DECEMBER 27: Lehigh Valley 5 @ WBS 4
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Casey DeSmith— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 27, 2017
(10-4-2, 2.63 GAA, .913 sv%, 1 SO)
LV - Dustin Tokarski
(9-6-2, 3.28 GAA, .897 sv%, 1 SO)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 27, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 27, 2017
Wow...where do I start with this one...
The dangerous TJ Brennan opened the scoring for Lehigh Valley just 2:57 into the game on a play where, according to the replays, Nic Aube-Kubel either tripped up WBS goalie DeSmith or pushed Jean-Sebastien Dea into DeSmith, wiping him out, giving Brennan a wide-open cage. See for yourself in the highlight package below. Lehigh Valley took a 2-0 lead into the locker rooms through Mike Vecchione’s 8th of the year, deflected in off Frank Corrado.
WBS roared out of the locker room in the second period, with Colin Smith scoring his 4th of the year just 56 seconds into the second, then tied it at 10:54 through Gage Quinney’s 6th of the year. The tie lasted only 69 seconds, though, as Tyrell Goulbourne scored his 6th of the year on a breakaway, then Chris Conner slammed home a rebound of a Radel Fazleev shot to expand the lead to 4-2. That lead was shrunk to 4-3 just 17 seconds later with Garrett Wilson’s 6th of the year, but WBS could get no closer in the third as Phil Varone scored the game-winner into an empty net with 1:21 left. Adam Johnson forced the final margin of loss to 1 with his 3rd of the year with 12 seconds to go.
Garrett Wilson added an assist to his goal for third star honors. Gage Quinney did likewise for second star, but the top honors went to Chris Conner and his lone goal. DeSmith saved 30 of 34 shots in the losing effort.
DECEMBER 29: Hartford 1 @ WBS 5
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 29, 2017
(0-2-1, 5.01 GAA, .857 sv%)
HFD - Marek Mazenec
(4-0-1, 2.93 GAA, .910 sv%)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 29, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 29, 2017
Despite a wholesale raiding of the WBS roster in which DeSmith, Andrey Pedan, Frank Corrado, and Garrett Wilson were promoted to Pittsburgh, the signing of Anthony Peters and Adam Morrison to PTOs due to Michael Leighton suffering an injury, and the return of Cody Wydo (temporarily) to Wheeling, the WBS Penguins still had Daniel Sprong (for Friday, anyway). Sprong shone as brightly as he had on any night this season against the Wolf Pack on Friday:
- He fired the point slapshot that was deflected home by Colin Smith to open the scoring at 9:27 of the first.
- At 8:30 of the second, he took a slick centering from Adam Johnson and rifled home his 16th of the season.
- At 15:44 of the second, he took a smart drop pass from Adam Johnson and ripped home his 17th of the season.
- At 18:05 of the third, with WBS up 4-1 and the Hartford goalie pulled, Sprong took a loose puck from center ice and fired it into an empty net for his 18th of the season and his second hat trick of the year for WBS.
Add a Zach Aston-Reese short-handed goal, and you have an exceedingly satisfying 5-1 victory.
Anthony Peters stopped 27 of 28 shots for his first win for WBS on the season, allowing only Joe Whitney to solve him. Peters’s efforts earned him second star honors. Third star went to Johnson with two great assists on Sprong goals; Sprong obviously took top honors with the primary assist on Smith’s goal and his own three goals.
DECEMBER 30: WBS 2 @ Hershey 1 (OT)
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 30, 2017
(1-2-1, 3.83 GAA, .884 sv%)
HER - Vitek Vanecek
(5-4-0, 2.46 GAA, .901 sv%, 1 SO)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 30, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) December 30, 2017
Full credit to Daniel Sprong. With seemingly everyone else around him being called up, he did what he needed to do: Produce so much that it was impossible to ignore him any more. That’s what happened on Saturday morning, as Sprong was promoted to Pittsburgh in place of Dominik Simon, who was returned to WBS. WBS also called up Cody Wydo and Reid Gardiner for the Saturday night showdown against the Bears.
WBS played a very strong road first period, outshooting Hershey 15-6, but Vitek Vanecek stood tall, saving everything he saw. Zach Aston-Reese solved Vanecek at 7:26 of the second with his 5th of the year.
Tyler Graovac answered for the Bears at 3:10 of the third, but despite their strong forward corps of Olympic hopeful Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley, Nathan Walker, Travis Boyd, Riley Barber, and others, they could not find another goal.
The game progressed to 3 on 3 overtime, when the road-weary Dominik Simon found his elevated gear and ended the proceedings with his 4th goal of the year for WBS.
WBS Penguins radio analyst Nick Hart shared these postgame comments from coach Clark Donatelli after the game...
Donatelli on Simon, “He got maybe three, four hours of sleep last night. He travelled all day to get here. He shows up, and played his [butt] off. My hat’s off to him.”— Nick Hart (@_NickHart) December 31, 2017
Well earned first star for the returning Simon. Peters, with 20 saves on 21 shots, earned third star honors as well as his second win in as many games. His counterpart Vanecek earned second star honors in a losing effort with 36 saves on 38 WBS shots.
STANDINGS (through the games of December 30)
- Atlantic Division: 1) Providence 21-8-3, .703; 2) Lehigh Valley 21-10-4, .657; 3) Charlotte 21-12-1, .632; 4) WBS 18-10-3, .629; 5) Bridgeport 16-12-3, .565; 6) Hershey 15-16-4, .486; 7) Hartford 13-15-6, .471; 8) Springfield 14-19-2, .429
- North Division: 1) Rochester 20-8-6, .676; 2) Toronto 22-11-0, .667; 3) Syracuse 17-12-3, .578; 4) Laval 14-14-7, .500; 5) Utica 13-13-7, .500; 6) Belleville 13-17-3, .439; 7) Binghamton 10-16-5, .403
- Central Division: 1) Manitoba 23-6-2, .766; 2) Rockford 18-13-2, .576; 3) Iowa 15-10-8, .576; 4) Milwaukee 16-12-3; 5) Chicago 14-12-7, .530; 6) Grand Rapids 13-15-5, .470; 7) Cleveland 9-15-5, .397
- Pacific Division: 1) Stockton 16-9-4, .621; 2) Tucson 15-9-3, .611; 3) San Antonio 18-12-2, .594; 4) Texas 18-12-4, .588; 5) San Jose 15-11-2, .571; 6) San Diego 15-12-1, .554; 7) Ontario 15-12-2, .552; 8) Bakersfield 11-13-5, .466
STATISTICS (through the games of December 30)
- Goals: Daniel Sprong - 18 (T-2nd in AHL, leading all rookies; promoted to Pittsburgh); Ryan Haggerty - 11; Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli - 9; Jean-Sebastien Dea, Garrett Wilson, Christian Thomas, Gage Quinney - 6; Zach Aston-Reese, Colin Smith - 5
- Assists: Kevin Czuczman - 16 (T-6th among AHL defenders); Dominik Simon - 13; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 12; Adam Johnson, Zach Aston-Reese - 11; Daniel Sprong, Teddy Blueger - 10; Lukas Bengtsson, Colin Smith - 9; Garrett Wilson, Andrey Pedan - 8 (both promoted to Pittsburgh)
- Points: Daniel Sprong - 28 (T-15th in AHL, 5th among rookies); Teddy Blueger - 19; Ryan Haggerty, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 18; Dominik Simon, Kevin Czuczman - 17; Zach Aston-Reese - 16; Garrett Wilson, Colin Smith, Adam Johnson - 14; Thomas DiPauli, Christian Thomas - 13
- Goalies (active on roster as of December 30): Michael Leighton 1-0-0, 2.80 GAA, .903 save percentage with WBS (5-4-4, 3.13 GAA, .872 save percentage with all teams); Anthony Peters 2-2-1, 3.15 GAA, .895 save percentage; Adam Morrison no activity
- Special Teams: Power play 12.2%, 28th in AHL, 8 shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 83.2%, 15th in AHL, 5 shorthanded goals forced
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
OK, this week it’s not a player, but a staffer. The aforementioned Nick Hart wrote this tremendous piece for the AHL website on “Chef Steve”. I highly recommend it.
WBS opens the new year with three home games in four days, starting Wednesday, January 3 against Bridgeport, continuing Friday, January 5 against Springfield, then concluding January 6 against Belleville, all games starting at 7:05 pm EST.