Chirps from Center Ice

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

Wheeling Wrap 1/17

Tuesday at noon around these parts means its’ time to take a look at the ECHL affiliate in Wheeling, WV to see how the boys fared.

The Nailers played four games in five days last week starting Wednesday at home against the Toledo Walleye. The Nailers would beat the ECHL’s best Walleye by a 5-2 score. Sean Maguire continued to shine in goal, stopping 31 of 33. Christian Hilbrich and Tyler Currier both had a goal and an assist, Kevin Schulze added two assists. The Nailers struck twice on the power play.

The two teams then headed west back to Toledo, Ohio. The Walleye narrowly defeated the Nailers 4-3 on Friday. Christian Hilbrich and Andrew Ammon both had a goal and an assist each and Sean Maguire took the loss, stopping 38 of 42 shots. Toledo struck twice on the power play, the Nailers didn’t in three tries.

Wheeling then returned home for a date with the Kalamazoo Wings and were beat 5-1 on Saturday. Doug Carr took the loss in net for the Nailers. Kalamazoo struck twice on the power play. Brett Stern scored the only goal for Wheeling on the power play.

Sunday, the Nailers got revenge in the rematch with the Wings in Michigan beating Kalamazoo by a 5-2 score. Christian Hilbrich netted his first ever professional hat trick and added an assist. Sean Maguire stopped 28 of 30 and picked up the win. Gage Quinney added a pair of assists and Michael Webster had a goal and an assist.

The Nailers sit fifth in the North Division with a 18-14-3-0 record, good for 39 points, just a point back from fourth place Adirondack, three off third place Reading and five points off second place Brampton. The Manchester Monarchs lead the North Division with 49 points.

This week, Wheeling heads to Norfolk Friday to take on an Admirals team that has won six in a row and is unbeaten in 2017 before heading to Reading to meet up with the Royals for a Saturday affair.

Streak Stoppers — Pens LOSE 4-1

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Before you start, no, the reason the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins lost today was not because Jake Guentzel got recalled to Pittsburgh today. It wasn’t because Chad Ruhwedel was either. No, not because of Brett Stern coming up from Wheeling or Derrick Pouliot missing the game with an injury.

Here’s the facts. The Syracuse Crunch do not lose at home. Coming into this afternoons game, the Crunch were 13-3-1-2 on home ice. One of those three losses came courtesy of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins on Saturday. The Crunch are the number one team in the North Division and while you may want to complain about Pittsburgh taking two players from the farm here in Wilkes-Barre, try walking a mile in the shoes of a Syracuse Crunch fan. Literally everyday for the past month, maybe month and a half, the Crunch have had to deal with a roster transaction. I don’t think Syracuse has dressed the same lineup in back to back games in 20 games.

So in a rematch Monday afternoon with some roster shuffling on both sides and the situation being what it was, the Penguins lost for just the first time in 2017 and see their seven game winning streak comes to an end by a 4-1 score.

Tristan Jarry opposed Adam Wilcox.

Lines were…

Tom Sestito – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Dominik Simon – Carter Rowney – Danny Kristo
J-S Dea – Teddy Blueger – Patrick McGrath

Brett Stern – Tim Erixon
Stuart Percy – Barry Goers
Cameron Gaunce – Ethan Prow

Tristan Jarry – Casey DeSmith

Lineup Notes: A ton. As mentioned in the open, Brett Stern was brought up from the Wheeling Nailers on a PTO yesterday. Chad Ruhwedel was recalled to Pittsburgh with the news that Kris Letting is week to week with a lower body injury. Also, Jake Guentzel was recalled to jumpstart their offense having lost three games in a row. Derrick Pouliot was out and is day to day with a lower body injury per the broadcast.

First Period: Penguins carried play the first ten minutes of the period, but Syracuse would strike first on their first shot of the game when Yanni Gourde pounced on a defensive cross up between Barry Goers and Stuart Percy to give the Crunch a 1-0 lead…

Immediately after the goal, Garrett Wilson high sticked Cory Conacher, drew blood, and the Crunch were on a 4:00 power play. The Penguins nearly killed it, Brett Stern broke a stick, Carter Rowney gave him his, the Penguins cleared it, a puck rimming around the cage of Jarry took a funny bounce and Syracuse nearly scored on an open net. Daniel Walcott scored on the tail end of the double minor….

Jarry stopped Walcott’s first attempt but Walcott followed his shot and squeaked it past Jarry to put the Crunch up 2-0.

If this makes any sense, the Penguins were the better team in the period but the scoreboard didn’t agree with them.

First Intermission Highlights: Love that Syracuse offers these…

Second Period: Penguins came out knocking hard on the door to score a goal, but Wilcox wasn’t answering. Then, Syracuse scored to extend their lead to 3-0.

Two issues here. Linesmen called the Penguins for icing setting up the face-off in front of Jarry. I didn’t think it was, the players on the ice didn’t think it was and Clark Donatelli didn’t think it was. That’s the first problem. The second problem was that drop by the linesman. You’ve read recently how I think that the linesmen have been worse than the referees.

Penguins finally go their first power play of the game and Seth had this to say about that when it came and went…

Carter Rowney would score his third game in as many games since returning from injury off this nice rebound of an initial Dominik Simon shot…

Penguins couldn’t score on another power play after the Rowney goal. Adam Wilcox stoned Dominik Simon with the glove in the slot off of a face-off. A big time save by Wilcox to keep it a two goal lead heading into the third.

Second Period Highlights: 

Third Period: Penguins would outshoot the Crunch 10-3 in the third period but Adam Wilcox stood on his head in the period and preserved the two goal lead for his side. The Penguins hit a post. Wilkes-Barre had two power play chances, couldn’t score. In fact, going with a 6-on-4 advantage with Jarry pulled, Matthew Peca hit an empty net to make it 4-1 Crunch.

Postgame, as told to Seth Lakso of The Citizens’ Voice Clark Donatelli said that the Lyme Disease that was bothering Lukas Bengtsson is back again and that Derrick Pouliot’s injury is walking a fine line between day to day and week to week. Personally, I wouldn’t expect to see Pouliot Wednesday in Hershey nor Friday in Lehigh Valley. I think they re-assess Thursday maybe at best to determine his status for the weekend which includes a Saturday home game against Hershey.

One other note, Tristan Jarry took the loss and this was his first since December 9 at home against the Hershey Bears.

Three Stars: 3) Mathieu Brodeur (assist, +1) 2) Adam Wilcox (31 saves on 32 shots) 1) Daniel Walcott (goal, assist, +1)

Around the Division: One other game this afternoon on Martin Luther King Day, the best third period team in the AHL in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were down 3-1 in Springfield, rattle off three straight goals in the games final 3:57 and beat the Springfield Thunderbirds 4-3.

Standings: Penguins (.756 percentage points) — Lehigh Valley (.703) — Providence (.654) — Hershey (.618) — Bridgeport (.556) — Springfield (.500) — Hartford (.410)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off, they visit Norfolk this Friday. More tomorrow in the weekly Wheeling Wrap.

Video highlights in a nice tidy tweet…

In case you missed it, I published the Second Quarter Grades and the Week 14 AHL Power Rankings on Sunday. Check out the links or keep scrolling down.

But for anything breaking, look for the Wheeling Wrap tomorrow at noon then the Gameday setup against Hershey on Wednesday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Syracuse 1/16

@     syr14_200

Away Game: 20

AHL Game: 553

Who: Syracuse Crunch

Where: Onondaga County War Memorial Arena

When: 1:00 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game / Last Meeting: Saturday in Syracuse, the Penguins win 3-1. Wilkes-Barre went down early in the first, then scored three goals in the third period to win their seventh straight game and remain unbeaten in 2017. Dominik Simon scored a goal and assisted on another. Jake Dotchin scored for Syracuse.

Record: For WBS: 28-7-3-0 (59 pts., 1st place Atlantic Division) — For SYR: 19-10-2-5 (45 pts., 1st place North Division)

Why you should care: Rematch Monday afternoon in Syracuse. How do the Crunch respond after allowing the Penguins to comeback and score three goals on them in the third period Saturday? This could be a trap game for the Penguins.

Referee(s): Tyler Puddifant / Stephen Reneau

Linesmen: Francois Dussureault / Jason Brown

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @SyracuseCrunch

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /syracusecrunch

Instagram: wbspenguins / officialsyracusecrunch

Beat Writers: @CVSethLakso / @TLTomVenesky // @syrhockey

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For SYR: Dan D’Uva @Dan_DUva

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep / @CrunchSyracuse

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For Syracuse: ESPN Radio Central New York

Television: AHL Live

Other Game to Watch: Speaking of trap games, the Phantoms are in Springfield taking on the Thunderbirds. Lehigh Valley lost their last time out against Hershey, how do they respond this afternoon?

Next Five Games:  @ HER 1/18, @ LV 1/20, HER 1/21, SYR 1/25, @ UTI 1/27

AHL Power Rankings: Week 14

With games going off on Monday afternoon, it’s a Sunday evening edition of the Week 14 Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings.

No change at the very top, but two teams in the top three switch spots then chaos the rest of the way down.

If you didn’t link in direct, please click through the jump to see where your favorite team ended up this week.

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2016-17 Second Quarter Grades

With their 3-1 win in Syracuse Saturday, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins crossed halfway in the 2016-17 AHL Hockey Season. They are the best team in the AHL and have been for about a month or so and one of the AHL’s top teams all season.

So making grades for the second quarter should be a walk in the park.

So here’s how it works, everyone who skated in a game in the last 19 games for the Penguins since December 3 gets a blurb, players that have played in 6 or more games get a grade. Only those stats during the 19 games played are listed in stats.

Please skip through the jump if you didn’t link in direct and let’s get started.

Read more of this post

Three in the Third – Seven in a Row — Pens WIN 3-1

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Continuing my theme this week of what exactly makes a great team, I’ll offer another courtesy of play-by-play man Mike O’Brien…

Penguins win 3-1 in Syracuse, scoring three goals in the third period and finally breaking open a game that was gummed up by two division leaders not allowing the others an inch of space to make play.

It should be a heck of a rematch Monday afternoon. The Pens are staying in Syracuse tonight and Sunday and will play there again Monday afternoon.

It was a battle of the AHL’s best road team in Wilkes-Barre (.750) vs. the AHL’s best home team in the Syracuse Crunch who have a .806 points percentage at home.

Casey DeSmith opposed Kristers Gudlevskis.

Lines were…

Sahir Gill – Kevin Porter – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Jake Guentzel – Carter Rowney – Dominik Simon
Tom Sestito – Teddy Blueger – J-S Dea

Derrick Pouliot – Tim Erixon
Stuart Percy – Chad Ruhwedel
Cameron Gaunce – Ethan Prow

Casey DeSmith – Tristan Jarry

Lineup Notes: Sahir Gill was back in the lineup for Danny Kristo. Head Coach Clark Donatelli put him on the top line. Ryan Haggerty took warmups but was scratched. On defense, Barry Goers yielded to Chad Ruhwedel.

First Period: Jake Guentzel doesn’t miss a lot when he shoots the puck, but when Dominik Simon and Carter Rowney set up Guentzel with some nice passing plays that drew Kristers Gudlevskis out of position leaving Guentzel with an open net, the Penguins rookie hit the post and the puck dribbled wide.

That near miss gave Gudlevskis some confidence as he went and stopped Tom Kostopoulos not once, not twice, but three times in one sequence.

Tom Sestito and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond fought in a old school heavyweight fight you don’t see that often anymore. Leblond got the takedown on Sestito after Tom switched hands.

Teams traded penalties. Josh Archibald was poked checked away by Gudlevskis after he got a step on a man.

Later, Jake Dotchin pounced on a puck left in the slot and fired it home past DeSmith that gave the Crunch a 1-0 lead.

First Period Highlights: I, for one, love that a team offers up something like this because it has in visual form what I just described above…

Second Period: It was a chippy, choppy period for both division leaders. Daniel Walcott lowered the boom on a legal hit on Ethan Prow that put Prow in the locker room for a while (Prow did return) which prompted a Sahir Gill cross checking penalty.

I don’t like the fact that they are phasing out fighting because of things like this. Guy takes a run at your guy, but because you don’t know how to fight because no one taught you to, you can’t do anything other than just take runs at the guy that hit your guy or runs at anyone else on the ice not wearing your jersey. That’s where injuries happen. Sahir Gill was so mad that it forced him to cross check someone. What if he cross checks him down hard onto the ice and that causes an injury that causes an injury? It’s just silly that they are totally trying to take fighting out of the game entirely because it’s going to breed idiotic retaliation penalties like this one.

And get a blogger off topic by dedicating a long paragraph editorializing a position on a game in general versus recapping a hockey game.

For the rest of the period, it seemed like that whenever one team went on the power play, they would take a penalty and the majority of the period was played four on four.

Second Period Highlights: 

Third Period: Carter Rowney scored his second goal in as many night with a slow developing play with Dominik Simon as a trailer. Rowney banks a shot off Gudlevskis and into the net that tied the game…

Pens would edge ahead as a puck deflects off of Cory Conacher and into his own net. With Dominik Simon the last Penguin touching the puck, he gets credit…

That goal snapped an 18 game scoring drought for Simon.

Casey DeSmith remained sharp throughout the game that kept it a one goal game and kept Syracuse from responding after going down one in the third period in stunning fashion.

Through some more, ‘why I oughtta’s’ from players on the ice that don’t know how to fight, Jake Guentzel hits an empty net on a power play for his side that makes it 3-1 Wilkes-Barre. Tom Kostopoulos assisted here and that gave him 300 assists in his AHL career.

Three Stars: 3) Casey DeSmith (22 saves on 22 shots) 2) Jake Dotchin (goal, -1) 1) Dominik Simon (goal, assist, +1)

Around the Division: Hershey with the big assist tonight for the Penguins in beating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms by a score of 6-4…St. John’s beats Hartford on the Rock 4-2…Utica beats Bridgeport 3-1…Providence shuts out Springfield 1-0.

Standings: Penguins (.776 percentage points) — Lehigh Valley (.694) — Providence (.671) — Hershey (.635) — Bridgeport (.543) — Springfield (.514) — Hartford (.410)

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were beaten on home ice by the Kalamazoo Wings by a score of 5-1. Brett Stern scored for Wheeling, Doug Carr took the loss for the Nailers in goal.

Video highlights in a tweet:

Second Period Grades are due, and with the Week 14 AHL Power Rankings, coupled with the Penguins game Monday at 1 and the Wheeling Wrap Tuesday I may just drop the Second Quarter Grades as soon as I finish them Sunday afternoon, run the Week 14 AHL Power Rankings later on in the day, mention both on the social media sides and link in the Monday postgame story.

Lots of stuff for me to write and you guys to read.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Syracuse 1/14

@     syr14_200

Away Game: 19

AHL Game: 542

Who: Syracuse Crunch

Where: Onondaga County War Memorial Arena

When: 3:00 p.m.

Media Kit

Last Game: Last night in Rochester, the Penguins scored two power plays goals and won 3-2. Carter Rowney returned from injury and scored a goal and picked up and assist. For Syracuse, the Crunch beat the Toronto Marlies 5-4. Matt Taormina had two goals and an assist for first star honors.

Last Meeting: October 30 in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins won 6-1. Kevin Porter scored a pair of goals and Casey DeSmith stopped 22 of 23 shots.

Record: For WBS: 27-7-3-0 (57 pts., 1st place Atlantic Division) — For SYR: 19-9-2-5 (45 pts., 1st place North Division)

Why you should care: Matchup of division leaders here in Central New York. Penguins have owned the Crunch so far this season and Syracuse will likely have three transactions with players either being recalled to Tampa Bay or reassigned as that has been the theme for the Crunch this season. Will the Penguins win seven in a row and remain unbeaten in 2017?

Referee(s): Stephen Thomson / Furman South

Linesmen: Francois Dussureault / Todd Plouffe

Twitter: @wbspenguins / @WBSGameDay / @SyracuseCrunch

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins // /syracusecrunch

Instagram: wbspenguins / officialsyracusecrunch

Beat Writers: @CVSethLakso / @TLTomVenesky // @syrhockey

Broadcasters: For WBS: Mike O’Brien @MikeOBrienWBS / For SYR: Dan D’Uva @Dan_DUva

Fan Bloggers: @nafsnep / @CrunchSyracuse

Radio: For WBS: WILK NewsRadio / For Syracuse: ESPN Radio Central New York

Television: AHL Live

Other Game to Watch: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms crushed the Hershey Bears 6-2 last night at home. Hershey has lost five straight. The Bears get another crack at the Phantoms at Giant Center tonight.

Next Five Games: @ SYR 1/16, @ HER 1/18, @ LV 1/20, HER 1/21, SYR 1/25