After having an entire week off following their 4-2 win over Springfield on December 17, the WBS Penguins returned to the ice on the day after Christmas to begin a stretch of four games in six days over the festive season. Let’s take a quick look at how they did.
December 26th: WBS 5 @ Binghamton 4
WBS started their week by taking one of their final trips up I-81 to visit the Binghamton Senators, this being the final season for the top affiliate of the Ottawa Senators before they are moved to Belleville. In a back-and-forth game that saw the teams split goals in the first period then score a total of 4 combined goals in the span of 3:37 in the second period, it was once again WBS’s two star prospects, Jake Guentzel and Oskar Sundqvist, who led a WBS comeback. Down 4-2 in the third after Jack Rodewald’s eighth of the season, Sundqvist scored his 13th of the year at 17:38 of the second, then assisted on Garrett Wilson’s game-tying goal just 11 seconds into the final frame. Guentzel then scored the eventual game-winner, his second goal of the game, at 3:35 of the third on a power play to propel WBS to a 5-4 victory. Guentzel finished with two goals and an assist for top honors on the night, while Casey DeSmith fended off 24 of 28 Binghamton shots to preserve the victory, including all 9 in the third period.
December 27th: Springfield 3 @ WBS 5
The Penguins then returned home for a return contest against the Thunderbirds, but once again it was the Jake Guentzel Show as he scored at 5:43 of the first, 19:29 of the first, and 1:17 of the second to complete his first professional hat trick (goals 15, 16, and 17 on the season) and take the league’s goal-scoring lead. Guentzel’s performance was supplemented by David Warsofsky’s 3 assists and 20 saves by Tristan Jarry on 23 Springfield shots to overcome Mackenzie Weegar’s two goals on the evening for the 5-3 victory.
December 30th: Providence 5 @ WBS 2
WBS was riding high after the Springfield game, with seven straight wins and needing only one more point to clinch the best record in the Atlantic Division by December 31 (thereby sending coach Clark Donatelli to the All-Star Game to coach the Atlantic team). However, between the Springfield game and the visit by red-hot Providence on December 30, both David Warsofsky and Tristan Jarry were recalled to Pittsburgh following injuries to Brian Dumoulin and Matt Murray. Despite the return to WBS of Derrick Pouliot to replace Warsofsky, WBS was ill-prepared to deal with the red-hot Bruins, riding a four-game winning streak of their own. Despite Sundqvist’s 14th of the season, WBS was unable to find a consistent solution to Providence goalie Zane McIntyre, finishing a perfect month of December with 29 saves on 31 shots for his 9th victory in as many December starts, good enough for AHL Goaltender of the Month honors for December. Providence scored 5 goals in their 22 shots against DeSmith in the first two periods, including a Zac Rinaldo shorthanded goal, to hand WBS a discouraging 5-2 defeat. DeSmith was removed in the third period in favor of Wheeling callup Doug Carr, who made 2 saves in relief.
Even though WBS did not get the point they needed to clinch the best record in the Atlantic by December 31, they got a huge bit of assistance from the Rochester Americans, who defeated Lehigh Valley 4-3 in OT; Lehigh Valley was the only team that could have caught WBS for best record in the division. So, despite getting pasted on their home ice, WBS backed into having their coach lead the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Classic. I’ll take it.
December 31st: WBS 2 @ Binghamton 3
WBS finished its week and its calendar year with another trip to Binghamton, but this one did not bring nearly the amount of good fortune as their previous trip of the week. Despite Sahir Gill’s first goal of the season at 3:09 of the first, Binghamton proceeded to reel off three straight goals, the first two by Jason Akeson (his first two of the season), then survive Guentzel’s 18th of the season at 8:09 of the third to win 3-2. Guentzel’s goal was his 11th of the month in just ten WBS games, which combined with six assists gave him 17 points in December, good enough for the AHL’s Rookie of the Month honors for December. DeSmith played the second of two back to back nights and saved 23 of 26 shots, but he was no match for Binghamton’s Chris Driedger, who earned top honors on the night with 44 saves on 46 WBS shots.
Statistics (through January 2)
GOALS - Jake Guentzel - 18 (leads AHL); Oskar Sundqvist - 14; Tom Kostopoulos - 9; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 8; Garrett Wilson - 7
ASSISTS - David Warsofsky/Guentzel/Sundqvist - 16 each; Kevin Porter/Kostopoulos - 13; Wilson - 12; Dominik Simon - 11; Chad Ruhwedel - 10
POINTS - Guentzel - 34 (second in AHL behind former Pittsburgh prospect Kenny Agostino’s 43); Sundqvist - 30; Kostopoulos - 22; Warsofsky - 21; Wilson/Porter - 19
GOALIES - Tristan Jarry 13-5-1, 2.15 GAA (8th in AHL), 92.1% save pct (12th in AHL), 1 shutout; Casey DeSmith 8-2-2, 2.38 GAA (14th in AHL), 91.1% save pct (17th in AHL)
SPECIAL TEAMS - PP 20.3% (9th in AHL), one shorthanded goal allowed; PK 86.4% (2nd in AHL), 3 shorthanded goals forced
FIGHT TRACKER - No fights in any of these four games, so the tracker remains unchanged... Patrick McGrath 3, Cameron Gaunce 2, Josh Archibald 1, Ryan Haggerty 1, Garrett Wilson 1, Carter Rowney 1, Tom Kostopoulos 1
ATLANTIC DIVISION STANDINGS - 1) WBS 72.6%; 2) Lehigh Valley 71.0%; 3) Providence 68.2%; 4) Hershey 67.2%; 5) Bridgeport 54.8%; 6) Springfield 50%; 7) Hartford 40.6%
THE WEEK AHEAD:
January 3 vs. Hartford, 7:05 pm EST
January 6 vs. Hershey, 7:05 pm EST
January 7 vs. Binghamton, 7:05 pm EST
January 8 at Hershey, 5:00 pm EST
Another busy week for WBS starts tonight with the Rangers’ affiliate coming to town. With Pittsburgh on their bye week this week, they were gracious enough to return Chad Ruhwedel, David Warsofsky, and Tristan Jarry back to WBS, so the Penguins should be at close to their full strength until Pittsburgh gets back to action on Sunday.
Just gotta keep rolling along and racking up the points.