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WBS Weekly: Blessed Be the Defenders

The WBS defense contributes four goals and 10 assists to power WBS to another perfect week.

What Changed

This week in WBS history began with Tuesday’s reassignment of Zach Trotman to WBS from Pittsburgh following Justin Schultz’s return to full health after suffering a concussion. In addition, WBS reassigned defender Dylan Zink to Wheeling of the ECHL on Wednesday. Pittsburgh also reassigned Freddie Tiffels and Jeff Taylor from WBS to Wheeling at the same time; Taylor’s reassignment in particular was encouraging, as it signaled his return to full health following a preseason injury that has so far kept him out of the WBS lineup.

November 8, 2017: Toronto 2 @ WBS 4

WBS opened the week facing a very formidable challenge, a midweek visit from the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies, and I think it’s fair to say that WBS aced the test. It didn’t appear that they would at first, though, as Toronto’s Dmytro Timashov scored his fourth goal of the season just 1:08 into the proceedings on a play that was started by an ill-advised Daniel Sprong backhanded pass from below his goal line into the middle of the ice.

In my opinion: No big deal, he’s a rookie, he’ll learn from such things.

WBS would answer about ten minutes later, as Andrey Pedan, all 6’5” of him, got every single bit of a slapshot from the point to beat Toronto goalie Garret Sparks to tie the game at 1. The first period would end 1-1 after 20 minutes.

The teams traded a power play chance in the second period, but neither was able to break the other. The game stayed 1-1 until the final two minutes, when Ryan Haggerty, now apparently solidly in the lineup after being scratched to start the year, took an outlet pass from Pedan, skated in from center ice, and fired a wrister past Sparks to give WBS a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Also getting an assist on the play was defender Lukas Bengtsson.

WBS added to its lead in the third period when Thomas DiPauli forechecked a turnover on Calle Rosen, drove in alone, and beat Sparks with a gorgeous backhand move to score his third goal of the year and put WBS up 3-1. Perhaps generously, Tom Sestito and Jarred Tinordi were given assists.

Undaunted, Toronto clawed back to within one through Nikita Soshnikov’s fourth of the year on a rebound of his own shot, but they could get no closer as DiPauli deposited his second of the night and 4th of the year into an empty net, assisted by Teddy Blueger and Bengtsson, to provide the final margin of victory, 4-2.

WBS goalie Casey DeSmith ended the night with 22 saves on 24 shots for the win. Sparks ended with a remarkable 38 saves on 41 shots, but it was not enough. Three stars: 3) Haggerty, one goal; 2) Pedan, goal and assist; 1) DiPauli, two goals.

November 11, 2017: Providence 3 @ WBS 4 (OT)

I have to admit...coming into Saturday’s contest against Providence, I was very concerned. Last time I saw these teams play, Zane McIntyre played out of his mind to eliminate WBS from last year’s playoffs. McIntyre is still around, and the Boston Bruins organization reloaded their prospect pool in the offseason by adding last year’s AHL MVP, former Penguins prospect Ken Agostino. Despite entering the game fourth in the Atlantic, this game felt like another stiff test for WBS.

Boy, was it ever.

Providence didn’t waste any time, much like Toronto three nights earlier, as Ryan Fitzgerald got behind the WBS defense and fired a strong shot past DeSmith to open the scoring just 1:33 into the game. Providence would see that lead through to the locker room, and they sent a very strong message of physicality to WBS in the first period (and, frankly, all night) with strong defensive play, shoves off the puck rather than stick turnovers, and twice throwing hands with WBS players judged to have taken liberties with their hits (Mike Breen vs. Sestito, Agostino vs. Pedan).

Providence extended its lead at 8:01 of the second, when Colby Cave floated a changeup past DeSmith for his first of the year. The 2-0 Bruins lead represented WBS’s first two-goal deficit in over a month (season opener October 7).

WBS would respond, though, as Kevin Czuczman joined a rush, took a backhanded feed from Ryan Haggerty, and fired home a backhanded shot for his first goal of the season. The second period ended 2-1 to the Bruins.

The third period belonged to WBS for approximately 19 minutes and 31 seconds. First, Jarred Tinordi fired a laser of a slapshot from as far back into the left point as you could possibly go, and it beat McIntyre for Tinordi’s first WBS goal and first goal for anyone in over a calendar year to tie the game at 6:58 of the third. Then, Thomas DiPauli scored his third goal in two games with a deflection of another Pedan time-bomb to give WBS a 3-2 lead with 2:23 to go.

But as soon as McIntyre left the ice for an extra Providence attacker, fortunes changed as Ryan Fitzgerald scored his second of the night by deflecting in a Tommy Cross slap shot with just 29 seconds left on the clock. Regulation ended 3-3.

Providence’s physical play served to give them a general advantage of play through 60 minutes, but with each side reduced to just 3 skaters in OT, that physical play advantage disappeared quickly. WBS took quick advantage, as Ryan Haggerty found little resistance in beating his defender to the Providence net on the opening rush of overtime, and Jean-Sebastien Dea fed him beautifully for the game-winner.

Three stars: 3) Pedan, one assist (originally, Pedan was credited with the goal that was changed to DiPauli, so at the time, his goal and assist were a worthy choice for third star honors); 2) Fitzgerald, two gaols; 1) Haggerty, game-winning goal plus two assists

November 12, 2017: WBS 5 @ Hershey 1

While WBS was duking it out with Providence, their opponents on Sunday, the Hershey Bears, were playing very bad hosts to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, destroying them 6-1. Hershey would have liked nothing more than to do the same to their other Pennsylvania rivals, but WBS would have none of it.

Add to that a Colin Smith empty-netter with 3:07 to go, as well as Dustin Gazley’s power play goal at 11:58 of the second to break the shutout, and you have a 5-1 WBS victory that is all the more impressive when you consider that WBS only recorded 13 shots on Vitek Vanecek’s goal all night. The win represented WBS’s tenth straight game with a point; through their first 13 games, they’ve taken points out of 11 of them to surge atop the Eastern Conference. They’d be leading the league, too, if not for those pesky Roadrunners out in Tucson.

Three stars: 3) Sprong, goal (also had a penalty shot in the third period, but hit the post); 2) Aston-Reese, goal; 1) DeSmith, 31 saves on 32 shots


  • Atlantic Division: 1) WBS 10-2-1, .808; 2) Charlotte 10-4-0, .714; 3) Lehigh Valley 9-4-2, .667; 4) Providence 7-4-2, .615; 5) Hershey 6-7-2, .467; 6) Hartford 6-7-2, .467; 7) Bridgeport 6-7-0, .462; 8) Springfield 4-11-1, .281
  • North Division: 1) Toronto 11-4-0, .733; 2) Rochester 7-4-2, .615; 3) Laval 8-5-2, .600; 4) Belleville 7-7-1, .500; 5) Binghamton 5-6-1, .458; 6) Utica 5-6-1, .458; 7) Syracuse 4-6-3, .423
  • Central Division: 1) Milwaukee 8-5-0, .615; 2) Manitoba 8-5-2, .600; 3) Rockford 8-6-0, .571; 4) Cleveland 5-4-3, .542; 5) Grand Rapids 7-7-1, .500; 6) Iowa 6-6-2, .500; 7) Chicago 4-7-1, .375
  • Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 8-1-2, .818; 2) San Antonio 9-3-1, .731; 3) Stockton 8-4-1, .654; 4) Texas 7-7-1, .500; 5) San Jose 5-6-1, .458; 6) Bakersfield 5-6-1, .458; 7) San Diego 5-7-1, .423; 8) Ontario 4-6-1, .409


  • GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 9 (T-2nd in AHL, 1st among rookies); Ryan Haggerty, Thomas DiPauli - 6 (T-17th in AHL); Jean-Sebastien Dea, Gage Quinney - 4; Christian Thomas - 3; Dominik Simon, Garrett Wilson, Tom Sestito, Teddy Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese, Jarred Tinordi - 2
  • ASSISTS: Lukas Bengtsson, Kevin Czuczman, Dominik Simon - 8 (T-6th in AHL; Bengtsson leads all rookie defenders); Adam Johnson, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Andrey Pedan, Daniel Sprong - 5; Zach Trotman, Christian Thomas, Tom Sestito, Teddy Blueger - 4
  • POINTS: Daniel Sprong - 14 (T-16th in AHL, 2nd among rookies behind Dylan Strome’s 15); Dominik Simon - 10; Jean-Sebastien Dea, Kevin Czuczman - 9; Ryan Haggerty, Thomas DiPauli, Lukas Bengtsson - 8; Christian Thomas, Garrett Wilson - 7
  • GOALIES: Casey DeSmith 7-0-1, 1.94 GAA (6th in AHL), .936 save percentage (3rd in AHL), one shutout; Tristan Jarry 3-2-0, 3.18 GAA, .897 save percentage, no shutouts (currently promoted to Pittsburgh)
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 16.9%, 16th in AHL, three shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 87.7%, 4th in AHL, two shorthanded goals forced

Karjala Cup Recap

WBS were without the services of forward Christian Thomas this week, as Thomas had been called up to represent Team Canada at the Karjala Cup in Finland. Team Canada defeated Switzerland 3-2 on November 8, with Thomas not factoring into the scoresheet. Despite outshooting Sweden 35-21 on November 10, Sweden goaltender Magnus Hellberg stopped everything he saw to give Sweden a 2-0 victory. Canada’s final game took place on Sunday afternoon, November 12, and while Thomas scored his first and only goal of the tournament at 6:25 of the third period to tie the hosts Finland at 3, Finland’s Eeli Tolvanen scored at 12:36 of the third to provide the margin of victory, 4-3, as well as the tournament victory. Canada’s 1-2-0 record tied the Czech Republic for fourth place.

Team Canada’s next international tournament in preparations for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be the Channel One Cup, opening December 13 in Russia. It is unclear at this time who Hockey Canada will call for that tournament.

Player of the Week

A couple of really good possibilities this week, with Jarred Tinordi scoring two goals in two games after not scoring any for a year; Andrey Pedan with one goal and three assists across the week; Kevin Czuczman with a goal and an assist on Saturday; and Lukas Bengtsson with two assists on Wednesday. That said, for as much as the defense contributed this week, I can’t overlook Thomas DiPauli’s four goals over the three games. DiPauli’s offensive outburst this week, along with his combination with Teddy Blueger to form a very dangerous penalty kill forward pair over the last several games, are well worth highlighting as my Player of the Week for this week.

It’s almost cliché at this point, the Pittsburgh organization’s penchant for signing college free agents and developing them into stars, but DiPauli, in his second season after signing out of Notre Dame and being limited to just 21 games in 2016-17 before undergoing back surgery, is quickly becoming the latest Pittsburgh college FA signing to turn heads. It should be exciting to see what he does with the rest of the season.

Up Next

WBS only plays one game next week, a Friday night visit to Binghamton to take on the newly-minted Binghamton Devils at 7:05 pm.