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WBS Weekly: November 7, 2016

Three more wins on the weekend to complete the best 10-game defensive start in team history.

WBS Penguins VS. Binghamton Senators — November 4

The WBS Penguins opened this weekend’s 3 in 3 with a visit from their former division rivals, the Binghamton Senators...the closest team to WBS, geography-wise, in the league. It makes me sad that this will be the final season the Senators call Binghamton home (they’ll be moving to Belleville next season); the Floyd Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton is only about an hour and 20 minutes away from the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, and I appreciated the couple of times I made the trip up there to see games. There’s a certain charm to old-school arenas.

No Stuary Percy or Ryan Haggerty this weekend, as both are recovering from what are being characterized as “week to week” injuries. On the good news injury front...

Per PBP announcer Mike O’Brien, starting lines on Friday:

True to form for WBS this season, those lines did not stay static for the entire game. The top line of Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney, and Tom Kostopoulos is about as sure a thing as there is on this team right now, and while the rookie Reid Gardiner started out top-6, by the third period of Friday’s game he was shifted to a fourth-line role with Sahir Gill and Jarrett Burton to considerable effectiveness, as Jean-Sebastien Dea was shifted to the second line.

Binghamton controlled the first period, outshooting WBS 9 to 6 and taking advantage of the only mental mistake starting goalie Tristan Jarry made all night...

Not exactly sure what Jarry was seeing as Mike Blunden charged down on him, stole the puck, and scored the unassisted goal (his first of the season), but whatever.

The Penguins were undaunted, though, as they started to take control midway through the second and equalized the score through Jake Guentzel’s third goal of the season, a deflection of a Chad Ruhwedel shot and the start of a stellar weekend for him. The goal catalyzed WBS, as just two minutes later on a power play, the ageless captain of the Penguins, Tom Kostopoulos, buried the rebound of a Ruhwedel shot to score the eventual game-winning goal and his 400th point for the WBS Penguins. WBS outshot Binghamton in the second period by a remarkable 15-6.

WBS padded the margin of victory in the 3rd, as Garrett Wilson led a 3 on 1 rush and wired a wrister to the top corner for his first of the season, then Oskar Sundqvist ripped a one-time slapshot so hard it curled around the inside of the net and lodged behind the center post. Final margin of victory: WBS 4, Binghamton 1.

Jarry recovered very well from his first-period brain fart to finish with 20 saves on 21 shots. His opposing number, Matt O’Connor, recorded 26 saves on 30 shots in a losing effort. Third star honors went to Garrett Wilson, finishing with a goal and an assist; second honors went to Oskar Sundqvist, with a goal and an assist; top honors went to the captain, Tom Kostopoulos, with a goal and an assist.

WBS Penguins @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers — November 5

The WBS Penguins share a radio affiliate in my area with Penn State Nittany Lions football. On account of Penn State’s 41-14 victory over Iowa on Saturday, I was unable to listen to WBS’s first visit to Bridgeport of the season, and I was also beset by some unfortunate Internet troubles, so online listening was out. Shame, really, because I missed what easily was the most dominating performance of the early season by WBS, as they absolutely pasted the Sound Tigers 7-1.

Erixon did slot into the lineup, starting the game alongside Oleksy.

Unlike the previous night, WBS did not waste any time asserting its control over the proceedings, as Jake Gardiner scored his fourth goal of the season just 1:02 into the game, the start of a four-point night for the dynamic rookie. The aforementioned Reid Gardiner, starting again on the second line, made his positioning pay off at 4:40 of the first with his first AHL goal. Bridgeport made WBS sweat slightly at 7:51 of the first when Devon Toews (no relation to the Chicago NHL franchise’s captain) scored his second of the season off a Casey DeSmith rebound, but Tom Kostopoulos answered at 13:19 for his third goal in as many games. Carter Rowney made it four at 19:01 of the first, and WBS was off and running.

Guentzel’s second of the night at 1:50 of the second, Garrett Wilson’s second in as many nights on a penalty shot at 11:49 of the first, then Steve Oleksy’s first of the season on a power play at 1:17 of the third completed the scoring.

DeSmith concluded the night with 28 saves on 29 shots, earning second star honors on the night. Third star went to Oleksy, with a goal and an assist; but the clear top honors of the night went to Guentzel, with two goals and two assists. The top line of Guentzel/Rowney/Kostopoulos by itself accounted for four goals and another four assists.

WBS Penguins @ Providence Bruins — November 6

The Penguins concluded their weekend with an afternoon engagement in Providence. Coming into this game, the Penguins had allowed a grand total of only 11 goals in their first 9 games...a remarkable defensive performance that, looking back on it, was unlikely to hold up.

Things started out well enough for WBS again...

That’s Reid Gardiner taking the 2 on 1 and firing home his second goal in as many games.

Providence answered at 13:43 with Jordan Szwarz’s fourth of the year, but the tie would not last long.

There’s the big man, Oskar Sundqvist, with a slick deflection and his fourth goal of the season. Danton Heinen answered at 18:05, though, and the Penguins and Bruins went into the locker room tied at 2.

All scoring in the second period took place in the second ten minutes, led off by the ageless wonder himself.

Put yourself in the right place, with your stick on the ice, and good things will happen. Slick through-pass by Chad Ruhwedel, his fifth assist of the season, to trigger TK’s fourth goal in as many games.

WBS starting goalie Jarry was definitely not sleeping on this one, as he showed great awareness by catching Providence on a line change to start a play that ended with a Jean-Sebastien Dea breakaway goal, his third of the season.

Providence would not go down easily, though, as Peter Cehlarik scored his fifth of the season off an Alex Grant time-bomb less than a minute after Dea’s goal to end the second period 4-3, then Wayne Simpson’s first of the year at 3:50 of the third tied the score for the third time in the game.

Nothing was solved in overtime, so the game went to a shootout. The first three rounds produced no winners, but round 4 sure did.

Garrett Wilson, cool as you like. Six points out of six for the weekend, a 5-4 shootout victory, and a ten-game record of 8-1-1, best in the AHL.

Tristan Jarry had an extremely busy night, stopping 38 of 42 shots, then four in the shootout, for the win. Third star honors went to Kostopoulos for his goal; second honors went to Providence’s Cehlarik with a goal and an assist, top honors to Providence’s Jordan Szwarz with a goal and two assists.

Stat Leaders (as of November 7)

Goals - Jake Guentzel - 5; Kevin Porter, Oskar Sundqvist, Tom Kostopoulos - 4; Carter Rowney, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 3

Assists - Guentzel - 7; Rowney - 6; Chad Ruhwedel - 5, Sahir Gill and Kevin Porter - 4

Points - Guentzel - 12 (T-6th in AHL); Rowney - 9; Porter - 8; Sundqvist, Kostopoulos, Ruhwedel - 7

Goalies - Tristan Jarry 5-1-1, 1.69 GAA, 93.6% save percentage; Casey DeSmith 3-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 96.2% save percentage

Special Teams - Power play 8 for 44, for an 18.2% success rate (6th in Eastern Conference, 14th in AHL) and no shorthanded goals against; penalty kill 38 for 41, for a 92.7% success rate (1st in AHL) and 3 shorthanded goals forced (1st in Eastern Conference, T-2nd in AHL)

Fight Tracker - Patrick McGrath 2, Reid McNeill 1, Josh Archibald 1, Ryan Haggerty 1, Garrett Wilson 1 (fought Loic Leduc of Bridgeport on Saturday)

Standings - WBS leads the Atlantic at 8-1-1, 17 points, and atop the entire league. Hershey is in second at 6-2-2, 14 points. Lehigh Valley is in third, with 5-3-1 and 11 points, a percentage that puts them ahead of Bridgeport’s 6-4-0 and 12 points. Springfield sits fifth at 5-4-1 and 11 points; Providence is in sixth at 3-5-2-1 and 9 points, and Hartford brings up the rear at 3-6-1 and 7 points.

Through Ten Games...

The Penguins’ start of 8-1-1, 17 points, is not the best 10-game start of their history. In fact, it is tied for fourth with the 2013-14 team, which started 8-1-0-1. The start is behind the 2005-06 team, which started 9-0-1, and the 2010-11 and 2015-16 team, which started 9-1-0. Here, though, are the top-5 10-game starts in WBS history, with records and goals against.

2005-06: 9-0-1-0 - 19 goals allowed

2006-07: 8-2-0-0 - 26 goals allowed

2010-11: 9-1-0-0 - 23 goals allowed

2013-14: 8-1-0-1 - 24 goals allowed

2015-16: 9-1-0-0 - 19 goals allowed

2016-17: 8-1-1-0 - 15 goals allowed

That’s right. Through 10 games, the WBS Penguins are averaging a goal and a half against per game, the 4-goal allowance to Providence notwithstanding. Easily the best defensive start in WBS history through 10 games.

The Week Ahead

Friday, November 11 vs. Toronto, 7:05 pm

Saturday, November 12 vs. Providence, 7:05 pm

Sunday, November 13 at Hartford, 5:00 pm

Another three-in-three this upcoming weekend, and another stern test for the WBS Penguins as the North Division leaders from Toronto come into town for a Friday night engagement. Let’s see if the WBS defense can continue its historically good start.