To The Machine.
Where have you been (in the AHL standings)?
It’s alright we know where you’ve been.”
For the second time in as many months, the American Hockey League powerhouse that is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins appears to be on the brink of complete collapse. Not only have the Baby Pens dropped four of their last five AHL contests, the fleet skaters from northeastern PA have managed to score just two goals or less in each of those four defeats. Now comes the most distressing news that the goaltender judged to be the best in all the American Hockey League last season, as well as the the talented rookie from the Czech Republic who was recently selected to play in the 2016 AHL All-Star Game, are both injured; Neither took part in practice this Thursday, this according to published reports from our friends at Chirps From Center Ice.
Fear not, though, WBS supporters. Every dark cloud has its silver lining and that means the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins must play a certain amount of games every season at the spectacular PPL Center in downtown Allentown. And, as the historical record (seven wins and one shootout loss from nine all-time visits to date) clearly indicates, the top farm club of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins absolutely dominate the top farm club of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers in their very own building for whatever reason.
“Peinlich!” as hard-working, two-way German winger Tom Kuhnhackl, the 24-year-old who is still in the NHL after being recalled by Pittsburgh for the very first time in his four-year career as a North American professional, might be wont to say.
Given the current health status of all-AHL netminder Matt Murray, the dependable second-year pro who has already started 25 games (1.97 avg, .933 svpct) for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this term, it looks as if the Lehigh Valley Phantoms will be facing Baby Pens rookie Tristan Jarry at the PPL Center on Friday night. Considering the fact that Murray has been decidedly out of form as of late having lost his last four starts on the trot, his injury could prove to be the proverbial blessing in disguise. After all, not only did the 20-year-old Jarry stop all 34 shots faced and post a shutout on his last appearance for the WBS Penguins (a 5-0 victory over the formidable Portland Pirates last Saturday night), the promising 2nd round pick (# 44 overall) of the Pittsburgh Peguins at the 2013 NHL Draft also blanked the Hamilton Street Heroes on his one and only appearance at the PPL Center so far this season!
Jarry’s numbers this term (12 ga, 1.63 avg, .941 svpct), on the whole, are sterling.
Dominik Simon (42 ga, 12 go, 31 pts, 22 pen, + 11 def), the rather small but extremely skillful attacker who has skated with the likes of Jakub Voracek and Jaromir Jagr with the senior Czech national team at the 2015 IIHF World Championships last spring, had found success in North America after arriving from HC Plzen this past summer but now his participation at the annual AHL All-Star Game is in jeopardy.
WBS have been without the top two players on their scoring chart but lethal Scott Wilson (32 ga, 20 go, 34 pts, 19 pen, + 5 def), the second-year winger from the University of Massachusetts – Lowell who is currently tied for the AHL goal-scoring leadership, and consistently productive Conor Sheary (28 ga, 7 go, 33 pts, 4 pen, + 8 def), the second-year winger from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst who is still tied for 17th place on the AHL scoring list this term despite missing exactly one-third of the Baby Pens’ games this season; they have both been returned by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and will be in the line-up against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center on Friday night … Sheary has not skated in an AHL contest since January 13th but could very well provide a spark to a WBS offense which has somewhat surprisingly struggled to score goals in recent games.
John McCarron (6’3″ 220 lbs), the sizeable rookie professional out of Cornell University who was originally the 6th round pick of the Edmonton Oilers at the 2012 NHL Draft, was promoted by the Baby Pens from the ECHL and skated against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Wednesday and could very well be in uniform again for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday evening, too. The 23-year-old right wing counts eight goals and 20 points from 34 ECHL games for the Wheeling Nailers this season but there is little question that his primary asset is an ability to play the body. McCarron was recalled by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton earlier this month, as well, and skated in the Penguins’ 4-3 win over Lehigh Valley at the PPL Center on January 8th … der Eishockeyzuschauer remembers a hustling McCarron intelligently and effectively finishing his checks throughout the entire evening.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton line-up on Wednesday night :
Archibald – Mouillierat – Simon
Gill – Rowney – Dea
Uher – Sundqvist – Kostopoulos
Sestito – Marcantuoni – McCarron
McNeill – Oleksy
O’Neill – Seymour
Erixon – Andersen
Sahir Gill (16 ga, 4 go, 8 pts, 0 pen, + 4 def), the undrafted winger out of Boston University now in his third full season as a professional, has done well for himself since his recall from Wheeling but was injured during the Baby Pens’ loss to the Wolf Pack in midweek and is said to be on a “day-to-day” basis.
Tom Sestito (6’5″ 228 lbs), the 28-year-old veteran pugilist once of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms, has been getting a sweater regularly for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this entire month after spending most of this season in the press box. Whether the much larger Sestito wants to tango with “One Punch” Goulbourne has yet to be determined.
Categories: Phantoms Hockey