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WBS Weekly: Crash

After losing their top gun to an NHL contract with Pittsburgh, the WBS Penguins only managed one point in a winless weekend.

NHL: DEC 04 Blues at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How silly of me to think that Stefan Noesen was going to stick with the WBS Penguins for all of this 2019-2020 season on account of his AHL contract. Not even contract points like that can keep Pittsburgh from calling up those who succeed at the AHL level, as the WBS week opened with Noesen being signed to an NHL contract with Pittsburgh on Monday. Noesen led WBS with 14 goals and 22 points at the time of his NHL contract signing, and on account of that pesky thing called waivers, I find it highly unlikely that WBS will have Noesen’s services again this season.

Friday, December 6: Texas 4 @ WBS 3

Saturday, December 7: Texas 5 @ WBS 3

I was fortunate enough to take some time away this past week. From Wednesday through Saturday, I visited the city of Nashville for the first time. Neat little city. Lots of music, lots of music history. I highly recommend the Gaylord Opryland Resort; easily the largest non-Disney hotel I’ve ever stayed at, and honestly, I could have made a 3-day vacation just on what was at the resort, much less what was in Nashville itself to visit.

While WBS was hosting the Texas Stars for the first time ever, I was at the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, watching Friday night’s Opry show. While WBS was hosting Texas on Saturday for their Teddy Bear Toss game, I was on a plane flying home. So all I could see or hear from the game were app updates.

What I could see, though, did not make me happy.

Updates swung back and forth all night on Friday between Texas and WBS, with Michael Mersch’s opening goal at 7:15 of the first matched by Andreas Martinsen’s first for WBS at 9:53.

Joel Kiviranta’s pair of goals in the second were matched by Andrew Agozzino’s 11th of the season and the first pro goal for Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

Unfortunately, no responding goal alert came through for Nicholas Caamano’s 5th of the year at 1:11 of the third, as Texas took the first game of the weekend 4-3.

The AHL’s Goaltender of the Month for November, Casey DeSmith, stopped 22 of 26 Texas shots in the losing effort, while Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 26 of 29 WBS shots in the victory.

Joseph added an assist to his goal for third star honors. Kiviranta’s pair got him second honors, while Caamano’s game winner was good enough for top honors.

As for Saturday night, I had no updates at all, as I was airborne for the game. So imagine my (first) distress at seeing a final score of 5-3 Texas, then checking the box score to see 93 combined penalty minutes, then checking social media to see that Penguins goaltender Emil Larmi nearly got into a fight.

Quite the swing of emotions.

Jason Robertson for Texas scored two in the first period to spot the Stars a 2-0 lead, but WBS roared back in the second for three straight through Sam Miletic, the returning David Warsofsky (power play), and Zach Trotman (power play) to take a 3-2 lead.

Here, have some flying teddy bears.

WBS could not hold the lead, though, as Joel L’Esperance tallied on a Texas power play to make it 3-3 after 2, then Kiviranta scored just 15 seconds into the third to give Texas a lead they would not concede. Nicholas Caamano scored the empty netter at 19:48 of the third to make the final 5-3, which started a sequence in which David Warsofsky got 17 minutes of penalties for slashing, then four separate game misconducts called at 20:00 of the third (including the would-be goalie fight between Larmi and Texas goaltender Landon Bow that was broken up before it began).

Larmi ended with 28 saves on 32 shots in the loss, with Bow ending with 26 saves on 29 shots in the victorious effort to run Texas’s streak of games without a regulation loss to 7 (6-0-1).

Miletic finished with a goal and an assist for third star; Robertson’s pair was good for second honors; Kiviranta’s winner took top honors.

Sunday, December 8: WBS 2 @ Hershey 3 (OT)

Bolstered by the returning Joseph Blandisi, WBS closed out its weekend with a visit to Hershey to take on the Bears. WBS came out strong to close out the weekend, getting goals by Sam Miletic and Anthony Angello in the first period to stake out a 2-0 lead.

WBS held that lead through the end of the first and all of the second, but Hershey equalized in the third period as resident ringer Matt Moulson scored his 7th for Hershey on a power play at 2:35 of the third, then Christian Djoos scored his 3rd at 8:45 to tie the game. Nothing was settled in regulation, which salvaged at least a point for WBS on the weekend, but they could not get the second point as Joe Snively scored at 2:50 of overtime to give the Bears the 3-2 win and doom WBS to a winless weekend.

DeSmith was back in net on Sunday, and he did extremely well to keep WBS in the game with 32 saves on 35 shots, several of the highest quality, but it wasn’t enough. Hershey keeper Pheonix Copley stopped 23 of 25 for the win. Moulson, Djoos, and Snively took the honors.

Emil Larmi Tweet(s) of the Week

The Stat Board

Atlantic Division standings through the games of December 8 (sorted by points):

  1. Hartford Wolf Pack - 25 games played, 14-4-7, 35 points, .700 points percentage
  2. Providence Bruins - 27 games played, 16-8-3, 35 points, .648 points percentage
  3. WBS Penguins - 25 games played, 13-8-4, 30 points, .600 points percentage
  4. Hershey Bears - 26 games played, 12-9-5, 29 points, .558 points percentage
  5. Springfield Thunderbirds - 27 games played, 14-13-0, 28 points, .519 points percentage
  6. Lehigh Valley Phantoms - 25 games played, 10-10-5, 25 points, .500 points percentage
  7. Charlotte Checkers - 24 games played, 10-11-3, 23 points, .479 points percentage
  8. Bridgeport Sound Tigers - 26 games played, 9-13-4, 22 points, .423 points percentage

Hartford and Providence put some space between themselves and the rest of the division this week, with Hartford taking 3 wins in 3 games (including 4-1 over Providence on Sunday) and Providence winning its other two games this week. WBS lost its 5-point cushion over fourth place, finishing the week just one ahead of Hershey, who went 3 for 3 this week to jump from sixth to fourth. Springfield won only one in 3 chances to drop out of playoff position, with Lehigh Valley falling to sixth following their own 0-3 weekend. Charlotte went 2-1 to jump out of the basement, while Bridgeport went 1-1 to drop to last.

With Noesen gone to Pittsburgh, the active scoring leader for WBS is now Andrew Agozzino, finishing the week at a point per game pace (11 goals, 13 assists in 24 games). Agozzino’s 11 goals tie for 11th in the AHL, six behind the leader Reid Boucher of Utica. His 24 points tie for 9th in the AHL, seven behind the leader Drake Batherson of Belleville.

Noesen’s 22 points in 22 games are likely to remain among the best totals for WBS for a while. Second among active WBS players is Sam Miletic, with 5 goals and 13 assists for 18 points in 25 games; third is David Warsofsky, who returned to action this week and finished the week with 3 goals and 14 assists in 22 games. Adam Johnson ranks fourth with 3 goals and 13 assists in 15 games, and rookie Jake Lucchini ranks fifth among actives with 9 points in 25 games. Anthony Angello finishes the week with six goals, second among active goal scorers for WBS, though his lone assist leaves him at only 7 points on the season.

After a Goalie of the Month performance, DeSmith’s numbers dropped slightly this week thanks to the two losses. DeSmith holds a record of 10-5-1 in 17 games, with a 2.54 GAA (19th in the AHL among qualified goaltenders) and a .918 save percentage (tied for 12th in the AHL). Emil Larmi fell to 1-2-2 on the season with his loss, with a 4.43 GAA on the season and a .861 save percentage.

WBS hits the road this week for a three-pack of games starting Wednesday, December 11, at Rochester, 7:05 pm EST start time. WBS then heads to The Land, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, to take on the Monsters on Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, both 7:00 pm EST starts.