(vii) To determine whether the puck entered the net from underneath the net frame.

I would be interested to know if Tom or Tyler asked Clark after the game what explanation he was given on that play.

There wasn’t a Thursday follow-up from Tom or Tyler that I saw out of the Thursday practice updates. I would assume that the team moved on and let the tape speak for itself.

I’ll work an edit in later once Pittsburgh makes the DeSmith recall official as well as any other bodies they make take in light of today’s news. Check back here Friday at 3 for the Gameday setup against the Wolf Pack.

Sorting Through the Paperwork*

Late Tuesday, there were other moves made effecting the roster here in Wilkes-Barre besides the blockbuster trade involving Michael Leighton covered here Tuesday afternoon.

Made official by Coal Street Wednesday morning, the Penguins recalled Freddie Tiffels and Cody Wydo from Wheeling.

Initially thinking that there was something up impacting Pittsburgh’s roster, it was revealed after practice on Coal Street the following.

Later, Christian Thomas was named to the Team Canada roster for the Spengler Cup. The tournament runs from December 26 through the 31st. You couple this with DiPauli being absent through Christmas and there is the need for the Wydo and Tiffels recalls this morning. Take Bengtsson’s injury and the status of Ethan Prow (no outlet I follow mentioned anything about him today and I didn’t ask) and there is the need for Jeff Taylor’s recall from Monday.

Wilkes-Barre would have two extras at forward and defense if you consider that Bengtsson, Prow, , Thomas, DiPauli, Tom Kostopoulos and Tom Sestito are all unavailable.

There is a possibility that one or two get bounced back to Wheeling for the Nailers games at home this weekend against the Brampton Beast.

I will leave you with Michael Leighton’s media availability after practice. Santa should send Tux a boom mike for Christmas. Sound up for this one if you can.

If nothing happens Thursday, and I don’t expect it to, check back Friday at 3 for the Gameday setup against Lehigh Valley Binghamton. (thanks Kram for the heads up)

* – it’s what I do everyday at my big boy job of pushing paper. Or painting houses.