For many of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, playing on the smaller ice surface in Binghamton is nothing new. As players came up through the junior ranks, many played on rinks that were on the smaller side.
When Peter Mannino played in the United States Hockey League 11 years ago with the Tri-City Storm, his team played on a rink so small they used to call it “the bathtub.”
The rink was the Sioux City Municipal Auditorium in South Dakota, and Mannino swears it was smaller than Binghamton’s.
“A shot from the blueline felt like it came from the top of the circles,” Mannino said of the Sioux City ice. “Right away everything was on top of you.”
In 2009 when Dominik Uher came over from the Czech Republic to play in the Western Hockey League, he got a taste of the small ice surface right away.
“We used to play on the old Moose Jaw rink. It was very tiny,” he said. “There were a couple of rinks with small ice surfaces in the WHL.”
Even in the Ontario Hockey League small ice was present at the Jack Gatecliff Arena in southern Ontario. That rink was 10 feet shorter than the average AHL ice surface.
“It was a bit of an adjustment playing on that small ice,” said Adam Payerl, who played at the Gatecliff Arena several times in juniors. “You had a lot less time.”
So playing on Binghamton’s short ice is not something the Penguins’ players haven’t dealt with before at some point in their careers. That’s why they’re not using it as an excuse for the four losses they suffered there during the regular season, and they’re certainly not ready to say the short ice gives the Senators an advantage.
“It’s not the ice surface that’s made the difference,” said head coach John Hynes. “We’re not worried about the size of the rink. We just have to play better.”
While Binghamton’s small ice may not be a concern, the Senators have enjoyed a home ice advantage over the Penguins. During the regular season the Senators outscored the Penguins 20-11 in Binghamton, winning all four contests. Back in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins beat the Senators three times and suffered an overtime loss in the fourth contest.
Even over the last five years the Broome County Arena has given the Penguins fits. They are 7-14-0-1 on the road against the Senators.
But there is a bright spot. When the two teams met in the opening round of last year’s postseason, the Penguins beat the Senators twice at home to win the series in three games.
“We want to show we can beat them at home. It doesn’t matter how big or small the ice is, the most important thing is getting to our game,” said winger Bobby Farnham. “The size of the ice, it doesn’t faze us.”
- The Penguins wrapped up their fourth practice of the week on Thursday. “We’ve kept things short and concise - light, so they’re ready to play,” said head coach John Hynes. “We feel good about our week.”
- Hynes said after Thursday’s practice that he has decided on who the veteran scratch will be for tonight, but he declined to say who it was because he had yet to discuss the matter with the team.
- Barry Goers will dress as the sixth defenseman tonight.
- Hynes has chosen Matt Murray as his backup goaltender for tonight over Eric Hartzell. “Eric’s had a lot of American League experience and he’s around the team,” Hynes said. “In the backup position we have two quality players that can play. It’s a chance to get Murray a little bit more in and around the team and we feel like if he had to play he can help us.”