WBS Penguins at Springfield Falcons, 10-23-15
On April 16, 2015, the American Hockey League anointed Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender Matt Murray as the winner of the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Award for the 2014-15 season, given annually to the AHL’s most outstanding goaltender. In 40 games, Murray allowed only 61 goals, posting a goals-against average of 1.58, a save percentage of 0.941, and 25 victories, of which a record-tying 12 were shutouts. Of these 12 shutouts, three came at the hands of the same team: the Springfield Falcons. In fact, Murray came within 1:11 of recording a season-long shutout against the Falcons. On the season, Murray faced 110 shots against Springfield and stopped 109 of them, for a save percentage of 0.991 and a goals against average of roughly 0.25…numbers that, if I had posted them in a video game, you would chide me to raise the difficulty.
Incredible as those numbers might be, Murray actually improved upon them on Friday, October 23, as he stopped 38 more Springfield shots to post his fourth career shutout against the Falcons, as well as his first clean sheet of 2015-16, as the WBS Penguins posted a 5-0 victory that was nowhere near as lopsided as the scoreline. In fact, the first period concluded scoreless, as WBS was unable to convert on three power play chances while Springfield was unable to cash in on their lone advantage of the first. Defenseman Derrick Pouliot opened the scoring at 4:41 of the second period, posting his first goal of the year on a power play. Captain Tom Kostopoulos recorded the lone assist of the goal. Kostopoulos would later cash in another Springfield power play later in the second, recording his third goal of the year by deflecting a Scott Wilson slapshot into the cage. Pouliot got a secondary assist, and the second period ended 2-0 WBS.
Springfield tried as best they could in the third period, but they could not solve the defending Goalie of the Year, and WBS proceeded to blow the doors off with three goals in the final 2:13 of the contest. First, Wilson found an empty net at 17:47 of the third for his third goal of the season, assisted by Pouliot and Steve Olesky. Then, just 39 seconds later, Springfield tried to force an extra man advantage again by pulling goalie Louis Domingue from his cage, but Matia Marcantuoni scored his first of the season by hitting the empty cage. Josh Archibald and Tom Kuhnhackl recorded assists. Finally, at 19:14 of the third, Dominik Simon tied a neat little bow over the proceedings by scoring his first goal of the season; it turns out that a goal originally scored by Simon last Saturday was changed to Jean-Sebastien Dea, so Simon made up for it by tacking on the final goal of the 5-0 Penguins victory, assisted by Marcantuoni and Dominik Uher.
Three stars of the game:
3. Tom Kostopoulos, WBS: one goal, one assist on three shots
2. Derrick Pouliot, WBS: one goal, two assists on one shot
1. Matt Murray, WBS: 38 saves, first shutout of the season
WBS Penguins vs. Springfield Falcons, 10-24-15
The teams then traveled to the WB for their return engagement on Saturday night, and Springfield finally started to find their way against Murray...with the help of an old friend. It was former WBS farmhand Dustin Jeffrey who opened the scoring in his old barn, assisted by winger Greg Carey at 6:43 of the first, to give Springfield its first lead against Matt Murray ever. EVER. It lasted about six and a half minutes, as Scott Wilson recorded his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Steve Olesky and Derrick Pouliot, at 13:12 of the first to level the proceedings. Springfield's Carey restored the advantage at 4:40 of the second, assisted by defenseman Derek Smith and forward Ross Mauermann, and the Falcons held that advantage for the remainder of the second. In the third, Tom Kuhnhackl scored his first of the season, having recently been returned to WBS following an injury. His equalizer came at 6:12 of the third, with assists from Olesky and Dominik Simon, and the score remained 2-2 after sixty minutes.
In coordination with the National Hockey League, the AHL scrapped its hybrid 4 on 4, 3 on 3 overtime format from last year in favor of a five-minute 3 on 3 to match what the big league is doing. The WBS faithful got its first glimpse of it on Saturday night, and while they only got 36 seconds worth of the barely controlled madness, it was enough to send the paid crowd of 4,819 home happy as Dominik Simon scored the game winner unassisted, his second goal of the season. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3, Springfield 2, and a very successful four points out of four for the weekend.
Matt Murray recorded his fourth win of the season, despite allowing more goals to Springfield than he had done in his previous five outings against the Falcons combined, leaving him with a measly 0.984 save percentage and a miserly 0.500 GAA against the Falcons in his young career.
Seriously. He needs to up the difficulty.
Three stars of the game:
3. Scott Wilson, WBS: one goal on two shots
2. Greg Carey, SPR: one goal, one assist on one shot
1. Dominik Simon, WBS: game-winning goal in OT, one assist on four shots
Team Leaders (after the games of October 24)
(all statistics courtesy of theahl.com, compiled after the games of October 24 concluded)
Goals - Scott Wilson, 4 (tied for 5th in the AHL with 15 others)
Assists - Dominik Simon/Tom Kostopoulos (tie), 5 (tied for 8th in the AHL with 11 others)
Points - Wilson, 8 (tied for sixth in the AHL with five others)
Rookies - Dominik Simon's 7 points through his first six games is good for fourth in the AHL in rookie scoring.
Special Teams - PK 92.9% (fourth in AHL), PP 32.1% (second in AHL)
Team Points Percentage: 0.833 (1st in Atlantic Division, 1st in Eastern Conference, 2nd in AHL)
I'm very impressed with how these first six games have turned out, and I'm excited to see how the season unfolds. If WBS can keep up its current trends and absorb the inevitable injuries and callups that are a part of everyday minor league life, the sky is the limit for these Penguins.
The Road Ahead: October 28 vs. Binghamton, October 30 vs. Hartford (both 7:05 pm EDT starts)
I will be attending both games, so I would like to try something for next week's recap article. If there's something in particular about the WBS team this season that you want me to watch out for in the two games this week, post it in the comments below or to my Twitter account, @dps2002. I'll pick out the most popular requests, and I'll discuss them in next week's recap.