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WBS Weekly Season Finale: Nightmares of the Past

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WBS clinches home ice in round 1 of the Atlantic Division playoffs. First up: the Charlotte Checkers, in Tom Kostopoulos’s final run for a championship.

WBS’S BLACK ACES

The WBS Penguins opened the final week of their regular season by bolstering their reserves, as they officially announced the amateur tryout agreement for newly signed forward Anthony Angello and brought up seven reserves from the Wheeling Nailers, who were eliminated from ECHL Kelly Cup playoff contention last weekend. Joining the WBS reserves for their push to the Calder Cup will be forwards Reid Gardiner, Troy Josephs, Cody Wydo, and Cam Brown; and defenders Kevin Spinozzi, Dylan Zink, and Kevin Schulze. All seven have seen time for WBS at some point this season.

FRIDAY, APRIL 13: WBS 3 @ Springfield 2

WBS’s road trip to end the season stopped first at Springfield for the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Penguins and Thunderbirds. With still a lot to play for in terms of playoff positioning, WBS iced about a strong a lineup as it can manage at this point in the season in an attempt to finish a season sweep of Springfield.

At 15:50 of the first, WBS’s rookie of the year and AHL All-Rookie standout made WBS history.

It was 14 long years ago when a young, fresh-faced rookie out of the Rimouski Oceanic (NO, NOT THAT ONE) joined the WBS Penguins to set the franchise record for goals by a rookie at 30. His name was Michel Ouellet, allez allez allez. He also made AHL All-Rookie that season. 14 years later, in his first professional season, Daniel Sprong has now eclipsed that mark in 16 fewer games (Ouellet played 79 games in 2003-04, Sprong beat the record in his 63rd game for WBS this season).

After the first period ended 1-0, WBS doubled their lead.

That’s 21 on the season for Blueger, with a nifty primary assist by Big Tom Sestito.

Springfield, to their credit, did not roll over, getting Dryden Hunt’s 21st of the season at 13:40 of the second and Curtis Valk’s 20th of the year at 2:57 of the third to draw even, but on this night, WBS would not be denied.

That’s been a trend in the WBS offense that’s been developing lately...big slap shots from the point, either by the defenders or by Sprong, and screens in front or deflections. This particular slapper off the stick of Zach Trotman found paydirt for his 7th of the season to provide the difference in WBS’s 3-2 win over Springfield. Combined with Charlotte’s 5-3 victory over Providence, this win guaranteed that WBS would finish ahead of Providence in the standings, while Charlotte jumped to third place.

Starting goaltender Tristan Jarry finished with 28 saves on 30 shots for his 9th win for WBS in 16 appearances. Springfield’s Harri Sateri ended with a remarkable 46 saves on 49 WBS shots in a losing effort, good enough for third star honors despite the loss. Blueger’s goal was good enough for second star, while Trotman’s goal was good enough for top honors.

SATURDAY, APRIL 14: WBS 1 @ Lehigh Valley 2 (SO)

With WBS entertaining the season finale for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms needing only one point out of its final two games to clinch second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice in their first round matchup, WBS was able to start resting its regulars, giving Ryan Haggerty and Andrey Pedan Saturday off for the professional debut of Anthony Angello and the North American debut of fellow PTO Niclas Almari, respectively.

After Lehigh Valley handed out its team awards, including the Atlantic Division championship and the Les Cunningham Award (MVP) to forward Phil Varone (scratched), the game proceeded in a rather dull fashion for 58 minutes. There was the occasional flare-up or disagreement, particularly when forward Joseph Cramarossa crosschecked a Phantom in the face then complained about it for a double-minor, but the game belonged to the goalies for the majority of time, as Leighton and Lyon stopped everything they saw.

It took until the 18:10 mark of the third period for any offense to take place, and it came off the stick of WBS’s Garrett Wilson, as he was able to jam the puck into the net out from under the pad of Lyon for his 17th of the season. By the strictest reading of the rules, it probably should not have counted, but as it is often said, the goal was still given.

The WBS goal spurred Lehigh Valley to action, and with 45.2 seconds left on the clock and Lyon on the bench, former WBS Penguin Chris Conner scored his 17th of the season to deny Leighton the AHL-record-extending 51st shutout of his career.

After a WBS power play in overtime went by the wayside, the game went to a shootout. Christian Thomas, Daniel Sprong, Jean-Sebastien Dea, and Garrett Wilson were unable to score on Lyon, and Isaac Ratcliffe, Pascal Laberge, and Carsen Twarynski were unable to score on Michael Leighton.

But Nicolas Aube-Kubel did.

Take a bow, take the extra point. WBS got the point it needed to give itself the choice of two home games to start round 1 or three home games to end round 1. Mere seconds after regulation ended, without needing to know who it would be playing, WBS announced its intent to host the final 3 games of round 1, scheduled for April 26, 28 (if needed), and 29 (if needed).

One More Kick at the Cup, indeed.

SUNDAY, APRIL 15: WBS 3 @ Hershey 2

Yep, the season finale in Hershey was officially “clear the press box” day, as WBS sat 11 of their regular 18 with nothing left to play for. They did not, however, sit Daniel Sprong.

Jarrett Burton would add his 9th of the year less than 20 seconds from the horn to end the first, with a secondary assist going to Jan Drozg.

Dustin Gazley brought Hershey back to 2-1 with 32 seconds remaining in the second period, but that would be as close as they would get. In the third, defender Kevin Schulze recorded his first assist for WBS on this goal by Gage Quinney that put WBS ahead 3-1.

Hershey closed to within 3-2 with 3:28 to go as Jeremy Langlois scored his 6th of the season, but WBS was able to hold on for the 3-2 victory and complete the entire season series of 12 games with Hershey without any regulation losses (10-0-1-1). Starting goalie Anthony Peters finished with 27 saves on 29 shots for his 11th win of the season, while his counterpart Vitek Vanecek finished with 27 saves on 30 shots in the loss.

The more important results, however, were elsewhere. Providence did as much as they could on Sunday, defeating Springfield 4-2, but when Charlotte closed out Bridgeport 4-1 just after WBS finished off Hershey, that locked in the matchups for the Atlantic Division playoffs. Providence will face Lehigh Valley, while WBS will match up with the Charlotte Checkers for only the second time in their history.

Their only other meeting, in 2011, is a series I’ve been trying to forget for seven years. WBS, the Kilpatrick Trophy winners with their best-ever regular season record (58-21-0-1, .731), gave away a 3-0 lead in the last ten minutes of Game 6 to crash out of the playoffs on home ice...a collapse so devastating that the team didn’t even salute the fans as they slunk back to their locker room.

Hello darkness, indeed. It is very good to sit down with you again.

FINAL STANDINGS (as compiled from theahl.com)

  • Atlantic Division: 1) Lehigh Valley 47-19-10, .684 (division champion); 2) WBS 45-22-9, .651 (clinched playoffs); 3) Charlotte 46-26-4, .632 (clinched playoffs); 4) Providence 45-26-5, .625 (clinched playoffs); 5) Bridgeport 36-32-8, .526; 6) Hartford 34-33-9, .507; 7) Springfield 32-37-7, .467; 8) Hershey 30-37-9, .454
  • North Division: 1) Toronto 54-28-4, .737 (Kilpatrick Trophy winners); 2) Syracuse 46-22-8, .658 (clinched playoffs); 3) Rochester 37-22-17, .599 (clinched playoffs); 4) Utica 38-26-12, .579 (clinched playoffs); 5) Binghamton 25-38-13, .414; 6) Belleville 29-42-5, .414; 7) Laval 24-42-10, .382
  • Central Division: 1) Chicago 42-23-11, .625 (division champion); 2) Grand Rapids 42-25-9, .612 (clinched playoffs); 3) Manitoba 42-26-8, .605 (clinched playoffs); 4) Rockford 40-28-8. 579 (clinched playoffs); 5) Iowa 33-27-16, .539; 6) Milwaukee 38-32-6, .539; 7) Cleveland 25-41-10, .395
  • Pacific Division: 1) Tucson 42-20-6, .662 (division champion); 2) Texas 38-24-14, .592 (clinched playoffs); 3) Ontario 36-25-7, .581 (clinched playoffs); 4) San Jose 34-26-8, .559 (clinched playoffs); 5) San Diego 36-28-4, .559; 6) Stockton 34-28-6, .544; 7) Bakersfield 31-27-10, .529; 8) San Antonio 34-31-10, .520

FINAL STATISTICS (as compiled from theahl.com)

  • GOALS: Daniel Sprong - 32 (leads all rookies, T-2nd in AHL); Teddy Blueger - 21; Jean-Sebastien Dea, Christian Thomas - 18; Garrett Wilson - 17; Ryan Haggerty - 16; Gage Quinney - 14; Thomas DiPauli - 12 (injured); Adam Johnson - 11; Zach Aston-Reese, Andrey Pedan, Joseph Cramarossa, Jarrett Burton - 9 (Aston-Reese on recall to Pittsburgh)
  • ASSISTS: Daniel Sprong - 33 (4th among rookies); Jean-Sebastien Dea - 32; Kevin Czuczman - 31; Garrett Wilson - 25; Teddy Blueger - 24; Ryan Haggerty - 21; Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Johnson - 20; Gage Quinney - 19; Andrey Pedan - 17
  • POINTS: Daniel Sprong - 65 (2nd among rookies, T-5th in AHL); Jean-Sebastien Dea - 50; Teddy Blueger - 45; Garrett Wilson - 42; Ryan Haggerty - 37; Kevin Czuczman - 35; Christian Thomas - 34; Gage Quinney - 33; Adam Johnson - 31; Zach Aston-Reese - 29
  • GOALIES (active on roster): Tristan Jarry 9-5-2, 3.05 GAA, .901 save percentage; Michael Leighton 5-0-0, 2.67 GAA, .913 save percentage with WBS; Anthony Peters 12-7-3, 2.71 GAA, .907 save percentage
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Power play 13.8%, 29th in AHL, 11 shorthanded goals allowed (worst of all playoff qualifiers; penalty kill 82.0%, T-20th in AHL, 9 shorthanded goals forced

WBS PENGUINS VS. CHARLOTTE CHECKERS:

Game 1: Friday, April 20 at Charlotte, 7:00 pm EDT

Game 2: Saturday, April 21 at Charlotte, 6:00 pm EDT

Game 3: Thursday, April 26 at WBS, 7:05 pm EDT

Game 4: Saturday, April 28 at WBS, 7:05 pm EDT

Game 5: Sunday, April 29 at WBS, 7:05 pm EDT

Another season in the books. Another chase for Calder looms on the horizon. Now, the fun begins. Check back to Pensburgh on Friday morning for my series preview.