Chirps from Center Ice

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

GAMEDAY: vs. Hartford 3/1


Who: Hartford Wolf pack

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Wednesday in Charlotte, the Pens lost 3-1. Tom Sestito scored the only got for Wilkes-Barre in the loss. For Hartford, the Wolf Pack hosted Lehigh Valley Friday and won in a shootout 4-3. Marek Mazanec stopped 28 of 31 shots and every Phantoms shooter in the shootout. Dan DeSalvo had the only goal in the shootout and a regulation goal.

Last Meeting: January 21 in Hartford, these two teams were scoreless at the end of regulation and in overtime it was Vince Pedrie scoring in overtime to beat the Penguins. Anthony Peters stopped 21 of 22, Wilkes-Barre put 43 total shots on Alexandar Georgiev.

Record: For WBS: 36-18-4-2 (78 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division) // For HFD: 27-29-5-3 (62 pts., 7th place Atlantic Division)

Referee(s): Troy Paterson / Stephen Thomson

Linesmen: J.P. Waleski / Scott Pomento

Why You Should Care: Penguins need to shake off the smell of Wednesday’s loss to Charlotte quickly tonight against the Wolf Pack at home to keep pace with Lehigh Valley and shrink their magic number even more. Hartford is slumping, but that cannot be an excuse for the Penguins to underestimate this opponent.

Promotion(s): St. Patrick’s Day, Jersey Auction

Television: Tonight’s game will be televised locally on WBRE, which is Channel 28.

Other Game to Watch: Providence and Lehigh Valley meet for just the second time this season in a vital Atlantic Division matchup.

Next Five Games: vs. HER 3/18, @ TOR 2/20, @ UTI 3/23, @ BNG 3/24, vs. BRI 3/25

Off Day Notes & Scores 3/16

With no Penguins game to write about tonight, I wanted to use this post to drop in and fill in the news of the day and get to some final scores. First the news of the day.

Wilkes-Barre was scheduled to practice today, but it turned into an optional practice. Players who participated in the games in Charlotte used the day off Friday to recover.

Meaning no hitting, but why would you this late on into a season.

Tyler had words from Clark Donatelli on Ethan Prow’s status…

Josiah Didier, the Charlotte player who hit Prow, was suspended one game. Charlotte hosts Binghamton Saturday and Sunday.

In my opinion Ethan Prow is the last player that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins could afford to lose. He is a vital piece to the team.

Tyler noted the rest of the walking wounded today…

My thought on Michael Leighton is that the Penguins are saving him for the playoff run, depending on what happens with Matt Murray in Pittsburgh. Assume Casey DeSmith comes down. Penguins would feel less confident riding Anthony Peters as their Round 1 starter I feel, with Peters’ lack of playoff experience and all. Leighton has been there. Of course if DeSmith is available, he would get the nod I feel over both Leighton and definitely Peters.

Around the Atlantic…

Thursday night, Bridgeport fell behind 4-0 to Rochester and won 6-4. Recall they did the same thing to Springfield this past Sunday.

The Sound Tigers were in Hershey tonight and lost 3-2. Penguins magic number should drop to 19.

Third place Providence hosted Rochester and won 5-3. Bruins will inch closer to the Pens for second in the division, but Wilkes-Barre will have two games in hand.

Tomorrow’s opponent Hartford hosted division leader Lehigh Valley and beat the Phantoms in shootout 4-3. Lehigh Valley goes 10 up on the Penguins who have four games in hand.

Here’s where they stand heading into Saturday…

Lehigh Valley (.68 percentage points) — Penguins (.650) — Providence (.637) — Charlotte (.586) — Bridgeport (.556) — Springfield (.492) — Hartford (.484) — Hershey (.477)

Gameday setup for tomorrow’s matchup against Hartford will hit the blog Saturday at 3.

Charlotte Chaos — Pens LOSE 3-1


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I guess the lesson here tonight is be careful what you wish for.

If the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins somehow overtake the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the number one spot in the Atlantic Division, they will most likely play the Charlotte Checkers in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Right now, I don’t like the Penguins chances if that were to become a reality.

Wilkes-Barre loses 3-1. A lifeless effort tonight for the Penguins who only had 8 shots on goal throughout two periods. This game obviously meant more for the Checkers, being pursued by fifth place Bridgeport, than it did the Penguins.

Alex Nedeljkovic won his 28th game of the season which leads all AHL goaltenders, he opposed Anthony Peters in a rematch of last night.

Lines were the same as last night save for Jarrett Burton for Sam Lafferty on the third line. Josh Jooris was re-assigned by Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon. Jooris was not in the lineup for Wilkes-Barre tonight. Etienne Marcoux again backed up Anthony Peters while the status of Michael Leighton remains a mystery.

First Period: But for :26 of 5-on-3 penalty kill time that came and went for the Penguins, it was an overall fast pace of a period. Wilkes-Barre was out shot 9-5. J-S Dea hit a post in the early stages, Jarred Tinordi had a clear in the early seconds of the 5-on-3 against and Charlotte was never able to establish anything threatening while on the man advantage.

Second Period: Wilkes-Barre looked lethargic in the first period and continued in the second period, firing just three shots at Nedeljkovic, tied for a season low.

Charlotte jumped out to a two goal lead as a result of keeping their feet moving as their opponents were content with watching instead of competing.

Julien Gauthier, scratched last night, scored first for Charlotte to open the scoring…

That is three Penguins defenders around Gauthier and he still manages to get his shot off.

On a power play, ex-Penguin Greg McKegg scored on a tic tac toe play in front while Chris Summers was out in left field daydreaming…

Gotta mark the man in front.

A puck went out of play in front on Nedeljkovic and the Penguins then tried to get something going with the physicality. Everyone grabbed a man and pushing and shoving ensued. The Penguins sleepwalked through the first two periods and needed something, anything to get them going…

Third Period: Penguins started to chase the game and the worst thing that could happen would be a power play. Chasing a game late caused Wilkes-Barre to play fast and loose and the Checkers easily killed the penalty.

But the Penguins were able to get to within one when Tom Sestito put home a rebound of a Daniel Spring shot that made it a one goal game.

Another power play came and went for the Penguins in a golden opportunity missed for Wilkes-Barre. The lack of success on the power play is going to bury this team.

Wilkes-Barre continued to press, made mistakes in their own end and Greg McKegg scored a second goal against his former team.

I’d say so.

Penguins ice the puck with Peters pulled for the extra attacker and then were called for too many men while again trying to get Peters off.

Ethan Prow may have been injured here in this sequence with Josiah Didier.

Dirty hit. Didier was assessed a charging penalty for what it is worth.

Three Stars: 3) Tom Sestito (goal, even) 2) Juian Gauthier (goal, +1) and 1) Greg McKegg (two goals, even)

Around the Division: For the second night in a row, they all watched us.

Standings: Lehigh Valley (.690 percentage points) — Penguins (.650) — Providence (.631) — Charlotte (.586) — Bridgeport (.557) — Springfield (.492) — Hartford (.476) — Hershey (.468)

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

Charlotte didn’t put up any highlights last night when they lost, I wonder if they will now that they won. If they do, I will work the edit in this spot.

Pens travel back from North Carolina and are scheduled to practice Friday. I would assume that there would be information on Prow, Leighton and anyone else for the two home games against Hartford Saturday and Hershey Sunday.

Next blog post here will most likely be Saturday’s setup with Hartford at 3. I may run a recap of the Friday games with any information shared after Friday’s practice late Friday night depending on circumstances.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Charlotte 3/14


Who: Charlotte Checkers

Where: Bojangles’ Coliseum

When: 7:00 p.m.

Last Game / Last Meeting: Last night in Charlotte, the Penguins won 5-2. Wilkes-Barre scored goals :31 apart in the first and :20 in the second. Teddy Blueger had two goals. Valentin Zykov scored his AHL leading 31st goal to open the scoring.

Record: For WBS: 36-17-4-2 (78 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division) // For CHA: 35-25-0-3 (73 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division)

Referee(s): Peter MacDougall / Liam Sewell

Linesmen: Ryan Townsend / Charlie O’Connor

Why You Should Care: Checkers will respond tonight, expect that. They are in a dogfight with Bridgeport for the final playoff spot and need to win this game. The Penguins can reduce their magic number even further and eat into the Lehigh Valley Phantoms lead on the rest of the Atlantic Division even more with another win. First ten minutes of this game should tell how this game is going to go for both teams.

Other Game to Watch: Busy night by League standards for a Wednesday but the Penguins and Checkers are the only Atlantic teams in action tonight. Syracuse visits Binghamton in what could very well be a a trap game for the Crunch.

Next Five Games: vs. HFD 3/17, vs. HER 3/18, @ TOR 2/20, @ BNG 3/24, vs. BRI 3/25

Quick Hitters — Pens WIN 5-2


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Goals :31 apart in the first and :20 in the second are enough to propel the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins past the Charlotte Checkers for the first time this season. Pens win 5-3 and reduce their magic number to 21. They also use one of their five games in hand to eat into Lehigh Valley’s lead on the Atlantic Division. It’s now nine points.

Teddy Blueger had himself a game. Two goals, one being an empty netter. Blueger also swept away a would be Checkers goal late in the third period.

Checkers have been riding high as of late. They scored first but the Penguins answered quickly with two quick hitters in the first period that set up the second period.

Anthony Peters was good in net, picking up his tenth win of the season. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith set up the Penguins in the first half of the season and Anthony Peters has done a fine job guiding the ship the rest of the way.

These two teams rematch Wednesday.

Anthony Peters opposed Alex Nedeljkovic.

Lines were…

Adam Johnson – J-S Dea – Christian Thomas
Garrett Wilson – Gage Quinney – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Sestito – Sam Lafferty – Joseph Cramarossa
Thomas Di Pauli – Teddy Blueger – Daniel Sprong

Chris Summers – Ethan Prow
Kevin Schulze – Kevin Czuczman
Jarred Tinordi – Zach Trotman

Anthony Peters – Etienne Marcoux

Lineup Notes: Zach Trotman was back in the lineup for the first time in seventeen games….Dylan Zink was returned to Wheeling Monday.

First Period: Valentin Zykov scored his league leading 31st goal of the season when Anthony Peters stopped a Dennis Robertson shot but spilled the rebound back to the Checkers defenseman who dished over to Zykov for the goal…

Checkers are 21-3-0-1 when scoring first.

But the Penguins answered rapidly, :31 apart, when Daniel Sprong put a shot high over the cage of Nedeljkovic that rimmed around to Trotman, who gathered the puck and fired at goal that tied it at one.

Next, Garrett Wilson used his body to create a turnover and the puck went over to Gage Quinney who found Tom Kostopoulos for the goal that made it 2-1 Penguins…

Kostopoulos has two goals and four assists in his eight games since his return from injury.

Second Period: Penguins scored a pair of goals :31 apart in the first, so they wanted to beat that record set in the first frame and scored two within :20 in the second.

Tom Sestito forced a turnover, Sam Lafferty continued to forecheck and passed off to a streaking Joseph Cramarossa for the goal that made it 3-1 Penguins…

That was Sam Lafferty’s first professional point.

Off the face-off at center ice, Gage Quinney was high sticked, setting up another Penguins power play. Their first was a train wreck, but this second coming was much more successful.

Give and go with Garrett Wilson who found Teddy Blueger for the power play goal. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Penguins had the leaves worst power play.

Penguins gave away a power play and the Checkers third best overall power play improved on their 27% conversion rate on home ice when Andrew Poturalski was left alone in the slot for this goal that cut the Penguins lead back to 4-2…

Third Period: Penguins nearly score but are denied here when Nedeljkovic went post to post to deny Teddy Blueger.

Teddy Blueger then saved a goal late as a puck got past Peters but Blueger swept it away.

With just under five minutes to play, Nedeljkovic vacated his cage for an extra attacker, never found the equalizer and Teddy Blueger nailed the empty net to make it 5-2.

Three Stars: 3) Lucas Wallmark (two assists, even) 2) Anthony Peters (29 saves on 31 shots) and 1) Joseph Cramarossa (goal, even)

No idea what they were thinking with the three stars. Teddy Blueger had two goals, Garrett Wilson assisted twice and Tom Kostopoulos had a goal and an assist. Who knows.

Around the Division: They all watched us.

Standings: Lehigh Valley (.690 percentage points) — Penguins (.661) — Providence (.631) — Charlotte (.579) — Bridgeport (.557) — Springfield (.492) — Hartford (.476) — Hershey (.468)

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off. They are moving to the ECHL’s Central Division of the Western Conference next season.

Charlotte may put up video highlights. If they do they will run in this spot in a later edit.

These two teams are back at it again Wednesday at 7. Gameday setup comes at you Wednesday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Charlotte 3/13


Who: Charlotte Checkers

Where: Bojangles’ Coliseum

When: 7:00 p.m.

Last Game: Saturday at home against Grand Rapids, the Penguins won 2-1. Adam Johnson scored a shorthanded goal, Kevin Czuczman scored in the third period and Anthony Peters stopped 32 of 33 shots. For Charlotte, the Checkers beat the Hartford Wolf Pack 7-3. Alex Nedeljkovic scored a goal. Why does this matter? He was the goaltender.

Last Meeting: December 8 back in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins lost 2-1. Jeremy Smith stopped 22 of 23 Penguins shots. Daniel Sprong scored for the Penguins.

Record: For WBS: 35-17-4-2 (76 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division) // For CHA: 35-24-0-3 (73 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division)

Referee(s): Peter MacDougall / Liam Sewell

Linesmen: Tim Lyons / Terry Wicklum

Why You Should Care: Checkers come into tonight winners of four straight looking to make it five over a Penguins team they have had the number of. Both teams are gunning for a playoff spot, so expect another closely contested affair tonight in Charlotte.

Other Game to Watch: Everyone in the Atlantic Division will be watching us, so in the Central, Iowa visits Rockford in a Central Division contest.

Next Five Games: @ CHA 3/14, vs. HFD 3/17, vs. HER 3/18, @ TOR 2/20, @ BNG 3/24

AHL Power Rankings: Week 23

Usually the first team to punch a playoff ticket in the American Hockey League’s regular season has had a pretty decent run up to the honor and has been a staple in the tip five of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings.

This year is no different, as the Toronto Marlies are the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs and are the number one team in the Week 23 version of this weeks Power Rankings.

They are followed closely by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who should be the next team to clinch.

The Tucson Roadrunners remain a staple at third in this weeks Rankings and should join the Phantoms and Marlies within the next few weeks.

Chicago has closed in on Manitoba within five points for the Central Division lead and are now within striking distance to a Moose team that was miles ahead of the competition a few months ago.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton sweep the weekend to push into the top five.

Past the Penguins, pop past the jump to see the rest of the order if you didn’t link in here direct.


Last Week: PRO 3 @ TOR 4
First team to punch a ticket to the postseason. Back to the top of the AHL Power Rankings.


This Week: vs. LAV 3/12, vs. LAV 3/14, @ BEL 3/16, vs. UTI 3/18
Record: 41-16-1-1


Last Week: BRI 3 @ LV 2, LV 4 @ BRI 1, BNG 3 @ LV 5
First Atlantic Division team to 40 wins. Separating themselves as the front runner to win the Atlantic.


This Week: @ HFD 3/16, vs. PRO 3/17, vs. SPR 3/18
Record: 40-16-3-4


Last Week: TEX 1 @ TUC 2 (OT), TEX 4 @ TUC 3
No real threat from behind now for Tucson who have some breathing room for tops in the Pacific.


This Week: @ BAK 3/14, @ STK 3/16, @ STK 3/17
Record: 31-18-4-1


Last Week: CHI 5 @ SA 2, CHI 4 @ MIL 3, MTB 2 @ CHI 1, RFD 2 @ CHI 1 (OT)
Wolves slowly closing on Manitoba. Games in hand will not be an issue in this battle.


This Week: vs. RFD 3/17, vs. IA 3/18
Record: 33-19-7-2


Last Week: WBS 3 @ BNG 2 (OT), GR 1 @ WBS 2
Gritted out two nice wins this weekend. Still pursuing Lehigh Valley for tops in the Atlantic.


This Week: @ CHA 3/13, @ CHA 3/14, vs. HFD 3/17, vs. HER 3/18
Record: 35-17-4-2

Click through here to see teams 6 through 30