Only one game on the docket this week for the WBS Penguins, as they opened their 2017-18 season at home against the Charlotte Checkers. Charlotte came into the game having scored three goals in the third period the night before in Hartford to dispatch the Wolf Pack, so they were looking to continue their hot start to the season at the expense of last year’s regular season champions.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 7, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) October 7, 2017
I would add to this that the top powerplay unit for WBS on this night was Dea, Sprong, Aston-Reese, Kostopoulos, and Bengtsson, which...if that unit gets going, watch out.
After a slight delay to start the game due to a bank of lights that just did not want to come back on after being shut down for pregame festivities, WBS was able to cash in on its first power play opportunity of the game. After Charlotte’s Jake Chelios (yes, Chris Chelios’s son, before you ask) was hobbled after blocking a Daniel Sprong shot, the puck was cleared out by the Checkers. Starting goaltender Tristan Jarry, though, saw an opening, and he fired an outstanding breakout pass back to Sprong at the Charlotte blue line. Sprong was able to dart behind the slow-changing defense and fire a thunderbolt of a wrister past Charlotte keeper Jeremy Smith for a 1-0 lead.
It's @tjarry35 to @sprong97 for the #WBSPens first goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/yqRCor6IRR— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) October 8, 2017
Goal horn, Party Hard, and a hearty "WOOOOOOOO" later, and hockey was back.
(Sidebar here: It’s only one game, but it appeared as though WBS has ditched its juggling of Andrew WK’s "Party Hard" and Gary Glitter’s "Hey Song" for goal songs in favor of the Andrew WK favorite, and I couldn’t be happier. Say what you will for Party Hard...it’s not written by Gary Glitter. That’s all that matters to me in 2017.)
Charlotte, though, tied the score on a broken-up clearing attempt and a nasty wrist shot by Valentine Zykov into a wide-open left side of the net past a screened Jarry. 1-1 after 20 minutes, with shots 15-8 WBS.
Also of note in the first period: Zach Trotman left the game at some point in the first with an injury. After losing the majority of last season to injury, I do hope this is nothing serious.
I was also impressed by the defensive awareness of Adam Johnson, the undrafted free agent signing out of Minnesota-Duluth. On at least two occasions, he was able to track back defensively and break up Charlotte rushes. Johnson is definitely someone we will all need to keep an eye on as a two-way prospect.
Put kindly, the second period was an exhibition of special teams.
Put unkindly, it was a train wreck.
Charlotte started the second period with a full 2-minute powerplay after Christian Thomas took a slashing penalty at the end of the first period. All told, Charlotte enjoyed 5 powerplays in the second period alone, against 2 WBS advantages. WBS was able to kill off the first four, even getting a shorthanded goal through a turnover forced by Teddy Blueger, then Thomas Di Pauli burying his second attempt past Smith, but unfortunately, the fifth powerplay proved to be too much.
I regret not seeing what Warren Foegele did to incite Tom Kostopoulos to start punching him as he turtled on the ice, but as we all know, the initial penalties are never called, but the retaliations are. TK took a seat, and Charlotte equalized 24 seconds into their fifth advantage through Phil Di Giuseppe’s first of the year.
Just ten seconds after that, Lucas Wallmark for Charlotte took an interference penalty, but on the ensuing powerplay Warren Foegele scored his third goal of the season shorthanded for Charlotte to give them a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Hey guys this Foegele kid is pretty good pic.twitter.com/W1xyV0uMMM— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) October 8, 2017
Fueled by the five power plays, Charlotte outshot WBS 22-9 in the second.
Despite starting the third with a powerplay for 34 seconds and despite getting three more powerplays after that, including a 5 on 3 for 50 seconds, WBS were unable to muster any more goals. The dagger came on their second advantage of the period, when Christian Thomas took a huge chance on a keep-in at the top of the WBS attacking zone and missed. With no one behind Thomas to cover, Foegele was able to break away clean from center ice and put a nasty backhander through Jarry’s legs for a shorthanded goal and a 4-2 Charlotte lead.
This is out of control pic.twitter.com/5Mfq4BAqi5— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) October 8, 2017
The aforementIoned Di Giuseppe closed the book on the night with an empty net goal fired from his defensive zone faceoff circle to give the Checkers a 5-2 win and a 2-0 start to their year in front of a WBS home opener paid crowd of 6,183.
Jarry ended the night with 31 saves on 35 shots, but he was under siege for a good portion of the night. If not for some stellar saves on the Charlotte PP train in the second period, the final scoreline would have been much more harsh. On the other side, Smith closed with 28 saves on 30 shots for the win.
Third star honors were given to Thomas Di Pauli for his shorthanded goal. Second star went to Lucas Wallmark with two assists. Top honors went to Warren Foegele, the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Playoffs MVP, with two shorthanded goals, his third and fourth of the season.
WBS will take the ice again on Friday, October 13, as they kick off their first three-in-three weekend of the season with a home-and-home against Lehigh Valley, their first 2 of 12 games with the Phantoms this season. Friday is in WBS, Saturday is in Lehigh Valley. both are 7:05 pm EDT start times. WBS will close the weekend at home on Sunday with a 3:05 pm EDT start against the Syracuse Crunch, last season’s Eastern Conference champions.