Monday's Catch Up & Links 12/8

Monday, December 8, 2014
Jason Akeson and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms look to turn the corner in their next three-game weekend coming up starting Friday night in Binghamton.
This Monday's post takes a look at the three-game weekends of both the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Lehigh Valley Phantoms. While the Penguins found ways to win with a depleted AHL roster - including a 5-1 drubbing of the Phantoms on Friday night - the Phantoms seemed to figure things out Sunday afternoon in Bridgeport, Connecticut especially on the power play (3-for-6) with recent additions up front in forwards Blair Jones and Jason Akeson.

Both teams have a week of practice ahead of themselves before they each begin their respective three-game weekends starting this Friday night.

You can follow up to the minute breaking AHL news on Twitter. Follow @H_P_Hockey for all the latest on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh), or @TonyAndrock_TCG for the latest scoop on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia).

Depleted Penguins Take Two of Three

The Penguins were without as many as five of their top seven scorers over the weekend, but it didn't prevent them from taking four out of a possible six points in the standings.

They got things started at home with a convincing 5-1 win over the Phantoms, a game where the guys you wanted to see step did just that. You got the feeling that the Pens rallied around the fact many of the key contributors from the first quarter of the season were out of the lineup. Team captain Tom Kostopoulos led the way two goals, while newcomer Sahir Gill tallied his first career AHL goal in his WBS Pens debut. Gritty forwards Adam Payerl and Carter Rowney each tallied two assists in the win.

The offensive output from Friday wasn't matched Saturday night against Hershey as it was a bit of a goaltender's duel between rookies Matt Murray and Pheonix Copley. A pair of goals from former Penguin Chris Conner was enough for the Bears, though Bryan Rust made a game of it a with 4:44 left after being re-assigned from Pittsburgh earlier that afternoon. Conner was named the AHL's Player of the Week earlier this afternoon with seven points (three goals, four assists) in three games last week.

The Penguins picked up their first win at the Giant Center since 11/2/13 behind strong performances from Derrick Pouliot (two goals) and Jeff Zatkoff (30 saves). The 3-2 win was also head coach John Hynes' 200th win behind the bench with the Penguins.

Pouliot tied the game at 1-1 in the 1st period after Steve Olesky gave Hershey a 1-0 lead 39 seconds into the contest, sending thousands of teddy bears (more than 17,000!) onto the ice in the Bears' impressive annual Teddy Bear Toss. Bobby Farnham tied the game at 2-2 in a back and forth second period with his first of the year before Pouliot struck on a power play in the third period. The Pens rode Zatkoff's key saves in the final ten minutes to hold on for the 3-2 win.

The Penguins have another three-game weekend to prepare for this week, starting Friday night at home vs. Bridgeport. The Pens then travel to Allentown to take on the Phantoms at the PPL Center before another Sunday game against the Bears, this time at the Mohegan Sun Arena.


Jeff Zatkoff picked up wins on Friday (21 saves/22 shots) and Sunday (30 saves/32 shots), while Matt Murray was also strong in net on Saturday (27 saves/29 shots) despite picking up the loss.

With Olli Maatta out with an undisclosed injury and being evaluated in Pittsburgh and Kris Letang skating again, the Penguins have seven healthy defenseman. Letang won't play tonight but could return in the Pens next game Friday night at home against Calgary. I don't think a recall on the blue line will be needed this week.

Up front, however, the Penguins have only 12 healthy forwards after news that Patric Hornqvist is still undergoing testing for a possible concussion. Beau Bennett is expected to begin skating next week, but if the Pens want a 13th forward for this weekend's game a forward will need to be recalled from the AHL Penguins. Bryan Rust was re-assigned to the AHL on Saturday, but could find himself in back in Pittsburgh with a chance to make his NHL debut before the week is over.

Taylor Chorney and Nick Drazenovic have begun skating, but with the team not practicing today there aren't any further updates on the status of either player.

UPDATE: Scott Wilson is physically in Wilkes-Barre despite still technically being on IR in Pittsburgh. Expect Wilson to officially be re-assigned to the AHL Pens when he is healthy.

Taylor Chorney practiced in full today and appears ready to return to lineup per WBS beat writer Jonathan Bombulie.

Scratches: Taylor Chorney (day-to-day, upper body), Nick Drazenovic (day-to-day, lower body), Anton Zlobin (shoulder surgery, out for season), Sahir Gill (healthy) and Clark Seymour (healthy).


Tom Kuhnhackl - Jean-Sebastien Dea - Bryan Rust
Dominik Uher - Conor Sheary - Josh Archibald
Tom Kostopoulos - Carter Rowney - Adam Payerl
Pierre-Luc Leblond - Matia Marcantuoni - Bobby Farnham

Scott Harrington - Barry Goers
Reid McNeill - Derrick Pouliot
Nick D'Agostino - Alex Boak

Matt Murray - Jeff Zatkoff

Phantoms End Weekend On a Positive Note

The Phantoms began the weekend with back-to-back losses, but dug deep and ended the weekend with a 5-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Sunday afternoon in Connecticut.

On Friday, the Phantoms hit "rock-bottom" in a 5-1 loss to their East Division rival Penguins. They
got behind early and couldn't establish much of anything offensively in a blowout loss. Head coach Terry Murray was extremely disappointed with the performance saying post-game when asked about how to turn things around that "I don't know, I've never seen it so bad."

Saturday night at home on Teddy Bear Toss night, the Phantoms let a 2-1 lead going into the third period slip away in a shootout loss to Bridgeport to start their home-and-home series with the Sound Tigers. The Phantoms held a 2-1 lead going into the final frame, but former Penguins forward Colin McDonald tied the game at 2-2 with 5:21 left in regulation to send it to overtime - the 5th time at home in 11 games this season that the extra session was needed on home ice.

There was plenty of scoring chances for both teams in the extra session, but goaltenders Rob Zepp (37 saves) and Kevin Poulin (27 saves) stood tall in net to force the shootout. 
In the shootout, Jason Akeson put the Phantoms ahead 1-0 but he was the lone goal scorer for the Phantoms while C.J. Stretch and Kael Mouillierat tallied shootout goals for Bridgeport in the win. 

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms put forth a much better effort Saturday night against the Sound Tigers and gave fans at the PPL Center no shortage of excitement, but ultimately come up short. The power play missed on a full two-minute five-on-three man advantage and went 0-for-9 for the game, as the Phantoms special teams again let them down.
Sunday afternoon was a different story entirely for the Phantoms and their power play, which went 3-for-6 behind a strong performance from Jason Akeson (two goals, two assists) in the 5-3 win to cap the weekend.

Akeson was on the verge of a breakout game after being re-assigned by the Flyers 10 days ago, and Sunday he was a difference maker. He figured in on all three power play goals as well as added an empty net goal in the waning seconds to ice the game. The goals were his first two all year as he was goalless in 12 games in the NHL with the Flyers.

The Phantoms also got a strong performance from Anthony Stolarz, who stopped 34 of the 37 shots that came his way Sunday including several big stops on a five-on-three penalty kill late in the third period.

The Phantoms didn't have an on-ice practice today, but will have a few days of practice leading up to another three-game weekend starting Friday night in Binghamton against the BSens. The Phantoms will host the Penguins on Saturday night before making their 2nd and final trip of the season to historic Boardwalk Hall to take on the Albany Devils Sunday afternoon.


Rookie Anthony Stolarz (34 saves on Sunday) got the start in net at the tail end of the three-in-three. Veteran Rob Zepp, who started on both Friday and Saturday, backed him up.

No other lineup changes as Brett Flemming and Jay Rosehill were both healthy scratches for the 2nd straight game.

Scratches: Brett Flemming (healthy), Shayne Gostisbehere (ACL injury) and Jay Rosehill (healthy).


Taylor Leier - Blair Jones - Zack Stortini
Jason Akeson - Nick Cousins - Petr Straka
Darroll Powe - Kevin Goumas - Andrew Gordon
Brett Hextall - Austin Fyten - Derek Mathers

Brandon Manning - Mark Alt
Robert Hagg - Steven Delisle
Oliver Lauridsen - Jesper Pettersson

Anthony Stolarz - Rob Zepp 

Weekly Links

My good friend and colleague Ian Altenbaugh from Hockey's Future had a late-November prospect update on Penguins prospects playing at the collegiate and junior levels.

Friend Eric Majeski's weekly feature at Pensburgh thoroughly examines and explains the Robert Bortuzzo hit & subsequent two-game suspension, while also discussing a variety of Penguins-related topics with several Pittsburgh area writers insights on players like Brian Dumoulin, and newest Penguin Rob Klinkhammer.

Speaking of big hits, Pittsburgh Penguins beat writer Josh Yohe of the Tribune Review discussed Zach Sill's hit on Ottawa's Kyle Turris Saturday afternoon and added the reactions from some of his teammates. His notebook article also talked about Klinkhammer's debut with the Pens.

Our friends at Pens Initiative posted an article about the need for change in how the NHL & Department of Player Safety explains hits termed "late" and holding officials accountable to establish credibility and consistency around the league.

Here's a nice read from Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on Olli Maatta's quick recovery and how his return to the level he was playing at prior to the diagnosis will take some time.

Last week's story for The Home News checked in with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after the completion of the first quarter of their 76-game schedule.

Anthony Mingioni of Center Ice Philly Magazine caught up with Phantoms head coach Terry Murray at the end of November and wrote about how Murray has challenged rookie defenseman Robert Hagg.

The Paul Bissonnette era in Portland is over after eight games as the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes terminated his professional tryout contract today. Bissonnette went pointless in those eight games, including zero visits to the penalty box and a minus one rating. (EDIT: Bissonnette signed a PTO contract with the Manchester Monarchs 24 hours later.)


Post a Comment