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WBS Weekly: The Slide Continues

The WBS Penguins managed to stop their losing streak at 4 with a dramatic 2-1 win on Friday, but rookie goaltender Filip Lindberg is injured.

The “Arena Yes” banner that hangs above the public address box at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, a relic of the political campaign to build the arena that marked its 22nd anniversary of Penguins games on Saturday.
Picture taken by me

Wednesday, November 10: Rochester 5 @ WBS 1

Coming off the heels of a dreadful week, WBS looked to get back on track in their first game of the season outside the Atlantic Division against the Rochester Americans, top affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately for the Penguins, the tone of the game looked to be set early in the first. Former Penguin Mark Jankowski drew a penalty shot shorthanded and scored his second goal of the season for the Amerks just 3:37 into the game.

Rochester expanded the lead to 3-0 with two goals in 1:24 in the second through Jack Quinn and Ryan MacInnis tacking on goals. Penguins rookie forward Sam Poulin drew the deficit back to 3-1 at 9:45 of the second with his third of the year, but that would be the only one of WBS’s 42 shots on the evening to beat Rochester goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

Rochester pulled away late in the second with Matej Pekar and then Brett Murray scoring on the power play.

WBS goaltender Filip Lindberg ended with 27 saves on 32 shots in the losing effort. The power play continued its slide, going 0/6 on the evening, while the penalty kill conceded twice in four opportunities.

Friday, November 12: Charlotte 1 @ WBS 2

WBS looked to get reinforcements for its defense on Thursday, as captain Taylor Fedun and Juuso Riikola were returned to WBS. The relief was short lived, though, as Riikola was quickly recalled again on Friday along with goalie Louis Domingue. WBS quickly tapped Tommy Nappier from Wheeling to be the second goalie for Charlotte’s return to the WB…which turned out to be a game-saving move.

Charlotte came out swinging on Friday, outshooting WBS 16-6 in the first period and getting Grigori Denisenko’s first of the season 1:26 into the game. To their credit, WBS weathered the storm, and they managed to get Valtteri Puustinen free for a one-timer late in the second for Puustinen’s team-leading fifth goal of the season to end the first tied at 1.

After a scoreless second period, it was a surprise to just about everyone in the arena to see Nappier take the WBS net to start the third after starter Lindberg stopped 27 of 28 shots in the first two periods. To his immense credit, Nappier shut down all 10 Charlotte third period shots, and with time running down, defender Chris Bigras opened his WBS account at the most opportune time.

The Penguins managed to see out the final 3:23 of the third to break their losing streak at four and give Nappier his second career win at the AHL level.

Saturday, November 13: Charlotte 4 @ WBS 0

Following Friday’s game, it was announced that Lindberg had a lower-body injury, the extent of which was unknown. So, it was Nappier taking the net again for the return match on Saturday against Charlotte, backed up by a late-arriving Alex D’Orio, recalled from Wheeling for the occasion.

Saturday’s game marked 22 years to the day that the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza first opened for business, hosting WBS’s 4-2 victory over Kentucky in its first-ever home game. The anniversary turned out to be the only notable occasion for WBS of Saturday’s hockey festivities, as Checkers forward Cole Schwindt scored a natural hat trick over the first 33:27 of the game. Schwindt’s three goals gave Charlotte all they would need, and Matt Kiersted’s empty net goal put a bow on a 4-0, 30-save shutout for Charlotte starter Christopher Gibson.

Nappier saved 27 of 30 Charlotte attempts as the WBS power play continued to falter, failing on seven opportunities over the course of the game to end the week on an 0 for 36 slide.

Atlantic Division Standings (through the games of November 14)

  1. Springfield: 9-2-2, .769 points percentage
  2. Hartford: 9-3-1, .731
  3. Hershey: 6-4-3, .577
  4. Charlotte: 6-5-1, .542
  5. Providence: 5-4-3, .542
  6. WBS: 6-6-1, .500
  7. Bridgeport: 5-6-3, .464
  8. Lehigh Valley: 3-7-3, .346

Team Statistics, courtesy of HockeyDB:

WBS’s current 0 for 36 power play slump has dropped them to dead last in the AHL in power play conversion percentage, with just 8.2%. On top of that, they lead the league in shorthanded goals allowed, with 4. The penalty kill is faring marginally better, with a kill percentage of 79.6% that ranks 19th in the league.

On Sunday, the quartet of Sidney Crosby, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Petterson, and Chad Ruhwedel rejoined the parent Penguins’ lineup for their visit to Washington. Due to this, Pittsburgh sent Louis Domingue, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Juuso Riikola, and Drew O’Connor back to WBS…and not a moment too soon, especially in the case of Domingue. One would certainly hope the influx would get the farm team back on track as they take to New England for a pair this weekend.

First up is Springfield on Friday, November 19, start time 7:05 pm EST. Then it’s off to Providence on Saturday, November 20, start time 7:05 pm EST.