Chirps from Center Ice

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

AHL Power Rankings: Week 23

Playoff picture getting clearer, or is it? We try to make sense of it all in the Week 23 AHL Power Rankings.

No surprise that Charlotte and Syracuse are the top two teams again this week. Rochester is given their due in third as the leaders of the North Division followed by Belleville, who finally is in the playoff picture formally now and Bakersfield.

Three North Division clubs in the top five this week. Question for you to take away, do you see any of the three beating Charlotte in a seven game series?

Click past the Condors to see where your favorite team ended up this week.

1

Last Week: CHA 2 @ LV 3, CHA 4 @ LV 0
Split with Lehigh Valley. It’s becoming apparent that the division runs through the Checkers, probably the Conference and likely the entirety of the AHL.

n/a

This Week: vs. RCH 3/15, vs. RCH 3/16, vs. SYR 3/19, vs. SYR 3/20
Record: 39-15-6-1

2

Last Week: UTI 0 @ SYR 4, SYR 3 @ WBS 4 (OT), SYR 4 @ LAV 2
Is anyone really talking about Syracuse as a Calder Cup favorite? If not, you should be.

n/a

This Week: vs. HFD 3/15, vs. BNG 3/16, @ CHA 3/19, @ CHA 3/20
Record: 38-17-4-2

3

Last Week: BRI 0 @ RCH 5, RCH 5 @ BNG 3, BNG 1 @ RCH 6, UTI 0 @ RCH 3
Amerks go tops on Syracuse in the division but they have two more games played than the Crunch. Head to North Carolina for a date with the Checkers that Rochester hopes is an Eastern Conference Finals Preview.

+4

This Week: @ CHA 3/15, @ CHA 3/16
Record: 39-18-3-2

4

Last Week: BEL 1 @ CLE 2, BEL 0 @ CLE 4, BEL 5 @ TOR 3
Knocking on the door of a playoff spot for weeks, now in at the four spot in the North. Game next Wednesday with Utica is looming large,k but let’s not look past Laval looking to play spoiler.

+2

This Week: vs. LAV 3/15, vs. LAV 3/16, vs. UTI 3/20
Record: 31-25-3-4

5

Last Week: BAK 1 @ STK 4, BAK 7 @ SJ 1, SD 5 @ BAK 4 (OT)
Light week this week, one with Ontario. Three points out of a possible six points last week.

-2

This Week: vs. ONT 3/16
Record: 36-17-3-1

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Dad Power — Pens WIN 4-1

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I am not a parent, so I have no idea about what it is like to have children.

A few weeks ago, Jimmy Hayes and his wife learned that they will be having a baby boy later this year. Since learning of the news, Hayes has seven goals and two assists in seven games. Hayes had a hat trick in a 4-1 Wilkes-Barre win in rather impressive fashion over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Wednesday night.

Dad power indeed.

I don’t know about Tristan Jarry’s plans on parenthood, but the Penguins net minder was on point in a place where he normally is solid. He stopped 38 Phantoms shots and was beat on a fluke of a shot in the third period which spoiled his shutout bid.

He opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Jake Lucchini replaced Joseph Blandisi and Trevor Yates replaced Patrick McGrath up front as the lineup changes from Saturday. On defense, Macoy Erkamps went in for Jeff Taylor.

First Period: Jimmy Hayes swept in his twelfth goal of the season on this rebound of a Joseph Cramarossa shot that gave the Pens a 1-0 lead.

Tristan Jarry was dialed in for Wilkes-Barre on the penalty kill stopping these two attempts on two separate penalty kills.

That save was on Mike Vecchione.

And this one was on Zach Palmquist.

Lively period otherwise with the shots being 14-13 in favor of the Penguins.

Second Period: Nothing really happened in the period where there were no penalties and no scoring but what became apparent in the contest was how well Jake Lucchini fit in with Jimmy Hayes and Joseph Cramarossa. Nick Hart on radio stated that Lucchini few into town late Tuesday night and joined the team for morning skate Wednesday.

Third Period: :19 in, Ryan Haggerty scored to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

Big goal at the time. Nothing happened at all in the second period worth noting, so the next action was going to change the complexity of the game in some form of fashion. Haggerty’s goal tightened the grip that the Penguins had on the game to this point.

Jimmy Hayes scored his second of the game on this nice pass by Jarrett Burton which set the Pens off on a 2-on-1 that Hayes took himself.

Bryon Froese busted up the Jarry shutout with this goal.

Let me state for the record that those Phantoms jerseys are putrid. If my memory serves, Lehigh Valley debuted these in an outdoor game a few years back against Hershey I think. They should have left them there. Terrible.

Hayes completed his hat trick via empty net that made it 4-1.

Three Stars: 

The Good: Jimmy Hayes is heating up at the right time. You want scoring depth out of all three of your lines. Anthony Angello has hit a bit of a rookie wall, Adam Johnson and Ryan Haggerty can drop a goal at anytime. With Joseph Blandisi in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have no other players in double digit goals that play forward (Ethan Prow has 17 goals) so getting goals from Hayes at a time like this where the Pens are battling for a playoff spot is a sight to see.

I had a tweet at the beginning of the game that the debuts of Yates and Lucchini can be either really, really good or really, really bad. It’s a small sample size, but so far, so good.

The Bad: Can’t think of anything. No penalties after the first period. Maybe the goal that Froese scored that broke up the shutout?

Turning Point: Haggerty’s goal :19 into the third deflated the Phantoms and any comeback that they had hopes on was extinguished with that goal, coupled with Hayes’ performance and Jarry’s.

Around the Division: Hershey beats Springfield 5-3. Hartford beats Binghamton 4-3 in overtime.

Standings: Charlotte 85 — Bridgeport — 79 — Hershey 74 — Providence 71 — Penguins 67 — Lehigh Valley 66 — Springfield 64 — Hartford 63

Wheeling Update: Nailers were off.

If Coal Street runs a video highlight package it will run in this spot.

Pens are off Friday but the games to watch are Hershey hosting Toronto and Lehigh Valley hosting Providence.

Week 23 AHL Power Rankings are here Thursday.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 3/13

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Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

 Where: PPL Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Saturday night at home against Syracuse, the Penguins won 4-3 in dramatic fashion. They tied the game late on a Jimmy Hayes power play goal which got the game to overtime where Sam Miletic scored the overtime game winning goal that gave the Pens the thrilling comeback win. For Lehigh Valley, they hosted the Charlotte Checkers Sunday and lost 4-0.

Last Meeting: Last Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins lost 3-1. Adam Johnson scored the only goal for the Pens in the loss, and three Phantoms scored goals with Mikhail Vorobyev assisting on two of them. Alex Lyon got the win in net stopping 27 of 28 shots.

Record: For WBS: 28-23-6-3 (65 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division) // For LV: 30-25-3-3 (66 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Chris Pontes / Terry Koharski

Linesmen: James Tobias / Ryan Knapp

Why You Should Care: Another important contest tonight for two teams out of the playoff picture at the moment. Expect another intense game between these two rivals. Penguins need to bring their best with them down the turnpike.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is new and improved and a lot cheaper.

Other Game to Watch: Third place Hershey hosts Springfield tonight.

Next Five Games: vs. PRO 3/16, vs. TOR 3/17, @ HER 3/19, vs. LV 3/22, @ LV 3/23

Blandisi and Yates Up, Hello Lucchini

What’s the old saying, “It Comes in Threes?”

The Penguins as an organization made a trio of moves Monday that are worth a blog entry. So here goes.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed undrafted free agent Jake Lucchini to an entry level contract which will kick in in 2019-2020. For the time being, he will join Wilkes-Barre on an amateur tryout for the remainder of the 2018-19 season and report to Coal Street on Tuesday.

Coal Street’s press release has all the details for you. Captain of Michigan Tech this past season and had 11 goals and 15 assists in 38 games.

Check out his picture too, with link to the Coal Street release here. Look at that hair.

Zach Aston-Reese picked up a lower body knock in Sunday’s game against Boston. As a result, Pittsburgh recalled Joseph Blandisi on an emergency basis Monday afternoon.

Minutes after, Coal Street recalled Trevor Yates from Wheeling. Since coming over in the trade with Grand Rapids for future considerations, Yates has been a point a game player with the Nailers with 14 points in 14 games.

So that’s that on a Monday. Pens are in action Wednesday in Allentown taking on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at 7. Gameday setup is yours here on the blog then at 3.

Milli Vanilli — Pens WIN 4-3 (OT)

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God’s honest truth, I thought they were screwed.

And that’s not something that I often, if ever do when it comes to this team. I look at ways that they can play to a win and if they go down somehow come back and win in a way that stuns me.

But after witnessing, in person, the performances on Wednesday and Friday, I didn’t give the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins much of a shot tonight against the Syracuse Crunch.

Syracuse ranks Top 5 in the league in the following categories. In no particular order, they are, 1) goals for (1st), 2) goals against (2nd), power play overall (5th), penalty kill overall (3rd) and short handed goals (T-2nd).

A well oiled machine, for sure.

The first period went as you would expect.

Ross Colton scored his first goal of the contest at 3:27 when Andy Andreoff found him in the front of the net. Later, Cameron Gaunce scored on a power play and it was 2-0.

Not only that, but the Penguins got outshot 17-5 in the period.

The Syracuse Crunch were putting on a clinic in front of a big crowd in a game which was locally televised.

But then something happened in the second period.

Jimmy Hayes won a puck battle and found Linus Ölund at the front of the net and the Penguins all of a sudden, wouldn’t you know it, cut the lead to one.

Then, the Penguins found themselves on the wrong end of a two man advantage for 1:10. Go back up eight paragraphs. Their opponent tonight was number one in goals for and fifth overall on the power play.

The Penguins killed both penalties, rather academically.

Heading into the third, still trailing by one, the Penguins took two consecutive delay of game penalties. Hugely avoidable. What did they do? They got out of those too.

Ethan Prow let one rip on a power play and Joseph Blandisi tipped in the rebound to make it a tie game.

All the momentum was on the Penguins side. The script flipped, tables turned, whatever term you want to use.

Penguins nearly score to take the lead in a mad scramble, but Syracuse goes the other way and Ross Colton scores his second of the game and it’s 3-2 Crunch.

Bubble burst, right? We turn our clocks ahead an hour Saturday night so it’s midnight already for Cinderella, yeah?

Wrong.

The Penguins tie the game right back up on a Jimmy Hayes power play goal that forced overtime. There, Sam Miletic followed up on a rebound of a Joseph Blandisi shot and the Penguins defeat the Crunch, 4-3 in overtime.

Where to begin. Well, let’s start with what we said here last night in that the lack of success with this team is driven by the fact that they lack star power. Well tonight, the Penguins got star power in a big way from Jimmy Hayes. Hayes had a goal and an assist and it was one of his better games. I think Hayes plays better when the quality of competition is such that it raises his own game up some.

I am over 20 paragraphs in and haven’t mentioned Tristan Jarry yet. What an outstanding performance turned in from the Penguins net minder. If it’s John Muse (who backed up tonight) then we are all lauding the praises of the backup and demanding with torches and pitchforks on Monday morning that Muse is named starting goaltender for the remainder of the season and a statue be erected in his honor in the parking lot at the Arena.

Jarry was dialed in from the hop and was beat by a blown coverage on his first goal and a long shot through bodies on his second. He singlehandedly kept his team in the game and they did the rest to get him the win.

Oh, and coaching. There are a lot of people that want Head Coach Clark Donatelli drawn and quartered and sent out with yesterday’s newspaper. Those people are wrong, but that’s an argument to have and a case to make for another day. I don’t know what exactly was said in between periods but you need to have to at least give Donatelli some modicum of credit for saying the right things or adjusting to what the Crunch were throwing at the Penguins tonight.

No lineup changes for the Penguins tonight but for John Muse backing up. Tristan Jarry opposed Martin Ouellette.

No GIFs tonight again. When you rely on others and they don’t come through, you can’t complain.

Lehigh Valley was not in a action tonight. Sorry that I misled you in the Gameday setup, but they play Sunday against the Checkers.

Providence beat Hershey in overtime 4-3. Hartford did the same to Springfield, 3-2. Bridgeport also had the night off.

Penguins are a point off (65) the Phantoms (66) with Lehigh Valley four off of fourth place Hershey (70). All three teams have 60 games played.

Here are the video highlights for those of you who just like to click on the videos. You know who you are.

You want to hope that the performance tonight can carry over to Wednesday in Allentown and back here Saturday against Providence and beyond. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t but if anything it showed that the Penguins have it in them to stand up to the AHL’s great teams and knock them over every once in a while.

Hope. That’s all you can do.

RAPID RECAP – Pens WIN 4-3 (OT)

A tale of two teams tonight. The team in the first got flattened, out classes and out scored 2-0 in the first period and looked dead on arrival.

But in the second, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins withstood a two man disadvantage for 70 seconds and then got a goal to cut it to one heading into the third.

They tied it in the third, went down one again, tied it again and got it to overtime where Sam Miletic score the overtime winner to give the Pens a 4-3 thrilling overtime victory.

Full piece in a bit.

GAMEDAY: vs. Syracuse 3/9

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Who: Syracuse Crunch

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Last night against Hartford, the Pens lost in a shootout 3-2. Wilkes-Barre put up 41 shots on the Wolf Pack with Joseph Cramarossa and Ethan Prow scoring. For Syracuse, they were in action at home against Utica last night and shutout the Comets 4-0. Eddie Pasquale picked up a 25 save shutout.

Last Meeting: December 22 in Syracuse, the Pens lost in overtime 4-3. Carter Verhaeghe scored the OT game winner for the Crunch. The Crunch had 11 power plays. J-S Dea had a goal and an assist. Tristan Jarry stopped 37 of 41 and picked up third star honors.

Record: For WBS: 27-23-6-3 (63 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division) // For SYR: 37-17-3-2 (79 pts., 1st place North Division)

Referees: Conor O’Donnell / Brandon Blandina

Linesmen: Jesse Marquis / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: At this point, every game needs to be treated like a playoff game. Syracuse isn’t going to give the Penguins any quarter tonight so the Penguins have to take it upon themselves to be the better team and win. Two points is a necessity tonight by any means possible.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

Watch: AHLTV is new and improved and a lot cheaper.

Promotion(s): MARVEL SUPER HERO NIGHT — Northeast Pennsylvania’s mightiest heroes will hit the ice on Saturday, March 9, when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins present Marvel Super Hero Night. The Penguins will be wearing special Iron Man jerseys when they take on the Syracuse Crunch, which will be auctioned off on the concourse during the game.  Additionally there will be Marvel-themed contests throughout the night, and all fans are encouraged to dress up like their favorite heroes for photos and fun!*

Other Game to Watch: Lehigh Valley hosts Charlotte in the second game of the weekend series. Last night Lehigh Valley won 3-2. This matchup could very well be a Round 1 playoff matchup, so let’s see how the Checkers respond tonight.

Next Five Games: @ LV 3/13, vs. PRO 3/16, vs. TOR 3/17, @ HER 3/19, vs. LV 3/22

* – promotional information courtesy of wbspenguins.com/promo-schedule