Friday, October 11: WBS 1 @ Lehigh Valley 4
Going into the first really busy weekend of the new WBS season, it could reasonably be expected that the Penguins would regress a bit, as between their season-opening victory in Hershey and their first visit to Allentown, they lost Sam Lafferty, Andrew Agozzino, Adam Johnson, and Joseph Blandisi to Pittsburgh callups. While it is true that Pittsburgh essentially exchanged Agozzino for Blandisi on Friday, Agozzino did not get back to Allentown in enough time to take part, so that’s four top players removed from the WBS forward lines.
WBS needed to be at its absolute best to compete with the Phantoms, who defeated them 4-1 and 3-1 in two separate preseason games. They were not, primarily due to the callups, and it showed, as the Phantoms made a strong resurgence following their season-opening shutout on home ice at the hands of Providence, as four different Phantoms scored to give Lehigh Valley a decisive 4-1 victory over their PA Turnpike rivals.
Kurtis Gabriel opened the scoring at 15:35 of the first after WBS defender Jon Lizotte was dispossessed at his own blue line during a breakout.
Ratcliffe with the steal and Gabriel with the snipe. pic.twitter.com/IAWxGLyk2x— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) October 11, 2019
Mikhail Vorobyev followed that at 19:24 of the first by burying an excellent cross-zone pass from former WBS Penguin Cal O’Reilly.
Shots favored the Phantoms 16-2 after the first 20 minutes.
WBS showed some life coming out of the locker rooms, as Stefan Noesen scored his third of the young season on a power play just 38 seconds into the second period.
The Phantoms restored the two-goal lead just 4:01 later in spectacular fashion, as highly touted rookie Joel Farabee, making his professional debut, scored the highlight reel goal of the young season for the Phantoms.
Oh Joel...— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) October 12, 2019
still my heart... pic.twitter.com/ONDvXcuCOg
Take a bow, Joel. This writer tips the cap to you. It’s gonna be hard to top that highlight.
The goal seemed to stun WBS, as the Phantoms quickly expanded the lead to 4-1 through Chris Bigras, and that’s how the game would end.
Final shots on goal were 29-19 to the Phantoms, with WBS goalie Casey DeSmith finishing with 25 saves, and Lehigh Valley’s Alex Lyon stopping 18 WBS efforts.
Phantoms forward German Rubtsov took third star honors with two assists, the second assist on Vorobyev’s goal and the second assist on Bigras’s goal. Gabriel took second honors with his goal, and Farabee finished the star sweep for Lehigh Valley with his highlight reel goal.
Saturday, October 12: Utica 4 @ WBS 3 (OT)
The Penguins returned home for their 21st season home opener on Saturday, hosting the Utica Comets. Just prior to the game, the Penguins announced the release of defender Steve Oleksy from his tryout agreement; whatever the reasoning behind it, I’m sure all of the WBS fandom wishes Steve well in whatever comes next.
WBS came out of the gates flying in the first period, controlling the first 15 or so minutes of play, but unfortunately old rival Zane McIntyre was waiting in net, stopping all 10 shots WBS managed in the opening session. Utica eventually built their own momentum late in the first, as Utica’s goal-scoring leader last season (31), winger Reid Boucher, tallied twice in the last 2:20 of the first (the second goal was on a PP) to give the Comets a 2-0 lead. The goals were Boucher’s third and fourth of the season in only his second game.
To their credit, WBS rebounded nicely in the second period, tying the score in the first half of the second period through the red-hot Stefan Noesen and the newly-crowned captain David Warsofsky.
Noesen now has four goals in 3 games for WBS; this is where I remind you that he signed with WBS on the first day of the AHL season, just one day before WBS opened their schedule.
* shakes head in amazement *
I can also confirm that, while Pittsburgh has changed its goal song away from the Andrew WK hit, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins still choose to Party Hard after goals.
The second period ended 2-2.
In the third, things started getting testy between the two teams, as it has tended to become lately with these two teams, with big winger Anthony Angello in the middle of it. At 6:48 of the third period, Angello took a roughing penalty; WBS killed it off well, and at the very end, in a scene eerily reminiscent of opening night in Hershey, Jon Lizotte, cleared a puck out of the defensive zone to center ice, where Angello was waiting to collect the puck, break in alone, and do this.
Angello later threw a questionable hit on the side boards, inspiring Utica’s Vincent Arsenau to try to fight him and taking a penalty in result.
Turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead is to be commended, to be sure, but the sign of a really good team is to get a lead like that and close the door. WBS did not do that on Saturday, conceding the tying goal 2:19 from full time to Carter Bancks.
The game went to overtime, where by any decent metric, WBS dominated, putting six shots on goal compared to Utica’s one. The only problem was, again, Zane McIntyre, who stopped all six WBS efforts, and Utica buried their only shot in OT as Lukas Jasek deflected home a floating shot to give the Comets the bonus point.
McIntyre finished with 37 saves on 40 WBS shots for the win, WBS goaltender Emil Larmi finished with 27 saves on 31 shots in his pro debut.
Reid Boucher took third star honors with his two goals; David Warsofsky took second honors with his game-tying goal in the second period and one assist; Jasek took top honors with the game-winner.
Sunday, October 13: WBS 1 @ Hershey 5
No matter who’s the coach, no matter who’s on the roster, the fact remains that one of the hardest scheduling assignment in the league is the third game of a 3 in 3 weekend, on the road, against a team that is not playing a 3 in 3. WBS faced such a situation to close their second weekend of the season, visiting the Hershey Bears, and the Bears responded in kind with a 5-1 drubbing.
Having just been returned to Hershey after clearing waivers last Monday, Travis Boyd put up another 3 points in his second game for Hershey after also putting up 3 points in his season debut the night before. Against WBS, he opened the scoring on a power play at 15:27 of the first, then assisted on a Matt Moulson PP goal at 17:39 of the first, then scored again at 6:56 of the second for his fourth goal of the season in two games. Hershey also enjoyed a shorthanded goal by Martin Fehervary at 11:02 of the second and Mike Sgarbossa’s 3rd of the season at 14:31 of the third.
Hershey almost finished the shutout for starting goalie Pheonix Copley, but WBS defender Niclas Almari spoiled the shutout bid with just 1:25 left on the clock to make the final 5-1.
Moulson (goal and assist), Fehervary (shorthanded goal), and Boyd (two goals, one assist) swept the stars.
After only getting one point out of the weekend, WBS’s record of 1-2-1 after 4 games is good for only 3 points, tied for worst in the Atlantic with Lehigh Valley (1-1-1) and Bridgeport (1-2-1). Those 3 clubs are four points behind division leader Hartford, who has a record of 3-0-1 after the second weekend.
After the second weekend, only five players for WBS have scored goals. Stefan Noesen has 4 of the team’s 9 goals, while Anthony Angello has two and David Warsofsky, Niclas Almari, and Jake Lucchini have one each.
The schedule gets slightly easier this upcoming week for WBS, as they host Binghamton on Wednesday, October 16, at 7:05 pm EDT, then travel to Bridgeport on Saturday, October 19, for a 7:00 pm start.