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WBS Weekly: To the Midwest!

WBS takes a tour of the Central Division this weekend and finds an even split of the points.

WBS Penguins

The Trade Deadline

The NHL trade deadline marks an important sign point in the AHL season, as per AHL rules, only players on AHL rosters at the NHL trade deadline are eligible to play for that AHL team in the Calder Cup playoffs. To that end, Pittsburgh made a handful of moves at the deadline, sending forwards Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese to WBS, as well as switching out Tristan Jarry for Casey DeSmith. Following the trade deadline, NHL clubs can only make four recalls from their AHL franchise; Pittsburgh used one of these immediately after the deadline to recall Aston-Reese again, then they used a second one to recall Simon on Friday just before WBS’s Midwestern weekend.

Pittsburgh also recalled Jarry on Tuesday, but this recall qualified for the “emergency recall” exemption due to Pittsburgh not having two healthy goaltenders; any recall from the AHL franchise made because the NHL roster has less than 12 healthy forwards, six healthy defenders, or two healthy goalies qualifies for “emergency recall” status and does not count against a team’s allotment of four post-deadline.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the NHL trade deadline that saw Erik Karlsson not move and Derick Brassard move, then get blocked from moving, then actually moved from Ottawa to Pittsburgh, the Penguins made a separate trade to move Greg McKegg to Carolina in exchange for forward Josh Jooris.

MARCH 2: WBS 4 @ Grand Rapids 2

The first visit made by WBS on its tour of the Central Division this weekend brought them to the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, home of the defending Calder Cup champion Griffins. Grand Rapids was powered on this night by a familiar face, former WBS Penguin Eric Tangradi, who recorded his 22nd assist of the season on Matt Puempel’s 20th goal of the season in the first period and scoring his 25th goal of the year on a power play in the second period. Tangradi was not alone among former WBS Penguins on the Griffins’ roster; fellow former Penguin Ben Street posted his 35th assist of the year on Puempel’s goal.

Grand Rapids led 2-1 after two periods, with Adam Johnson’s eighth of the year and fourth in his last four games breaking up the Puempel and Tangradi goals.

What a shot from my Player of the Week from last week.

The third period, though, was dominated by WBS.

Wilson first...

...Blueger to take the lead...

...and Wilson again to close out the proceedings.

Starting goaltender Anthony Peters finished with 17 saves on 19 shots for the win, his eigth of the season and first since January 24. His counterpart Tom McCollum saved 25 of 28 WBS efforts in the losing effort.

Third star went to Puempel, with a goal and an assist; second star went to Tangradi, with a goal and an assist; top honors went to Teddy Blueger for his unassisted game-winner and an assist on Wilson’s empty-netter. Olympic bronze medalist Christian Thomas, in his first game back with WBS following Pyeongchang, contributed a primary assist on Johnson’s goal.

MARCH 3: WBS 0 @ Rockford 3

With veteran goaltender Michael Leighton joining the road trip but not quite healthy enough to play, WBS signed Indy Fuel goaltender Etienne Marcoux to a PTO for this road trip. Marcoux, who while with the University of New Brunswick nearly hit a fan in the locker room tunnel with his stick after being kicked out of a game against Merrimack, started Saturday’s game for WBS and stopped 19 of 21 shots he faced. (Credit to LocksTheFox from The Ice Garden for first bringing my attention to Marcoux at UNB).

In a very physical contest that resulted in a total of 66 penalty minutes, Rockford took control early with a goal from Anthony Louis at 8:47 of the first. With no scoring in the second, WBS could have used an early goal in the third to swing the tide in its direction just like the night before, but their plans were scuttled within 10 seconds, as Andreas Martinsen scored the first of his two second period goals to provide the insurance of a 3-0 shutout victory. WBS was able to put 34 shots on the Rockford net, but IceHogs goalie Collin Delia stopped them all for his 11th win and first clean sheet of the season.

Louis took third star for his goal; Martinsen took second star for his two goals; Delia’s shutout earned top honors.

MARCH 4: WBS 2 @ Milwaukee 3 (SO)

The finale of this Midwest road trip took WBS to visit the Milwaukee Admirals for the first time since June 2, 2004, or Game 2 of the 2004 Calder Cup Final won by Milwaukee 8-4. The Admirals were without former WBS forward Harry Zolnierczyk for this game, as Zolnierczyk served a one-game suspension for kicking during Milwaukee’s 4-1 win over Rockford on March 2.

Despite outshooting the Admirals 20-5 in the first period, WBS could only manage a tie coming out of the first period, as Ethan Prow’s third goal of the year at 18:37 of the first matched Frederick Gaudreau’s 15th of the year at 10:38 of the first.

Milwaukee’s Anthony Richard scored his 13th of the year at 18:13 of the second to give the Admirals a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes, and they were able to hold that lead for 19:20 of the third period.

The newest Penguin forward Josh Jooris made sure the lead would go no further.

That’s top tier handiwork from Jooris for his first goal as a WBS Penguin and the equalizer in the final minute.

After a typically frenetic overtime, this one went to a shootout, with Christian Thomas equalizing Justin Kirkland’s leadoff goal and Richard scoring in the fourth round against Garrett Wilson’s miss to give the Admirals the extra point and setting WBS back to a split of the points over the weekend.

Milwaukee starting goalie Anders Lindback stopped 37 of 39 shots in regulation/OT and three of four shootout efforts for the win, while WBS’s Anthony Peters ended with 20 saves on 22 shots and two shootout saves in four attempts for the loss.

Admirals took all three stars, as Gaudreau’s goal took third honors; Richard’s goal, an assist, and the shootout winner took second honors; and Lindback took top honors.

STANDINGS (through the games of March 4, as compiled from theahl.com)

  • Atlantic Division: 1) Lehigh Valley 38-15-7, .692; 2) WBS 33-17-6, .643; 3) Providence 34-19-5, .629; 4) Charlotte 33-24-3, .575; 5) Bridgeport 28-22-8, .552; 6) Hartford 26-27-8, .492; 7) Springfield 27-28-4, .492; 8) Hershey 24-27-9, .475
  • North Division: 1) Toronto 40-16-2, .707; 2) Syracuse 35-18-6, .644; 3) Rochester 29-15-15, .619; 4) Utica 29-20-10, .576; 5) Laval 22-28-8, .448; 6) Binghamton 19-30-9, .405; 7) Belleville 22-35-4, .393
  • Central Division: 1) Manitoba 35-16-7, .664; 2) Chicago 31-18-8, .614; 3) Iowa 27-17-12, .589; 4) Grand Rapids 31-21-7, .585; 5) Milwaukee 29-24-5, .543; 6) Rockford 29-24-6, .542; 7) Cleveland 19-29-7, .409
  • Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 30-17-5, .625; 2) San Diego 30-19-2, .608; 3) Stockton 27-19-5, .578; 4) Ontario 27-19-6, .577; 5) Texas 30-21-8, .576; 5) ; 6) San Antonio 27-23-9, .534; 7) San Jose 24-22-6, .519; 8) Bakersfield 22-21-9, .510

STATISTICS (through the games of March 4, as compiled from theahl.com)

  • GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 21; Ryan Haggerty - 16; Teddy Blueger, Garrett Wilson - 13; Jean-Sebastien Dea, Christian Thomas - 12; Gage Quinney, Thomas DiPauli - 10; Zach Aston-Reese - 9 (currently promoted to Pittsburgh); Adam Johnson - 8
  • ASSISTS: Daniel Sprong, Jean-Sebastien Dea - 23; Kevin Czuczman - 22; Zach Aston-Reese - 20; Teddy Blueger - 17; Adam Johnson - 16; Ryan Haggerty - 15; Garrett Wilson - 14; Dominik Simon, Frank Corrado, Gage Quinney - 13 (Simon currently promoted to Pittsburgh)
  • POINTS: Daniel Sprong - 44; Jean-Sebastien Dea - 35; Ryan Haggerty - 31; Teddy Blueger - 30; Zach Aston-Reese - 29; Garrett Wilson - 27; Kevin Czuczman - 25; Adam Johnson - 24; Christian Thomas, Gage Quinney - 23
  • GOALIES: Casey DeSmith 16-8-3, 2.73 GAA, .910 save percentage, two shutouts; Tristan Jarry 6-2-0, 2.60 GAA, .914 save percentage; Anthony Peters 8-5-3, 2.73 GAA, .901 save percentage, one shutout
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 13.8%, 29th in AHL, 11 shorthanded goals allowed; penalty kill 82.1%, 21st in AHL, 6 shorthanded goals forced

Magic Number

At the conclusion of last week, the WBS magic number to clinch the playoffs was 32. Three points earned by WBS this weekend drop it to 29, while WBS did not get any help from the first team out of the playoffs Bridgeport, which went 3-0 this week.

Player of the Week

Can’t really think of a true standout player this week, though Garrett Wilson’s two goal effort on Friday was probably the top effort of the week. Anthony Peters in goal for the win and the shootout loss acquitted himself with four goals allowed on 39 shots.

Next Week

Only two games this weekend for WBS as they continue a brutal 16-game month of March. The Penguins head up to Binghamton on Friday, March 9, to take on the Devils at 7:05 pm, then they return home on Saturday, March 10 to take on the defending champions from Grand Rapids at 7:05 pm on Star Wars Night.

May the Force be with you this week and all weeks.