With Disney on Ice taking up residence at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza this past weekend, the WBS Penguins found themselves on the road in the midst of a seven-game road trip.
JANUARY 11: WBS 2 @ Toronto 1
Having kicked off the road trip with a dramatic 6-5 overtime victory in Hershey last Sunday, WBS departed the country to continue their road trip, visiting last season’s Eastern Conference finalists in Toronto. The Marlies are not nearly the world-beaters that they were last season, finishing this week tied for sixth in the North Division with a points percentage of 44.6%, but they gave WBS a very stern test, leading 1-0 after 40 minutes through Tony Cameranesi’s first goal of the season. WBS owned the third period, though, outshooting the Marlies 13-7 and getting goals from Jake Guentzel (no surprise)...
GOAL GIF - Second Look: Guentzel goes short side to tie the game. pic.twitter.com/tnxCWCeyN9— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 12, 2017
...and Tom Sestito (big surprise)...
...to dispatch the Marlies 2-1 and extend their team winning streak to five games. Guentzel’s goal was his 20th of the season, while Sestito’s game-winner was his fifth on the season and his fourth in as many games. Goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 27 of 28 shots for his 15th win of the season for WBS and his sixth straight win.
JANUARY 13: WBS 3 @ Rochester 2
Jarry was back in net on Friday the 13th as the Penguins visited Rochester. WBS was also bolstered by the return of a very familiar, very powerful piece of offense, as Carter Rowney rejoined the WBS lineup after missing nearly seven weeks due to injury. Rowney paid immediate dividends on his return, scoring his sixth goal of the season on a power play at 9:44 of the first to equalize Daniel Muzito-Bagenda’s fifth of the season for Rochester.
GIF: Dominik Simon ties the game up at 1-1 pic.twitter.com/SyZyxP0gO1— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 14, 2017
The tweet description calls it Dominik Simon’s goal, but it was later changed to Rowney.
Tom Kostopoulos then did everything you could possibly do in front of the goaltender short of interference to tip in a Tim Erixon slap shot on the power play to put WBS ahead 2-1.
I’m impressed that TK could get a stick on that shot even while falling down.
Former WBS forward Cal O’Reilly, now the captain of the Americans, tied the game on a power play at 5:38 of the third, which paved the way for...
While that is indeed Stuart Percy getting the shot away under heavy duress, the goal was eventually awarded to Jean-Sebastien Dea, his ninth of the season, to put WBS ahead for good, 3-2, and clinch consecutive win number six. Jarry stopped 27 of 29 shots on this night for the win, his 16th on the year and seventh in a row.
JANUARY 14: WBS 3 @ Syracuse 1
The Penguins closed out their week by visiting one of the only teams in the league that could match WBS’s home successes, the Syracuse Crunch. Coming into this game, Syracuse boasted a home points percentage of 80.56%, which at the time was the best in the league, and they came out strong, getting a goal from defender Jake Dotchin at 15:34 of the first, then holding that lead through the end of the second and holding WBS to just 14 shots.
But just as in Toronto earlier in the week, the third period (which was, on this night, a very wild third period) belonged to the Penguins.
First, the fully restored Carter Rowney scored his second goal in as many nights and his seventh of the season to tie the game at 5:33.
GOAL GIF: Rowney nets his second in as many games to tie the score pic.twitter.com/RfOC7ZuZoo— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 15, 2017
Then, Dominik Simon did get a goal, his fifth on the year, thanks to some weird bounces.
Simon’s goal proved to be the game-winner, ugly as it was, with Guentzel providing empty-net insurance at 19:26 of the third to run the WBS winning streak to seven games. Of note on the empty-netter was a secondary assist by captain Kostopoulos, which was the 300th of his AHL career. Tristan Jarry conceded the net on this night to Casey DeSmith, who stopped 22 of 23 shots for his 11th win of the season and third in as many appearances to complete a perfect six-point week and run the road trip to four wins in four games, continuing to build a case for WBS as the best team in the league.
STATISTICS (through January 15)
GOALS: Jake Guentzel - 21 (leads AHL); Oskar Sundqvist - 14 (T-13th in AHL); Tom Kostopoulos - 12; Garrett Wilson/Jean-Sebastien Dea - 9 each
ASSISTS: David Warsofsky/Guentzel - 21 each (T-15th in AHL); Sundqvist - 18; Kevin Porter/Kostopoulos/Dominik Simon - 15 each
POINTS: Guentzel - 42 (second in AHL behind Kenny Agostino’s 51); Sundqvist - 32; Warsofsky - 28; Kostopoulos - 27; Wilson - 23
GOALIES: Tristan Jarry - 16-5-1, 2.08 GAA (4th in AHL), 92.4% save percentage (T-7th in AHL), one shutout; Casey DeSmith - 11-2-2, 2.36 GAA (12th in AHL), 91.0% save percentage (T-18th in AHL), 0 shutouts; Doug Carr - 1-0-0, 3.00 GAA, 89.7% save percentage (released from his WBS PTO on January 12 and returned to Wheeling)
SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 19.4%, 10th in AHL; Penalty kill 86.7%, 2nd in AHL
FIGHT TRACKER: Patrick McGrath 4, Cameron Gaunce 2, Josh Archibald 1, Ryan Haggerty 1, Garrett Wilson 1, Carter Rowney 1, Tom Kostopoulos 1, Tom Sestito 2 (fought Pierre-Luc LeBlond of Syracuse on Saturday)
STANDINGS: 1) WBS, 77.6% (best in AHL; next closest is Grand Rapids, the Central Division leader, at 70.8%); 2) Lehigh Valley, 69.4% (3rd in AHL); 3) Providence, 67.1%; 4) Hershey, 63.5%; 5) Bridgeport, 54.3%; 6) Springfield, 51.4%; 7) Hartford, 41.0%
THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday, January 16 at Syracuse, 1:00 pm
Wednesday, January 18 at Hershey, 7:00 pm
Friday, January 20 at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 pm
Saturday, January 21 vs. Hershey, 7:05 pm
The week ahead features a Martin Luther King Day afternoon affair at Syracuse, then three games in four days against the always-dangerous Pennsylvania AHL teams.
The train just keeps rolling along. Let’s see how far it can go as we approach the All-Star festivities.