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WBS Weekly: The Future Looks Familiar

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Three of four games go to extra time this week as WBS splits the available points to end the week in...third place in the Atlantic?

WBS Penguins

MARCH 20: WBS 3 @ Toronto 4 (OT)

Bolstered by the return to WBS of goaltender Tristan Jarry and the return to the lineup of Daniel Sprong, WBS opened this past week with a midweek visit to the best team in the AHL this season, the Toronto Marlies. WBS gave the Marlies quite a game, coming back from both a 2-0 and a 3-2 deficit through the course of regulation, with Sprong, Garrett Wilson, and Ethan Prow scoring the goals.

WBS did well to force the game to overtime for a point, but they could not get the second point as Toronto’s Adam Brooks scored the game-winner 1:17 into the extra session.

Jarry saved 36 of 40 Toronto shots in his return, while Marlies goaltender Garrett Sparks saved 37 of 40 WBS shots in a highly entertaining game. The Marlies’ Calle Rosen took third star with his 2nd goal of the season at 14:48 of the second to give Toronto a 3-2 lead; Garrett Wilson added an assist to his 14th of the season for second star; Brooks’s game-winner took top honors.

MARCH 23: WBS 4 @ Utica 5 (OT)

More returns as WBS opened their three in three this weekend, as big defender Andrey Pedan returned to the lineup for his first game in over a month.

Just like Tuesday, the order of this game was an early deficit, a comeback to force overtime, then a loss in overtime. The early deficit reached 3-0 in 15:27 on Friday in Utica, as Michael Carcone opened the scoring at 1:31 of the first, then Michael Chaput scored two in the first. The 3-0 lead lasted less than 30 seconds, though, as Jean-Sebastien Dea scored his 14th of the season at 15:56 to bring WBS within two.

In the second, Daniel Sprong paired with Gage Quinney on what has quickly become a lethal 2 on 1 combination.

That’s Sprong’s 24th goal of the year and his 50th point. Utica’s Zac Lynch restored the lead to two goals with his 1st of the year at 16:58 of the second, but WBS managed to claw the deficit all the way back to 4-4 in the third through Captain Tom Kostopoulos’s 4th of the season...

...and Quinney’s 12th with 2:10 to go.

Just as three nights earlier, though, WBS could not complete the comeback in OT, as Ashton Sautner scored his 3rd of the year at 1:15 of the extra session to give Utica the extra point.

Not only did they lose the game, but they also lost forward Thomas DiPauli to injury in the second period, as he was checked hard from behind into the glass by Guillaume Brisebois. He did not play the rest of the weekend, and he was characterized as “week to week” following the Bridgeport game on Sunday.

Goaltender Tristan Jarry suffered his second straight overtime loss since returning to WBS, stopping 33 of 38 Utica shots. His counterpart, Thatcher Demko, saved 37 of 41 WBS shots.

WBS’s Gage Quinney took third star honors with his goal and an assist. Michael Chaput took second honors with his two goals and an assist, a performance that on a regulation game night would probably be good enough for top honors. Instead, the game-winner in overtime was good enough to give Ashton Sautner top honors.

MARCH 24: WBS 5 @ Binghamton 4 (SO)

In a curious twist of the schedule, Michael Leighton played his third game for WBS this season on Saturday, and all three of his starts have come against the Binghamton Devils. With DiPauli’s absence due to injury and Kostopoulos and Tom Sestito sitting out the middle game of the 3 in 3, Christian Thomas, Sam Lafferty, and Josh Jooris drew into the lineup.

Saturday’s game represented a reversal of the previous two games, as it was WBS who jumped out to a large lead only to give it all away. Jarred Tinordi opened the scoring 1:14 into the game with his 4th of the season, with Joseph Cramarossa, Andrey Pedan, and Garrett Wilson adding goals to lead WBS to a 4-1 advantage 13:39 into the second period.

To their credit, the Devils, currently battling the Belleville Senators for the basement of the North Division, did not surrender, as Nick Lappin, Blake Speers, and Mario Lucia scored to bring the game back to a 4-4 tie with 9:31 to go.

The final 9:31 of regulation and overtime progressed without any further scoring, so a shootout was required to break WBS’s third overtime game in a row.

After Daniel Sprong scored in round 3 and John Quenneville matched him, the shootout progressed to round 8 before Garrett Wilson ended the proceedings.

Leighton ended with 37 saves on 41 Binghamton shots, while his counterpart Mackenzie Blackwood settled from a shaky start to finish with 27 saves on 31 shots.

Andrey Pedan for WBS took third star with his goal and an assist. Binghamton’s Blake Speers likewise added an assist to his goal for second star. Garrett Wilson’s goal, plus his winner in round 8 of the shootout, were good enough for top honors.

MARCH 25: Bridgeport 6 @ WBS 3

WBS closed the weekend with a visit from the first team out of the playoffs in the Atlantic, the fifth-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers. WBS had a tall assignment in front of them, playing their third game in 48 hours against a team that had Saturday night off...this just one week removed from seeing the reverse scenario in front of them as Hershey hit the physical wall of a 3 in 3 in the second period of last week’s 6-5 comeback victory for WBS.

They did not react well to the assignment.

At the 8-minute mark of the second period, or the time at which I saw Hershey hit the wall last week, WBS was already down 3-0 behind Ryan Hitchcock’s first of the year, Travis St. Denis’s 21st of the year, and Ryan Bourque’s 11th of the year. In an effort to spark the team, Big Tom Sestito and Garrett Wilson engaged fights just six seconds apart. The effort failed spectacularly, as Josh Jooris took a tripping call 11 seconds after Wilson’s fight, one of 11 power plays the officials granted Bridgeport over the course of the game, and Bourque converted it for 4-0.

Undeterred, Chris Summers scored his first goal for WBS at 15:39 of the second, but Steve Bernier answered 1:23 later to expand the lead to 5-1. WBS used two power play goals (!!!) in the third just 38 seconds apart to draw back to 5-3, but they could get no closer as St. Denis deposited his second of the game and 22nd of the season into an empty net 10 seconds from time to give Bridgeport a huge 6-3 win in their fight to stay alive for the playoffs.

Tristan Jarry played the full 60 minutes and ended with 25 saves on 30 shots. His counterpart Eamon McAdam finished with 24 saves on 27 shots for the win. Bridgeport’s Ryan Hitchcock added an assist to his goal for third star. Garrett Wilson posted two assists for second star, but the top honors of the day went to Ryan Bourque with two goals.

STANDINGS (through the games of March 25, abstracted from theahl.com)

  • Atlantic Division: 1) Lehigh Valley 42-17-9, .684 (clinched playoffs); 2) Providence 40-21-5, .644; 3) WBS 38-20-8, .636; 4) Charlotte 39-26-3, 5) Bridgeport 32-26-8, .545; 6) Hartford 30-30-8, .500; 7) Hershey 28-31-9, .478; 8) Springfield 28-33-6, .463
  • North Division: 1) Toronto 47-18-2, .716 (clinched playoffs); 2) Syracuse 41-19-7, .664 (clinched playoffs); 3) Rochester 31-20-16, .582 (clinched playoffs); 4) Utica 33-24-10, .567 (clinched playoffs); 5) Laval 24-35-9, .419; 6) Belleville 26-37-5, .419; 7) Binghamton 22-34-11, .410
  • Central Division: 1) Manitoba 39-20-8, .642; 2) Chicago 37-21-9, .629; 3) Grand Rapids 36-24-8, .597; 4) Rockford 34-25-8, .567; 5) Iowa 30-22-15, .560; 6) Milwaukee 34-28-5, .545; 7) Cleveland 21-35-10, .394
  • Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 36-19-6, .639; 2) San Diego 34-21-4, .610; 3) Ontario 33-21-6, .600; 4) Texas 34-23-10, .582; 5) Stockton 30-23-6, .559; 6) San Antonio 32-26-10, .544; 7) Bakersfield 26-23-10, .525; 8) San Jose 28-25-7, .525

STATISTICS (through the games of March 25, abstracted from theahl.com)

  • GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 24; Teddy Blueger - 17; Ryan Haggerty - 16; Jean-Sebastien Dea, Garrett Wilson - 15; Christian Thomas - 13; Gage Quinney, Thomas DiPauli - 12; Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Johnson, Andrey Pedan - 9 (Aston-Reese on recall to Pittsburgh and injured)
  • ASSISTS: Daniel Sprong, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 27; Kevin Czuczman - 24; Teddy Blueger - 21; Zach Aston-Reese - 20; Ryan Haggerty, Garrett Wilson - 19; Adam Johnson - 17; Gage Quinney - 16; 7 players tied at 13
  • POINTS: Daniel Sprong - 51; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 42; Teddy Blueger - 38; Ryan Haggerty - 35; Garrett Wilson - 34; Zach Aston-Reese - 29; Gage Quinney, Kevin Czuczman - 28; Christian Thomas, Adam Johnson - 26
  • GOALIES (active on roster): Tristan Jarry 6-3-2, 3.15 GAA, .901 save percentage, no shutouts; Michael Leighton 3-0-0, 2.79 GAA, .911 save percentage with WBS; Anthony Peters 10-7-3, 2.78 GAA, .902 save percentage, one shutout
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 13.2%, 30th in AHL, 11 shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 82.3%, 21st in AHL, 8 shorthanded goals forced

THE MAGIC NUMBER

With WBS earning four points this week (two overtime losses and a win) combined with one Bridgeport regulation loss on Friday, WBS knocked six off its magic number to end the week at 9 points away from clinching the playoffs. Both WBS and Bridgeport have ten games to go, as do the Providence Bruins; Lehigh Valley and Charlotte have 8 each to go.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

I...don’t know about this week. You’ve got Daniel Sprong who puts up two goals and two assists in a week after being healthy scratched against Hershey, you’ve got Jean-Sebastien Dea with the exact same production, but I think on raw production, Garrett Wilson has them both beat with two goals and three assists.

THE WEEK AHEAD

WBS will jam three games into four days this week before the Easter holiday. Two of them are against their likely first round playoff opponent (again), Providence, both in the WB. First off is a midweek engagement March 28 at 7:05 pm EDT; the second game between the two this week is Saturday, March 31, at 7:05 pm EDT. Sandwiching that is a trip to Hartford on Friday, March 30, at 7:15 pm EDT.

Ten games left. Two against Providence, two more against Bridgeport, two against the newly-eliminated-from-playoffs Hershey Bears, and one each against Binghamton, Springfield, Hartford, and Lehigh Valley. Nothing is yet guaranteed.