Regular readers of this space will note that at some point during the first half of the NHL season, I make an extended weekend visit to Pittsburgh to take in a handful of Pittsburgh Penguins games. I try for at least three every year. This past week marked that week, so I was in the ‘Burgh watching the parent club take down the previously-undefeated Avalanche and the flailing Stars before falling at the hands (or petals?) of a certain Flower. I was forced to follow app alerts from afar as WBS put their lifetime undefeated record against the Binghamton Devils on the line before making their first visit of the season to Webster Bank Arena to take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Wednesday, October 16: Binghamton 3 @ WBS 5
You read that right, by the way. In ten previous contests lifetime against the Binghamton Devils (starting with when New Jersey moved its AHL affiliate from Albany to Binghamton in 2017), WBS was a perfect 10-0.
The game started out fast and furious, with former WBS Penguin Chris Conner opening the scoring for the Devils just 2:05 into the first with his third goal of the year, then WBS’s Jake Lucchini scoring his second of the year just 32 seconds later.
Another former WBS Penguin, Ben Street, restored the Binghamton lead at 18:22 of the first with his first goal of the year, then in the second period, Devils forward Joey Anderson scored his second of the year to extend the Devils lead to 3-1.
As I was sitting in the stands watching Pittsburgh duel with Colorado, I felt a growing sense of dread that WBS’s shaky start to the season would continue, but little did I realize that WBS was about to show some serious moxie.
It started just 16 seconds from the end of the second period as Justin Almeida scored his first professional goal to bring the Penguins back to within one.
Then, in the third period, fellow rookie Kasper Björkqvist also opened his pro account to tie the game.
The first AHL goal from Kasper Bjorkqvist ties this one up at 3-3 pic.twitter.com/KEpI097whF— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) October 17, 2019
From there, the early runaway leader for team MVP honors, Stefan Noesen, took over, breaking the 3-3 tie with 2:14 to play, then sealing away an empty-netter 1:09 from time for his fifth and sixth goals of the season to run WBS’s lifetime record to 11-0 against the Binghamton Devils.
Here’s your game winning goal from Stefan Noesen! pic.twitter.com/RoNkKV0hSo— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) October 17, 2019
Starting goalie Emil Larmi finished with 30 saves on 33 shots for his first professional victory. WBS swept all three stars: Almeida third for his first pro goal, Björkqvist second for his first pro goal, and Noesen first for his two goals plus an assist.
Saturday, October 19: WBS 3 @ Bridgeport 2 (SO)
WBS’s first visit to Bridgeport of the season featured a flurry of early scoring, a tense middle, and (fortunately) a happy skills competition ending.
For the sixth time in as many games this season, WBS conceded the first goal, as Ryan Bourque scored his second of the season 4:03 into the first. Just as they did three nights earlier, WBS responded quickly, though not as quickly as three nights before, as Andrew Agozzino scored his first for WBS at 8:20 of the first.
Less than a minute later, with Bridgeport’s Travis St. Denis in the penalty box for high sticking, Sam Miletic scored his first of the season to put WBS ahead 2-1.
WBS almost got the lead to the locker room, but with David Warsofsky in the box for roughing, Bridgeport forward Nick Schilkey scored his first for the Sound Tigers with 46 seconds left in the period to tie the game at two.
Despite numerous checks of my phone during Marc-Andre Fleury’s virtuoso performance for Vegas, no more goal alerts came across, and it wasn’t until I got back to my hotel room that I noticed the three shootout goals by Stefan Noese, Joseph Cramarossa, and Ryan Haggerty to give WBS the extra point in a 3-2 victory.
Casey DeSmith took the net for this game and finished with 23 saves on 25 shots for the victory and second star honors. Cramarossa’s shootout goal was enough for third star, while Agozzino added an assist to his goal to take top honors on the evening.
The four points were enough to vault WBS out of their early place in the Atlantic Division basement and into the middle of the division. If you go by points, WBS’s record of 3-2-1 (7 points) is fourth in the division, one ahead of a three-team tie between Lehigh Valley (2-1-2), Charlotte (3-3), and Springfield (3-4), and four points behind the early leaders Hartford (5-0-1, 11 points). If you go by points percentage, though, Lehigh Valley jumps to fourth with a .600 points percentage, and WBS falls to fifth at .583. Charlotte takes sixth at .500, and Springfield takes seventh at .429.
Stefan Noesen’s six goals and two assists for eight points lead the Penguins, and they place Noesen in a tie with seven other players for fourth in the AHL, though Noesen has more goals than anyone else at eight points. Noesen’s eight points are two behind the league leader Reid Boucher for Utica, who has a ridiculous eight goals and two assists for 10 points in just five games.
Second on WBS in points is David Warsofsky, with one goal and five assists in six games; his six points tie with two others (including Springfield’s Ethan Prow) for third in the AHL among defenders. Rookie Chase Priskie for Charlotte and Christian Djoos for Hershey have one goal and six assists each to tie for the league lead among defenders.
WBS closes out the month of October with three games in four days, putting their perfect record against the Binghamton Devils on the line once again with a midweek visit to Binghamton on Wednesday, October 23 at 7:05 p.m. Then, WBS comes back home for their first games against the San Antonio Rampage since February of 2009, first on Friday, October 25 at 7:05 p.m, then again on Saturday, October 26 at 7:05 p.m.