Chirps from Center Ice

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

Thanks For The Fish* — Pens LOSE 8-1


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I will be by at some point next week with a postmortem of what went wrong in the 2018-19 season for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, who were eliminated from playoff contention after a 8-1 loss to the Utica Comets Friday night in Central New York. To preview, there is a cost when your parent team wins two Stanley Cups in the last three years. To reiterate, the AHL is a developmental league and whatever happens here, as long as the prospects develop here, nothing matters. Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger are prime examples. I am fine with that. Don’t take this as a complaint that me as the AHL fan of the team doesn’t want to see the NHL succeed because somehow AHL>NHL. No, it’s an explanation as to one of the many reasons why the Penguins didn’t make a playoff appearance for the 17th straight season.

Long odds as they were, the Penguins could have went down with a fight. They lost 10-6 in Allentown and were swept in the mini series in the Lehigh Valley last weekend. After entering the second period down a very manageable 1-0 Friday night in Utica, the Comets outscore the Penguins 6-1 to carry a 7-1 lead into the third period in a game that ended 8-1.

To note, the Comets have won just three games in the last three weeks. Injuries have ravaged them, but that is no excuse for what I just watched Friday night and a gross disrespect to the opponent just expecting that the result would continue because you are a team that has made playoffs for sixteen straight seasons.

Fight they did in the second period. Five fights to be exact, which is the most that I can remember for a period of AHL hockey associated with this team in a long time. The game was slipping out of hand with Reid Boucher completing a hat trick in the second period and the Penguins lost control of the game and their emotions and it snowballed from there.

Unpopular opinion but Clark Donatelli, who I will address in kind next week in my autopsy of the team, did all he could to keep the team afloat and relevant till the fortnight of the regular season. With the way that the teams were playing in the season and all of the head to head meetings backloaded on the schedule this season, the Penguins saw a way into the playoffs though the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. With call ups and injures, Wilkes-Barre relied heavily on amateur tryout guys to help salvage a season. It worked to a point, a point of exhaustion. It fell apart last weekend in Allentown and the cracks started to show in the first period Friday in Utica before the dam broke in the second period.

John Muse opposed Marek Mazenec. Muse was yanked at the end of the second and Matt O’Connor made his Penguins debut and just allowed one goal in the third period in relief.

In the lineup notes, there were no changes up front but for a few shuffles here and there on the lines. Michael Kim and Jeff Taylor were back in for Jon Lizotte and Tim Erixon on defense.

Jarrett Burton scored the only goal for the Penguins in the game, coming in the second period on a rebound left by Mazanec which he swept across the line to break up the shutout bid.

Taylor Haase, who you have seen all season long on the blog here as she was nice enough to permit me embedding her tweets of the goals that she GIFed during the year, had a nice post mortem of her own on the Penguins season you can read here if you don’t want to wait for me next week. A lot on what she hit on there is relevant to what I will explain next week.

Pens will close out the 2018-19 campaign Saturday and Sunday at home, with Bridgeport and Binghamton respectively. Gameday setup hits the blog Saturday at 3 for the Sound Tigers and Sunday at 11 a.m. for the 3 p.m. finale with the Devils.

* – in case you were wondering about the headline this time, explanation here

GAMEDAY: @ Utica 4/12



Who: Utica Comets

 Where: Adirondack Bank Center

When: 7:00 p.m.

Last Game: Sunday in Allentown, the Penguins were defeated by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 10-6. Jake Lucchini scored a pair of goals for the Pens in the loss. For Utica, the Comets they were defeated by the Providence Bruins 3-1 on Sunday as well. Vincent Arseneau scored the only goal for Utica in the loss.

Last Meeting: February 16 in Wilkes-Barre, the Pens were defeated by the Comets 3-2 in overtime. Cam Darcy had the OT game winner for the visitors while Sam Miletic and Ryan Haggerty scored goals for the Pens in the loss.

Record: For WBS: 35-28-7-3 (80 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division) // For UTI: 32-33-6-2 (72 pts., 6th place North Division)

Referees: Brandon Schrader / Ben O’Quinn

Linesmen: Mike Emanatian / Matt Brady

Why You Should Care: Pair of sixth place teams in their respective divisions looking to close out the season on a winning note with a victory against the other tonight in Utica. For the Pens, look for John Muse to get the start in goal with Alex D’Orio possibly backing up. Outside of that, #PlayYourKids?

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Other Game to Watch: While hope is all but gone, the Penguins haven’t been officially eliminated from playoff contention, yet. Providence, who needs just one point to eliminate the Pens, host fifth place Lehigh Valley tonight in Rhode Island. You want a Phantoms win, regardless of how slim the Penguins playoff cause is going into tonight.

Remaining Games: vs. BRI 4/13, vs. BNG 4/14

AHL Power Rankings: Week 27

Seven spots are up for grabs in the final weekend of the AHL’s regular season and it appears that no one in the Central wants them.

That race is the biggest one to watch as you have just one team qualified (Chicago) and six teams separated by seven points. It’s anyone’s for the taking really, and the race is likely coming down to the final day.

As for the top five this week in Week 27, no changes to the top four with Providence jumping in to round out the top five.

Click past the Bruins if you didn’t link in direct to see where your favorite team ended up this week and enjoy the final weekend of hockey in the AHL this season!


Last Week: SPR 5 @ CHA 3, SPR 0 @ CHA 5
Will be fine tuning things in the final week for an anticipated first round matchup against the Providence Bruins.


This Week: @ CLE 4/11, @ CLE 4/12
Record: 49-17-7-1


Last Week: SYR 6 @ RCH 1, RCH 5 @ SYR 2
Crunch lock up home ice for round one, looking to win the division his week against some good opponents.


This Week: vs. LAV 4/12, vs. RCH 4/13 @ UTI 4/14
Record: 45-21-4-3


Last Week: SYR 6 @ RCH 1, RCH 5 @ SYR 2, RCH 2 @ CLE 1
Division championship still needs to be ferreted out and that will come this weekend, down to the Amerks and Syracuse. Staying healthy between now, then and the start of playoffs is the goal.


This Week: vs. BNG 4/12, @ SYR 4/13, @ BEL 4/14
Record: 45-22-4-2


Last Week: CHI 3 @ MIL 4, COL 2 @ CHI 3, COL 3 @ CHI 2 (SO)
Desperate teams coming in this week on Chicago’s final tuneup before the start of the postseason.


This Week: @ IA 4/12, vs. MTB 4/13, vs. MTB 4/14
Record: 43-21-5-4


Last Week: BRI 6 @ PRO 8, PRO 3 @ BRI 4, UTI 1 @ PRO 3
Needs just a point to clinch the fourth and final spot. Very tough first round matchup with Charlotte looms.


This Week: vs. LV 4/12, @ SPR 4/13, vs. SPR 4/14
Record: 37-25-8-3

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Say Goodnight, Gracie — Pens LOSE 10-6


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They are burned out.

In just trying to keep pace with Providence, who won 3-1 today at home against Utica, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins went to Allentown in search of points against a Phantoms team that really didn’t have anything left to play for and came up short last night.

Sunday, in a game that can best be described as bonkers, the Penguins lose 10-6.

They got it back to 8-6 in the third period before time and desperation started to set in and the Phantoms salted the game away for good.

So Providence just has to get two points in order to lock up the fourth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic. Hershey clinched today with the Penguins loss. If the Bruins win Friday at home against these Phantoms, then the Penguins final two regular season games are meaningless, they will be eliminated from playoff contention.

Tristan Jarry opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Brandon Hawkins and Ben Sexton swap lines, Jake Lucchini went back in on the fourth line, replacing Jordy Bellerive. Cam Brown went back in for Chase Berger. On defense, Jon Lizotte debuted with Summers, replacing Calen Addison and Tim Erixon replaced Jeff Taylor.

First Period: The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 start in the games first 1:02 before Lehigh Valley rattled off four straight goals. It was a wild and crazy start to a Sunday afternoon hockey game.

Jake Lucchini scored on a Philippe Myers turnover…

Sam Miletic potted a rebound that made it 2-0 before the Phantoms knew what hit them.

But the Phantoms responded with aplomb, starting with Greg Carey with a bomb that made it 2-1.

Then Chris Conner scored the first of back to back goals. First was a bit of a controversy with Jarry getting knocked over, legally, in the eyes of referral’s Olivier Gouin.

Then Conner scored on a three on two and it was 3-2.

Penguins didn’t really have a response, and whatever they tried to do in the form of Adam Johnson, Lyon was there to stop him. He had help with the par, then went post to post to flick out the pad to deny Johnson’s would be opportunity.

Connor Bunnaman blocked unintentionally a TJ Brennan shot, spun, fired and scored to make it 4-2.

Both teams lit up the scoreboard in the first. The Penguins were looking to come out of the locker room in the second looking for a response.

Second Period: Long period with stoppages and delays. John Muse replaced Tristan Jarry in net. It didn’t really matter, as the Phantoms scored three more goals to go up 7-3 at the end of the period.

Corban Knight tipped in a Myers shot from the point that made it 5-2.

Jon Lizotte scored his first professional goal in his debut, the only offense mustered by Wilkes-Barre in the period.

Alex Lyon continued to haunt the Penguins, stopping Joe Blandisi on a two on one.

Carsen Twarynski scored a power play goal that extended the lead to 6-3 for the Phantoms.

There was a very long review by the referees but the call on the ice was confirmed.

Nic Aube-Kubel burned past the Penguins defense to make it 7-3 and if the route wasn’t already on, it was on.

Third Period: James de Hass scored to make it 8-3, then the Penguins rattled off three straight goals from Chris Summers on a tip, Jake Lucchini when Lyon misplayed a puck and then Ethan Prow with a shot from the point that made it 8-6.

Bonkers as the game was, the Pens stopped GIFing goals so as a result, so do I.

Carsen Twarynski cashed a penalty shot that made it 9-6. Then Colin McDonald scored on an empty netter that put up the ten spot.

Three Stars: 3) Philippe Myers (three assists) 2) Carsen Twarynski (two goals) 1) Chris Conner (two goals, assist)

That’s pretty much it. But for breaking news, look for the next thing to come here on the blog with the Power Rankings Thursday.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 4/7



Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

 Where: PPL Center

When: 3:05 p.m.

Last Game / Last Meeting: Last night in Allentown, the Phantoms scored two shorthanded goals from Cole Bardreau and defeated the Penguins 4-2. Brandon Hawkins scored his second AHL goal in his second AHL game for the Pens in the losing effort.

Record: For WBS: 35-27-7-3 (80 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For LV: 35-30-4-3 (77 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Olivier Gouin / Reid Anderson

Linesmen: Ryan Knapp / Bill Lyons

Why You Should Care: Pens can’t afford to lose anymore games. There are four games left including today and Wilkes-Barre trails Providence by three points for the final playoff spot. They need to win today or else it’s probably curtains for the postseason.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Other Game to Watch: Sticking with the Providence theme here through the weekend, the Bruins host the Utica Comets Sunday afternoon.

Remaining Games: @ UTI 4/12, vs. BRI 4/13, vs. BNG 4/14

Pendulum Swings — Pens LOSE 4-2


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Just expecting to go into another teams building because of past success in said building against said opponent is a dangerous way to do business when you are pursuing a playoff spot.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms didn’t have a single power play goal tonight but still managed to get two special teams goals by Cole Bardreau and defeat the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins 4-2.

The Penguins, the control car in the Atlantic Division for other teams magic numbers, help Hershey lower their magic number to two and the Providence Bruins, the only other team besides the day’s opponent that matters to the Penguins lower theirs to six.

The Bruins lost in Bridgeport 4-3 in regulation tonight. They host Utica, who shutout Hartford down the road in Connecticut tonight 4-0 on Sunday. Each team has four games left. The Penguins cannot be a playoff team by the end of the weekend.

Flat effort all around by the Penguins tonight. Lehigh Valley jumped on the Pens from the beginning and I got the sense that all Wilkes-Barre needed to do was withstand the rush by the Phantoms and let the game come to them but the hits kept coming.

Regroup and get back at it Sunday.

Tristan Jarry opposed Alex Lyon.

Lines were…

Lineup Notes: Top three lines untouched, Jordy Bellerive made his professional debut, centering Chase Berger and Jimmy Hayes. Calen Addison, fresh off of signing a three year entry level contract with Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, was paired with Chris Summers. Bellerive replaced Chase Berger and Addison replaced Michael Kim. John Muse backed up.

First Period: Flurry of offense from the Phantoms, who get one to go in a pile of bodies when Tyrell Goulbourne scores to give the Phantoms the lead.

Felt at the time that all the Penguins needed to do was get out of the mad rush by the Phantoms to win the game in the first ten minutes and then take control.

Alex Lyon was dialed in early, stopping a Kevin Czuczman shot teed up for him by Sam Lafferty.

Penguins were headed to a power play, the only of the period, and it was a chance to level things.

Only Cole Bardreau had other ideas.

Steals it from Haggerty, dances past Prow and leaves defenders in his wake. Rough goal to give up in the sequence for Wilkes-Barre.

But then, on the same power play, Sam Lafferty dangles his way in, dishes to Ryan Haggerty and scored on his knee a goal that cut the deficit to one.

Penguins somehow outshot the Phantoms 7-6 despite the lollygag start.

Second Period: Very contentious period. The Penguins were robbed of a goal that should have counted and allowed yet another shorthanded goal to fall down a pair of goals.

First, the disallowed goal. Adam Johnson was hooked driving to the net and still managed to get a shot off and it went in.

Only the referee, I couldn’t tell if it was Mike Duco or Mike Dietrich down there in the corner, washed the would be goal out. Take a look.

Two things. First, hit play on the video above and watch Lyon’s glove, then watch the referee make the move to his mouth. You have the hand being quicker than the eye and the intent to blow. You would have liked to see the other referee jump in there and say that Lyon never had the puck covered, but I don’t think they can overrule intent to blow. It sucks, given the circumstances.

What sucks even more, is that Cole Bardreau scored his second shorthanded goal of the game that extended the Phantoms lead to two.

Penguins couldn’t get anything going by way of a later power play, almost playing too cautious to not allow a third shorthanded goal, so it was 3-1 Phantoms heading off to the…

Third Period: Byron Froese, the stone in the shoe of the Penguins for a while now, scored on a wraparound to effectively salt the game away with this goal that made it 4-1.

Brandon Hawkins scored with just south of six minutes remaining to make it a two goal game and you started to think if the Penguins could stage yet another third period comeback in Allentown that would be epic.

But, with Jarry pulled for the extra attacker, no more offense would come.

Pens would go on to outshoot the Phantoms 35-23. Lyon was good for Lehigh Valley and their penalty kill was better.

Three Stars: 3) Alex Lyon (33 saves) 2) Byron Froese (goal, assist) 1) Cole Bardreau (two shorthanded goals)

If Lehigh Valley sets up video highlights and I can work an edit tin before now and 11 am Sunday I will work it in here. 11 am Sunday is the Gameday setup for the rematch in Allentown.

Let’s Go Pens!

GAMEDAY: @ Lehigh Valley 4/6



Who: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

 Where: PPL Center

When: 7:05 p.m.

Last Game: Last night at home against Binghamton, the Pens won 4-0. John Muse had a 33 save shutout. For Lehigh Valley, the Phantosm were last in action in Charlotte on Wednesday and lost 6-2. Connor Bunnaman and David Kase scored gals in a losing effort for the Phantoms.

Last Meeting: March 23 in Allentown, the Penguins snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a last minute goal by Sam Lafferty and then an overtime goal by Ryan Haggerty to stun the Phantoms and win 5-4 in overtime.

Record: For WBS: 35-26-7-3 (80 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division) // For LV: 34-30-4-3 (75 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division)

Referees: Mike Dietrich / Michael Duco

Linesmen: Tom DellaFranco / Tom George

Why You Should Care: Pens need to keep winning just to keep pace and hope they close ground on Providence for fourth in the division. Lehigh Valley won’t make it easy on the Penguins tonight at home for them.

Listen: Nick Hart on the call on WILK.

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

Other Game to Watch: Bridgeport and Providence rematch at Webster Bank Arena. The Sound Tigers clinch with a win and will be looking to payback the loss the Bruins laid on them last night. We Penguins fans want a Sound Tigers win.

Remaining Games: @ LV 4/7, @ UTI 4/12, vs. BRI 4/13, vs. BNG 4/14