Coming into this weekend's games against Springfield and Bridgeport, the WBS Penguins did not have the services of their top three scorers and their best defensive forward, with Scott Wilson, Conor Sheary, and Oskar Sundqvist promoted to Pittsburgh and Dominik Simon out to injury. It therefore fell to WBS's depth and some reinforcements from their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling in order to survive the weekend.
Let's take a look to see how they did.
WBS PENGUINS AT SPRINGFIELD FALCONS, 2-5-16
On Friday morning, WBS announced three additions to their lineup: a recall of Patrick McGrath from Wheeling; Pittsburgh's reassignment of former WBS Penguin Anton Zlobin from Wheeling to WBS; and the addition of Derek Army via PTO. Of these, it was the addition of the highly skilled yet injury bug-plagued Zlobin that paid the most immediate dividends, as he provided the primary assist to Steve Oleksy's first goal of the season just 20 seconds into the first period of WBS's contest against Springfield. Roughly 4 minutes later, Tom Sestito tallied his third goal of the season on a power play, and WBS found themselves 2-0 up on the Falcons. It was a lead they would hold until 14 minutes into the second period, as defenseman Steven Delisle beat Matt Murray (now fully restored to health following his absence during All-Star weekend) for his second goal of the season to bring Springfield back to 2-1. Zlobin provided more dividends in the third, as he swept in his first goal of the season just 0:28 into the third to restore the two-goal advantage. Unfortunately, Springfield's Greg Carey caught fire in the third, scoring his 17th and 18th goals of the season within a two-minute span in the third to tie the game at 3 and steal a point for the Falcons by sending the game to overtime. Springfield could not steal the second point, however, as defenseman Corey Potter took a very untimely delay of game penalty with 16 seconds left in regulation, and WBS converted the ensuing powerplay 24 seconds into overtime through Carter Rowney's 8th goal of the season.
Final score: WBS 4, Springfield 3, in overtime.
In his first game back, Murray was a busy, busy goalie, having to stop 42 of 45 Springfield shots to earn his 17th win of the season. The overtime loss fell to Niklas Treutle, who stopped 24 of 28 WBS attempts.
Third star honors fell to Anton Zlobin, with a goal and an assist in his return to the WBS lineup. Second star of the evening was WBS defenseman Tim Erixon, with the primary assist on Sestito's goal in the first period. Greg Carey for Springfield took top honors on the night for his two goals to tie the game in the third.
New forward lines and defense pairings on this night courtesy of WBS play-by-play announcer Mike O'Brien:
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) February 5, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) February 5, 2016
WBS PENGUINS VS. BRIDGEPORT SOUND TIGERS, 2-6-16
The Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza was awash in pink on this Saturday night, as the Penguins celebrated "Pink in the Rink" night to honor cancer survivors. WBS also welcomed Wheeling's leading scorer, Jarrett Burton, to the team the morning of the game with a PTO contract. The visiting Sound Tigers, however, crashed the party very quickly with a dominating first period, outshooting WBS 14-5 and firing three goals past goalie Tristan Jarry through Jared Gomes at 7:28, All-Star Alan Quine at 15:45 on the power play, and Justin Vaive at 17:45. WBS was forced to then press the issue for the remainder of the game, which they did to the tune of 27 shots over the final 40 minutes compared to Bridgeport's 13 over the same time span, and it was Carter Rowney who continued to thrive in the absence of the team's leading scorers, scoring twice to bring WBS within one. Both goals were in similar fashion, as Rowney took the puck in the offensive zone and showed remarkable patience in roaming the zone, waiting for just the right moment to fire, and creating his own scoring lanes through his movement and patience. His second goal at 6:48 of the third brought WBS to within 3-2, but despite a Gomes slashing penalty at 18:15 to give WBS a power play for the final 1:45, WBS could not find the equalizer (though not for a lack of trying), and Bridgeport survived for a 3-2 victory.
WBS goalie Jarry, after stopping 11 of 14 Bridgeport shots in the first, kept Bridgeport out of the net for the final 40 minutes, finishing with 24 saves on 27 shots in a losing effort. Bridgeport's Christopher Gibson took the win, stopping 30 of 32 WBS shots and facing down a vicious WBS onslaught in the waning seconds.
Center Ben Holmstrom of Bridgeport was the game's third star, with two assists and (I would argue) a very timely fight against WBS captain Tom Kostopoulos with 1:29 to play, thus removing Kostopoulos from the game at a time when his skills could very well have changed the result. Second star was awarded to Bridgeport's Justin Vaive for the game-winning goal. Top star honors went to WBS's Carter Rowney for his two goals, leaving him with 10 on the season.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) February 6, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) February 6, 2016
(Stats are as of February 7, 2016, compiled from theahl.com after the games of February 6 concluded)
- Goals - Scott Wilson, 22 (2nd in AHL); Dominik Simon, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Tom Kostopoulos tied for second with 12
- Assists - Conor Sheary, 29 (T-2nd in AHL); Will O'Neill second with 23, Dominik Simon third with 19
- Points - Scott Wilson and Conor Sheary (tie), 36 (T-17th in AHL), Dominik Simon third with 31 points
- Rookies - Simon’s 31 points are good for 6th in the AHL
- Matt Murray 17-8-0, 2.02 GAA (2nd in AHL), 93.3% save pct (2nd in AHL), four shutouts (T-3rd in AHL)
- Tristan Jarry - 11-3-1, 2.04 GAA, 92.8% save pct, three shutouts (Jarry’s GAA would be third in the AHL and his save percentage fourth if he had enough minutes to qualify among the league leaders; he has played 880 minutes, while the goalie leaderboard asks for 900 minutes)
- Brian Foster - 1-3-1, 2.97 GAA, 87.9% save pct, one shutout
- Casey Desmith - 1-0-0, 1.50 GAA, 93.5% save pct
- Special Teams
- Power Play - 21.4% home (6th in AHL), 20.2% away (3th), 20.8% overall (4th)
- Penalty Kill - 85.2% home (12th), 86.7% away (2nd), 86.0% overall (5th)
- Team Record: 15-7-0-1 home, 15-7-1-0 away, 30-14-1-1 overall, 62 points
- Team Points Percentage: 67.4% (1st in division, 2nd in conference, T-3rd league)
THE ROAD AHEAD
February 9 at Utica, 7:00 pm EST
February 12 at Hartford, 7:15 pm EST
February 13 vs. Portland, 7:05 pm EST
February 14 vs. Portland, 4:05 pm EST
Rough week this week, with four games in six days including three in three this weekend. Utica enters the weekend third in the North Division, and one wonders if that game will include some of the high spirits and contention of their most recent meeting. Hartford stands sixth in the Atlantic, just three points behind third-place Portland, and Portland themselves will have a chance to close a widening gap between themselves and the leaders in the Atlantic, as well as red-hot second-place Hershey who have not lost in regulation in their previous 11 games after the games of February 6.
Please get healthy, Pittsburgh, WBS could sorely use its top scorers back.