March 1st: The NHL Trade Deadline
The first big event to hit the WBS Penguins this past week took place on March 1, with the NHL trade deadline. There were two things to watch: 1) How any trades consummated by the parent Pittsburgh Penguins would affect WBS, and 2) Just who would be on the AHL roster at the time of the deadline, 3 pm EST, which determines eligibility for the AHL playoffs.
One of the trades pulled off by Pittsburgh at the deadline, a fourth-round pick in 2018 for Mark Streit, had no effect on the AHL Penguins, but the other sure did...Steve Oleksy, Eric Fehr, and a 2017 4th round pick for Frank Corrado. Pittsburgh later announced that Corrado would be joining WBS, and after some visa issues in the second half of the week, Corrado was in the lineup for both WBS games this weekend.
As far as the roster shuffle...it wasn’t officially announced on the AHL transactions page until almost two hours after the deadline, but Pittsburgh did send down Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney, and Derrick Pouliot (who was recalled to Pittsburgh earlier in the morning) for the deadline, then immediately recalled the trio. This makes all three eligible for WBS’s playoff run this season should Pittsburgh find itself exiting the playoffs early. Pittsburgh also sent Cameron Gaunce back to WBS, but did not recall him again. Ultimately, what this means is that according to AHL rules, NHL clubs are allowed four “non-emergency” recalls following the trade deadline; the recalls of Guentzel, Rowney, and Pouliot burn three of these. Pittsburgh can make one more recall from WBS without cause for the rest of the season; any other recalls must meet emergency conditions (injury, illness, etc.).
March 4th: WBS 1 @ Hershey 2
WBS continued its extended, rather unsuccessful road trip on Saturday night with a trip to its longtime rivals in Hershey. Josh Archibald opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season and first since scoring 2 against Lehigh Valley on February 4 at 9:53 of the first, assisted by Oskar Sundqvist and Barry Goers. The goal was quickly equaled by Colby Williams at 13:51 of the first, assisted by Stan Galiev and Christian Thomas, and the first period ended 1-1. The second period proceeded without goals, but with one penalty to Hershey and two to WBS (all killed off). Hershey broke the deadlock at 18:40 of the second with an outstanding individual effort by Galiev...
2-1 Hershey after two, and thanks to four separate penalties taken in the third period, WBS could not equalize. Newly (re) acquired goaltender Pheonix Copley took first-star honors and a hard-earned victory, stopping 36 of 37 WBS shots, while Tristan Jarry could only stop 25 of 27 for the loss despite several stellar denials in the third to keep WBS in the game.
March 5th: WBS 6 @ Hartford 3
The final leg of the road trip took WBS up to the last place team in the Atlantic Division, the Hartford Wolf Pack, who were forced to play without former Penguin Tanner Glass and Steve Kampfer due to callup. WBS came out flying at the XL Center with Kevin Porter’s 9th goal of the season on a power play at 2:27 of the first.
GOAL GIF: Porter puts the Pens up, 1-0 pic.twitter.com/9F1MFIACUd— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) March 5, 2017
To its credit, Hartford tied the game at 6:28 of the first with Niclas Jensen’s 24th of the season (also on the power play), a bright spot among a very rough campaign for the Wolf Pack. WBS struck back with David Warsofsky’s 13th of the season, again on the power play, with 17 seconds left on the clock for the first.
WBS led 2-1 after 1.
The Wolf Pack put a lot of nervous energy into the WBS fanbase in the second period, as Jensen scored his second of the game and 25th of the season at 7:47 of the second to tie the game, then Matt Carey scored his 16th of the season at 9:46 of the second to put Hartford, inexplicably, ahead at the halfway mark.
But then, WBS woke up.
GOAL GIF: Archibald ties the game up at 3-3. pic.twitter.com/YZNCiNCUNx— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) March 5, 2017
Archibald scored at 13:23, his second goal of the weekend and 13th of the season. Warsofsky scored his second of the game at 14:53 of the second, his 14th of the season (tied for 2nd among all AHL defenders behind only Lehigh Valley’s T.J. Brennan) to put WBS ahead. Then, with time expiring...
GOAL GIF: Dea with the goal with to make it 5-3 after the second period. pic.twitter.com/1JGoTTaMgd— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) March 5, 2017
That’s Jean-Sebastien Dea’s 15th of the season to put WBS up 5-3 after two periods.
GOAL GIF: J.S. Dea's second of the game makes it 6-3 pic.twitter.com/PZrTW5vZqz— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) March 5, 2017
Dea would score his second of the game and 16th of the season at 16:35 of the third, assisted by Dominik Simon, to close the scoring and a 2-5 road trip for the division leaders with a 6-3 win. Casey DeSmith stopped 24 of 27 shots on goal for the win.
Statistics (through March 6)
Goals: Jake Guentzel 21 (still up with Pittsburgh, but tied for 9th in AHL and still 2nd among all rookies), Tom Kostopoulos 20 (T-15th in AHL), Oskar Sundqvist/Jean-Sebastien Dea 16 each, David Warsofsky 14, Josh Archibald 13
Assists: Warsofsky/Kevin Porter 27 each, Dominik Simon 26, Kostopoulos 24, Sundqvist 23
Points: Kostopoulos 44 (20th in AHL), Guentzel 42, Warsofsky 41, Sundqvist 39, Porter 36, Simon 35
Goalies: Tristan Jarry 23-12-1, 2.27 GAA, 92.1% save percentage, one shutout; Casey DeSmith 15-4-2, 2.36 GAA, 91.1% save percentage, no shutouts
Special Teams: Power play 18.0%, 14th in AHL, two shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 86.5%, 1st in AHL, six shorthanded goals forced
Fight Tracker (courtesy of HockeyFights.com): Patrick McGrath 8 (one more allowed before suspension), Tom Sestito 5, Garrett Wilson 4, Cameron Gaunce 2, Ryan Haggerty 1, Josh Archibald 1, Carter Rowney 1, Tom Kostopoulos 1, Jarrett Burton 1, Kevin Porter 1
Standings: 1) WBS, 69.8%; 2) Providence, 66.4%; 3) Lehigh Valley, 65.8%; 4) Bridgeport, 64.0%; 5) Hershey, 61.9%, 6) Springfield, 46.6%; 7) Hartford, 40.5%
Magic Number to Clinch Playoffs: 29 (through the games of March 5). WBS’s win at Hartford drops their number to 27.
The Week Ahead
Wednesday, March 8: Lehigh Valley at WBS, 7:05 pm EST
Friday, March 10: Hartford at WBS, 7:05 pm EST
Saturday, March 11: Providence at WBS, 7:05 pm EST
It’s been a very long, not exactly successful road trip for the Penguins, who have seen their once-impressive division lead essentially vanish by getting only 4 out of 16 points from this road trip, and the road home doesn’t get any easier with another game against the Phantoms mid-week and a game against the streaking, dangerous P-Bruins to close the weekend. There’s hazards all along the road to the playoffs, and it’ll be interesting to see if WBS can navigate them successfully to get to the playoffs...and whatever reinforcements might be waiting for them.