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WBS Weekly: Poulin, Legare score AHL first goals

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took five points out of a possible six this past week, culminating with an overtime victory over Atlantic Division-leading Springfield.

Radim Zohorna, on his way to two goals against Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and a 4-2 victory to start the week.

Wednesday, October 27: Lehigh Valley 2 @ WBS 4

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins opened up this past week with, inexplicably, their third contest against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their first five games. The Phantoms came to Wilkes-Barre still in search of their first victory of the season, but they would have to look elsewhere by night’s end.

Despite the Phantoms taking a 2-1 lead in the first period thanks to goals from Gerry Mayhew and Adam Clendening, WBS was able to strongly rebound later in the period. Michael Chaput’s first goal as a WBS Penguin and Radim Zohorna’s first of the season just three seconds from the end of the period gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.

Zohorna doubled his fun at 4:32 of the second on a power play for his second goal of the game.

The Penguins were able to lock it down from there as Filip Lindberg turned in his third victorious performance of the season, highlighted by this beauty of a save.

Lindberg finished with 20 saves on 22 shots to take third star honors. Valtteri Puustinen continued his strong rookie campaign with two assists and got the second star of the game, while Zohorna’s pair were enough for top honors.

Friday, October 29: WBS 2 @ Hartford 3 (SO)

The Penguins then went on the road for their first true road trip since the abrupt end of the 2019-2020 season. It took only 5:34 for WBS to kick off their road trip the right way, as Sam Houde, fresh off a set of impressive preseason performances, scored his first AHL goal.

The fastest skater in the AHL, Anthony Greco, scored at 16:44 of the first to tie the score. The score stayed 1-1 until the 13:44 mark of the third period, when Morgan Barron scored on a power play to give the Wolf Pack a 2-1 lead.

As it turned out, all that Barron’s goal did was set the stage for another WBS rookie to finally get on the scoresheet.

That’s Sam Poulin, finally getting his first goal in the AHL after six games of strong play. Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Jordy Bellerive got the assists to send the game to OT.

The overtime went scoreless, the regulation shootout went scoreless, but it was Tim Gettinger in round four of the shootout who finally solved WBS goaltender Louis Domingue to take the extra point.

The three stars of the game were Greco, with a goal and an assist; Hartford goaltender Keith Kinkaid, with 26 saves on 28 shots; and Gettinger, with an assist and the shootout winner. This absolutely understates the spectacular performance in net of Domingue, who ended the evening with 35 saves on 37 shots including 13 frantic saves in the second period to keep the game in range. Without Domingue’s performance, this could easily have ended up 4-2 or 5-2 in regulation…or worse.

Saturday, October 30: WBS 4 @ Springfield 3 (OT)

It was then on to Springfield to take on the division-leading Thunderbirds. It didn’t take very long for the Thunderbirds to start the action, as Matthew Peca scored his fifth goal of the season shorthanded. WBS, though, quickly responded as Felix Robert scored his second of the season at 8:23 of the first period.

The second period was an anomaly in every sense of the word for WBS, albeit the good kind of anomaly. Robert scored his second of the night 1:20 into the second period, and Valtterii Puustinen tallied his fourth goal of the season at 6:17 to give WBS a 3-1 lead.

Despite the two goals in the period, the Penguins were outshot 15-5 in the middle frame, but Filip Lindberg stopped them all.

Springfield made it tense at the start of the third, as Keean Washkurak scored at 3:26 of the third. WBS held the line all the way to the final minute. With Springfield goaltender Joel Hofer pulled, WBS took several attempts at the empty net, but Springfield was able to block them. Then, with 41 seconds left, Springfield defender Calle Rosen took a shot that was blocked by Sam Poulin, but the deflection went behind Poulin and into the air, careening off of WBS defender Cam Lee’s face and into the Wilkes-Barre net for the equalizing goal.

After a hard luck deflection like that, there was only one way that the hockey gods would allow this game to end.

What a time for your first AHL goal for Nathan Legare, as an overtime winner. Joseph and Puustinen got the assists.

Lindberg is now 4-0 in the WBS net after 34 saves on 37 shots. As of this writing, he has a 1.71 GAA in his four games and a .942 save percentage, good for 12th and 16th in the AHL among qualifying goaltenders. Louis Domingue is doing a bit better, with a record of 1-0-1 in his two starts, a 1.44 GAA (sixth in the AHL), and a .955 save percentage (also sixth in the AHL).

Through the first seven games, Valtteri Puustinen is far and away the scoring leader for the Penguins, with eight points (4G+4A). Sam Poulin and Jordy Bellerive are tied for second with four points each (Poulin: 1G+3A, Bellerive 0G+4A). There are six players then have three points each, led by Felix Robert’s three goals. Among the rest of the rookies:

  • Nathan Legare: 1G+2A
  • Sam Houde: 1G+1A
  • Kasper Bjorkqvist (who for some reason is still considered a rookie by the AHL): 1G+0A
  • Filip Hållander: 1G+0A

The WBS power play connected twice against Lehigh Valley, did not convert its only opportunity against Hartford, and once against Springfield. Through October, the power play is running at a clip of 20.0%, tied for 13th in the league. The penalty kill conceded once to Lehigh Valley, once to Hartford, and nothing to Springfield to end the month at 87.1%, good for sixth in the league.

The Atlantic Division standings through the month of October are as follows, showing records and points percentage. Standings points themselves don’t really matter this season due to Hartford, Charlotte, Bridgeport, and Providence playing 72 games this season against the 76 games of Springfield, WBS, Hershey, and Lehigh Valley.

  1. Springfield: 5-0-2, .857 points percentage
  2. WBS: 5-1-1, .786
  3. Hershey: 4-1-2, .714
  4. Hartford: 5-2-1, .688
  5. Charlotte: 3-3-1, .500
  6. Bridgeport: 3-3-2, .500
  7. Providence: 2-3-2, .429
  8. Lehigh Valley: 0-5-2, .143

WBS has another three games in four days this weekend. Kicking it off is yet another game against Lehigh Valley, already the fourth WBS/LHV gane just eight games into the season this year, on Wednesday, November 3, at 7:05 pm EDT. Providence comes to town for their first visit of the season on Friday, November 5, at 7:05 pm EDT, then WBS heads up to Hartford on Saturday, November 6, start time 7:00 pm EDT.