Happy frozen Monday!
It is FREEZING in the Capital District today. Woke up to a -11 reading, got all layered up and got the car going. Good news is this will go away by tomorrow, bad news is more snow comes with it. But only an inch or so, nothing to panic over.
Anyway, on to other things…let’s review the weekend that was for me in Wilkes-Barre. I make an annual trip here, but I wish I could go more often. Myself, along with my friend Amy (my loyal sidekick for a majority of my trips) left the Capital Region around 11 and arrived in Wilkes Barre Township around 3:15 (after a lunch/Starbucks run). After settling in at the hotel, first stop was Wegmans (dear Capital Region: get with the program and open one of these here. I don’t care if I have to drive all the way to Glens Falls, just open one somewhere) for snacks (read: my brownie bites), then Walmart. Then it was back to the hotel and off to game #1 of the weekend, Devils vs. Penguins. Well…at least we got a good ticket deal. For one price ($21), we had seats 3 rows from the bench, plus a voucher for a free hat and another one for a hot dog, soda and popcorn. No wonder the place sold out (I believe the final attendance count was around 8200; like I said, culture shock compared to home). The game did have its share of entertainment thanks to Louis. He played the audience up as only he can, chirping anyone that came across his path. He wasn’t chirping too much after Joey Mormina fought him and won. The game did get off on the right foot for the Devils, Patrick Davis got an early 1-0 lead. It basically went downhill from there after that, the Pens took over and won it 6-2. Probably the only thing the Devils did right was in the fight department, Pierre-Luc Leblond and Harry Young both won their bouts. Afterwards, we were invited by friends to the casino. Not a gambler, but why not? So it was off to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, only about 2-3 miles from the hotel. I played the slots quite conservatively, only spent $30 on the machines and knew to stop halfway through my credits. So I walked away with $16, only lost half my money. The place is amazing, lots of video slots to choose from, along with the poker/blackjack tables. There were quite a few dining options as well: Johnny Rockets, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and where we went, Bar Louie (not bad, only problem was with the band playing live in the background you can’t hear yourself think). We get back to the hotel and I think I finally crashed around 1:30.
Sunday was the better of the two days. I was greeted to a little surprise when I went to go downstairs to see what the breakfast selection was. I got to the elevator around the same time Bryan Rodney (ex-Rat and current Checkers captain) did. Surprise, the Checkers were staying at the same hotel, on my floor. So I got a little pregame reunion with a few of them. Somehow Mike Murphy knew I was at the casino (hmmm…then I realized my friend had told him she was there, he must have automatically assumed I went too), and it was weird to see Zack Fitzgerald, normally a ball of energy, just half awake. Amy and I get checked out and were off to do some shopping. Then game time…well talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Charlotte stormed out of the gate with 4 goals in the first period, taking a 4-2 lead into first intermission. I expected the Pens to jump right back in the game after being down because, well, they’re the Penguins. They have the best record in the league for a reason, right? Well as I expected they did come back to tie the game at 4, but then the Checkers turned on the jets…and then there was Justin Pogge. The boy needs to be careful with that short fuse of his. First he practically holds a Penguin hostage (and neither of the two refs, Ryan Fraser or Ian Croft, saw it. You’d think with 7000 or so people yelling at them they’d notice something was up…wait I forgot they’re AHL referees never mind), then at the end of the second period he decides to punch Robert Bortuzzo (Penguins D-man) and pick a fight with Joe Vitale, the one he held hostage earlier. He only got a double minor for all of that, we were surprised he didn’t get the gate like he did after his last meltdown in Hershey. Third period the Checkers basically took over, four more goals on John Curry (and his replacement Patrick Killeen). Zach Boychuk had a hat trick (and was just rewarded with a recall to the Hurricanes), Zac Dalpe contributed four assists. The Checkers won it 9-5. And oh by the way the same two teams play each other on Wednesday night. If coach Daniels is smart, he’d put Murph in over Pogge. Just saying. After the game, time to say goodbye for now, and on the way home we went. We actually booed the Welcome to New York sign on I-84 as we crossed the state line. Got home around 10:15 and was greeted by the arctic cold (it wasn’t too bad in PA, I actually got away with my fleece pullover for a little while…with my hat and gloves).
A few overall observations from the weekend:
-I can see how the Pens are scary good. But when they’re off…I’m sure the rest of the league wants yesterday’s game tape.
-The Wilkes-Barre fans were wonderful to us. Even that tall guy three rows behind me on Saturday night that booed…
-Tux is probably the most energetic mascot in the AHL. He could give N.J. Devil a run for his money. And he can do some tricks a lot of mascots couldn’t get away with (I’m looking at you, Devil Dawg).
-Attention Pennsylvania DOT: I-84 between the state line and Scranton is in horrible shape. If I want to ride a roller coaster I’ll stick to I-88 thank you very much.
-I like how Wilkes-Barre is very much like Clifton Park and Rt. 50 in Saratoga: all the businesses are within a 2 mile radius of each other, including the arena and where we stayed. Very easy to get to everything. Except for all those u-turn lanes, still not used to that after 3 trips. If it wasn’t so cold out, I could have easily walked to Walmart or Starbucks.
-And the last thing about Wilkes-Barre? Everything cost less (or so it seemed to me anyway). Gas is about 20 cents cheaper (and thanks to my Price Chopper card I got 60 cents more off when I filled the tank yesterday…27 bucks lot better than 42 that’s for sure), no tax on clothes and 6 percent on everything else. Another reason I look forward to this trip every year.
So now it’s back to reality…and hopefully the Devils can wake up this week, the Penguins come calling again Friday night, along with a quick road trip to Bridgeport on Tuesday. At least with the Amerks coming in on Saturday there’s a chance at a somewhat ok week. It can’t get any worse than last week…right?