Chirps from Center Ice

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

The Devil Inside — Pens WIN 5-2

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Tyler’s tweet at the end of the Penguins 5-2 win over the Binghamton Devils Monday night gave me the headline idea.

110 PIMs Saturday in a blowout win over Lehigh Valley. Only 54 PIMs tonight but it was a testy affair that saw Garrett Wilson tossed for an illegal check to the head match penalty which may get him suspended, more on that in a bit, but the Penguins are mucking it up and being physical and going to the window with wins in their last two contests where they get their pants dirty.

Right now, Wilkes-Barre is in a bird fight with Springfield for the fourth spot in the Atlantic so, whatever works.

Tristan Jarry opposed Cam Johnson.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Joseph Cramarossa was suspended for the instigator he picked up in the last five minutes on Saturday in Allentown so Ryan Haggerty jumped in for him one the line with Dea and Hayes. The Penguins sent Troy Josephs and John Muse to Wheeling on Sunday and recalled Cam Brown who jumped right into the action on the fourth line, centering Linus Ölund and Patrick McGrath. Jarrett Burton is day to day with an injury.

First Period: Binghamton on the board first as a shot caromed off of Jarry and was swept in by Ryan Schmelzer that gave Binghamton a 1-0 lead. The Devils heavily pressured and struck first at 4:13.

Penguins would get it back on a weird sequence. Garrett Wilson just left the penalty box when two Devils got tangled up in the neutral zone by the penalty box. Kurtis Gabriel, in the box with Wilson on a roughing minor ran into his teammate Marian Studenic who had the puck. Wilson then did this…

…and that tied the game at one a piece heading into the second period.

Second Period: Wilkes-Barre scores three times in a period that really could have gone either way.

Garrett Wilson with a nice blind pass to the slot for Teddy Blueger that made it 2-1.

Penguins found themselves in some penalty trouble and Colton White scored on a two man advantage that tied the game at two.

But then Kevin Czuczman stepped out of the penalty box and set up Ben Sexton who scored to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead.

That was Kevin Czuczman’s 100th AHL point on the assist.

Wilkes-Barre doubles the lead on a shot by Garrett Wilson which is cleaned up by Anthony Angello for a 4-2 Penguin lead.

Wild period which really could have broke for either side. Binghamton’s defense is leaky and the Penguins were better. They got in penalty trouble but were able to navigate out of it only giving up one goal and managed to net three of their own in the period.

Third Period: As mentioned in the open, Garrett Wilson may be looking at a suspension for an illegal check to the head Match Penalty on Nathan Bastian who was shaken, but not stirred as he would return to action after getting checked out on the bench. Binghamton had a 5:00 power play that they really let get by them as Jarry was never really challenged.

Here is all your verbiage on the Match Penalty and Illegal Check to the Head sections of the AHL Rulebook.

Here is the hit with the replays.

Teddy Blueger would hit an empty net with about 44 seconds left to ice the game away and give the Penguins the win to close out 2018.

The Good: When previous iterations of Penguins teams played, its always came with a physical edge that not many opponents were ready for that worked out in their favor. If this Wilkes-Barre team plays with ruthless aggression, they will be a hard team to beat on most nights, provided they play within the lines of the AHL Rulebook.

The Bad: I don’t think if Wilson is suspended it will be for a long time and I’d even argue that the match penalty he was assessed is enough punishment to fit the crime since Bastian returned to the game none the worse for wear, but going back to the previous paragraph, the Pens don’t want to catch a label as a dirty team.

Three Stars: 

Around the Division: Another day where the Charlotte Checkers go down big to an opponent, another comeback for the Atlantic Division leaders. Checkers get a point in Toronto and lose 5-4 in overtime. Everyone else was off.

Standings: Charlotte 51 — Bridgeport 47 — Lehigh Valley 41 — Penguins 39 — Springfield 37 — Hartford 34 — Providence 33 — Hershey 30

Wheeling Update: Nailers shutout the Reading Royals 4-0 at home. Johnny Muse a 28 save shutout, Troy Josephs with a goal.

Video Highlights: 

Have a happy and safe New Year. If there is anything mentioned about Garrett Wilson and any supplemental discipline from the League, I will run a blog post this week. If not, the AHL Power Rankings are out Thursday and the Pens are back in action at home against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Binghamton 12/31

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Who: Binghamton Devils

Where: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena

When: 6:05 p.m.

Last Game: Saturday in Allentown, the Penguins put up their season high in goals scored with seven and went on to beat the Phantoms 7-3. Jimmy Hayes had a goal and an assist and was named third star. Ben Sexton also scored, his third and fourth goals of the week, all coming against the Phantoms. For Binghamton, the Devils were in Belleville, Ontario and lost 3-2 to the Senators. Blake Pietila had all the offense for the Devils in the loss.

Record: For WBS: 16-14-4-1 (37 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For BNG: 15-18-3-0 (33 pts., 7th place North Division)

Referees: Guillaume Labonte / Jeremy Tufts

Linesmen: Neil Frederickson / Tyler Loftus

Why You Should Care: Penguins want to ring in 2019 with a win up on the Southern Tier of New York in Binghamton against the Devils. Which Penguins team skates out tonight at 6? The one that crushed Lehigh Valley, a current playoff team, or the one that came out Friday against the last place Hershey Bears?

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Other Game to Watch: Charlotte travels to Toronto at 3 p.m. to take on the defending champion Marlies.

Next Five Games: vs. GR 1/4, vs. MIL 1/5, @ CHA 1/11, @ CHA 1/12, vs. RCH 1/18

Challenge Made, Challenge Accepted — Pens WIN 7-3

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After last nights nightmare, where you had the captain of the team telling the media that he didn’t get the group fired enough to play against a team in last place and the coach basically deflecting all blame and placing it on the players, you really didn’t know how tonight’s game against a Lehigh Valley team on a tear would go.

So of course it’s a blowout by the Penguins and everything is made up and the points don’t matter.

Penguins roll tonight 7-3.

It was a feisty, testy affair. The Penguins clearly came to the rink tonight pissed off at themselves at the embarrassment from the night before in Hershey. There were 110 penalty minutes. Wilkes-Barre played with aggression all night, maintained their composure when they went down a goal in the second period, got inspired efforts from the likes of Jimmy Hayes and solid goaltending from Tristan Jarry and crush one of their biggest rivals on their home ice.

Jimmy Hayes had his best game as a Penguin tonight. Clark Donatelli put him on a line with the gritty Joseph Cramarossa and the speedy J-S Dea. It worked. Hayes had a goal and an assist and a team leading four shots on goal.

The seven goals put up by the Penguins was the most goals scored in a game all season.

Tristan Jarry opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Pat McGrath and Troy Josephs were in ups front for Linus Ölund and Ryan Haggerty and Kevin Spinozzi yielded to Jeff Taylor.

Tristan Jarry was ill last night, and I really was expecting John Muse to go tonight but it was Jarry that got the start.

First Period: Very chippy period on both sides. After this fight between Anthony Angello and Philip Samuelsson…

…Garrett Wilson and Tyrell Goulbourne fought in a secondary altercation. You can’t do that, so both players were given game misconducts and thrown out of the game.

The Cramarossa – Dea – Hayes line in one shift created two shots, hit and created turnovers. A good sequence to see.

Wilkes-Barre killed the only penalty of the period successfully. Shots were 10-9 Penguins.

Second Period: Penguins found themselves in early penalty trouble and Greg Carey made them pay with this goal on the power play.

Looked like it beat Jarry over the glove. A well placed shot, nonetheless.

But then the Penguins would score twice very quickly as Ben Sexton struck for his third goal of the week, all coming against the Phantoms with this goal that tied the game.

Face-off, shot, Adam Johnson there for the follow-up who finds Sexton on the doorstep for the cleanup.

Then, Jimmy Hayes broke in and scored his first goal since November 14 at Springfield.

Horrific turnover by T.J. Brennan there gift wrapping a breakaway chance for Hayes who finished.

Penguins would finally get a crack on the power play and would waste no time in scoring to extend their lead over the Phantoms to 3-1 on this Teddy Blueger redirect that was initially shot by J-S Dea.

Penguins outshot the Phantoms 15-10 in the period despite giving up two power plays to the Phantoms.

Third Period: Here is your turning point of the game.

Flurry of saves by Tristan Jarry, then minutes later Adam Johnson scores on a breakaway that makes it 4-1 Wilkes-Barre.

Whatever momentum that the Phantoms wanted to build coming out for the third was squelched by the Jarry saves and then the Johnson goal, which stood up as the game winner tonight.

Teddy Blueger scored his second of the game that made it 5-1 right at the half way point of the third.

Reece Willcox scored on a rebound of a shot that Jarry couldn’t cover entirely that made it 5-2.

Phantoms head coach Kerry Huffman pulled Alex Lyon and Ben Sexton hit the empty net which made it 6-2.

T.J. Brennan scored off of a face-off that made it 6-3.

Huffman pulled Lyon again and Chad Ruhwedel, almost by mistake, scored from 180′ away when he flipped a puck out of his own end that found the empty net that made it 7-3.

No GIFs on these, sorry.

Late, Joseph Cramarossa was given an instigating penalty as the game was devolving into a slugfest. Unless it’s rescinded (they never are) he will be suspended for Monday’s game in Binghamton.

The Good: Jimmy Hayes. One game doesn’t define a season, but Hayes finally put it all together tonight and helped set the tone for the road team in an impressive win against a rival. Hopefully, a veteran like Hayes uses a night like this as something he can build off of. I guess we will see Monday in Binghamton.

The Bad: Nitpicking, but another power play goal against is a small blemish on a bright night for the Penguins.

Three Stars: 

Around the Division: Charlotte beats Laval 5-4 in overtime, Bridgeport does the same to Hartford 3-2, Providence beats Hershey 4-1 and Syracuse beats Springfield 4-3 in overtime.

Standings: Charlotte 50 — Bridgeport 47 — Lehigh Valley 41 — Penguins 37 — Springfield 36 — Providence 33 — Hartford 32 — Hershey 28

Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off.

Video Highlights: 

Pens are off Sunday. Springfield travels to Hartford burning off one of their three games in hand on the Penguins. That’s a game you should pay attention to Sunday afternoon if you aren’t doing anything.

Penguins are back in action Monday at 6 p.m. in Binghamton for New Years Eve. Check out the Gameday setup here on the blog Monday at 2.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 12/29

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Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Where: PPL Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Last night at home against Hershey, the Penguins laid an egg and were embarrassed by the Bears 5-1. Joseph Cramarossa scored the goal for the Pens in the loss. For Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms hosted the Providence Bruins and won 3-1. Philippe Myers had a goal and an assist and Alex Lyon stopped 33 of 34 shots to pick up the win.

Last Meeting: This past Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre, the Phantoms used four third period goals to defeat the Penguins 5-3. Ben Sexton had a pair of goals for Wilkes-Barre while Tyrell Goulbourne had a pair of goals, including what was the game winner with just 1:02 left in the third period.

Record: For WBS: 15-14-4-1 (35 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For LV: 19-9-1-2 (41 pts., 3rd place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Peter Tarnaris / Michael Sheehan

Linesmen: Tom DellaFranco / J.P. Waleski

Why You Should Care: The hits keep coming in this League and the Penguins needs to quickly forget last nights debacle against Hershey and remember what cost them late in the game against the Phantoms on Wednesday, play that game plan and not make the same mistakes that cost them. Will there be any shakeups at forward? Defense? Look for John Muse to get the start with Tristan Jarry ill.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Other Game to Watch: Springfield travels to Syracuse to take on a Crunch team that put ten goals in last night against Utica.

Next Five Games: @ BNG 12/31, vs. GR 1/4, vs. MIL 1/5, @ CHA 1/11, @ CHA 1/12

Outclassed — Pens LOSE 5-1

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Friend from out of town sent me the following text tonight which kind of in jest summarizes this game nicely.

“The Penguins celebrated 80s night like they were a VHS tape, unfortunately the Hershey Bears were the VCR and ate them.”

In what can only be classified as the worst game that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have played all season, a 5-1 loss to the last place Hershey Bears, the team on a whole was outclassed.

Head Coach Clark Donatelli to the media postgame:

I don’t like this quote. I don’t like this quote for many reasons and the first one that jumps into my mind is the deflection from the coaching staff and placing the sole responsibility of the loss tonight on the players. Sure, you can say that the coaches come up with a game plan and it’s up to the players to execute, but that quote doesn’t sit well with me.

Another nugget from tonight was Tom’s opinion on something tonight when the game was well out of hand in the third period.

I don’t agree with this either and let Tom know as such. It would be seen as a desperate Hail Mary which wouldn’t work. There are far more skilled teams in this League than there were 5, 10, 15 years ago. Sending a message to the players in a developmental league by pulling up guys from the ECHL who aren’t going to magically save your season by scoring goals or stopping the other team from doing so is only going to drive more of a wedge in between the players and coaches and make you fall further into the abyss of obscurity.

Look, this is what you can expect when you sell off prospects and draft picks that get you your prospects in the name of winning two Stanley Cups in the last three years. You get a hodgepodge of washed up forwards like Jimmy Hayes mixed in with promising prospects like Teddy Blueger and Adam Johnson to go with a defense led by Ethan Prow and a bunch of defensemen right now that are either hurt (Trotman and Summers) or learning on the fly (Matt Abt, Jeff Taylor) and making up for nightly errors of Will O’Neill, who was rightly scratched tonight.

Teddy Blueger, Ethan Prow and Tristan Jarry are your best prospects at each position. That’s it. You can make cases for J-S Dea and Garrett Wilson, but they are beyond the ‘prospect’ phase of their careers. On defense you have nothing besides Prow that looks anything close to an NHL ready defenseman. Anthony Peters is an AHL only goalie and John Muse is in the land of Dea and Wilson. Sam Lafferty, Adam Johnson, Anthony Angello are all too green right now and haven’t, quite frankly, established themselves enough as players ready to breakout and make the next step.

Taking all that in, it’s hard to win games. Firing Clark Donatelli because he’s not Mike Sullivan, John Hynes or Dan Bylsma before him isn’t going to turn the ship around.

Bill Guerin is the General Manager. He built this team. His fill-ins around Prow, Blueger and Jarry aren’t cutting it. Clark Donatelli just tries to work with what he is given on a nightly basis.

Anyway, here’s your game story.

The Penguins went down 2-0 two minutes into the game when Nathan Walker scored :16 in and then Grant Beese at 2:00 and the rout was on for the Bears. It was at that point, in hindsight, that I would have took starting goalie Anthony Peters out of the game and replaced him with backup John Muse.

But they didn’t.

The Penguins actually played quite well in the final eighteen minutes of the period, but Steve Whitney and Mike Sgarbossa scored second period goals on busted coverage plays that made it 4-0 before Joseph Cramarossa scored on a nice give and go with Jarrett Burton that made it 4-1 heading into the third period.

Here is Cramarossa’s goal.

But then Garrett Pilon scored on a snipe that handcuffed Peters that made it 5-1 2:08 into the third and the rout was on.

Sorry about the lack of GIFs on those goals. I rely on Taylor Haase for those, but she’s on a well deserved break I think and didn’t tweet anything tonight for Wilkes-Barre or Wheeling. She deserves the break, she works hard and is good at what she does.

That’s basically it. Here’s how they lined up tonight:

Cramarossa replaced Ryan Scarfo up front and yes, that’s Chad Ruhwedel on defense. Pittsburgh sent him here on 14-day conditioning loan. He remains on Pittsburgh’s 23 man roster. Ethan Prow returned from injury and Wilkes-Barre called up Kevin Spinozzi, who leads the ECHL in points by a defenseman, on Friday. Will O’Neill, Jeff Taylor and Tim Erixon were odd men out.

Vitek Vanecek started in goal for Hershey. He wasn’t really challenged tonight, stopping 22 of 23 shots.

Three penalties total in the game, none in the third. Uninspired effort by Wilkes-Barre all around. Embarrassing. People paid money to watch this trash tonight.

May I mention that it’s the same Bears team that lost 11-1 over the course of two games to Lehigh Valley last week?

Here are your highlights.

Lehigh Valley beat Providence and Bridgeport beat Springfield. Charlotte lost to Laval. Hartford was off.

Bad loss? It’s always worse some where else.

Penguins and Thunderbirds are tied with 35 points but Springfield has three games in hand. Lehigh Valley is pulling away with 41 points and three games in hand on Wilkes-Barre and Bridgeport (34 games played) has 45 points and Charlotte (33) has 48.

Behind the Pens are Hartford and Providence (32 games played) with 31 points and Hershey (32) with 28.

Wheeling loses a close one in Kalamazoo tonight, 6-5. They put up a fight. Alex Rauter had a goal and three assists.

Penguins are back in action Saturday in Allentown. Gameday setup will be up Saturday at 3.

RAPID RECAP – Pens LOSE 5-1

Total flat line from the Penguins tonight, who get mauled tonight 5-1 by the last place Hershey Bears.

The Bears, the same team that lost 11-1 over the span of two games last weekend to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, embarrass the Penguins on home ice and win going away.

More on this massacre in a bit.

GAMEDAY: vs. Hershey 12/28

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Who: Hershey Bears

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Wednesday against Lehigh Valley, the Pens lost 5-3. The Phantoms scored four unanswered goals in the third to win. Ben Sexton had a pair of goals for Wilkes-Barre in the loss. For Hershey, the Bears were last in action last Saturday against the Phantoms at home and lost 6-1. Riley Barber had the only goal for the Bears.

Last Meeting: December 21 in Hershey, the Pens lost 3-2. Teddy Blueger and J-S Dea scored for the Pens and Mike Sgarbossa had a goal and an assist for the Bears in the win.

Record: For WBS: 15-13-4-1 (35 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For HER: 12-17-0-2 (26 pts., 8th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Dan Kelly / Olivier Gouin

Linesmen: Tom DellaFranco / Tyler Loftus

Why You Should Care: Penguins are coming off a bad, bad loss Wednesday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms who scored four goals on the Pens and won going away late. Hershey is coming in more rested than the Pens who played Wednesday and ready to get after one of their rivals. Pens need wins to keep pace and have to forget about Wednesday and focus on the task at hand tonight.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Promotion(s): EYEWITNESS NEWS FAN FRIDAY — Enjoy great hockey at a great price with $14 lower bowl tickets, courtesy of our friends at Eyewitness News.  Fans ages 21 and over can enjoy select draft beers for just $2 from 6-7:30pm.  And everyone is invited to stick around after the game for our Citizens Voice / Scranton Times Tribune postgame autograph session, featuring a pair of Penguins players.

Other Game to Watch: Springfield hosts Bridgeport. Sound Tigers have been trending up while Springfield has been pretty neutral.

Next Five Games: @ LV 12/29, @ BNG 12/31, vs. GR 1/4, vs. MIL 1/5, @ CHA 1/11