WBS PENGUINS AT LEHIGH VALLEY PHANTOMS, APRIL 15
The WBS Penguins took to the ice on Friday night in Allentown needing a victory to hold serve in their duel for playoff positioning with Hershey, Providence, Portland, and Bridgeport, with Providence having won earlier in the week. At first, it looked sketchy for WBS, as Lehigh Valley’s Robert Hagg scored 3:12 into the game to give the Phantoms an early lead, but Jean-Sebastien Dea scored his 20th goal of the season just 2:04 later to tie the game. The game ebbed and flowed from there, with no further scoring until 7:46 of the third, when Jake Guentzel scored his second goal of his short stint with WBS at 7:46 of the third, and WBS held on from there to defeat the Phantoms 2-1. WBS goalie Casey DeSmith took the win with 26 saves on 27 shots and third star honors on the evening, while Lehigh Valley’s Anthony Stolarz stopped 40 of 42 WBS shots in a valiant losing effort that was honored as the game’s second star performance. Guentzel took top honors with his game-winning goal.
WBS PENGUINS VS. PROVIDENCE BRUINS, APRIL 16
Before the WBS home finale against Providence, the Penguins handed out their team awards:
Community Service Award: Will O’Neill. No real surprise here, as O’Neill was also chosen as the WBS representative for the AHL Man of the Year award, awarded by the AHL for community service.
Defensive Player of the Year: Steve Oleksy
Fan Favorite (voted on by the fans): Patrick McGrath. No real surprise here either, with McGrath growing up locally and WBS fans’ long-standing adoration for scrappers and fighters.
Rookie of the Year: Dominik Simon. Absolutely deserving, with Simon’s 25 goals ranking second among all AHL rookies coming into this week’s games.
Star of the Year: Dominik Simon. Throughout the season, the team tallies the stars of the game earned by each player, and whoever gets the most stars of the game gets this award at the end of the year.
Player’s Player Award (voted on by teammates): Tom Kostopoulos. With Kostopoulos also honored with the Hunt Award for perseverance by the AHL, this was also a no-brainer.
Most Valuable Player: Carter Rowney. Great choice for team MVP, as the AHL’s Player of the Month for March took his game to much greater heights following the mass call-up of WBS players to Pittsburgh this season.
WBS then took to the ice and stared down the highly skilled, very dangerous Bruins for about half the game, fending off several quality chances by Providence and taking the lead through Rowney’s 24th of the season at 14:12 of the first. However, when Providence’s Brian Ferlin took a minor for holding at 13:01 of the second then slammed his stick against the penalty box glass in protest, not only did he take an additional misconduct penalty, but he sparked something in Providence that took them to another level. The resulting power play for WBS went absolutely nowhere, as Providence took their already aggressive PK to another gear, and when Adam Krause took a tripping call at 15:40 of the second, the league’s top-ranked power play took all of 10 seconds to score their first PP goal against WBS all season with Austin Czarnik’s 18th of the year.
Czarnik would also tally the game-winner, as one bad defensive mistake by WBS allowed Providence’s Alexander Khokhlachev to gain position on his defender breaking into the zone. Khokhlachev then floated a perfect pass across the slot to a breaking Czarnik, who went to one knee and slammed his 19th goal of the season into the roof of the net over a helpless DeSmith. Providence’s rookie sensation Frank Vatrano scored his 35th goal of the season into an empty net with 0.2 left to go to provide the final 3-1 margin of victory. Coupled with the rest of the night’s results, the Providence victory meant that WBS and Providence would be locked into a first-round playoff meeting, with Hershey clinching the division championship.
Providence’s Jeremy Smith took the victory in goal, stopping 30 of 31 WBS shots, while DeSmith stopped 29 of 31 Providence shots in the loss. Khokhlachev took third star honors with two assists; Rowney’s goal earned him second star honors; Czarnik’s two goals were good for top honors.
WBS PENGUINS AT HERSHEY BEARS, APRIL 17
Just to give you some indication of how an AHL roster can change from the beginning of the year to the end, here’s the lineup that WBS put together for its first game of the season, October 9 in Providence:
Here now is the lineup WBS dressed for its final game of the season in Hershey on April 17:
So from game 1 to game 76, only eight names remain on the roster. The rest changed due to injury comebacks, college PTOs, trades, call-ups from Pittsburgh, or promotions from Wheeling. WBS took that lineup into Hershey, which used the fact that they clinched home-ice to full advantage by starting Vitek Vanecek in goal and scratching a number of veterans. The game went scoreless for the first two periods, with Jakub Vrana scoring the lone Hershey goal on a power play at 4:53 of the first. Dustin Jeffrey answered the goal at 16:43 of the third to send the game to overtime, where WBS was able to fend off a 5 on 3 PP to send the game to a shootout.
WBS starting goalie Casey DeSmith was removed after taking a shot to the head in the third, so his replacement Sean Maguire had to make his AHL debut in relief, and while he did well to get the game to a shootout, he could do no more, as Hershey’s Christian Djoos and Riley Barber scored in the shootout to give Hershey the extra point. DeSmith’s performance, 21 saves on 22 shots, were good enough for third star honors, while Vrana’s goal in regulation gave him second star honors and Vance’s 25 saves on 26 shots were good enough for top honors.
GOALS - Dominik Simon, 25; Carter Rowney, 24; Scott Wilson, 22 (in PIT); Jean-Sebastien Dea/Dustin Jeffrey, 20
ASSISTS - Jeffrey, 44; Will O’Neill, 42; Tom Kostopoulos, 33; Rowney, 32; Kael Mouillierat, 27
POINTS - Jeffrey, 64; Rowney, 56; Kostopoulos, 52; O’Neill, 50; Simon, 48
ROOKIES - Simon’s 25 goals end the season third among AHL rookies behind Frank Vatrano’s 36 for Providence and Riley Barber’s 26 for Hershey. His 48 points finish tenth among rookies.
Matt Murray - 20-9-1, 2.10 GAA, 93.1% save pct, four shutouts
Tristan Jarry - 17-13-3, 2.69 GAA, 90.5% save pct, five shutouts
Brian Foster - 3-3-1, 3.51 GAA, 85.7% save pct, one shutout
Casey DeSmith - 2-2-0, 1.94 GAA, 92.5% save pct, no shutouts
Frank Palazzese - no goals allowed on four shots in 22:21 of work
Sean Maguire - 0-0-1, no goals allowed on four saves in 13:14 of work
POWER PLAY - 19.9% home (9th in AHL), 17.0% away (11th), 18.6% overall (7th)
PENALTY KILL - 83.6% home (21st in AHL), 83.0% away (14th), 83.3% overall (16th)
43-27-4-2, 92 points, 60.5% (3rd in Atlantic Division, 5th in Eastern Conference, 11th in AHL)
HISTORICAL RECORDS (per AHL website and WBS Penguins 2008-09 media guide)
1999-2000: 23-43-9-5, 60 points, 37.5%
2000-2001: 36-33-9-2, 83 points, 51.9%
2001-2002: 20-44-13-3, 56 points, 35%
2002-2003: 36-32-7-5, 84 points, 52.5%
2003-2004: 34-28-10-8, 86 points, 53.8%
2004-2005: 39-27-7-7, 92 points, 57.5%
2005-2006: 51-18-5-6, 113 points, 70.6%
2006-2007: 51-23-2-4, 108 points, 67.5%
2007-2008: 47-26-3-4, 101 points, 63.1%
2008-2009: 49-25-3-3, 104 points, 65.0%
2009-2010: 41-34-2-3, 87 points, 54.4%
2010-2011: 58-21-0-1, 117 points, 73.1%
2011-2012: 44-25-2-5, 95 points, 62.5%
2012-2013: 42-30-2-2, 88 points, 57.9%
2013-2014: 42-26-3-5, 92 points, 60.5%
2014-2015: 45-24-5-4, 97 points, 63.8%
By points percentage, the 2015-16 season ranks as tied for 8th best in franchise history.
CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1 VS. PROVIDENCE (best of 5):
Wednesday, April 20 @ WBS, 7:05 pm EDT
Thursday, April 21 @ WBS, 7:05 pm EDT
Saturday, April 23 @ PRO, 7:05 pm EDT
Monday, April 25 @ PRO, 7:05 pm EDT
Tuesday, April 26 @ PRO, 7:05 pm EDT
Check back here later this week for a full preview of the Penguins’ first round series against the Bruins.