There was only one game for the WBS Penguins on opening weekend, their home opener on Saturday night against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Hartford came into the game having opened their season the night before at home, overcoming St. Johns 6-3, so it could be argued that Hartford was up against it to begin with, having played the night before AND traveling into WBS to face a fresh WBS squad.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 15, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 15, 2016
As expected, the trio of Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney, and Tom Kostopoulos, so dangerous during last year's playoffs, stayed together to open the season. Tristan Jarry got the start in goal.
The Penguins came flying out of the gate, as Oskar Sundqvist would win a battle against the boards near the blue line, dish a neat pass to new arrival Garrett Wilson, who then found a streaking Josh Archibald going to the net. Archibald proceeded to deposit a backhander behind the Hartford goaltender Mackenzie Skapski for the first WBS goal of the season just 1:48 into the proceedings.
While WBS largely controlled the proceedings in the first period, outshooting Hartford 11-6, the Wolf Pack managed to equalize the game at 15:17 of the first through Nicklas Jensen. 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Whatever pretenses that showed this game to be anything even disappeared very quickly in the second period, as with Chris Summers in the Hartford penalty box for interference, Carter Rowney scored his first goal of the season with a laser of a wrist shot wired to the top corner behind Skapski. David Warsofsky and Jake Guentzel recorded assists at 5:51 of the second, the onset of a dominating game for Guentzel on the scoresheet.
Carter Rowney tallied 24 goals last season and last night he picked up right where he left off. pic.twitter.com/TkU0XQsal9— AHL (@TheAHL) October 16, 2016
Later on in the second, Oskar Sundqvist joined the scoresheet with his first goal of the season, but you're going to want to take a look at the highlight video below on this one, as Stuart Percy earned an incredible primary assist with a 360 spin to gain the time he needed to find Sundqvist for the goal. Tom Kostopoulos earned the secondary assist, and WBS was off and running.
Now two goals down, former Pittsburgh Penguin Tanner Glass attempted to turn the tide in his team's favor physically by charging down Sundqvist on a forecheck and catching him awkwardly, sending him to the locker room for the rest of the second on a scary knee-on-knee collision. Rather than answer right away, the Penguins forged ahead, and Guentzel turned on the ritz...
That's an unassisted goal, as Guentzel forced a turnover off a neutral-zone faceoff loss to charge in alone. 4-1 WBS after two. We'll get back to Glass in a minute.
The third period featured more of the same, as Jean-Sebastien Dea scored his first of the season off assists from Tim Erixon and Guentzel at 5:11 of the first, then Warsofsky finished the WBS scoring at 9:15 of the third with a power play goal assisted by Guentzel and Rowney. Guentzel would finish the night with a goal and three assists. Matt Carey for Hartford tallied a consolation goal at 18:35 of the third, but the result was far and away decided by that point.
Final Score: WBS 6, Hartford 2.
(Look at how beautiful those WBS jerseys look this season. Just look at them.)
Third star honors for the night went to Sundqvist, with a goal, an assist, and overall dominant play all night. In postgame comments, coach Clark Donatelli didn't seem too concerned about long-term injury to Sundqvist following the Glass hit, but that'll be something to watch this week. Second star honors went to Carter Rowney, with a goal and an assist; but deserved top honors went to Jake Guentzel, with a goal and three assists to satisfy a home crowd of 6,159 for the home opener. The WBS power play went a perfect two for two on the evening, while the WBS penalty kill dispatched six Hartford power plays.
Stats (as of October 17, 2016)
- Goals: Guentzel, Rowney, Sundqvist, Warsofsky, Archibald, Dea - 1 each
- Assists: Guentzel - 3; Erixon, Kostopoulos, Percy, Rowney, Sundqvist, Warsofsky, Wilson - 1 each
- Points: Guentzel - 4; Rowney, Sundqvist, Warsofsky - 2 each; Archibald, Dea, Erixon, Kostopoulos, Percy, Wilson - 1 each
- Goalies: Jarry - 2.01 GAA, 92.3% save percentage
- Fights: New to the stat corner this season, I will be tracking the number of fights each of the WBS Penguins accrues this season, as each player is allowed 9 fights before being suspended by the league on the 10th fight and each successive fight. Otherwise, in the interest of honesty and transparency with you, the readers, I wouldn't care too much about who fights who. In the home opener, Patrick McGrath fought Hartford's Chris Brown at 12:58 of the first, then he fought Tanner Glass at 6:54 of the third as a response to the aforementioned hit by Glass on Sundqvist. McGrath is up to two fights on the season.
The Week Ahead
October 21 vs. Springfield, 7:05 pm EDT
October 22 vs. Syracuse, 7:05 pm EDT
October 23 at Hershey, 5:00 pm EDT
Unlike their opening weekend, WBS has a very busy weekend next weekend with their first three-in-three of the season. It helps that two are at home, but the closing game of a 3 in 3 weekend is usually a stringent physical test for any AHL franchise; that the third game next weekend takes place at their bitter rivals, the defending Eastern Conference champions, should prove to be a very interesting early-season test.