Chirps from Center Ice

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

Soothsaying — Pens WIN 4-3 (OT)

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Pens down 3-1 to start the third. They were getting ran around the rink and not a lot of shots (only 11) on net. I had this.

Sometimes when you know you know. Pens with the comeback and win, 4-3 in overtime Saturday against the Hartford Wolf Pack.

There wasn’t a blog Friday because I was at my brother-in-law’s for his birthday and also because Filip Hållander was stretchered off late in the third. They didn’t play the remaining 1:12 and the Pens lost 4-2 to Charlotte. Hållander was later discharged home later that night and will be OK but at the time I didn’t feel a silly blog would be appropriate for a game I didn’t watch. Hope you understand.

Anyway, back to Saturday. Pens went down 3-0 to a last place team who were insulating their back up goaltender. They needed a boost and got one finally from a shot from Jonathan Gruden late in the second and then a few minutes into the third to cut into the Hartford lead.

Corey Andonovski deflects in a pin balling puck and it’s a brand new game.

Alexander Nylander with magic in overtime.

Full credit to J.D. Forrest for sticking with Taylor Gauthier, starting in his third straight, as things seemed like they were getting away from him. He was under a barrage early on, not getting all of a Brandon Scanlin one timer that bled through for a 1-0 Hartford lead.

That’s a save that has to be made at this level. I’m sorry.

Will Cuylle with a seeing eye shot through bodies made it 2-0.

In the second, Zac Jones stops at the blue line, dishes off then cuts to the net and scores to make it 3-0.

I’m giving you the post in reverse here, but got to the good part first and saved the bad stuff for last. Hartford is a good team, but you can see why they are a last place team because they are bang your head off a wall inconsistent.

Pens are resilient. They have a lot of offense up in Pittsburgh and leadership stepped in and the guys left to fill the roles (Gruden, Nylander, etc.) stepped up big and got them the win.

Jack St. Ivany had his best game as a pro, dishing three assists. He didn’t get any plaudits with the three star program, but he gets a mention here.

Here’s how they lined up:

Jamie Devane was indeed back. Tommy Nappier was recalled Friday, Filip Lindberg is day to day. He backed up Wednesday. Nappier backed up Friday.

Hartford didn’t post lines.

Three Stars: 3) Drake Caggiula (three assists) 2) Jonathan Gruden (two goals) 1) Alex Nylander (game winning goal)

The Good: Seems like the team is never out of it. Which is a good thing.

The Bad: They went down 0-3 against a last place team using their backup goaltender and held a good Pens team to just 11 shots through two periods. A better team puts down the Pens for good. Gotta turn that around.

Turning Point: The balding 44 year old paper pusher knew the Pens had it when Gruden scored his first and cut into the three goal deficit. You know what they say about two goal leads…

Around the Division: Toronto beats Lehigh Valley 4-3 in a shootout….Providence trounces Bridgeport 6-3….Hershey loses 3-1 to Charlotte at home….Utica slips by Springfield 2-1.

Standings: Providence and Hershey 47 – Charlotte 39 – Penguins 37 – Bridgeport and Springfield 35 – Lehigh Valley 34 – Hartford 30

Wheeling Update: Nailers and Cyclones are 2-2 late in the third when this goes up. Click here to see who won, cause I don’t yet.

Video Highlights: 

Back at it midweek against Hershey. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!

 

Grits and Gravy — Pens WIN 5-3

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The depleted by callups, injuries and sickness Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins take down the Charlotte Checkers 5-3 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Wednesday night. Charlotte, riding into town on a four game heater and 7-1 against the Pens in the last couple of seasons, go down to the Penguins in what was a hell of a hockey game.

With the win, the Penguins leapfrog to third in the division, over Charlotte.

These two teams rematch Friday.

Here’s how they lined up.

Lineup Notes: Pens called up Chris Ortiz at 10 a.m. and then signed Justin Addamo and Adam Smith to PTOs at 5 p.m. There’s good reason for all of that because Corey Andonovski, Tyler Sikura and Taylor Fedun are sick. Add Xavier Ouellet to the injured list as he is week to week with a lower body injury. Filip Lindberg backed up Taylor Gauthier. New guys in the lineup from last were Justin Addamo and Sean Josling for Sikura / Andonovski up front and Josh Maniscalco and Chris Ortiz for Ouellet and Fedun on defense.

Good news? The top six remained intact.

First Period: Stop me if you have heard this one before but Sam Houde scores the first goal for the Penguins in the third straight such event, this time just 1:13 in.

Game then settled into a bit of a lull that played into the hands of the Penguins, then the penalties started occurring and Connor Bunnaman scored shorthanded for Charlotte, the Checkers sixth such occurrence when he steals a puck at center ice and scores to level the game at a goal a piece.

Then later Henry Bowlby outraces Mitch Reinke for a puck and makes it 2-1 Charlotte.

Great fifteen minutes for the Penguins, a not so good final five minutes.

Second Period: I liked the jam that Lukas Svejkovsky has been displaying of recent and that was on full display here in the period. Valtteri Puustinen scores on a power play to tie the game at two for Wilkes-Barre, then Svejkovsky runs a puck at the net, sees a streaking Houde the far side and passes it and Houde knocks it in. I initially thought it was Svejkovsky’s first goal, but it was indeed Houde. Here are the goals…

I wouldn’t be surprised if they changed that to Svejkovsky.

So the Pens flip the script on the visitors and use a final five-ish minutes to get two goals of their own to take the lead heading into the…

Third Period: Pens transition and get a goal from Alex Nylander. So that top six I was talking about earlier has stepped up when they needed to.

Filip Hållander takes a puck over glass delay of game penalty and then Santtu Kinnunen’s shot off of his stick breaks his stick so the puck isn’t shot as hard. It deflects off of Jon Lizotte and in past Gauthier to bring Charlotte back within one.

Taylor Gauthier had a couple of ten bell saves, notable was one on Gerry Mayhew when the Checkers were sending the house. Charlotte really turned up the wick, but Gauthier and the Pens kept them out.

Jonathan Gruden had a blocked shot that stung, Filip Hållander had the clear to Drake Caggiula who potted the empty net goal to seal it for the home team.

Three Stars: 3) Alex Nylander (goal, assist) 2) Valtteri Puustinen (goal, assist) 1) Sam Houde (two goals)

The Good: Gutsy win that propels them in the right direction. Game in hand good on an idle Hershey. Four point swing against the Checkers.

The Bad: Can’t be taking puck over glass penalties in crunch time.

Turning Point: Didn’t know it at the time but the Nylander goal early in the third gave them the cushion they needed to get across the line.

Around the Division: Only other game in the Atlantic was Providence in Bridgeport. Bruins cruise past the Islanders 5-2.

Standings: Hershey 47 – Providence 45 – Penguins 35 – Checkers 35 – Bridgeport 34 – Springfield 33 – Lehigh Valley 31 – Hartford 28

Wheeling Update: Depleted by callups from their AHL affiliate, the Nailers were off Wednesday.

Video Highlights: 

These two teams rematch Friday in Wilkes-Barer. More then.

Let’s Go Pens!

Weekend Preview – Chess or Checkers

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins look to open 2023 with some wins against the visiting Charlotte Checkers this week as well as the last place Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday.

Four out of the next six this month will be against the Checkers.

Music to set the mood…

Apropos. Fun fact: the Charlotte Checkers mascots name is Chubby. Chubby as in Checker. Chubby Checker. Genius, if you ask me.

A Quote…

I love food, and the food industry is huge, and I just love dealing in it.
– Chubby Checker

Staying with the theme, if you will.

The Setup

They played the Providence Bruins close and lost last Friday. They went to Lehigh Valley and obliterated a musha musha Phantoms team behind 29 saves with a goaltender making his AHL debut.

There’s a lot to like with the Penguins, but they aren’t an elite team by any stretch. I don’t think that the setup of the team was ever such that they would be classified as an elite team, but they are a solid team that plays elite teams like Hershey and Providence tight but can dominate average teams like the Phantoms, but then lay eggs against bad teams like Belleville.

Charlotte beat a Cleveland team 3-2 in back to back games. They also beat Providence twice back in North Carolina before Christmas.

So they, like the Penguins, are a maybe elite but not all the time team. So these next two games should prove as a good test for Wilkes-Barre.

Hartford started their week with a seven spot against a cold Bridgeport team then were swept in a home and home against the Springfield Thunderbirds. They will be in Utica on Friday.

Records

Charlotte leads the mediocres in the Atlantic Division with 35 points with a 16-11-2-1 record in third place behind heavies Hershey and Hartford. Penguins are in fifth behind the Islanders in fourth, with 14-9-2-3 and 33 points. Hartford brings up the rear in last place in the Atlantic with a 11-13-1-5 record and 28 points, but that record will be different on account of the Utica game on Friday.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Ty Smith, Mark Friedman and Drew O’Connor are in Pittsburgh. Dustin Tokarski joined them Tuesday. Filip Lindberg, Kyle Olson and Jamie Devane are hurt, but because the Pens didn’t recall Tommy Nappier from Wheeling Wednesday morning, makes me believe that Lindberg is OK to go again. Sean Josling, Josh Maniscalco, Chris Ortiz and of course Taylor Gauthier are up from Wheeling. No one is down in Wheeling.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

They have the least amount of games played (28) in the division. They, at some point, have to play these games to play catch up to Hershey (four more games played) Providence (three) and Charlotte (two) – head to heads mean a lot because they are “four point games” – so they should maximize the chances at every opportunity and win these games against Charlotte.

Editor note: Letting the reader in the room when the sausage is made…

Below, in italics, is what I had written on Sunday afternoon before the Monday Winter Classic where Tristan Jarry was injured. Yeah, I do write these in advance and schedule them with edits here and there.

I’d go right back to Taylor Gauthier if I am J.D. Forrest on Wednesday. You didn’t notice the mistakes that they made against Providence as much, perhaps that is a talent thing, but they played with swagger in front of Gauthier. I think it’s a different philosophy when Tokarski is back there because he is a veteran and can make the saves when he needs to. But, sometimes they let him down (like late Friday) and it costs them points.

A bold move would be Gauthier both games against Charlotte and then let Tokarski get a game Saturday against the Wolf Pack. But Tokarski will probably be named as an AHL All-Star this week, so it isn’t likely.

I don’t want to say after one game into the kids AHL tenure that they are magically a better team with a rookie in goal, but they did snap a five game losing streak on New Years Eve.

Tokarski hasn’t been named to All-Stars yet (no announcement yet) but it certainly looks like Taylor Gauthier is “the guy” at this point in the schedule.

Who’s in goal?

Likely they go Gauthier Wednesday, then Lindberg if healthy Friday, then the better of the two Saturday against Hartford.

Charlotte will probably split Alex Lyon and Mack Guzda. Hartford will probably see old friend Louis Domingue provided he isn’t out first Friday in Utica. If so, then likely Dylan Garand.

Who is running the show?

Mike Dietrich and Jason Williams will be here Wednesday with Tom DellaFranco and Tyler Loftus on the lines.

Friday sees Jordan Samuels-Thomas in with Mason Riley and Tommy George and Sean D’Loughy on the lines. On Saturday, Samuels-Thomas sticks around and is joined by fellow orange arm band wearer Patrick Hanrahan. They are joined by linesmen Jud Ritter and J.P. Waleski.

Looking ahead…

Bunch of road games starting next Wednesday in Hershey then a trip to North Carolina Saturday and Sunday. Hey! Another Friday off!

Give us a bold prediction…

I’ll give you two. Lukas Svejkovsky gets his first pro goal and Taylor Gauthier gets his first pro shutout.

A-Town, Down — Pens WIN 4-1

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So this Taylor Gauthier kid may actually be pretty good.

29 saves in his AHL debut and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins close out 2022 on a winning note with a 4-1 win in Allentown against the Phantoms.

Penguins took three penalties in the second period in a close game and the Phantoms power play is no joke but Gauthier stared it down and didn’t falter.

So again, this Taylor Gauthier kid may actually be pretty good.

Wilkes-Barre ends its five game losing streak.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Drake Caggiula was indeed back, replacing Sean Josling. The Pens send Brooklyn Kalmikov back to Wheeling in the morning. No changes on defense.

First Period: Sam Houde kept up the hot play with yet another opening goal for the Penguins with a dart that gives Wilkes-barre a 1-0 lead.

Cooper Marody would clean up loose change in front of Gauthier’s net and score to bring the Phantoms level with a power play goal.

(no Lehigh Valley GIF available)

Penguins would respond in kind with a power play goal of their own when Valtteri Puustinen played an Alex Nylander shot which went wide off the back wall and in past Pat Nagle to re-establish the Penguins lead.

Second Period: Penguins took all the penalties in the period and in front of a rookie goaltender making his pro debut on the road, not a good recipe for success.

Didn’t matter. Gauthier made save after save, none finer then the one he had with a pad stop on Jackson Cates sliding over post to post.

Penguins would score again when Lukas Svejkovsky would put a shot wide, wheel around to collect his own errant shot, sees Drake Caggiula screaming off the bench for a goal that gave Wilkes-Barre a 3-1 lead.

Third Period: Phantoms trailing, but aren’t able to generate much if anything. In fact, it is they who take the penalties and it’s the Penguins who have control, already up two.

They had one sequence here where they could have scored but again, ran into Taylor Gauthier.

With around five  minutes to play, Lehigh Valley head coach Ian Laperriere elects to pull Nagle, and Corey Andonovski scores on the empty net moments later to make it 4-1.

Three Stars: 3) Cooper Marody (goal) 2) Filip Hållander (two assists) 1) Valtteri Puustinen (goal)

The Good: Nice to ends 2022 with a win.

The Bad: Should I be mad it wasn’t a shutout? The Pens outclassed Lehigh Valley. Maybe that’s me being selfish. I’ll work on that in 2023.

Turning Point: The Caggiula goal put it out of reach the way the Phantoms were going.

Around the Division: Hershey loses 4-3 to Providence…Springfield needs a shootout to beat Hartford 2-1…Charlotte beats Cleveland 3-2.

Standings: Hershey 47 – Providence 43 – Charlotte 35 – Bridgeport 34 – Penguins and Springfield 33 – Lehigh Valley 31 – Hartford 28

Wheeling Update: Nailers win a wild one with Reading 6-5. Juston Addamo had a pair of goals and Chris Ortiz had three assists.

Video Highlights: No idea if the Pens are going to post them with New Years here. If I can remember an edit, I will do so next year.

Back at it Wednesday at home with Charlotte. Weekend Preview will be up Wednesday midmorning. Talk to you then.

Let’s Go Pens!

Fight, Steen, Fight — Pens LOSE 4-3

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A turnover at center ice with time running down in the third period is enough to get the Providence Bruins over the edge Friday as they defeat the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins 4-3. Fifth straight loss for the Penguins who may be happy to see the calendar flip to 2023 soon.

Penguins played the Bruins close, yet lacked something. I think I know what that something is, and a good majority of it is in Pittsburgh.

But they have to press on and Lehigh Valley awaits to close out 2022 Saturday.

Here’s how they lined up:

Lineup Notes: Coal Street called up Brooklyn Kalmikov after the Weekend Preview hit and sent Jordan Frasca back to Wheeling. Drake Caggiula was returned to Pittsburgh at 5 Friday and didn’t make it in time. Sean Josling made his debut for Caggiula. Colin Swoyer for the also recalled Ty Smith.

First Period: Both teams capitalized on the other teams too many men on the ice penalties. Sam Houde’s power play goal was matched by Georgii Merkulov’s later on.

Houde’s goal was a snipe. J.D. Forrest put him on the top line and he thrived. Let the kid eat.

Providence’s power play was 31st overall coming into Friday up against the Pens 4th best at home.

Second Period: So of course Providence would score another power play goal when Mike Reilly would score at 9:49 to give the Bruins the 2-1 edge.

But Valtteri Puustinen’s low angle shot without much to play in the period would bring them level at two a side.

Third Period: Connor Carrick’s bar down snipe from way downtown would make it 3-2 Bruins.

No penalties in the third period so the game just flowed. That played into the hands (paws?) of the Bruins and they were waiting for the Penguins to make a mistake to pounce and if not they would at least skate into overtime.

Penguins made a mistake.

What it does not show in that clip above is Alex Nylander blowing a tire and giving the puck away to the Bruins, who skate in on the two on one and score.

The Steen goal capped off a nice night for the Bruins forward, who also assisted on two other Providence goals.

The Penguins, with Dustin Tokarski pulled, found one goal but not the other. Puustinen again here with 89 seconds left.

Three Stars: 3) Georgii Merkulov (goal, assist) 2) Valtteri Puustinen (two goals) 1) Oskar Steen (goal, two assists)

The Good: They kept it close against a team that was better then they were in pretty much all facets.

The Bad: Untimely errors from players who should know better (consider the circumstances, though)

Turning Point: The Steen goal put a game in reach out of reach.

Around the Division: Lehigh Valley loses in Utica 3-1…Springfield beats Bridgeport 6-3.

Standings: Hershey 47 – Providence 41 – Bridgeport 34 – Charlotte 33 – Penguins 31 – Lehigh Valley and Springfield 31 – Hartford 27

Thing is that Bridgeport is not playing like a third place team. It’s rare that there is a gap in the ever competitive Atlantic, but it’s clear that the Bears and Bruins are  the two best teams in the the division without question.

Wheeling Update: Nailers were defeated at home by the Reading Royals 4-2. Justin Addamo had a goal, Tommy Nappier from The Ohio State University took the loss with 23 saves.

Video Highlights: 

Back at it Saturday in Allentown.

Let’s Go Pens!

Weekend Preview – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Penguins close out 2022 with a home game against the Providence Bruins and then head to Allentown Saturday for New Years Eve.

Music to set the mood…

From me and the cats, Happy New Year to you and yours. Thanks for making the blog a part of your every day. I appreciate it. May 2023 get you everything you are looking for and more.

A Quote…

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.
J.P. Morgan

Pens want more than their 31 points and their fifth place showing in the Atlantic at present. It’s time to make a move so it’s time to go.

The Setup

A not so good trip to Canada and a postponed game because of weather last week. Pens lost straight up to Toronto and Belleville and the Laval game was postponed. A close game with Hershey this past Tuesday. Now, finally shifting away from the Bears and focusing on Providence and a resurging Lehigh Valley team.

Bruins are the second best team in the AHL (Hershey is the first) and Lehigh Valley is nipping at the Penguins heels, tied with them with 31 points.

Providence was in Hershey Wednesday and lost 1-0 in a shutout. Lehigh Valley played a run and gun with the Bridgeport Islanders on Wednesday and won 6-5 in a shootout. Islanders scored late to tie it.

Records

Providence is 16-6-5-2, good for 31 points and second in the Atlantic. Lehigh Valley is 14-11-2-1 and have the same 31 points as the Penguins with a 13-8-2-3 record. Pens are 5th, Phantoms are 6th.

Who’s Up? Who’s Down? Who’s Out?

Boy, a lot has changed. Drew O’Connor and Mark Friedman remain up and Drake Caggiula and Ty Smith joined them this week. No one is in Wheeling because the Nailers saw Taylor Gauthier and Josh Maniscalco get called up this week. Filip Lindberg left the game before a faceoff in the Belleville game, and Kyle Olson was announced this week as being out week to week, same as Lindberg.

So it’s walking wounded again. Not going to complain because you should be used to it by now. If you are tired of it, don’t renew. It is what it is.

What can we learn about the Penguins this week?

Providence always plays the Penguins tougher. I’d rather watch three straight against Hershey then one against Providence because it is always a battle with the P-Bruins. The Bruins are the bellweather for a lot of teams to see how good they really are.

I think the Bruins are better than the Bears, if that means anything.

Lehigh Valley has appeared to figure things out, but remain horribly inconsistent. Bridgeport is in third somehow in the Atlantic, 1-7-1-1 in their last ten, and the Phantoms are playing run and gun with a team they should have no business playing run and gun with.

Then there are the Penguins who, when healthy, are slightly above average at best. Drew O’Connor is in Pittsburgh and isn’t going to be around to score two goals every night and dish three assists. Drake Caggiula is a good role player who will just fill a press box seat in Pittsburgh for however long he’s up for, so the Penguins have to figure out the scoring.

Who’s in goal?

I’d go Tokarski tonight against Providence and Gauthier Saturday in Allentown. You might see Keith Kinkaid for the Bruins, saving Brandon Bussi for tomorrow night in Hershey again. Lehigh Valley is in Utica Friday. You may see Nolan Maier, who played in that offensively potent display Wednesday at home against the Islanders.

Who is running the show?

I think it’s in Terry Koharski’s contract that he sees every teams home ice at least once every season. He dropped the first puck when Coachella Valley opened it’s place up a few weeks ago, has been in Texas, Massachusetts and elsewhere. He will be in town tonight with Michael Zyla with Jud Ritter and Ryan Knapp on the lines. Saturday sees Rob Hennessey and Adam Tobias (ex-linesman) with Patrick Dapuzzo and Trevor Disbennett on the lines.

Looking ahead…

A pair of home games against Charlotte on Wednesday and Friday then Hartford stops in next Saturday.

Give us a bold prediction…

They get a point out of Providence and beat Lehigh Valley clean.

Lucky Shots? – Pens LOSE 2-1 (SO)

Bit of a truncated blog post tonight as I have family in and a nephew I have to beat in NHL 2k23 later.

Game should not have been as close as it was. Hershey outclassed the Penguins in the first period yet it was scoreless. All the scoring was in the second period and then to a shootout where the Bears get the only goal.

Pens can figure out the way to beat the Bears, could have with the result, but didn’t.

Lines were as follows:

Lineup Notes: Pens called up Taylor Gauthier as Filip Lindberg is injured. Tyler had an update:

First Period: A Hershey shooting gallery, shots 15-5 Bears in the period, yet no goals. Dustin Tokarski was dialed in.

Second Period: They did themselves absolutely no favors taking penalty after penalty after penalty in the period. Not only were the Penguins getting killed in time of possession and shots on goal, they were taking too many careless penalties the eager referees easily called.

Ethen Frank, budding into a Penguins killer, responds in kind on a Hershey power play:

Penguins respond with a power play of their own when noted Bears killer Alexander Nylander scores to even the score at one a piece:

Somehow it was a tie game after two periods.

Third Period: Fast paced and action packed but no scoring. Penalties were down and that was nice to see.

Overtime: Fast paced and action packed, only with less players and no penalties.

Shootout:

Three Stars: 3) Zach Fucale (24 saves) 2) Dustin Tokarski (37 saves) 1) Connor McMichael (game winning shootout goal)

The Good: They stayed in lockstep with the best team in the league and got a point.

The Bad: They could have won, despite The fact they should have lost this in regulation.

Turning Point: The Nylander goal gave them the jam to get them to overtime and a point.

Around the Division: Hartford blows out Bridgeport 7-3

Standings: Will be a later edit.

Wheeling was off and I’ll look for video highlights.

Back at it Friday against Providence.

Let’s Go Pens!