WHAT CHANGED THIS WEEK
Only one change to the roster this week from the roster that dispatched the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last Saturday, but it was a large change, as Pittsburgh switched out its backup goaltenders. Casey DeSmith was sent back to WBS on Monday after making one appearance for the parent Penguins, saving only 12 of 15 shots in mop-up duty during Pittsburgh’s 7-1 embarrassment at Winnipeg last Sunday. In his place, Tristan Jarry, fresh off the first two wins of his season for WBS last weekend, was promoted.
NOVEMBER 3: WBS 6 @ Lehigh Valley 5 (SO)
First up this weekend: A visit to Allentown to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Personally, I got lucky this weekend, as my cable provider was able to carry the Lehigh Valley broadcast of this game; in previous seasons, such games were blacked out. I was treated to a wild back and forth affair between longtime division rivals.
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Casey DeSmith (3-0-0, 0.98 GAA, .965 sv%, 1 SO)— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 3, 2017
LV - Dustin Tokarski (2-0-0, 2.08 GAA, .929 sv%)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 3, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 3, 2017
Expected #WBSPens Scratches:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 3, 2017
Healthy - McGrath, Burton, Zink and Tiffels
Inj - Taylor, Josephs, Tinordi, Kostopoulos and Smith
Note the addition of Tom Kostopoulos to the injury list.
After a somewhat quiet first period featuring Tyrell Goulbourne’s first of the season and nearly a second goal which was ruled to have been scored after play was stopped, WBS exploded for three goals in the first 9:30 of the second period.
GOAL GIF: Gage Quinney digs the puck out and pops home his fourth of the season ti tie the score at 1-1. pic.twitter.com/8Qysk5J97I— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) November 4, 2017
The goal for Thomas was on a power play, while the goal by Dea (not Dec) was shorthanded.
Lehigh Valley did not back down, though, as their stunning rookie Danick Martel scored his 11th goal of the season on a power play at 10:15; T.J. Brennan picked the tightest of tight corners over Casey DeSmith’s shoulder to tie the game at 15:05; then Mikhail Vorobyev scored his first of the year at 16:31 to give Lehigh Valley the lead again at 4-3.
Undaunted, Ryan Haggerty took the opportunity to make his presence known again and to (apparently) make Coach Clark Donatelli question scratching the fourth-year pro ever again.
GOAL GIF: Ryan Haggerty ties the game up late in the second. pic.twitter.com/m7P1hrbU1a— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) November 4, 2017
Then, with 12:57 to play in the third...
Two games, four goals. Yeah, let’s keep Haggs in there.
Unfortunately, a bouncing puck at 11:26 of the third fell to former WBS Penguin Chris Conner right at the doorstep of the net, and he deposited past DeSmith to tie the game at 5.
There would be no further scoring in regulation, and Lehigh Valley put on a shot-blocking clinic in overtime, denying no fewer than 6 WBS shots through the five-minute extra session featuring two separate WBS PPs.
In the shootout, there was only one goal scored, and perhaps fittingly, it was my Player of the Week from last week ending the proceedings to give WBS its sixth straight win.
Get ready, Team Canada. Christian Thomas is on his way.
DeSmith’s worst outing of the season for WBS concluded with 35 saves on 40 shots, but a win. Haggerty’s two goals gave him third star honors on the night; Chris Conner added three assists to his game-tying goal for second star honors; top honors on the night went to Garrett Wilson of WBS with three assists.
NOVEMBER 5: Hershey 3 @ WBS 2 (SO)
After a rare Saturday night off, WBS took the ice again on Sunday afternoon for its first Harry Potter game, inviting fans young and old to dress as characters from the famed book/movie franchise. The Hershey Bears were in town to provide the dark arts, as WBS set out in search of its seventh win in a row and solidification of its division lead.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 5, 2017
Christian Thomas was out of the lineup on Sunday, on his way to Finland to join up with Team Canada. Thomas and Thomas DiPauli sat for Freddie Tiffels and the season debut of Colin Smith.
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 5, 2017
Jarred Tinordi returned to the defense on Sunday as well; he and Dylan Zink drew in to replace Ethan Prow and Kevin Spinozzi.
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Casey DeSmith (4-0-0, 1.93 GAA, .927 sv%, 1 SO)— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) November 5, 2017
HER - Pheonix Copley (0-0-1, 5.54 GAA, .833 sv%)
Insert Pheonix rising joke here.
I feel it necessary here to recognize a milestone for one of the biggest thorns in the collective WBS side over the years, as Sunday marked the 800th pro hockey game for Chris Bourque.
WBS got the party started very early, as Daniel Sprong rejoined the scoresheet with his 8th goal of the season just 1:18 into the game. WBS held the lead for the majority of the period, but they could not see it through to the locker room as Wayne Simpson for Hershey tied the game at 17:51 of the first.
All aboard the WAYNE TRAIN! Wayne Simpson found a soft spot in the offensive zone and fired it past DeSmith to tie the game late in the 1st pic.twitter.com/g7X5vOVmpp— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) November 5, 2017
Sometimes, that’s all it takes...just enough room to shoot and enough bodies in front to stop the goalie from seeing what you’re doing. 1-1 after 20 minutes.
WBS was gifted a 5 on 3 PP early in the second period, but they could not convert it. Hershey, meanwhile, took the first 5 on 4 PP in the second period and converted it through Travis Boyd, his third of the season. WBS had another chance soon after when Garrett Mitchell sat for cross checking, but they could not convert it. Hershey took a 2-1 lead into the locker room after 40 minutes.
The third period featured one power play for WBS and three for Hershey, including the final three of the period, but no goals. The only goal belonged to Zach Aston-Reese on a wraparound, his first of the season, at 11:39 of the first, assisted by Colin Smith and Chris Summers. Regulation shots finished 26-25.
Overtime possession seemed to favor Hershey, with Bourque being robbed blind by DeSmith midway through...
...and Jeremy Langlois hitting the post shortly thereafter, but despite outshooting WBS 5-2, the Bears could not break the tie.
In the shootout, it was Wayne Simpson for Hershey notching the only goal, as Bears goaltender Pheonix Copley denied Jean-Sebastien Dea, Dominik Simon, and Colin Smith to give Hershey their fourth win of the season and break the WBS winning streak at six.
Daniel Sprong’s goal gave him third star honors. Zach Aston-Reese’s goal gave him second star, but Wayne Simpson’s goal, plus his winner in the shootout, proved the difference and earned the Bears winger top honors on the night.
STANDINGS (through the games of November 5)
- Atlantic Division: 1) WBS 7-2-1, .750; 2) Charlotte, 8-3-0, .727; 3) Lehigh Valley, 8-3-2, .692; 4) Providence, 7-4-0, 5) Bridgeport, 6-5-0, .545; 6) Hartford, 5-7-1; .423; 7) Hershey, 4-6-2, .417; 8) Springfield, 2-10-1, .192
- North Division: 1) Toronto 9-3-0, .750; 2) Laval 7-4-2, .615; 3) Binghamton 5-3-1, .611; 4) Rochester 6-4-1, .591; 5) Utica 5-4-1, .550; 6) Belleville 5-6-1, .458; 7) Syracuse 3-6-3, .375
- Central Division: 1) Rockford 7-4-0, .636; 2) Milwaukee 6-4-0, .600; 3) Cleveland 5-3-2, .600; 4) Manitoba 6-4-2, .583; 5) Chicago 4-4-1, .500; 6) Grand Rapids 5-6-1, .458; 7) Iowa 3-6-2, .384
- Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 6-1-2, .778; 2) San Antonio 7-2-1, .750; 3) Stockton 7-3-1, .682; 4) Bakersfield 5-4-1, .550; 5) San Diego 5-4-1, .550; 6) Texas 5-6-1, .458; 7) San Jose 4-5-1, .450; 8) Ontario 3-6-1, .350
STATISTICS (through the games of November 5)
- GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 8 (2nd in AHL, 1st among rookies); Jean-Sebastien Dea, Gage Quinney, Ryan Haggerty - 4; Christian Thomas - 3; Dominik Simon, Garrett Wilson, Teddy Blueger, Tom Sestito, Thomas DiPauli - 2
- ASSISTS: Dominik Simon - 8 (T-11th in AHL); Kevin Czuczman - 7; Lukas Bengtsson - 6; Adam Johnson, Christian Thomas, Daniel Sprong, Garrett Wilson - 4; Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Tom Sestito - 3
- POINTS: Daniel Sprong - 12 (T-9th in AHL, T-1st among rookies); Dominik Simon - 10; Jean-Sebastien Dea, Christian Thomas, Kevin Czuczman - 7; Gage Quinney, Garrett Wilson, Lukas Bengtsson - 6; Teddy Blueger, Tom Sestito, Adam Johnson - 5
- GOALIES: Casey DeSmith 4-0-1, 1.91 GAA, .936 save percentage, one shutout; Tristan Jarry 3-2-0, 3.18 GAA, .897 save percentage, no shutouts (currently promoted to Pittsburgh)
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 18.2%, T-11th in AHL, three shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 86.0%, 6th in AHL, two shorthanded goals forced
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
I’ll go with Ryan Haggerty as my Player of the Week here, for not playing in WBS’s first seven games, then scoring two goals in each of his first two games. His two in particular against Lehigh Valley were critically important, as one tied that game at 4 after two periods, then sent WBS ahead 5-4 in the third. With Christian Thomas missing the next few games for WBS as he represents his country, there should be a lineup spot available for Haggerty for the short-term, even if captain Tom Kostopoulos recovers from what ails him.
THE WEEK AHEAD
WBS faces a very dangerous week this week, as they host the North Division’s Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night at 7:05 pm EST. Then, on Saturday, WBS will welcome the team that bounced them from last year’s playoffs in the Providence Bruins, bolstered this year by last season’s MVP Ken Agostino, at 7:05 pm EST. To conclude the week, WBS heads down to GIANT Center to visit the Hershey Bears on Sunday, game time 5:00 pm EST.p