Wednesday, December 11: WBS 2 @ Rochester 4
The #WBSPens line combinations, defensive pairings and goaltenders for tonight's matchup with the @AmerksHockey pic.twitter.com/pvmfxffvK5— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 11, 2019
Three games on the road this week for the WBS Penguins, and the week started with an ignominious start as they dropped a 4-2 decision at Rochester on Wednesday. The Americans were in control from start to finish, getting Curtis Lazar’s 6th of the season at 7:04 of the first, former Penguin Jean-Sebastien Dea’s 9th of the season at 7:17 of the second, Andrew Oglevie’s 10th of the season at 12:43 of the third, then C.J. Smith’s 4th of the year into an empty net at 14:04 of the third.
WBS tried to make the finish somewhat respectable, as Jan Drozg scored his first for WBS and first in the AHL at 14:23 of the third, then Sam Miletic scored his 6th of the year at 18:04 of the third, but a four-goal deficit with six minutes left is nearly certain doom in all cases, as it was this night.
Last night's game didn't go our way, but there was one big play to celebrate for the #WBSPens - congrats to Jan Drozg on netting his first AHL goal on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/3h80hZnqAb— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 12, 2019
Casey DeSmith took the start and the loss, finishing with 26 saves on 29 shots, while Andrew Hammond finished with 20 saves on 22 shots in the victory while also getting an assist on Lazar’s opener. Smith, Dea, and Lazar all finished with a goal and an assist each, and as such they swept the star honors as Rochester ran the WBS losing streak to four games.
Friday, December 13: WBS 0 @ Cleveland 4
Your line combinations for tonight's game against the @monstershockey pic.twitter.com/aEGHoAc5uI— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 13, 2019
From Rochester, WBS continued west to eventually land in Cleveland for its annual trip to see the Monsters. The first game...well, let’s try to pretend this one didn’t happen, as the Monsters ran four on the board and Cleveland goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks recorded his first shutout of the season, stopping all 23 shots he faced. Kevin Stenlund (15:40 of the first, his sixth of the year on a 5 on 3 PP), Jakob Lilja (two goals, one at 10:37 of the second, one at 10:58 of the third), and Marko Dano (empty-netter at 19:09 of the third) provided the scoring for Cleveland, as WBS’s losing streak hit five games. DeSmith took the loss again, saving 26 of 29 shots.
For further details, I would direct you to our sister site The Cannon, where their Monsters writer Elaine Shircliff has much more to say about this one than I do.
Saturday, December 14: WBS 3 @ Cleveland 1
The rematch against Cleveland featured the return to the lineup of Kevin Czuczman, who had missed the games on Wednesday and Friday due to bereavement, as well as the return of Dustin Tokarski to the WBS crease for only his fifth appearance of the season.
WBS managed to get off on the right foot in their third game of the week, with Anthony Angello getting a fortunate kick from Cleveland goaltender Veiniest Vehvilainen to score his 7th goal of the season at 9:02 of the first.
#WBSPens Goal Video - @Anthony_Angello opens the scoring with this sneaky shot pic.twitter.com/uWHsxsZLod— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 15, 2019
When you’ve lost your last five, you learn to accept breaks like this.
Angello doubled the lead at 8:40 of the second with his 8th of the year, which proved to be the game-winner on Cleveland’s Teddy Bear Toss Night. The 11,567 in attendance at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse did have their chance to throw teddy bears, though, as Dillon Simpson fired home his 5th of the year on a power play.
.@Simmer18, Cleveland hero. pic.twitter.com/35BSkD7eW3— Cleveland Monsters (@monstershockey) December 15, 2019
WBS was able to hold the lead, though, and Thomas Di Pauli put a bow on the proceedings at 19:05 of the third with an empty netter, his fourth goal of the year.
Tokarski finished with 27 saves on 28 shots for the win, his third of the year and his fourth straight appearance conceding only one goal. His counterpart Vehvilainen finished with 26 saves on 28 shots for the loss.
Simpson’s teddy bear goal earned him third star honors; the returning Czuczman assisted on both of Angello’s goals for second star honors; Angello took top honors with his pair of goals.
Again, for the Cleveland side of things, I direct you to Elaine’s recap over at The Cannon.
The Stat Board
Atlantic Division standings through the games of December 15 (sorted by points):
- Hartford Wolf Pack - 28 games played, 16-5-7, 39 points, .696 points percentage
- Providence Bruins - 30 games played, 18-9-3, 39 points, .650 points percentage
- Hershey Bears - 28 games played, 14-9-5, 33 points, .589 points percentage
- WBS Penguins - 28 games played, 14-10-4, 32 points, .571 points percentage
- Springfield Thunderbirds - 30 games played, 15-14-1, 31 points, .517 points percentage
- Lehigh Valley Phantoms - 27 games played, 11-11-5, 27 points, .500 points percentage
- Charlotte Checkers - 26 games played, 11-12-3, 25 points, .481 points percentage
- Bridgeport Sound Tigers - 29 games played, 10-15-4, 24 points, .414 points percentage
Hartford and Providence remain locked in a tie for the Atlantic lead after identical 2-1 weeks. Hershey has now charged to third place, six points behind the Wolf Pack and the Bruins, after closing out a 3-1 win against Lehigh Valley that ran their winning streak to six games. WBS’s five-game losing streak was enough to drop them one point behind the Bears to fourth place, still in playoff position but only one point clear of Springfield, who went 1-1-1 this week. Leigh Valley is still treading water at .500, with Charlotte and Bridgeport still bringing up the rear.
Not much in the way of scoring to talk about this week, with only five goals scored in three games. Scoring leader Agozzino went without any points in the 3 games, so he is stuck on 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points, tied for 11th in the AHL with 8 others and 10 behind the leader Drake Batherson of Belleville. Sam Miletic is up to 19 points in 28 games, with 6 goals and 13 assists; David Warsofsky’s 3 and 14 remain fourth, Adam Johnson’s 3 and 13 remain fifth. Big Anthony Angello now has 8 goals on the season, good for second among active WBS players.
Two losses in the week set Casey DeSmith’s season numbers back significantly; DeSmith now holds a 10-7-1 record with a 2.60 GAA and a .915 save percentage. DeSmith’s GAA is now out of the league’s top 20, while his save percentage is tied for 14th in the AHL. In five appearances, Dustin Tokarski’s record is now 3-1-1 with a 1.39 GAA and a .947 save percentage, numbers that would far and away lead the AHL if Tokarski had 237 additional minutes played.
As of this writing, with a couple of Pacific Division games still in progress, the WBS power play has converted 21 out of 110 chances for a 19.1% success percentage, tied for 11th in the AHL. The penalty kill is finally above 80%, allowing 24 goals on 121 chances for a kill rate of 80.2%, tied for 22nd in the AHL.
The Penguins face a stern test this week, as they host the co-division leaders from Providence for two games, Wednesday, December 18 at 7:05 pm EST and Friday, December 20 at 7:05 pm. WBS will then close out its pre-Christmas schedule with a visit to Bridgeport to take on the Sound Tigers on Saturday, December 21 at 7:00 pm EST.
Here’s hoping that the losing streak is well and truly in the past, and that the Penguins can continue to grow and develop into serious playoff contenders.