JANUARY 24: WBS 4 @ Hershey 0
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 24, 2018
(6-3-2, 2.30 GAA, .919 sv%)
HER - Pheonix Copley
(8-7-5, 2.90 GAA, .899 sv%)
Aston-Reese--McKegg--Haggerty— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 24, 2018
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 24, 2018
Hey, there’s our All-Star back in the fold after being sent back to WBS on January 22.
WBS began its final week before the All-Star break with yet another trip to the Hershey Bears, who you’ll see in the standings at the end of the recap finished the week in a stunning last place in the Atlantic Division. I don’t know what has happened to these Bears, but it can’t be anything good, as WBS used goals by Zach Aston-Reese at 3:40 of the first and Jarrett Burton at 9:14 of the first to take a quick 2-0 lead at GIANT Center.
WBS held the lead throughout the second period despite allowing three power plays in the middle frame. Former Bear and current Team Canada Olympian Christian Thomas made the lead 3 at 10:54 of the third, then Zach Trotman put a bow on it at 12:01 of the third with his third of the season.
Aston-Reese took third star honors with his goal. Defender Frank Corrado took second honors with two assists on the evening. The star of the night was given to goaltender Anthony Peters, who posted 18 saves for his first shutout at the AHL level.
JANUARY 26: WBS 2 @ Lehigh Valley 5
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 26, 2018
(7-3-2, 2.10 GAA, .924 sv%, 1 SO)
LV - Dustin Tokarski
(11-4-3, 3.21 GAA, .902 sv%,
Expected #WBSPens Lines— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 26, 2018
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 26, 2018
Despite being bolstered by the return of both Jean-Sebastien Dea and Tristan Jarry to WBS, the Penguins chose to keep the same lineup that throttled the Bears intact for their visit to Lehigh Valley on Friday. WBS started out very strong with a Daniel Sprong unassisted goal just :54 into the game, but Greg Carey answered at 5:06 with his 19th of the year. Just 1:20 after that, Zach Aston-Reese scored his second in as many games to restore the lead for WBS and chase starting goaltender Dustin Tokarski from the game, but unfortunately the Penguins would not be able to get anything else for the rest of the night against backup Alex Lyon.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel tied the game at 17:01 of the first, T.J. Brennan secured Lehigh Valley’s first lead at 11:48 of the second, Mike Vecchione added some insurance at 13:19 of the third, then Aube-Kubel delivered the KO at 14:31 of the third with his second of the night and 13th of the season. The game ended 5-2 to the Phantoms.
Brennan (one goal), Aube-Kubel (two goals and an assist), and Alex Lyon (26 saves on 26 shots in relief) swept the stars for the Phantoms.
JANUARY 27: Binghamton 3 @ WBS 4 (OT)
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Tristan Jarry— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 27, 2018
(3-2-0, 3.18 GAA, .897 sv%)
BNG - Mackenzie Blackwood
(5-13-4, 3.57 GAA, . 879 sv%,
Expected #WBSPens Lines— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 27, 2018
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 27, 2018
BAH GAWD, THAT’S TOM KOSTOPOULOS! Returning to the WBS lineup for the first time in three months! In front of WBS’s largest crowd of the season, 8,199!
Jean-Sebastien Dea struck first for WBS, taking a Ryan Haggerty pass at speed and powering along the ice to the goal, roofing a shot past Blackwood for his 10th goal for WBS this season. A surprisingly violent first period ended 1-0 to WBS, as Binghamton seemingly put a little extra emphasis on each one of their hits in the first period.
At 11:51 of the second, Daniel Sprong showed off his hands, flipping a soft pass to Gage Quinney at his offensive blue line to spring a mini-odd player rush. Quinney then fed Kevin Czuczman, trailing the play, for Czuczman’s second goal of the year.
Things started to break down soon after, as WBS started losing their cool at the various hits and shots Binghamton was taking. It started with Andrey Pedan sitting for interference at 13:08, which led to Nick Lappin scoring his 16th of the year at 14:09. Pedan took another penalty at 17:27 of the second for tripping, and once again Lappin capitalized at 18:33 of the second to tie the game against a clearly tilted WBS.
The third period cooled off considerably until the final two minutes, when the captain of the Penguins found Garrett Wilson in the center of the zone, and Wilson waited just long enough to find the shooting lane he wanted to score his 8th of the season.
The lead lasted all of 35 seconds, though, as Bracken Kearns scored his 10th of the season at 18:57. I thought at first the goal would be called back due to a high stick, but then again I was 300 feet away.
The game went to overtime, and yet another frenetic back and forth 3 on 3 OT fell the Penguins’ way.
Aston-Reese’s third in three games, and my goodness, does he just never give up on a play at all. Remarkable effort to chase down his own shot and top level patience to wait out Blackwood for the game-winner.
Wilson’s goal was good for third star. Lappin’s pair earned second star, but Aston-Reese took top honors with his goal and an assist on Dea’s goal.
2018 AHL ALL-STAR SKILLS COMPETITION
On account of Casey DeSmith being kept in Pittsburgh this past week, DeSmith was removed from the All-Star rosters despite his being the fourth consecutive WBS goaltender selected to All-Stars (Jeff Zatkoff in 2015, Matt Murray in 2016, Tristan Jarry in 2017). As a result, WBS was represented in Utica only by the wonderkid, Daniel Sprong.
Sprong took part in three events during the All-Star Skills Competition:
- First, he paired up with USA Olympian Chris Bourque of the Hershey Bears in the Rapid Fire contest against Milwaukee’s Anders Lindback. Sprong and Bourque put a total of 3 goals past Lindback out of a combined 10 shots.
- Later, Sprong paired up with Warren Foegele of Charlotte and Austin Czarnik of Providence to take on San Jose’s Antoine Bibeau in the Pass and Shoot competition. The trio of Sprong, Foegele, and Czarnik could not score any goals in three attempts.
- To close out the evening, Sprong led off round 6 of the evening’s final event, the Breakaway Relay, but was unable to score on Ontario’s Cal Petersen.
2018 AHL ALL-STAR CHALLENGE
Sprong did not hit the scoresheet in the Atlantic Division’s first victory of the night, a 5-2 defeat of the Central Division. He did record the primary assist on Austin Czarnik’s goal at 4:53 of the second half against the Pacific Division, but Pacific ended up winning 4-3. Sprong also sprung TJ Brennan on a breakaway to score the Atlantic’s third goal.
All looked well for the Atlantic until the North scored a ridiculous four goals in less than 3 minutes to advance to the title game, where Rochester’s CJ Smith scored the lone goal at the 2:40 mark, his third of the night, to give the home North Division the All-Star Challenge championship and himself the MVP award for the All-Star Challenge.
STANDINGS (through the All-Star break, as compiled from theahl.com)
- Atlantic Division: 1) WBS 26-12-4, .667; 2) Lehigh Valley 26-13-6, .644; 3) Providence 25-15-4, .614; 4) Charlotte 24-18-2, .568; 5) Bridgeport 22-16-6, .568; 6) Hartford 20-20-6, .500; 7) Springfield 21-24-2, .468; 8) Hershey 17-21-7, .456
- North Division: 1) Toronto 32-11-1, .739; 2) Rochester 25-10-10, .667; 3) Syracuse 26-15-4, .622; 4) Utica 22-14-9, .589; 5) Laval 17-22-7, .446; 6) Belleville 18-24-4, .435; 7) Binghamton 13-22-7, .393
- Central Division: 1) Manitoba 29-10-5, .716; 2) Iowa 21-13-10, .591; 3) Chicago 22-15-8, .578; 4) Rockford 24-17-5, .576; 5) Grand Rapids 22-18-5, .544; 6) Milwaukee 21-18-4, .535; 7) Cleveland 13-22-7, .393
- Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 23-13-3, .628; 2) Texas 24-16-6, .587; 3) Ontario 22-16-3, .573; 4) San Antonio 23-17-4, .568; 5) Stockton 20-15-5, .563; 6) San Diego 22-17-1, .563; 7) San Jose 20-17-3, .538; 8) Bakersfield 17-17-8, .500
STATISTICS (through the All-Star break, as compiled from theahl.com)
- Goals: Daniel Sprong - 19 (8th in AHL, 2nd among rookies); Ryan Haggerty - 16; Teddy Blueger, Christian Thomas - 12; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 10; Zach Aston-Reese, Thomas DiPauli - 9; Garrett Wilson - 8; Gage Quinney - 7; Colin Smith, Andrey Pedan - 5
- Assists: Kevin Czuczman - 20 (T-5th among defenders); Zach Aston-Reese - 19; Ryan Haggerty - 15; Adam Johnson, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 14; Dominik Simon, Daniel Sprong, Teddy Blueger - 13 (Simon currently promoted to Pittsburgh); Colin Smith, Garrett Wilson, Andrey Pedan - 12
- Points: Daniel Sprong - 32 (T-5th among rookies); Ryan Haggerty - 31, Zach Aston-Reese - 28; Teddy Blueger - 25; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 24; Kevin Czuczman - 22; Christian Thomas - 21; Garrett Wilson - 20; Adam Johnson - 18; Gage Quinney, Colin Smith, Andrey Pedan, Dominik Simon - 17
- Goalies (active at the All-Star break): Anthony Peters 7-4-2, 2.33 GAA, .916 save percentage, one shutout; Tristan Jarry 4-2-0, 3.12 GAA, .897 save percentage, no shutouts
- Special Teams: Power play 13.3%, 28th in AHL, 8 shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 83.6%, 13th in AHL, 5 shorthanded goals forced
THE WEEK AHEAD
WBS will open the second half of their season without Christian Thomas, who as of Saturday has joined Team Canada for the Olympics. WBS will conduct a two-game series this weekend, first on Friday, February 2 against Hershey at 7:05 pm. WBS is calling this game “Football Friday”, inviting fans to wear the football jerseys of their favored teams to the game; I expect to see a lot of green. WBS will then host Lehigh Valley on Saturday for the annual “Pink in the Rink” night in honor of and to support those fighting cancer.