November 24: WBS Penguins at Hershey Bears
After coming back on the Bears for the second time in as many trips to GIANT Center on Saturday, November 19th, the WBS Penguins returned to Hershey on Wednesday for their third game of 12 against the Bears this season. WBS entered the game without their top scorer, as Jake Guentzel was promoted to Pittsburgh on November 21, but bolstered by the return of Derrick Pouliot on a conditioning assignment. The game also marked the arrival of Danny Kristo to WBS, acquired for Reid McNeill just before the game on the 19th, but that was about it. For the third time in as many games, Hershey scored first, as former WBS Penguin and penalty killer extraordinaire Zach Sill scored his first of the year at 19:39 of the second period. Unlike the previous two games, though, Hershey would not concede this lead, as Christian Thomas extended the lead to 2 at 2:22 of the third with his eighth of the year, Christian Djoos scored his first at 10:49 for some further insurance, then Paul Carey put the cherry on top of the Hershey’s chocolate sundae at 19:05 of the third for the 4-0 shutout victory. Tristan Jarry took the loss with 14 saves on 18 shots, while the latest in a long line of Washington Capital goalie prospects, Vitek Vanacek, stopped all 24 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.
November 25: WBS Penguins at Bridgeport Sound Tigers
At the start of the season, I had figured that the three Pennsylvania teams in the Atlantic Division (WBS, Hershey, and Lehigh Valley) would jockey for the top positions in the division. What I did not anticipate was the top affiliate for the New York Islanders, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, to take fourth place at the Thanksgiving holiday. In their third meeting of the season on Friday in Bridgeport, WBS got off to a very rough start, as Steve Bernier took just 60 seconds to open the scoring with his 7th of the season. The Sound Tigers held that lead until 8:06 of the second, when Jarrett Burton scored his first of the season.
The tie lasted just 2:51, though, as Ross Johnston scored his third of the season to restore the Bridgeport lead.
Bridgeport came just 3:24 away from a regulation win, as Josh Archibald scored his third of the season to tie the game and force overtime, when...
It's a final...Kristo, C. Jones collide w/ DeSmith & the puck slides across the goal line for a 3-2 BRI win. Bernier w/ his 2nd of the game.— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 26, 2016
How that goal actually was given, I’ll never know.
The goal was originally awarded to Bernier, but was later changed to Connor Jones. In any event, it’s a WBS OT loss charged to Casey DeSmith, with 23 saves on 26 shots.
It didn’t seem notable at the time, but conspicuous by his absence in this game was Jean-Sebastien Dea, a healthy scratch. Perhaps this foretold what he would do the next night.
November 26: Bridgeport Sound Tigers at WBS Penguins
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 26, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 26, 2016
Everything seemed normal as I took my seat just after warmups concluded, but when Carter Rowney was announced as a healthy scratch, I immediately thought the worst...callup. Just like Jake Guentzel on Tuesday. It was announced after the game that Rowney was scratched for an upper-body injury; in his place, Patrick McGrath drew back into the lineup, with Dea moving up to center Thomas DiPauli and Reid Gardiner, and Kevin Porter moving up to center Dominik Simon and Tom Kostopoulos.
The game on Saturday had a very old-time feel to it. Lots of hitting, lots of checking, not a lot of offense, lots of pace, and a building amount of salt between the two teams, culminating in a huge scuffle just after the returning Dea scored his sixth of the season off a mid-air deflection. Dea went down to the ice to celebrate, and opposing goaltender Stephon Williams followed him to the ice and drove his head into the ice, leaving a bloody pile.
Don’t worry, Dea was OK.
Later in the game, Dea cycled around the net to follow the puck and ran into Williams just as he was about to play it. Dea was immediately engaged by Kyle Burroughs in a fight, and it’s important to note here that while Dea registered a fight in this game, since the fight was instigated against him by Burroughs, per the new fighting rules it will NOT count against Dea’s allotment of 9 before suspension, so Dea will not be listed below in the fight tracker.
Dea’s goal was the only one in the game, as Tristan Jarry completed his first shutout of the season to solidify WBS’s hold on the top of the Atlantic Division, a lead WBS had briefly lost the night before when Lehigh Valley won its 10th game out of their last 11 on Black Friday. The 1-0 win over Bridgeport, combined with the Phantoms’ inexplicable 3-1 loss at home to last-place Hartford, restored WBS to the division lead at the conclusion of this week.
STATISTICS (through November 27)
- GOALS: Jake Guentzel - 7 (currently with Pittsburgh); Oskar Sundqvist, Tom Kostopoulos, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 6; Carter Rowney - 5
- ASSISTS: Guentzel - 10; Sundqvist - 9; Rowney - 8; Chad Ruhwedel, Garrett Wilson - 7
- POINTS: Guentzel - 17; Sundqvist - 15; Rowney - 13; Kostopoulos - 12; Wilson - 10
- GOALIES: Tristan Jarry - 8-4-1, 1.99 GAA (fifth in AHL), 92.6% save percentage (8th in AHL), one shutout; Casey DeSmith - 5-0-1, 1.65 GAA (2nd in AHL), 93.8% save percentage (2nd in AHL)
- SPECIAL TEAMS: The powerplay ended an 0 for 28 drought on Saturday with Dea’s PP goal, but the PP is now down to 13.4%, 24th in the AHL, with no shorthanded goals allowed. The penalty kill is doing much better, ranked 1st with a 90.9% success rate and three shorthanded goals.
- FIGHT TRACKER - Patrick McGrath 2, Cameron Gaunce 2, Josh Archibald 1, Ryan Haggerty 1, Garrett Wilson 1, Carter Rowney 1
- STANDINGS - 1st-WBS, 73.7% points percentage; 2nd-Lehigh Valley, 69.4%; 3rd-Hershey, 68.4%; 4th-Bridgeport, 66.7%; 5th-Providence, 52.6%; 6th-Springfield, 50%; 7th-Hartford 39.5%
The Week Ahead
December 2 - WBS at St. John’s, 2:30 pm EST
December 3 - WBS at St. John’s, 2:30 pm EST
It’s off to Newfoundland and Labrador this weekend, as WBS makes its annual trip to The Rock to visit the IceCaps.