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WBS Weekly, 1-11-16

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The Penguins are streaking again. Watch out.

WBS Penguins

WBS PENGUINS VS. BINGHAMTON SENATORS, 1-5-16

It’s not often that the WBS Penguins play on a Tuesday night.  Most of the games in the AHL are played on weekends or Wednesdays, so to see a game on a Tuesday is a relative oddity in the grand scheme of things.  However, when you’ve got Matt Murray in net (as WBS now does once again), even the unusual becomes routine.  Binghamton came out flying in the first period of Tuesday’s game, outshooting the Penguins 11-5 in the first session and taking a 1-0 lead on Matt Puempel’s 12th goal of the season.  However, WBS would once again assert their dominance starting in the second period, as Dominik Uher scored his second goal of the season at 1:25, followed immediately by Sahir Gill’s third of the season at 2:22.  Tom Kostopoulos would provide a measure of insurance at 7:36 of the third with an unassisted breakaway goal, and Uher would put a bow on it with an empty netter at 19:28 for a 4-1 victory.

Uher’s two goals were enough for the first star of the game.  Murray’s 32-save performance earned him second star honors, while Gill got the third star with the game-winning goal.

WBS PENGUINS AT LEHIGH VALLEY PHANTOMS, 1-8-16

Following the announcement of Matt Murray, Dominik Simon, and Derrick Pouliot as AHL All-Stars, there were plenty of scoreboard fireworks in the first period of Friday’s game at Lehigh Valley, as Josh Archibald scored his second goal of the season at 4:10 of the first, followed immediately by Uher’s fourth goal of the season at 5:01, to stake WBS to a quick 2-0 lead.  Lehigh Valley, however, would strike right back with three goals in a span of just under two minutes: Taylor Leier at 6:47, Sam Gagner at 8:23, and Samuel Morin at 8:46 to put Lehigh Valley in front.  WBS would quickly right the ship, though, following a Clark Donatelli time out.  Scott Wilson scored his 16th goal of the season at 11:50 after being returned to WBS mid-week with Conor Sheary, and Archibald scored his second of the game and 3rd of the season at 15:54 to restore the WBS lead and chase Anthony Stolarz, the Lehigh Valley starting goaltender, out of the game.  The first period ended 4-3 WBS, and for all the fireworks in the first period, there was no further scoring, as Matt Murray would stop all 16 shots put his way in the final 40 minutes to preserve the 4-3 WBS victory.

Lehigh Valley goaltender Jason LaBarbera took third star honors for coming into the game in relief of Stolarz and stopping the remaining 12 WBS shots put his way.  Wilson’s game-tying goal was good enough for second star honors, while Archibald’s two goals earned him top honors on the evening.

WBS PENGUINS VS. UTICA COMETS, 1-9-16

The Penguins concluded their week by hosting the Utica Comets in what turned out to be a very spirited, very contentious affair.  Utica fans filled Sections 118 and 119 of the arena, and they put in a fantastic performance with their chants, signs, and enthusiasm.  To their credit, the WBS fans in attendance rose up to match that enthusiasm, making for one of the more lively crowds in WBS this season.

The game itself was fast-paced, very tight, and at times very contentious.  Watching in attendance, I thought there were numerous points at which tempers would break and hands would be thrown, but it never got to that point.  WBS took the early advantage with Tom Kostopoulos’s tenth goal of the season, a beautiful tic-tac-toe finish from Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson on the power play at 9:46.  Then, just five seconds from the end of the period, Will O’Neill threw a puck on net from the far right point, and it somehow eluded goaltender Joe Cannata for a 2-0 WBS lead after 20 minutes.

To their credit, Utica buckled down, enjoyed long spells of possession, and finally broke through the goal of Tristan Jarry (making his return to the WBS lineup after injury) when Hunter Shinkaruk, Utica’s leader in points, scored his 14th goal of the season off a wicked deflection of a Jon Landry shot.  Jordan Subban, brother of PK and Malcolm, provided the secondary assist for 2-1 WBS after 40 minutes.

Scott Wilson scored his 17th goal of the season on a beautiful face-off play to start a power play.  After winning the draw, the puck came to Wilson, who quickly dumped it to his opposing half-wall partner Sheary and retreated to the right hand side of the ice.  Sheary then sent it to Derrick Pouliot on top point, who then moved back to Wilson for a powerful slap shot.  Too powerful for Cannata, in fact, as Cannata was able to get a piece of the shot, but not enough to stop it from going into the net for 3-1.

Utica pulled Cannata from the game with around 2:45 to go, and it paid dividends as Alex Friesen scored his eighth goal of the season from Subban and Landry  at 18:15, but that is all they could get, as Wilson tapped in an empty-netter at 19:39 to provide the final margin of victory, 4-2, and move WBS’s winning streak to five games.  Jarry took the win with 29 saves on 31 Utica shots, while Cannata took the loss with 24 saves on 27 shots.

Jordan Subban’s two assists were good enough for third star honors.  Conor Sheary posted three assists on the evening for second-star honors, and Wilson’s two goals gave him both first-star honors and the AHL lead in goals.

Line combinations and defense pairings, according to WBS PBP announcer Mike O’Brien:

STATISTICS

(Stats are as of January 10, 2016, compiled from theahl.com after the games of January 9 concluded)

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

  • Goals - Scott Wilson, 18 (1st in AHL); Dominik Simon second with 12, Tom Kostopoulos third with 10
  • Assists - Conor Sheary, 23 (3rd in AHL); Simon second with 17, Derrick Pouliot third with 14
  • Points - Simon and Sheary (tie), 29 (T-15th in AHL), Wilson third with 28 (T-20th in AHL)
  • Rookies - Simon’s 29 points are now third in the AHL, behind Matt Lorito (Albany) and Brandon Montour (San Diego) at 30 each
  • Goalies
    • Matt Murray 15-4-0, 1.81 GAA (2nd in AHL), 93.9% save pct (1st in AHL), four shutouts (T-1st in AHL)
    • Tristan Jarry - 9-1-0, 1.56 GAA, 93.9% save pct, two shutouts
    • Brian Foster - 1-3-1, 2.97 GAA, 87.9% save pct, one shutout
    • Casey Desmith - 1-0-0, 1.50 GAA, 93.5% save pct

TEAM

  • Special Teams
    • Power Play - 21.8% home (5th in AHL), 15.0% away (15th), 19.0% overall (8th)
    • Penalty Kill - 84.9% home (17th), 87.9% away (2nd), 86.3% overall (5th)
  • Team Record: 15-4-1 home, 11-4-0 away, 26-8-1 overall, 53 points
  • Team Points Percentage: 75.7% (1st in division, 2nd in conference and league)
  • Miscellaneous: 119 goals scored in 35 games (3rd in AHL); 74 goals allowed in 35 games (3rd in AHL)

THE WEEK AHEAD

January 12 at St. John’s, 6:00 pm EST

January 13 at St. John’s, 6:00 pm EST

January 16 at Syracuse, 7:00 pm EST

After the game on January 16 in Syracuse, the Penguins will have officially reached the halfway mark of their season.  I’ll revisit the historical records again next week to see where the WBS record as of 38 games stands against their history.