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WBS Weekly: Sam Lafferty’s hat trick vs. Phantoms propels Penguins to five-point week

WBS ends the week five points back of the Atlantic Division playoff line. There are nine games left to play.

Photo by WBS Penguins

Tuesday, March 19: WBS 0 @ Hershey 1 (OT)

Yes, Tristan Jarry has gotten a lot of work lately in the WBS net. Yes, it may have appeared that he had hit a wall against Toronto to close last week. But to open this past week in WBS history, Jarry once again took the net on a rare Tuesday night in Hershey to face the red-hot Bears in the last meeting of 12 between the clubs this season.

This game saw Jarry at his devastating best, stopping all 38 shots he faced in regulation, including four Hershey power plays. For his part, Hershey goalie Vitek Vanecek stopped all 17 WBS shots in regulation, and the game went all the way to overtime tied at zero.

For all of Jarry’s efforts, though, he could not stop the only shot he faced in overtime, as Garrett Pilon scored his 10th of the year at 1:14 of overtime to give the Bears the second point.

Vanecek’s shutout performance earned him Third Star honors, Jarry’s performance earned second star, and Pilon took top honors with the game-winner.

Friday, March 22: Lehigh Valley 3 @ WBS 2

Following the shuffle of personnel mid-week that led to Adam Johnson debuting for Pittsburgh and Jusso Riikola and Joseph Blandisi returned to WBS, the Penguins welcomed the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to town on Friday night for the first of a home and home series. Ryan Haggerty opened the scoring at 7:06 of the first with his 17th of the season.

WBS would hold the lead until 8:36 of the second, when Phantoms forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored his 13th of the season.

Lehigh Valley would take the lead just 4:10 later on a strong individual effort from former WBS Penguin Chris Conner.

Ryan Haggerty responded 3:53 later with his second of the night and 18th of the season to tie the game at two, which is where the second period ended.

Lehigh Valley stormed out of the gates in the third period to take the lead just 28 seconds in through Aube-Kubel’s second of the night, 14th of the season, and eventual game-winner.

Never give up on a play. You never know what might happen.

The game ended very contentiously with several scrums and fights between the teams as time faded away in the third period, as WBS suffered a devastating loss alongside a Providence 2-0 win at home over Belleville that dropped Providence’s magic number to clinch the playoffs to 16.

Conner’s goal earned him third star honors. Haggerty’s pair of goals earned second honors, while Aube-Kubel took top honors for his two goals.

Saturday, March 23: WBS 5 @ Lehigh Valley 4 (OT)

The contention of the previous night’s game carried over into the return match in Allentown on Saturday, in which there were several meetings after stoppages in play, more than a few hard hits that were not called as penalties, and general discontent with the officials.

Sam Lafferty opened the scoring at 10:19 of the first.

Former WBS Penguin Phil Samuelsson matched the goal just 28 seconds later by burying a pass off the pads from Mark Friedman.

The bad blood between the two sides came to a head shortly after Samuelsson’s goal.

If things were being called properly, that very high, very hard, very dangerous hit by Pat McGrath would have been sanctioned as a penalty. Perhaps it would have been determined to be serious enough to warrant McGrath’s removal from the proceedings. However, nothing was called on that hit. The ensuing fight between McGrath and Phantoms’ forward Carsen Twarynski resulted in Twarynski inexplicably getting an additional minor for roughing, which kicked off a sequence in which Lehigh Valley was whistled for three straight minors, all linking with one another to give WBS more than five minutes of consecutive power play time.

The Phantoms came one second away from killing it all off, but Blandisi loudly announced his return to WBS to put the Penguins ahead.

In the second period, WBS expanded its lead to two.

As the temperature of the game started to cool off, Lehigh Valley started to turn up its skill. First, Greg Carey connected with what the Allentown broadcast called the “Hamilton Howitzer” for his 27th of the season to bring the game back to within one.

Next, Cole Bardreau scored his fifth of the season for Lehigh Valley to tie the game.

Then, just as Providence was wrapping up a 3-1 win over Binghamton to drop their magic number to 14, Lehigh Valley took the lead through Byron Froese’s 17th of the year.

Lehigh Valley almost held the lead again through full time, but on this night, the bounces started to turn towards WBS at just the right time.

WBS surged forward in overtime, as Haggerty forced a turnover in the neutral zone and finished a breakaway to give WBS a crucial extra point.

All of the stars went to WBS: Sam Miletic third with two assists (apparently one of the assists was revoked in the postgame review, because the box score only has Miletic with two assists), Haggerty second with a goal and two assists, and Lafferty with a hat trick and an assist.

Sunday, March 24: Springfield 2 @ WBS 3

With the final game against Providence due up on Wednesday, and with the third game in 48 hours on Sunday, it should come as no surprise that John Muse took the net on Sunday against Springfield for his first appearance since February 17.

Sunday also marked the 300th AHL game of former WBS Penguin Jean-Sebastien Dea, making his return to WBS with the Florida organization following the Chris Wideman trade. Dea opened the scoring at 9:25 of the first with his 13th of the season at the AHL level, a goal that was matched at 18:31 of the first through Miletic’s ninth of the season on a power play.

The second period featured a grand total of 11 minors between both teams, resulting in a total of seven different power plays. Despite that, the only goal scored in the second period was an even strength goal just after the expiration of a Springfield minor for too many players on the ice, as Anthony Angello scored his first goal since February 1 and his 16th of the season.

Not to be outdone, Dea scored his second of the game and 14th of the season 19 seconds into the third period on a power play to tie the game. The teams exchanged a power play in the third period, but it came down to Joseph Cramarossa to break the tie and ultimately give WBS a crucial victory.

That’s only Cramarossa’s fourth of the season, but what a time for it.

Goaltender Muse finished with 32 saves on 34 shots for an extremely timely relief victory to bring WBS back to five points behind the Bruins and the Hershey Bears with nine games to go. Angello’s goal was good enough for third star, Dea’s pair earned second star, and Cramarossa’s winner earned top honors.

After a five-point week and through 67 games, WBS now has a record of 32-25-7-3, good for 74 points and a .552 points percentage. With nine games left, WBS must win eight of them to maintain their streak of 40-win seasons. Ethan Prow continues to lead the Penguins with 46 points, but Haggerty now leads the active team in goals with 19. Prow leads in assists with 29, with Lafferty and Blandisi up to 25 assists each. Jarry has dropped to 20th in the AHL among goaltenders with a 2.63 GAA, but his save percentage of .917 ties for eighth in the league. His 21 wins this season tie for 11th.

Full Atlantic Division standings through the games of March 24

  1. Charlotte Checkers (clinched playoffs): 67 games played, 44-15-7-1, 96 points (leads AHL)
  2. Bridgeport Sound Tigers: 67 games played, 39-20-6-2, 86 points
  3. Providence Bruins: 67 games played, 34-22-8-3, 79 points (32 regulation/overtime wins, wins first tiebreaker)
  4. Hershey Bears: 67 games played, 36-24-3-4, 79 points (29 regulation/overtime wins)
  5. WBS Penguins: 67 games played, 32-25-7-3, 74 points
  6. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 66 games, 32-27-4-3, 71 points
  7. Springfield Thunderbirds: 68 games played, 28-27-8-5, 69 points
  8. Hartford Wolf Pack: 68 games played, 28-31-6-3, 65 points

WBS’s magic number to clinch the playoffs started the week at 30. They earned five out of eight possible points, and Providence dropped one point when they lost a shootout at Laval on March 20. So the WBS magic number to clinch the playoffs is now 24. They can only get 18 points, and they can deny Providence two points by themselves, so they still need help from either Providence or (now) Hershey in order to get into playoff position.

The schedule for WBS this week opens with (this time I swear it’s true) the game of the season, as Providence travels to WBS for the last game of the season between the two on Wednesday, March 27, at 7:05 p.m. EDT. WBS can exit this game anywhere from three back of Providence with eight to play or seven back of Providence with eight to play. Springfield then returns to town on Saturday, March 30, for WBS’s last game of March at 7:05 p.m. EDT.