JANUARY 3: Bridgeport 2 @ WBS 3 (OT)
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 3, 2018
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 3, 2018
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Anthony Peters— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 3, 2018
(2-2-1, 3.15 GAA, .895 sv%)
BRI - Christopher Gibson
(12-6-1, 2.46 GAA, .904 sv%,
The story going into Wednesday’s game against Bridgeport was not anything or anyone listed above, though. The Penguins were forced to hold Casey DeSmith out of action on Wednesday due to uncertainty at the time over Tristan Jarry’s health status, and recently-acquired Michael Leighton is injured. So, out of seemingly nowhere, an old friend stepped up to the plate.
That’s right. Sebastien Caron. Last seen on this continent in 2011-12 with Tampa Bay, Caron has been finding goaltending work in Germany most recently and not suiting up for WBS since 2006. But there he was, at age 37, tending the bench for Anthony Peters.
The story quickly turned away from Caron, though, as Bridgeport played a stifling first 40 minutes and used first period goals from Travis St. Denis and Michael Dal Colle to take a 2-0 lead. WBS started to turn the tide in the third period, seemingly getting their first goal from Thomas DiPauli but having it waived off due to (presumably) Colin Smith standing in the crease for too long. The first goal finally came from the stick of Ryan Haggerty on a deflection of a Zach Aston-Reese shot at 8:18 of the third. WBS continued to build momentum through the third, culminating in a final showdown between the league’s third-worst power play and a Bridgeport penalty kill that had dispatched 33 consecutive power plays to that point.
So clearly, you’d have expected Greg McKegg to score the equalizer at 19:36 of the third to send it to overtime, then have Teddy Blueger score his third overtime game-winner of the year just 26 seconds into overtime. That’s just how these things go.
After conceding two in the first 7:26, Peters slammed the door from there, ending with 28 saves on 30 shots for the win. Aston-Reese took third star honors with an assist (WBS’s first goal was originally given to Aston-Reese before being subsequently changed); McKegg’s equalizer earned him second honors; Blueger’s game-winner, his 10th goal of the season, earned top honors.
JANUARY 5: Springfield 2 @ WBS 4
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 5, 2018
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 5, 2018
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Casey DeSmith— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 5, 2018
(10-5-2, 2.72 GAA, .911 sv%,
SPR - Samuel Montembault
(8-12-2, 3.08 GAA, .902 sv%,
Jarry’s return to health in midweek allowed Atlantic Division All-Star goaltender Casey DeSmith to rejoin the lineup against the Atlantic Division’s basement dwellers from Springfield. The first period proceeded scoreless, then McKegg scored his second goal in as many nights at 3:12 of the second to put WBS up 1-0. WBS saw the lead through to 40 minutes thanks to three spectacular defensive plays: 1) Jarred Tinordi reaching behind goaltender DeSmith to clear a puck off the goal line; 2) Zach Aston-Reese charging back against a breakaway to catch up to and clear off his opponent, and 3) Chris Summers laying flat on the ice against a 3 on 1 to sweep the puck off an attacker’s stick, then in the same motion, coming to his knees and clearing the puck away.
Goals flew fast and furious in the third period, starting with Springfield’s Mark Fayne tying the game at 1:03 with his first of the year off a DeSmith rebound. WBS regained the lead through Team Canada hopeful Christian Thomas and his 7th of the year at 4:02 of the third, then expanded that lead to two through Ryan Haggerty’s 13th of the year at 13:09 of the third. Springfield struck back quickly, though, with Dryden Hunt scoring at 13:30 to draw back to 1, but they could get no closer as Adam Johnson fired his 4th of the year through the feet of two or three defenders and into an empty net with just 2 seconds left.
DeSmith ended with 20 saves on 22 shots for the win. McKegg took third star honors with his goal; Thomas took second star with his goal; Haggerty’s goal earned top honors.
JANUARY 6: Belleville 0 @ WBS 6
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 6, 2018
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 6, 2018
Starting Gs:#WBSPens - Casey DeSmith— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) January 6, 2018
(11-5-2, 2.68 GAA, .911 sv%,
BEL - Chris Driedger
(2-3-0, 3.56 GAA, .889 sv%)
WBS’s win on Friday drew them back to mere percentage points behind Lehigh Valley for second place in the division. Their opponents on Saturday, the reskinned Belleville Senators, ended this week second to last in the North Division.
Put simply, this game was not really a contest.
Thomas led the charge with two goals and an assist (first star), Jean-Sebastien Dea ended his month-long scoring drought with two goals (third star), Zach Trotman added his second of the year, and Ethan Prow scored his first of the year for a convincing 6-0 trouncing of the Senators, a five-game winning streak, and overtaking of the Phantoms for second place in the Atlantic. DeSmith (second star) posted his second shutout of the year with 24 saves.
STANDINGS (through the games of January 7)
- Atlantic Division: 1) Providence 22-10-3, .671; 2) WBS 21-10-3, .662; 3) Lehigh Valley 21-11-5, .635; 4) Charlotte 21-14-1, .597; 5) Bridgeport 16-13-5, .544; 6) Hershey 17-16-4, .514; 7) Hartford 14-17-6, .459; 8) Springfield 14-21-2, .405
- North Division: 1) Toronto 26-11-0, .703; 2) Rochester 22-8-6, .694; 3) Syracuse 20-12-3, .614; 4) Utica 15-13-7, .529; 5) Laval 15-16-7, .487; 6) Belleville 14-20-3, .419; 7) Binghamton 11-18-6, .400
- Central Division: 1) Manitoba 25-6-4, .771; 2) Chicago 18-12-7, .581; 3) Milwaukee 18-13-4, .571; 4) Iowa 16-12-9, .554; 5) Rockford 19-15-3, .554; 6) Grand Rapids 16-16-5, .500; 7) Cleveland 10-17-6, .394
- Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 17-10-3, .617; 2) Stockton 17-10-5, .609; 3) San Antonio 20-14-2, .583; 4) San Diego 18-13-1, .578; 5) Texas 19-14-4, .568; 6) Ontario 16-14-2, .531; 7) San Jose 15-14-2, .516; 8) Bakersfield 14-13-6, .515
STATISTICS (through the games of January 7)
- Goals: Daniel Sprong - 18 (also named as an AHL All-Star, but promoted to Pittsburgh); Ryan Haggerty - 13; Teddy Blueger - 10; Christian Thomas, Thomas DiPauli - 9; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 8; Garrett Wilson, Gage Quinney - 6; Zach Aston-Reese, Colin Smith - 5
- Assists: Kevin Czuczman - 18; Zach Aston-Reese, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 14; Dominik Simon - 13 (promoted to Pittsburgh); Adam Johnson, Garrett Wilson - 12; Colin Smith, Teddy Blueger - 11; Daniel Sprong - 10; Lukas Bengtsson, Andrey Pedan - 9
- Points: Daniel Sprong - 28; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 22; Ryan Haggerty, Teddy Blueger - 21; Zach Aston-Reese, Kevin Czuczman - 19; Garrett Wilson - 18; Christian Thomas, Dominik Simon - 17; Colin Smith, Adam Johnson - 16
- Active Goaltenders: Casey DeSmith 12-5-2, 2.53 GAA, .915 save percentage, two shutouts; Anthony Peters 3-2-1, 2.94 GAA, .902 save percentage
- Special Teams: Power play 12.9%, 28th in AHL, 8 shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 84.0%, 12th in AHL, 5 shorthanded goals forced
Player of the Week
This week is shaping up to be a huge, huge week for WBS winger Christian Thomas, who scored three goals and an assist this past week. The right winger out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, joined WBS this season as a free agent after putting up 24 goals and 49 points in 65 games for rival Hershey last season; to this point in the season, he has 85 goals and 88 assists in his 307 career AHL regular season games, in addition to one goal in 11 playoff games. On Thursday of this week, Hockey Canada GM Sean Burke is expected to release his roster for Team Canada for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Thomas is in contention for selection, having been chosen to Canada’s Karjala and Spengler Cup teams already.
If chosen, Thomas would join the four former Penguins players and one former Penguins coach named to Team USA for the Olympics, beginning February 8.
THE WEEK AHEAD
With Disney On Ice’s “Dream Big” show taking residence in WBS this weekend, the Penguins will take a mini-tour of Canada this week, visiting the Belleville Senators on Friday, January 12 at 7:00 pm EST, then visiting the Laval Rocket on Saturday, January 13 at 4:00 pm EST.