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WBS Weekly: Surging Penguins string together three-game win streak

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Three games, three wins for WBS this week, as they surge to within five points of the division lead.

Photo by WBS Penguins

Wednesday, November 13: Hershey 0 @ WBS 1 (SO)

The WBS Penguins opened up their three-game week on the 20th anniversary, to the day, of the very first home game in WBS history. To commemorate the occasion, team Hall of Famers Dennis Bonvie (the most penalized player in WBS history) and Kevin Blaum (former representative in the PA House of Representatives largely credited with getting the arena and team to happen), and former WBS defender Chris Kelleher, were on hand to drop ceremonial first pucks.

Once the actual first puck was dropped, the game became a showcase for the respective goalies, Casey DeSmith for WBS and Pheonix Copley for Hershey. Through 65 minutes of play, Copley stopped all 30 shots WBS put on him, while DeSmith stopped all 28 Hershey shots put on him. The only goal scored on the night, which you can see in the highlight package below, was scored by Stefan Noesen, who ripped a slapshot into the top corner of the net to give WBS the 1-0 shootout victory and DeSmith his second straight shutout victory.

Copley, who earned a shutout for his 65-minute blank sheet, earned third star honors. Noesen took second for his shootout winner, and DeSmith took top honors.

Friday, November 15: Springfield 1 @ WBS 4

DeSmith was given the net again on Friday to extend his shutout streak as the Springfield Thunderbirds came to town, and he was given a very early boost as Andrew Agozzino scored just 49 seconds into the game to give WBS a 1-0 lead.

Springfield’s Blaine Byron came right back just 2 minutes and change later to even the score and break DeSmith’s streak at around 187 minutes. Despite Springfield putting a ridiculous 42 shots on goal, DeSmith only conceded to Byron; he stopped everything else he saw as Agozzino pumped in a second goal at 16:14 of the first, Kevin Czuczman opened his account for the season at 5:42 of the second, and Ryan Haggerty hit the empty net from his own zone with 1:02 to play to give WBS a 4-1 victory.

Sam Miletic assisted on both Agozzino goals to take third honors on the evening. DeSmith’s 41-save performance was good for second stars, with Agozzino taking top honors for his pair of goals.

Saturday, November 16: Lehigh Valley 1 @ WBS 2

Between Friday’s game and Saturday’s game, WBS lost Joseph Blandisi to Pittsburgh recall, which left them at slightly less than full authority for a classic Saturday night visit by the Phantoms franchise, a Saturday night given over to the music of Elvis and a performance by a local Elvis impersonator who needs a kidney. Here is the information presented to us at the arena regarding his search.

Can you help?
Picture taken by me.

As for the game itself, I felt the run of play largely favored Lehigh Valley, who outshot WBS 32-25 on the evening, but Dustin Tokarski, making his first home start for WBS, served to cancel that out, making 31 saves. WBS converted its first power play opportunity of the night through Sam Miletic, who cleaned up a juicy rebound from Alex Lyon for his 2nd of the season at 18:55 of the first with German Rubtsov off the ice for high sticking.

While we’re on the subject of rebounds, that’s how Lehigh Valley scored their only goal of the night, as Tokarski let a rebound skitter just a bit too far away from him and Mikhail Vorobyev swooped in for his 4th of the season just 55 seconds into the second period.

The score stayed 1-1 through the end of the second, and the tie was only broken through the captain of the Penguins.

You turn the puck over there, you’re asking for problems. David Warsofsky made the Phantoms pay.

Despite spectacular saves either way...

...nothing else was scored, even as WBS had to defend a power play with Lyon pulled over the last 1:04 of the game. WBS was able to hang on, though, for the 2-1 victory and a perfect 4-0 homestand under their new LED lights.

Tokarski’s 31-save effort was good for third star honors; Miletic added a secondary assist on Warsofsky’s goal to his own goal for second honors; Warsofsky took top honors for the game-winner.

The Stat Board

Atlantic Division standings through the games of November 17, sorted by points:

  1. Hartford Wolf Pack: 17 games played, 11-1-5, 27 points, .794 points percentage (leads AHL; all 5 extra point losses have been shootout losses)
  2. WBS Penguins: 17 games played, 10-5-2, 22 points, .647 points percentage (goal differential of -2, with 46 goals scored and 48 goals conceded)
  3. Springfield Thunderbirds: 18 games played, 11-7-0, 22 points, .611 points percentage
  4. Providence Bruins: 18 games played, 9-7-2, 20 points, .556 points percentage
  5. Hershey Bears: 18 games played, 8-6-4, 20 points, .556 points percentage
  6. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 16 games played, 6-5-5, 17 points, .531 points percentage
  7. Charlotte Checkers: 14 games played, 6-6-2, 14 points, .500 points percentage
  8. Bridgeport Sound Tigers: 18 games played, 4-10-4, 12 points, .333 points percentage

Hartford still paces the division and the league, with a 1-0-1 week. WBS’s 3-0 week surged them four places from last week’s sixth up to second, surpassing Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Springfield, and Providence. The Thunderbirds won their other two games on the weekend to jump ahead of Providence, who went 1-2 in their 3 games on the week. Hershey jumped ahead of Lehigh Valley with a 1-1-1 week compared to Lehigh Valley’s 0-3 week. Charlotte and Bridgeport still bring up the rear.

Stefan Noesen’s goal touch has cooled off considerably from his 11-goal start, with no goals in two weeks now. Reid Boucher of Utica got healthy again this past weekend, and he proceeded to score a hat trick in his first game back at Syracuse to propel himself back into the league lead with 13 goals, pushing Noesen down to second. Noesen’s 17 points in 17 games lead WBS and tie him for seventh in the AHL.

Andrew Agozzino is closing fast, though, ending the week with 6 goals and 9 assists for 15 points in 16 games, joining a group of players tied for 14th in the AHL. David Warsofsky stays in third on the team with 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists), with Sam Miletic fourth at 10 (2 goals, 8 assists) and Adam Johnson fifth at 7 points (all assists).

Goalies now need 300 minutes to qualify for the league rankings, so Dustin Tokarski still doesn’t make it (185), but his 2-0-1 record, 1.62 GAA, and .935 save percentage in his 3 starts should not be overlooked. Casey DeSmith showed extreme improvement in his stats from last week (two shutouts will do that); his record now stands at 7-4-0, a 2.52 GAA, and a .916 save percentage in 12 starts. His two shutouts tie him with 6 other goaltenders for 2nd in the AHL in shutouts, behind only Max Lagace of Providence, who has 3 clean sheets to his credit this season.

In 3 games this week, the WBS power play scored just one goal in 11 attempts (Sam Miletic on Saturday against Lehigh Valley), dropping its conversion percentage under 20% to 19.7%, a two-point regression and ranked 10th in the AHL as of this writing. The penalty kill is much, much improved, killing off all 12 opposing power plays this week (including 7 kills out of 7 against Springfield on Friday) to improve to 79.5%, a four-point improvement over last week and ranked 22nd in the AHL.

WBS enjoys an extended break this week, with no midweek games. First up on the schedule this week is a return trip to Springfield on Friday night, November 22, at 7:05 pm EST. WBS then welcomes the reigning, defending Calder Cup champions from Charlotte to town on Saturday, November 23, start time 7:05 pm EST.