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WBS Weekly: Playoffs Looming

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The WBS Penguins surge ever closer to the playoffs.

The captain of the Penguins, thriving at age 38.
Kate Frese - SB Nation

Tuesday, March 21: Hartford 2 @ WBS 5

Coming into their seventh meeting of the season, the WBS Penguins had completely and totally owned the Hartford Wolf Pack during the 2016-17 season, winning all six previous meetings by a combined total of 33-11. The seventh meeting was, frankly, no different, as WBS used two goals from Ryan Haggerty (his ninth and tenth of the season), Josh Archibald (his 16th), David Warsofsky (his 15th), and the first professional goal from Zach Aston-Reese to once again overcome the playoff-eliminated Wolf Pack 5-2. Hartford could only put 21 shots on Casey DeSmith against WBS’s 39 shots, with DeSmith making 19 saves. The final meeting of the two teams will take place on Saturday, April 8 in Hartford.

Friday, March 24: WBS 5 @ Syracuse 1

To get a sense of just how strong the AHL’s Atlantic Division has been this year, keep this in mind. As of the AHL Playoff Primer on the morning of March 26, the Syracuse Crunch led the North Division with a record of 33-22-6-5, 77 points, and a points percentage of .583. That record would not even be good enough for fifth place in the Atlantic Division, with Bridgeport holding a record of 39-24-2-1, 81 points, and a points percentage of .614 to trail Hershey for the fourth playoff spot in the Atlantic. The Atlantic has been far superior to the North this season, and in Friday night’s clash of division leaders, it was once again the Eastern Conference’s best team shining brightly with a 5-1 victory. Thomas Di Pauli, Kevin Porter, and Aston-Reese scored the game’s first three goals to chase starter Kristers Gudlevskis from the game, and Barry Goers and Dominik Simon tallied goals in the second and third periods respectively to add to WBS’s dominance. Goalie Tristan Jarry stopped 27 of 28 shots for the victory.

Saturday, March 25: WBS 4 @ Lehigh Valley 0

Oh, look...it’s Lehigh Valley again, for the ninth meeting out of 12 between the teams this season. Having lost All-Star defender David Warsofsky just prior to the game due to callup to Pittsburgh and not getting the demoted Frank Corrado back in time, this game marked the WBS debut of 2013 4th round draft pick Ryan Segalla, who picked up 4 penalty minutes on the evening. Despite being outshot 35-30 by the Phantoms against a hostile sold-out PPL Center crowd of 8,836, WBS was able to get goals from Teddy Blueger, Adam Krause, Jarrett Burton, and Tom Kostopoulos, as well as two assists from Aston-Reese (giving him a remarkable five points in his first three WBS games) and nine penalty kills from the best PK unit in the league, to shut out the Phantoms 4-0. Tristan Jarry earned the clean sheet, his second of the season and his 27th win (tied with San Jose’s Troy Grosenick and trailing only Ontario’s Jack Campbell with 28), with 35 saves and the benefit of a very late goal review when it was determined that Lehigh Valley’s final shot, which beat Jarry, did not beat the clock. Lehigh Valley’s Alex Lyon took the loss, stopping 26 of 30 WBS efforts.

In addition to the highlight video, please enjoy some of the extremely talented photography of SB Nation’s Kate Frese, who was on hand for this game.

The entire gallery can be found here.

We are so fortunate to have Kate as part of the SB Nation team, and I personally am very thankful that she has captured so many stellar images for use in this article specifically as well as across Pensburgh. Hats off, Kate, and thank you again.

Sunday, March 26: Utica 1 @ WBS 2

The final game of the week for WBS took place in the friendly confines of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, as the Utica Comets came to town with sticks blazing. Literally. To the tune of 46 shots on goal for the game, making for an extremely busy Sunday afternoon for Casey DeSmith. Utica took a 1-0 lead at 9:50 of the second through a power play goal by Darren Archibald, his 21st of the year, but Sahir Gill answered just 41 seconds later with a power play goal of his own, his 6th of the year. Dominik Simon broke the tie at 6:10 of the third with his 14th goal of the year, and though Utica outshot WBS 13-4 in the third period alone, DeSmith stood tall to the tune of 45 overall saves for his 18th and hardest win of the season. DeSmith’s 45 saves were the most he recorded in any of his wins this year; the next closest save total for him was 30 in a win against Binghamton on February 11.

Four games, four wins. About as good a week as you could hope for.

Statistics (as of March 26)

Goals - Tom Kostopoulos 24, Jake Guentzel 21, Oskar Sundqvist 17, Jean-Sebastien Dea/Josh Archibald 16, David Warsofsky 15. Important note: As of the end of the week, Guentzel, Sundqvist, Archibald, and Warsofsky were not on the WBS roster.

Assists - Kevin Porter 34, Warsofsky/Dominik Simon 29 each, Kostopoulos 27, Sundqvist 23, Guentzel 21

Points - Kostopoulos 51 (38 years old, and he’s leading WBS in points), Porter 45, Warsofsky 44, Simon 43, Guentzel 42, Sundqvist 40, Dea 31

Goalies - Tristan Jarry 27-14-1, 2.19 GAA, 92.4% save percentage, two shutouts; Casey DeSmith 18-4-2, 2.23 GAA, 91.7% save percentage, no shutouts

Special Teams - Power play 17.7%, T-14th in AHL, 4 shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 87.4%, 1st in AHL, 8 shorthanded goals forced

Fight Tracker - Patrick McGrath 9: Tom Sestito 5, Garrett Wilson 4, Cameron Gaunce 2, Ryan Haggerty 2 (fought Samuel Morin of Lehigh Valley on Saturday, as shown above), Josh Archibald 1, Carter Rowney 1, Tom Kostopoulos 1, Jarrett Burton 1, Kevin Porter 1

Magic Number to Clinch Playoffs - 5. Four WBS wins (8), a regulation loss by Bridgeport on Saturday (2), an overtime loss by Bridgeport Sunday (1), and clinching the tiebreaker over Bridgeport (1) all contributed to the huge drop in the magic number. The clinch is in sight.

The Week Ahead

Friday, March 31: WBS at Springfield, 7:05 pm EDT

Saturday, April 1: Lehigh Valley at WBS, 7:05 pm EDT

Sunday, April 2: Utica at WBS, 3:05 pm EDT

With the right results this week, WBS can clinch its 15th straight trip to the Calder Cup playoffs. This while losing so much of its skill and talent to the parent Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s been a truly remarkable regular season for WBS, with the finish line in sight and the second season on the horizon. Let’s see how it concludes.