December 14: WBS 6 @ Hartford 2
After finishing off last weekend’s 3 in 3 with an explosive 6-2 home win against Hershey and a 4-1 comeback in Bridgeport, the WBS Penguins continued their six-game-in-nine-day cram session before the Christmas break with a mid-week engagement at the last-place team in the Atlantic Division, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Buoyed by six different goal scorers (capped by the first goal of the season by Tom Sestito) and fueled by four assists by second-year pro Dominik Simon, WBS made short work of the top affiliate of the New York Rangers 6-2. The featured attraction from last weekend’s games, Oskar Sundqvist, also contributed two assists. Goaltender Tristan Jarry continued his solid play of late, stopping 31 of 33 Hartford shots, while Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg could only stop 27 of 33 WBS attempts.
December 16: Rochester 1 @ WBS 4
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 16, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 16, 2016
The first period on Friday between Rochester and WBS went back and forth for a good 16 minutes, until...
GIF: Guentzel nets his 11th of the season to put the #WBSPens up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/3n7BSw2WvD— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 17, 2016
Not shown there is how Jake Guentzel had the vision and presence of mind to jump a Rochester breakout and steal a cross-ice pass. No assists required, just the skill, vision, and determination of a rookie that’s playing anything like one right now. 1-0 WBS after one.
In the second period...
GIF: Warsofsky with the shot from the point gives the #WBSPens a 2-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/9FCa3NSO1I— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 17, 2016
Put it on net, and you never know what might happen. That’s David Warsofsky’s fourth of the season to put WBS ahead 2-0 on the night, and the league’s best team was off and running.
GIF: Archie with his fifth of the season gives the #WBSPens a 3-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/cF7gM37NMM— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 17, 2016
There you see the end results of the wheels of Josh Archibald, who started this particular end to end rush from around his own blue line, then used his pure speed to get behind the Rochester defense. It doesn’t help when the goalie is leaning that far to one side, either. 3-0 after two.
None of those, however, could lay claim to the goal of the night. The clear-cut goal of the night belonged to Lukas Bengtsson, his first as a professional.
That’s some skill right there. Take a bow, young man.
The shutout attempt of Casey DeSmith was spoiled with 1:22 to go, but it was academic at that point. WBS 4, Rochester 1, four straight wins.
December 17: Springfield 2 @ WBS 4
Let’s be honest here...the annual Teddy Bear Toss Night is one of my favorite nights on the calendar. It’s one of the only times during the year I can throw something onto the ice, have it be for charity, and not get thrown out of the building.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 17, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 17, 2016
Slight change to the pairings for Saturday’s game, owing to Pittsburgh’s recall of defender Chad Ruhwedel.
The fans had to wait quite a while to throw their bears, as the first period ended scoreless and Springfield took the first goal through an unfortunate bounce off Danny Kristo’s foot.
The @thunderbirdsahl strike first with a little help from the opposing team. #SPRvsWBS pic.twitter.com/nlDaYj9vQm— AHL (@TheAHL) December 18, 2016
There was also this, on account of our beloved mascot, Tux.
But at 7:10 of the second, WBS benefitted from an unfortunate bounce against Springfield to send the bears flying. The goal was credited to Warsofsky, his second in as many games, to tie the proceedings.
The game proceeded like that until 16:06 of the second, when a Tim Erixon shot barely managed to get past Springfield goalie Mike McKenna, but with not enough speed to get past the goal line. Thankfully, a diving Oskar Sundqvist finished the job to give WBS the 2-1 lead and his team-leading 12th goal of the year.
Just 0:57 later, the lead was expanded to 3-1 through Garrett Wilson on the power play, then at 5:01 of the third, the aforementioned Guentzel made sure that his teammate Sundqvist didn’t hold the goals lead for very long, as he took a pass from Reid Gardiner and displayed world-class finishing ability for his own 12th goal of the season to make the score 4-1. WBS fans will have to enjoy Guentzel in the WB for as long as they can, because frankly, I think his days in the minors are numbered, even as a rookie playing only his first full pro season.
Springfield made it interesting at 16:48 of the third, when Anthony Greco scored his fourth of the season to make the final accounting 4-2, but the Thunderbirds could get no closer as WBS finished off its fifth straight victory before a strong holiday crowd of 6,158.
STATISTICS (through December 19)
- GOALS: Jake Guentzel/Oskar Sundqvist - 12 each; Tom Kostopoulos/Jean-Sebastien Dea - 8 each; Kevin Porter - 6; David Warsofsky/Garrett Wilson/Carter Rowney/Josh Archibald - 5 each
- ASSISTS: Guentzel - 14, Sundqvist - 13, Warsofsky - 12, Dominik Simon/Kevin Porter/Kostopoulos/Wilson, 11 each; Chad Ruhwedel - 10
- POINTS: Guentzel - 26 (leads all AHL rookies, tied for 8th in the AHL); Sundqvist - 25 (T-11th in AHL); Kostopoulos - 19; Porter/Warsofsky - 17; Wilson - 16; Simon - 15
- GOALIES: Tristan Jarry - 12-5-1, 2.10 GAA (9th in AHL), 92.4% save percentage (T-9th in AHL), one shutout; Casey DeSmith - 7-0-2, 1.75 GAA (3rd in AHL), 93.2% save percentage (5th in AHL)
- SPECIAL TEAMS: PP 20.5%, T-8th in the AHL, with no shorthanded goals allowed (one of only 2 teams not to allow a shorthanded goal this season). Incredible success lately for the WBS PP after a quite lengthy scoreless streak just a couple of weeks ago. The PK is solid as ever: 90.8%, 1st in AHL, 3 shorthanded goals forced.
- FIGHT TRACKER - Patrick McGrath 3, Cameron Gaunce 2, Josh Archibald 1, Ryan Haggerty 1, Garrett Wilson 1, Carter Rowney 1, Tom Kostopoulos 1
- ATLANTIC DIVISION STANDINGS - 1st-WBS, 75.9% points percentage (1st in AHL); 2nd-Lehigh Valley, 73.2%; 3rd-Hershey, 67.9%; 4th-Providence, 62.5%; 5th-Bridgeport, 59.3%; 6th-Springfield, 50%; 7th-Hartford 40.7%
WBS is on their Christmas break this week; their next game is Monday, December 26, at Binghamton, beginning a stretch of four games in six days. WBS hosts Springfield on 12-27, Providence on 12-30, then they go up to Binghamton again on New Year’s Eve to send 2016 into history.
Here’s wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season.