JANUARY 25: Syracuse 2 @ WBS 3 (OT)
The WBS Penguins opened their final week of games before the All-Star break on Wednesday night with their third game against the North Division leading Syracuse Crunch in their last six. After splitting the first two games at the War Memorial in Syracuse, Syracuse opened the scoring at Mohegan Sun Arena at 13:26 of the first, when Joel Vermin scored his eighth of the season. The WBS captain Tom Kostopoulos answered at 4:15 of the second with his 14th of the season and the 499th point of his AHL career. WBS would take the lead 2:15 later as Kevin Porter, goal-less in his previous 15 games, scored his 7th of the season, assisted by All-Star David Warsofsky (named to the team on January 24) and Cameron Gaunce. The WBS lead would only last 3:01, as Adam Comrie scored his fourth of the season to tie the game at 2. The third period proceeded scoreless, setting up an overtime in which, despite being outshot 41-29 on the night by the Crunch and with no time to spare, the newly-anointed All-Star took the only shot that matters...the last one.
GOAL GIF: Warsofsky wins it! pic.twitter.com/YpXVi21kzd— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 26, 2017
With only 1.2 seconds left in the extra session. That’s Warsofsky’s 9th of the season, unassisted, to clinch a 3-2 overtime victory for the Atlantic Division leaders. Fellow All-Star Tristan Jarry repelled 39 of 41 Syracuse shots for a hard-fought victory.
JANUARY 27: WBS 3 @ Utica 2
WBS continued its march to All-Stars, bolstered by the return of Carter Rowney to WBS after his promotion and NHL debut on January 26, with another North Division contest against the top affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, the 4th place Utica Comets. WBS’s first period on this night was vastly improved over Wednesday, with Josh Archibald’s 9th goal of the season at 8:16 of the first...
GOAL GIF: Archie with the blast to make it 1-0 pic.twitter.com/DTmEWdkQKc— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2017
...and Tim Erixon’s 3rd of the season at 14:29 of the first.
The second period was scoreless, but Utica put up a harsh challenge in the third, started by Alexander Grenier’s 14th of the year at 1:23 of the third. Although Derrick Pouliot answered at 4:55 of the third with his second of the year for WBS.
GOAL GIF: Pouliot from the point and it's 3-1 pic.twitter.com/TCEpdltU3a— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2017
Utica continued to fight, though, outshooting WBS 12-10 in the third and getting Evan McEneny’s 4th of the year at 17:35 to draw back to within 1, but WBS survived what the radio broadcast described as seven (SEVEN) consecutive icing calls in the final minutes to win 3-2. Casey DeSmith took the victory with 27 saves on 29 shots, including this one.
Third time a charm? DeSmith Save GIF pic.twitter.com/4yLyULeIbc— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2017
JANUARY 28: WBS 6 @ Binghamton 2
WBS closed out the unofficial first half of its season with its final trip to the short ice of Binghamton of the season, and the disparity between the league leading Penguins and the North Division’s sixth place Senators was painfully obvious as WBS stormed out to a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes through Ryan Haggerty’s 7th of the year at 10:52, Dominik Simon’s sixth of the season at 15:32, Jean-Sebastien Dea’s 12th of the year at 18:08, and Teddy Blueger’s 5th of the year at 18:29 sandwiching Nick Paul’s 6th of the year for the Senators. Binghamton responded in the second, outshooting WBS 14-6 and drawing back to within 2 at 6:04 with Chad Nehring’s 3rd of the year, but WBS would restore the lead to 3 at 11:13 with Danny Kristo’s fourth of the season and third against the Senators. The night was closed out in style at 11:54 of the third, as Tom Kostopoulos scored his 15th goal of the season to officially record his 500th AHL point, the 91st player in the history of the AHL to accomplish such a feat. Final score: WBS 6, Binghamton 2, and a 12-2-0-0 month of January. Tristan Jarry took the win, his 19th of the season, with 32 saves on 34 shots.
JANUARY 29: All-Star Skills Competition
WBS All-Star defender David Warsofsky took part in three events during the Skills Competition:
- the Hardest Shot competition, against A.J. Greer of San Antonio; Vincent LoVerde of Ontario; Robbie Russo of Grand Rapids; Kyle Wood of Tucson; Casey Bailey of Binghamton; Jordan Subban of Utica; and Kerby Rychel of Toronto. Warsofsky’s second shot attempt clocked in at 98.4 MPH, the fastest shot at the time of his attempts, but he would finish fourth behind Rychel’s 99.1, Greer’s 99.2, and the winner Wood’s 99.3.
Our colleague from Eyes on the Prize, Scott Matla, was able to take these pictures of Warsofsky in action:
- the Pass and Score event alongside Lehigh Valley’s Jordan Weal (2nd in the league in points at the break with 45) and Hershey’s Chris Bourque (T-13th in the league in points at the break with 36) against Michael Leighton of the Charlotte Checkers. The trio of Warsofsky, Weal, and Bourque scored twice in three attempts.
- the Breakaway Relay, anchoring Round 2 with Casey Bailey, Kerby Rychel, Cole Schneider of Rochester, and Travis Boyd of Hershey against Troy Grosenick of San Jose. Warsofsky did not score.
WBS All-Star goaltender Tristan Jarry took part in the goalies competition, consisting of three events:
- Rapid Fire: Jarry took the final round against Oliver Bjorkstrand of Cleveland and Christian Fischer of Tucson. Jarry made 5 saves in the event, contributing to a 23-23 tie between East and West.
- Pass and Score: Jarry faced the trio of Vince Dunn of Chicago, Spencer Abbott of Rockford, and Matt Lorito of Grand Rapids in Round 7, and saved all 3 attempts against him.
- Breakaway Relay: Jarry faced the team of Abbott, Brandon Montour of San Diego, Lorito, Kenny Agostino of Chicago (the AHL’s scoring leader at the break with 58 points), and Bjorkstrand in Round 7. Jarry made three saves on the 5 breakaways he faced.
The overall skills competition was won by the Western Conference by a score of 15-11, anchored by saving all 20 Eastern Conference breakaway attempts in the final event.
JANUARY 30: All-Star Challenge
Game 1: Central Division 1 vs. Atlantic Division 2
The All-Star Challenge opened with Atlantic vs. Central, with Hershey’s Travis Boyd and Springfield’s Mackenzie Weegar pacing the Atlantic to their first victory of the night. WBS’s Tristan Jarry started the game and shut out the Central during his five minutes of action, with his counterpart Zane McIntyre of Providence conceding the only Central goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand of Cleveland.
Game 2: Pacific Division 3 vs. North Division 6
Game 2 featured the all stars from the North and Pacific divisions, with the game dominated by the North 6-3. All but one player on the North Division squad scored a point, with only Yanni Gourde of Syracuse left scoreless. The North was paced by Justin Bailey of Rochester, with two goals and an assist; the Pacific was led by A.J. Greer of San Antonio, with a goal and an assist.
Game 3: Central Division 2 vs. North Division 1 (SO)
The Central Division team recovered from its Game 1 defeat to squeak out a shootout victory against the North. Alex Tuch of Iowa scored the Central’s only regulation goal, which was matched by Casey Bailey of Binghamton. In the shootout, Kenny Agostino of Chicago and Spencer Abbot of Rockford scored on the Central’s only two attempts, while only Cole Schneider of Rochester could score for the North.
Game 4: Pacific Division 1 vs. Atlantic Division 6
The Atlantic Division used its second game of the night to assert its dominance, overwhelming the Pacific Division 6-1 and clinching a spot in the All-Star Challenge championship game. All six goals were scored by either Hershey Bears (Travis Boyd 1, Chris Bourque 1) or Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Taylor Leier 2, Jordan Weal 1, T.J. Brennan 1), with WBS’s David Warsofsky providing an assist and Jarry allowing only Daniel O’Regan of San Jose to score against him in his five minutes of action.
Game 5: Pacific Division 3 vs. Central Division 5
In its third game of the Night, the Central Division used two goals by Matt Lorito of Grand Rapids and a goal and two assists by Kenny Agostino to keep its chances of playing in the championship game alive by eliminating the Pacific Division 5-3. The Pacific gave a valiant effort, led by Kyle Wood of Tucson, but it was not to be.
Game 6: North Division 0 vs. Atlantic Division 2
With the Central Division now eagerly awaiting the results, the North and Atlantic took the ice to close out the round robin portion of the All-Star Challenge. Once again, WBS’s Tristan Jarry started the game, and he and McIntyre each proceeded to turn in five clean minutes each as Niclas Jensen of Hartford and All-Star Challenge MVP Taylor Leier provided the only goals in a 2-0 shutout of the North.
Finals: Atlantic Division 0 vs. Central Division 1 (SO)
Despite several sterling chances on each side, the six-minute championship game went scoreless, so the All-Star Challenge came down to a shootout. Jordan Weal, Chris Bourque, Travis Boyd, and Taylor Leier all failed to score, while it was Matt Lorito in round 4 of the shootout who beat Zane McIntyre to win the Challenge for the Central Division, their second consecutive victory in the Challenge since the current format was introduced.
STATISTICS (through the All-Star break)
GOALS: Jake Guentzel - 21 (T-2nd in AHL; currently on recall to Pittsburgh); Tom Kostopoulos - 15; Oskar Sundqvist - 14 (did not play at all this week due to an upper-body injury); Jean-Sebastien Dea - 12; Garrett Wilson/Carter Rowney - 10 each
ASSISTS: David Warsofksy - 24 (T-12th in AHL); Guentzel - 21; Dominik Simon - 20; Sundqvist - 19; Kostopoulos - 18
POINTS: Guentzel - 42 (T-3rd in AHL); Kostopoulos/Sundqvist/Warsofsky - 33 each; Garrett Wilson/Simon - 26 each; Kevin Porter - 24; Carter Rowney - 21; Jean-Sebastien Dea/Josh Archibald - 19 each
GOALIES: Tristan Jarry - 19-7-1, 2.21 GAA (4th in AHL), 92.1% save percentage (T-7th in AHL), one shutout; Casey DeSmith - 13-2-2, 2.26 GAA (6th in AHL), 91.3% save percentage (T-14th in AHL), no shutouts
SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 17.5%, 17th in AHL, one shorthanded goal allowed; penalty kill 87.1%, 1st in AHL, four shorthanded goals scored
FIGHT TRACKER (courtesy of HockeyFights.com): Patrick McGrath 6 (fought Mathieu Brodeur of Syracuse on Wednesday), Garrett Wilson 5, Tom Sestito 3 (fought Ben Harpur of Binghamton on Saturday), Cameron Gaunce 2, Ryan Haggerty 1, Josh Archibald 1, Carter Rowney 1, Tom Kostopoulos 1
STANDINGS: 1) WBS, 76.7% (1st in AHL; no other team has a points percentage above 70% at the All-Star break); 2) Lehigh Valley, 69.8%; 3) Providence, 64.4%; 4) Bridgeport, 61.9% (currently on a 7-game winning streak and 8-1-1 in their last 10); 5) Hershey, 59.1%; 6) Springfield, 46.5%; 7) Hartford, 41.1%
THE WEEK AHEAD
Friday, February 3: St. Johns at WBS, 7:05 pm
Saturday, February 4: Lehigh Valley at WBS, 7:05 pm
It may seem all well and good in WBS land at the All-Star break, with nine more standings points than second-place Lehigh Valley and a percentage points lead of over 7%, but nothing is even close to being decided at this point. The primary reason for this is that, out of the remaining 31 games for WBS this season, 10 of those will be against Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms have also played two fewer games than the Penguins (43 to WBS’s 45). The number of games left between the rivals prompted Teddy Blueger to predict to the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader before the game on January 20 in Lehigh Valley (a 5-3 Phantoms win):
Whoever comes out with the advantage in these 11 games will probably get the top spot in the division...There’s a lot at stake, and that’s why you’re going to see scrums and things getting heated.”