The WBS Penguins did not have the chance to enjoy a long week of rest and practice like they did last week, as they hosted the undefeated-to-that-point Albany Devils just three nights after a strong road victory in Hershey to close out the previous week. Albany came into this game 5-0 on the season, setting the stage for an early clash of the league’s best...a prizefight worthy of WBS’s use of the Kevin Owens entrance theme to bring the Penguins onto the ice.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 26, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 26, 2016
With a prime opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the AHL, the Penguins took prime advantage, outshooting the Devils 17-7 in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead through the first 20 minutes through Chad Ruhwedel’s second goal of the season (he was credited with the first WBS goal from the Hershey game in mid-week, so his goal against Albany turned into his second of the year and second in as many nights) on a double-minor PP at 18:10 of the first.
Albany tried to match the advantage against the league’s best penalty kill in the second period when Garrett Wilson sat for elbowing, but the speedy Josh Archibald would have none of it, as he stole a pass, broke out 3 on 1, and wired a shot past Albany goalie Scott Wedgewood without any eyes for anyone else for his second goal of the season. Jake Guentzel made it 3-0 at 16:45 of the third, and that would be all for Wedgewood, as he was replaced by Mackenzie Blackwood to start the third period.
Albany managed to break the shutout bid of Tristan Jarry at 8:01 of the third through Nick Lappin’s first of the year, but the Devils could manage no more as WBS took the 3-1 decision. Jarry concluded with 19 saves on 20 shots for the win.
Ruhwedel’s goal was good enough for third star honors. Archibald’s goal got him second honors, and top honors went to Jake "from State Farm" Guentzel, with a goal and an assist.
WBS Penguins @ Springfield Falcons - October 29th
While your humble correspondent spent Saturday night in Philadelphia to watch the parent Penguins get utterly outplayed by the Philadelphia Flyers yet still win 5-4, the WBS Penguins traveled to Springfield in an attempt to avenge the only blemish on their 2016-17 record thus far against the Thunderbirds.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 29, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 29, 2016
The game started out well enough for WBS, as they ended the first period ahead 1-0 on Jean-Sebastien Dea’s second goal of the season at 18:13 of the first (changed to Reid McNeill’s first of the year on Sunday, per further league review). That lead held throughout the second, but in the third period...
That’s former WBS Penguin Paul Thomson recording his second goal of the season, and only the second goal conceded by the WBS penalty kill all season, to tie the game at 1. The game went to overtime, and as 3 on 3 OTs tend to go, it ended kinda weird.
That’s a tough, tough break for Kevin Porter, as he has Dominik Simon with him on a 2 on 1 to close out the game, but he completely missed the net, and it wheeled all the way around to Chase Balisey for a breakaway. Jarry took a risk looking for the pokecheck, but he missed badly, and Balisey deposited the puck for his first of the year and a Springfield victory.
Dea took third star honors on the night, since at the time the lone WBS goal was his. Thompson’s equalizer was good for second honors, and Balisey’s game-winner in OT was good for top honors.
WBS PENGUINS VS. SYRACUSE CRUNCH, OCTOBER 30
Quick turnaround for WBS to close the weekend, as they had to zip home from their overtime loss to Springfield in time for a 3:05 pm engagement with the Syracuse Crunch. If the Penguins had any tired or cramped legs as a result of the OT and travel, the first period didn’t show any, as WBS outshot the Crunch 13-6 in the first period and pumped three goals past Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis (Carter Rowney’s 2nd of the year at 3:52, Kevin Porter at 14:51, Porter again at 18:37 on a power play) to take the 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. For Porter, the goals were his third and fourth on the season, all against the Crunch (two SH, one PP, one even strength).
Syracuse did not go away quietly in the second period, outshooting WBS 9-1 at one point with 6:32 to play in the second, but the WBS defense stood tall, and all of Syracuse’s effort was officially thwarted when the captain, Tom Kostopoulos, opened his 2016-17 account with his first of the year at 13:54 of the second.
From there, things got violent, as Patrick McGrath, freshly back into the lineup and with a fight newly credited back to his account, burned that fight against Adam Erne. Syracuse would break the shutout at 4:56 of the third through Mike Halmo’s second of the year, but WBS was unfazed as Josh Archibald joined the Fight Tracker at 10:47 of the third, Jean-Sebastien Dea recorded his actual second goal of the year at 13:50 of the third, then Oskar Sundqvist recorded his second of the year at 16:18 of the third on a power play to finish the scoring on a 6-1 whitewashing of the Crunch to solidify five points out of six on the week.
Third star honors went to Dea, with a goal and an assist. Second star went to WBS goalie Casey DeSmith, with 22 saves on 23 shots for the victory; top honors went to Kevin Porter and his two goals.
Statistics (as of October 30)
Kevin Porter leads the team with four goals; Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney, Oskar Sundqvist, Josh Archibald, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Chad Ruhwedel, and Dominik Simon all have two each
Guentzel leads the team with five assists; Rowney is second with 3; Ethan Prow, Reid Gardiner, Sahir Gill, Cameron Gaunce, Steve Oleksy, and Garrett Wilson all have 2 each
Guentzel leads the team with 7 points; Porter and Rowney tie for second with 5 each; Sundqvist, Archibald, Dea, Ruhwedel, and Simon have three each
Tristan Jarry - 3-1-1, 1.39 GAA, 94.4% save percentage; Casey DeSmith 2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 96.0% save percentage
Power play 5 for 31, 16.1% success rate, no shorthanded goals against; penalty kill 30 for 32 for a 93.75% success rate and three shorthanded goals forced
Patrick McGrath 2, Reid McNeill 1, Josh Archibald 1, Ryan Haggerty 1
WBS still leads the Atlantic Division after this week, with a 5-1-1 record good for 11 points. Springfield stands in second, responsible for both of the WBS losses and holding a 5-2 record for 10 points. Bridgeport is third at 4-3, Hershey fourth at 3-2-2, Hartford fifth at 3-4, Lehigh Valley sixth at 2-3-1, and Providence last at 2-4-2.
THE WEEK AHEAD
November 4 vs. Binghamton, 7:05 pm
November 5 at Bridgeport, 7:00 pm
November 6 at Providence, 3:05 pm
The WBS defense and PK have been very, very impressive through their first seven games, leading the AHL in PK (next closest in the East to WBS’s 93.75% is Providence at 90%) and goals allowed (next closest in the East to WBS’s 9 is Springfield at 15). It’s a great trend to start this early in the season; the challenge now will be to maintain this defensive pace through the rest of the season.