Hoooooooo boy, a lot changed this week before WBS took the ice for their first games in December. The biggest change took place Tuesday morning, when Pittsburgh recalled goaltender Casey DeSmith following Matt Murray’s injury last Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers. To respond, WBS signed Colin Stevens to a PTO contract after releasing him from his previous PTO contract on Monday without him getting into any games. Furthermore, Sean Maguire, promoted to WBS on Monday, fell ill during the week and was unavailable for the weekend’s games, so WBS signed goaltender Anthony Peters to a PTO on Friday morning, leaving WBS with two PTO goaltenders for the weekend’s games against Milwaukee, Rochester, and Hershey.
WBS did receive some help from Pittsburgh, though, as speedy forward Josh Archibald was returned to WBS on Friday morning on a conditioning assignment.
December 1: Milwaukee 4 @ WBS 5 (OT)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 1, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 1, 2017
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Colin Stevens— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 1, 2017
(1st AHL/WBS start)
MIL - Juuse Saros
(0-2-0, 3.60 GAA, .865 sv%)
The early scuttlebutt surrounding the first game between the Milwaukee Admirals and the WBS Penguins since the Admirals swept away the Penguins in 2004 to win the Calder Cup was not about goalies, but about the curious healthy scratch of Daniel Sprong. Coach Clark Donatelli told the WBS press afterwards:
Donatelli on Sprong's scratch: "Part of the process of being a pro here. We wanted him to watch from up top. We've been doing a lot of film work with him, and this is part of the process."— Tyler Piccotti (@CVPiccotti) December 2, 2017
By the end of the night, though, all of the plaudits were heaped on returning forward Garrett Wilson. Wilson, playing his first game since November 12 and in mourning after the death of his mother to breast cancer, scored three times in the first 13:05 of the game for a hat trick. Josh Archibald added a shorthanded breakaway goal in regulation, and after Milwaukee drew a 4-2 deficit back to 4-4 to force OT, Jean-Sebastien Dea scored the game-winner in OT to give WBS a 5-4 overtime victory. Stevens earned his first AHL win by stopping 29 of 33 shots, while Juuse Saros, demoted by Nashville on Thursday, stopped 26 of 31 shots for the loss.
Three stars: 3) Archibald, one goal and one assist; 2) Dea, game-winning goal; 1) Wilson, hat trick
December 2: Rochester 5 @ WBS 2
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 2, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 2, 2017
Starting Gs: #WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 2, 2017
(1st WBS Start)
RCH - Linus Ullmark
(9-3-2, 2.86 GAA, .919 sv%, 1 SO)
Saturday marked WBS’s Teddy Bear Toss night, but the Penguins had to make the assembled crowd of 6,983 wait until 3:30 of the second period for the bears to fly. Gage Quinney’s deflection of an Andrey Pedan shot at 3:30 did the trick.
How appropriate was it that Saturday night's teddy bear toss came off of the stick of Teddy Blueger. pic.twitter.com/BBSnt6kWOO— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 3, 2017
Rochester came flying out of the bear-break, though, scoring four straight goals in the second to take a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes. Teddy Blueger forced a Linus Ullmark turnover while shorthanded at 14:29 of the third to make the ending of the game mildly interesting, but C.J. Smith’s empty-netter at 19:04 removed all questions, as the North Division’s second-place team handed WBS a convincing 5-2 setback.
Saturday was Anthony Peters’s time to tend the net, and he turned in 32 saves on 36 shots in a losing effort. Besides his turnover, Ullmark stopped 22 of 24 shots for the win.
Three stars: 3) Smith, one goal and two assists; 2) Pedan, one assist (was originally granted the teddy-bear goal, so that may have played a factor in the star selection); 1) Evan Rodrigues for Rochester, two goals and an assist
December 3: WBS 3 @ Hershey 4 (OT)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 3, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 3, 2017
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 3, 2017
(0-1-0, 3.82 GAA, .879 sv%)
HER - Pheonix Copley
(5-3-2, 2.65 GAA, .905 sv%
Sunday afternoon in Hershey was the Bears’ own Teddy Bear Toss night, and like WBS the night before, Hershey had to wait until the second period to let its bears fly. In the interim, though, Gage Quinney and Daniel Sprong assisted each other on goals to give WBS a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Hershey didn’t get its teddy bear goal until 13:27 of the second through Liam O’Brien, but once it came, the undisputed league champion of teddy bear tosses did not disappoint.
Final bear count: 25,017, a new Hershey record.
Hershey rode the momentum of the bear toss into the third period, where goals by O’Brien and Jonas Siegenthaler gave Hershey a 3-2 lead, but just 55 seconds after Siegenthaler’s 3rd of the year, another, rather large forward also got his third of the year.
GOAL GIF: Sestito tips home the Archibald feed to tie the score, 3-3 pic.twitter.com/VqhY4L6cWK— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 4, 2017
Yep, that’s Noted Hershey Heel Big Tom Sestito tying the game.
The Bears would ultimately prevail, though, as the perpetual thorn in the side of the Penguins and the AHL’s leading scorer, Chris Bourque, violently ended the proceedings.
Pheonix Copley ended with 22 saves on 25 shots for the win, while Peters, starting his second straight game, ended with 25 saves on 29 shots for the loss.
Three stars: 3) Siegenthaler, one goal; 2) O’Brien, two goals; 1) Bourque, one goal and one assist
Standings (through the games of December 3)
- Atlantic Division: 1) WBS 13-5-2, .700; 2) Providence 13-6-2, .667; 3) Charlotte 14-8-1, .630; 4) Lehigh Valley 13-7-3, .630; 5) Bridgeport 12-8-2, .591; 6) Hershey 11-10-3, .521; 7) Hartford 8-12-4, .417; 8) Springfield 9-15-1, .380
- North Division: 1) Toronto 18-5-0, .783; 2) Rochester 12-5-5, .659; 3) Utica 10-9-2, .524; 4) Syracuse 10-9-3, .523; 5) Laval 10-9-5, .521; 6) Belleville 10-11-3, .479; 7) Binghamton 7-11-3, .405
- Central Division: 1) Manitoba 17-5-2, .750; 2) Rockford 13-9-1, .587; 3) Iowa 11-8-3, .568; 4) Milwaukee 11-9-1, .548; 5) Grand Rapids 9-10-3, .477; 6) Cleveland 7-8-4, .474; 7) Chicago 5-11-5, .357
- Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 10-4-3, .676; 2) Stockton 12-6-2, .650; 3) Texas 13-9-1, .587; 4) San Antontio 12-9-1, .568; 5) Ontario 9-8-1, .528; 6) San Jose 9-8-1, .528; 7) Bakersfield 8-10-2, .450; 8) San Diego 8-10-1, .447
Statistics (through the games of December 3)
- GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 10 (T-3rd in AHL among rookies, T-11th in AHL); Ryan Haggerty - 9 (T-17th in AHL); Thomas DiPauli - 7; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 6; Garrett Wilson, Teddy Blueger, Christian Thomas, Gage Quinney - 5
- ASSISTS: Dominik Simon, Kevin Czuczman - 13 (T-15th in AHL, Czuczman T-3rd among defenders); Lukas Bengtsson - 9 (T-4th among AHL rookie defenders); Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Johnson, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 7; Garrett Wilson, Andrey Pedan, Daniel Sprong, Teddy Blueger - 6
- POINTS: Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon - 16 (Sprong T-9th among rookies); Kevin Czuczman - 14 (T-11th among AHL defenders); Ryan Haggerty, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 13; Thomas DiPauli, Garrett Wilson, Teddy Blueger - 11; Christian Thomas - 10
- GOALIES: Casey DeSmith 9-2-1 (T-5th in wins), 2.29 GAA (8th in AHL), .924 save percentage (11th in AHL), one shutout; Tristan Jarry 3-2-0, 3.18 GAA, .897 save percentage, no shutouts; Colin Stevens 1-0-0, 3.82 GAA, .879 save percentage; Anthony Peters 0-1-1, 3.99 GAA, .877 save percentage
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 14.6%, 25th in AHL, six shorthanded goals allowed (tied for most in AHL); penalty kill 83.8%, 9th in AHL, four shorthanded goals forced
Player of the Week
Garrett Wilson, not even a question. Wilson added an assist on Sunday to his hat trick on Friday for a four-point weekend. The hat trick on Friday represented the 98th, 99th, and 100th pro goals for Wilson, and his assist on Sunday was his 100th pro assist. I couldn’t even imagine doing anything productive a week after burying your own mother, much less playing professional hockey at such a high level, so Wilson gets all of my applause and condolences this week.
The Week Ahead
Hopefully, the week ahead brings some healthy goalies.
WBS will travel to Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night, December 6, at 7:05 pm. WBS will then host Charlotte on Friday, December 8, at 7:05 pm; then on Sunday, December 10, WBS returns to Hershey for another engagement at 5:00 pm.