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WBS Weekly: Strong week pushes Wilkes-Barre toward first place

The WBS Penguins take 5 out of 6 points this week, including an utter theft of a point from Lehigh Valley, to finish a 9-2-1-1 November among the Atlantic Division leaders.

Fans take to the ice to paint messages of support to cancer survivors following Saturday night’s Hockey Fights Cancer game between the WBS Penguins and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Wednesday, November 27: Lehigh Valley 2 @ WBS 6

Three roster changes of note going into this week: 1) Justin Almeida was sent to Wheeling on Monday; with previously injured forwards for WBS starting to get healthy, playing time is getting harder to come by, so it’s good that Almeida was freed up to get some time. 2) Captain David Warsofsky was a late scratch on Wednesday due to what was described as a “nagging” injury. Warsofsky would proceed to miss all three games this week due to the nagging. 3) Joseph Blandisi was recalled by Pittsburgh on Friday prior to the second Lehigh Valley game of the week.

After closing last week with a clunker at home to Charlotte, WBS opened Thanksgiving week with a strong, assertive performance over their rivals from Lehigh Valley, converting twice on 5 power plays and hanging a six-pack on Alex Lyon. It started out badly on Wednesday with Tyler Wotherspoon scoring his first of the season just 1:22 into the game, but they responded just as quickly through Stefan Noesen’s 13th of the season at 2:49 of the first...

...Adam Johnson at 13:55 of the first (his first of the year)...

...and Noesen again at 3:44 of the second, his 14th of the year.

Lehigh Valley cut the lead to 1 at 5:05 of the second through Pascal Laberge, but WBS responded with three more in a row through Joseph Blandisi’s 3rd of the year and two from Thomas Di Pauli late in the third, one into an empty net and the other...not into an empty net.

Alex Lyon finished with 24 saves on 29 shots in the losing effort, while Casey DeSmith finished with 30 saves on 32 shots for the win, his 9th of the season and 5th in a row.

Shoutouts to good coaching: Per the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice’s Tyler Piccotti:

Johnson responded with a goal and two assists on Wednesday for third star honors.

DiPauli stole second star honors with his two late goals, while Stefan Noesen returned to top honors with his pair of goals.

Friday, November 29: WBS 5 @ Lehigh Valley 6 (OT)

If you recall, the last time we saw rookie goaltender Emil Larmi in the WBS net, he got bonked in the head late in the second period of the October 25 game against San Antonio. He did not return to that game, and he did not play again until this past Friday night in the return game against the Phantoms.

Lehigh Valley gave him the rudest possible welcome, putting FIVE goals past the young Finn in the first 21:01 of the game (Matthew Strome, Pascal Laberge, Carsen Twarynski twice, Isaac Ratcliffe). The Phantoms held the 5-0 lead through almost all of the second period until Jamie Devane, playing only his second game for WBS this season, scored his first as a Penguin at 19:26 of the second to put the Penguins down 5-1 after 40 minutes.

That late goal in the second seemed to spark the dormant “Cardiac Penguins”, as slowly but surely over the course of a 16-6 shot advantaged third period, WBS chipped away at the lead. Andrew Agozzino started the comeback with his 9th of the season at 9:22 of the third. Anthony Angello continued it less than two minutes later with his 4th of the year at 11:06. Agozzino made it three in less than 3 minutes with his 10th of the season at 12:09 of the third, then Adam Johnson completed the comeback at 18:00 of the third with his 2nd in as many games. Also contributing to the comeback were Sam Miletic, with two assists to put him at 12 for the year, and Matt Abt, tallying his first two assists of the season.

WBS could not complete the comeback in overtime, though, as following a delayed penalty call, T.J. Brennan scored his first of the season with just 1:00 left in the extra session to give the Phantoms the extra point.

After the harsh welcome back to play, Larmi stopped everything else he saw in regulation to get the game to overtime, finishing with 20 saves on 26 shots and some very encouraging remarks from his goaltending teammate. For the Phantoms, J-F Berube took the start and finished with 38 saves on 43 WBS shots.

For the Phantoms, Strome (third star, one goal), Brennan (second star, one goal and one assist), and Twarynski (top honors, two goals and one assist) swept the honors on a wild, wild night in Allentown.

Saturday, November 30: Bridgeport 2 @ WBS 5

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Defense change for Saturday night: Michael Kim stepped into the lineup to replace Kevin Czuczman, who per the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader missed the game due to the death of his father. We certainly pass along our condolences to Kevin and his family.

The Penguins welcomed the last-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers to town to close the week and the month of November, and they treated them accordingly, getting goals from five different players to close out the month with a 5-2 victory.

Sam Miletic opened the proceedings with his 3rd of the year at 6:12 of the first (power play goal). Parker Wotherspoon for Bridgeport matched the goal at 11:33 of the first with his first of the year to put the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes.

In the second period, in his 78th game for WBS over the last two seasons, the very large defender Matt Abt scored his first goal at 6:07 of the second, taking a face-off victory from Chase Berger and slinging a shot through traffic and past Bridgeport goalie Jakub Skarek.

Nearly six minutes later, Adam Johnson used that same traffic to his advantage, wheeling around the offensive zone and sending a shot from the top of the zone past Skarek for his third in as many games. Matt Lorito for Bridgeport responded at 13:27 of the second with his 6th of the season to end the second period 3-2 to WBS.

Anthony Angello restored the two goal lead at 5:13 of the third, finishing a strong pass from Johnson for his 5th of the season, then Oula Palve closed the scoring at 6:24 of the third by deflecting home a Thomas DiPauli effort for his first goal in the AHL.

Palve had previously gone 18 games off the scoresheet after recording assists in his first 3 AHL games, but his goal and an assist on Miletic’s goal gave him third star honors on the evening. Abt added an assist on Angello’s goal to his own goal for second honors, with Johnson closing a strong week with a goal, an assist, and top honors.

Casey DeSmith was back in net, and he finished with 26 saves on 28 shots for his 10th win of the season and 6th in a row.

Emil Larmi Tweet(s) of the Week:

The Stat Board

Atlantic Division standings through the games of December 1 (sorted by points):

  1. Providence Bruins - 24 games played, 14-7-3, 31 points, .646 points percentage
  2. Hartford Wolf Pack - 22 games played, 11-4-7, 29 points, .659 points percentage
  3. WBS Penguins - 22 games played, 13-6-3, 29 points, .659 points percentage
  4. Springfield Thunderbirds - 24 games played, 13-11-0, 26 points, .542 points percentage
  5. Lehigh Valley Phantoms - 22 games played, 10-7-5, 25 points, .568 points percentage
  6. Hershey Bears - 23 games played, 9-9-5, 23 points, .500 points percentage
  7. Bridgeport Sound Tigers - 24 games played, 8-12-4, 20 points, .417 points percentage
  8. Charlotte Checkers - 21 games played, 8-10-3, 19 points, .452 points percentage

Powered by another 3-0 week and a streak of 5-0-1 in their last six, Providence has charged to the top of the Atlantic Division standings ahead of Hartford, who dropped two more games this week to be winless in its last 5 games. WBS is 8-1-1 in its last 10 to jump into a tie for second with two games in hand over the Bruins. Springfield took only one of its 3 games to stay in fourth, with Lehigh Valley going 2-1 this week to land one point behind the playoff line with two games in hand. Hershey is still languishing at .500, Bridgeport took two victories this week before losing to WBS in order to jump ahead of Charlotte, who only won one out of 4 games they played this week.

Stefan Noesen’s 14 goals in 22 games still leads WBS by four over Andrew Agozzino, who joined Noesen in double digits this week with 10. Noesen’s 14 are tied with Mike Vecchione of San Antonio for 2nd in the AHL behind Reid Boucher of Utica, who has 15 at week’s end.

Noesen and Agozzino are tied for the team lead in points with 22 (Noesen 14 goals and 8 assists, Agozzino 10 goals and 12 assists), with both now tied for 9th in the AHL in scoring and 5 points behind a group of 3 with 27 points each: Chris Terry of Grand Rapids, Drake Batherson of Belleville, and Jansen Harkins of Manitoba.

Buoyed by a three-goal week, Adam Johnson has jumped into a tie with Sam Miletic for third in team points with 15; each ended the week with 3 goals and 12 assists. David Warsofsky stays at 14, being inactive this week; his point total is fifth on WBS. Jake Lucchini has 8 points through 22 games for sixth, then there’s a batch of 8 players with 6 points each.

Two starts of two goals allowed in each during the week dropped Casey DeSmith’s GAA to 2.41 at week’s end, ranking 11th in the AHL. DeSmith’s record is 10-4-0, and his .922 save percentage ranks him 9th in the AHL. Dustin Tokarski was inactive this week, with DeSmith and Emil Larmi dressed for all 3 games. Larmi’s harsh loss in Lehigh Valley drops his season numbers to 1-1-2, a 4.52 GAA, and a .857 save percentage in four appearances.

The WBS power play had a very good week, converting on four of 13 chances this week to finish November above 20% in conversion for the year at 20.5%, 9th in the AHL at week’s end (jumping four places) and an improvement of 1.8% over last week. The penalty kill conceded twice on Friday to Lehigh Valley, but nowhere else for a week’s total of 2 goals allowed in 9 chances. The season’s kill percentage dropped only one tenth of a point to 78.5%, 25th in the AHL at week’s end (a drop of 3 places).

WBS takes on a three-game weekend this upcoming weekend. For the first time in their respective histories, the WBS Penguins and the Texas Stars will face each other this weekend for a pair of encounters, first on Friday, December 6, then on Saturday, December 7 (both 7:05 pm EST starts). As seen on local commercials, the Saturday contest will be broadcast on WBRE-TV, the NBC affiliate for the northeastern Pennsylvania area, as well as on AHL TV and WILK News Radio. WBS closes the weekend with a Sunday afternoon visit to Hershey to take on the Bears, starting at 5:00 pm EST on December 8.