WHAT CHANGED THIS WEEK
Before we get into the weekend’s games, let’s take a quick minute to remember the various lineup changes from last Saturday’s victory over Hartford until the game on Friday against Hershey.
The big change happened early in the week, with Pittsburgh’s Antti Niemi placed on waivers on Monday, then Pittsburgh promoting WBS goalie Casey DeSmith Monday evening. Through 3 starts for WBS, last year’s AHL All-Rookie selection had three wins, no even-strength goals allowed as part of a 0.98 GAA, a save percentage of .965, and one shutout.
To replace DeSmith, WBS promoted Colin Stevens of Wheeling through a PTO on Wednesday. Stevens has two wins in three games for Wheeling this season, recording a save percentage of .907 and a 3.27 GAA.
On Thursday morning, Pittsburgh promoted defender Frank Corrado to replace Justin Schultz, placed on injured reserve with a concussion. Corrado has earned a goal and an assist in six WBS games so far this season, and for whatever plus-minus means nowadays, Corrado owns a +4.
With that as the backdrop, and with the WBS net firmly (for now) in the hands of Tristan Jarry, let’s proceed.
Friday, October 27: Hershey 2 @ WBS 3
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Tristan Jarry (1-2-0, 3.96 GAA, .883 sv%)— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 27, 2017
HER - Adam Carlson (1-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .923 sv%)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 27, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 27, 2017
Expected #WBSPens Scratches:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 27, 2017
Inj - Taylor, Josephs, Tinordi, Smith
Healthy - Spinozzi, McGrath, Burton, Haggerty and Tiffels.
Coming into Friday’s game, the Hershey Bears had only won one of their first six games, which on its surface was absolutely puzzling considering they featured holdovers such as Chris Bourque, Tyler Boyd, Riley Barber, and Dustin Gazley, as well as the rough and tumble Liam O’Brien and captain Garrett Mitchell.
Hershey was gifted several chances to reverse its fortunes in the first period Friday, as they were given three straight power plays. With Ethan Prow taking a delay of game penalty at 5:54 of the first, Tom Sestito taking a hooking call at 7:58, then Tom Kostopoulos taking a high sticking minor at 10:00, Hershey effectively had six consecutive minutes of power play time, but were unable to convert on any of them. Shortly after Kostopoulos’s penalty expired, Hershey itself took a penalty call, but before the penalty could actually be applied, Jean-Sebastien Dea took the ice as the extra attacker and buried his third goal of the season at 13:05 of the first.
WBS expanded their lead to two at 16:14 of the second, as Hershey goalie Adam Carlson, staring down a 2 on 1, was able to deny Tom Sestito but not Teddy Blueger. Blueger’s finish was his second goal of the season.
Shortly afterwards, Liam O’Brien for Hershey sat for goaltender interference, gifting WBS a glorious chance to break the game open, but instead, Hershey forced a neutral zone turnover, and Jeremy Langlois ripped home a vicious shot from the top of the slot to cut the lead to 2-1 after 40 minutes.
The dangerous Hershey offense took over in the third, outshooting WBS 13-6 just in the third period on the way to a 32-27 shot advantage on the night, and Riley Barber got off the so-called schneid with his first goal of the season at 6:34 of the third following a stellar end to end rush from defender Lucas Johansen.
Unfortunately for Barber, he would proceed to take a slashing call at 9:27 of the third, leading to Dominik Simon slamming home the blocked rebound of a Kevin Czuczman shot for his second of the season, the final margin of victory, and first star honors. WBS goalie Tristan Jarry turned in 30 saves on 32 shots for easily his best performance of the season and second star honors, while third star went to Dea for his goal.
Saturday, October 28: WBS 5 @ Bridgeport 2
WBS’s second game of the weekend saw them traveling away from the friendly confines of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza and to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport to face the Sound Tigers, freshly boosted by the eyebrow-raising demotion of Josh Ho-Sang from the New York Islanders. After scoring on his first shift in the AHL this season the night before...
...I was very curious to see how WBS would handle him. As it turns out, WBS handled the dynamic winger very well, holding the dynamic winger to only one shot.
For the lineup, Dylan Zink sat on Saturday in place of Kevin Spinozzi, and Ryan Haggerty drew into the lineup for his first game of the season replacing Tom Kostopoulos, who per the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice took morning skate on Saturday but was held out of the game as a “precaution”.
Haggerty would proceed to take his opportunity and run away with it, scoring his first of the year at 17:01 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie and provide WBS with its game-winning goal. Haggerty also nailed an empty net at 19:14 of the third for his second of the night and the final margin of victory, 5-2. Also scoring for WBS were Tom Sestito (13:27 of the first, his second of the season); Adam Johnson (7:33 of the second on a power play, his first AHL goal); and Christian Thomas (17:08 of the third, his second of the season). Tristan Jarry took the net for the second time in as many nights, and he again delivered, stopping 18 of 20 Bridgeport shots for his second win in as many nights.
Thomas also assisted on Johnson’s goal, giving him two points and third star honors. Johnson assisted on Thomas’s goal in response, and Johnson got second star honors. Clear top honors went to Haggerty with his two goals.
Standings (through the games of October 29th)
- Atlantic Division: 1) Providence 6-2-0, .750; 2) WBS 6-2-0, .750; 3) Lehigh Valley 7-2-1, .750; 4) Charlotte 6-3-0, .667; 5) Hartford 4-5-1, .450; 6) Hershey 3-5-1, .389; 7) Bridgeport 3-5-0, .375; 8) Springfield 1-8-1, .150
- North Division: 1) Toronto 6-3-0, .667; 2) Binghamton 4-2-1, .643; 3) Laval 5-3-2, .600; 4) Utica 4-3-0, .571; 5) Rochester 4-4-0, .500; 6) Belleville 4-4-1, .500; 7) Syracuse 3-5-1, .389
- Central Division: 1) Rockford 7-2-0, .778; 2) Milwaukee 5-2-0, .714; 3) Manitoba 4-3-2, .556; 4) Cleveland 3-3-1, .500; 5) Chicago 3-4-1, .438; 6) Grand Rapids 3-5-1, .389; 7) Iowa 2-5-2, .333
- Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 5-1-1, .786; 2) San Antonio 6-2-0, .750; 3) Stockton 6-2-1, .722; 4) Texas 5-3-1, .611; 5) San Diego 4-3-1, .563; 6) San Jose 3-4-1, .438; 7) Bakersfield 3-4-0, .429; 8) Ontario 1-6-0, .143
- Statistics (through the games of October 29th)
- GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 7 (T-2nd in AHL, T-1st among rookies); Gage Quinney, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 3; Dominik Simon, Christian Thomas, Tom Sestito, Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli, Garrett Wilson, Ryan Haggerty - 2
- ASSISTS: Dominik Simon - 7 (T-11th in AHL); Kevin Czuczman - 6 (T-18th in AHL, T-2nd among defenders); Lukas Bengtsson - 5 (T-7th among defenders, T-2nd among rookies); Christian Thomas - 4; Adam Johnson, Tom Sestito, Daniel Sprong - 3
- POINTS: Daniel Sprong - 10 (T-12th in AHL, T-1st among rookies); Dominik Simon - 9 (T-20th in AHL); Christian Thomas, Kevin Czuczman - 6; Gage Quinney, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Tom Sestito, Lukas Bengtsson - 5; Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli, Adam Johnson - 4
- GOALIES: Casey DeSmith 3-0-0, 0.98 GAA, .965 save percentage, one shutout; Tristan Jarry 3-2-0, 3.18 GAA, .897 save percentage
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 20.9%, 8th in AHL, three shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 86.4%, 7th in AHL, one shorthanded goal forced
Player of the Week
A couple of good choices available this week, with Ryan Haggerty taking his first game of the year and scoring two goals, Tristan Jarry winning his first two games of the season in vastly improved performances, Zach Aston-Reese’s two assists on Saturday, and so on, but I’m going to go with Christian Thomas as my Player of the Week.
Before the weekend’s games even began, Thomas was one of 26 players chosen to represent Team Canada at the 2017 Karjala Cup in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Thomas will skate alongside former WBS Penguins Simon Despres, Andrew Ebbett, and Chris Lee. The Karjala Cup will be contested November 8-12 in Finland; Canada will face Switzerland on November 8; Sweden on November 10; and Finland on November 12.
From there, Thomas went on to tally the secondary assist on Dominik Simon’s game-winning goal on Friday, as well as the secondary assist on Adam Johnson’s first pro goal on Saturday. Thomas also recorded the insurance goal on Saturday, capping a three-point weekend that included a national team call-up.
Well done, Christian Thomas. Go make your country proud in Finland.
The Week Ahead
First of many pure rivalry weekends upcoming to kick off November, as WBS will visit Lehigh Valley on Friday, November 3 at 7:05 pm, then host Hershey on Sunday, November 5 at 3:05 pm in a Harry Potter-themed night. The team is requesting that fans dress up in their best Potter outfits to the Sunday matinee.