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WBS Weekly: Just Hanging Around

WBS takes a split out of its first road trip to Charlotte of the season, then drops its Hockey Fights Cancer game to Providence to close out November at exactly .500.

WBS Penguins forward Nathan Legare, displaying the “Hockey Fights Cancer” logo on his helmet during Saturday’s game against Providence.

Tuesday, November 23: WBS 3 @ Charlotte 2 (OT)

WBS opened up this past week with the first of its two annual trips to Charlotte for a pair or games against the Checkers. The first 20 minutes on Tuesday went overwhelmingly in Charlotte’s favor, as the Checkers outshot WBS 18-9 and got Grigori Denisenko’s third goal of the year at 12:25 of the first for a 1-0 lead.

Penguins forward Michael Chaput matched the goal at 4:40 of the second with his second of the year, a power play goal assisted by Drew O’Connor and Radim Zohorna.

It’s not every day you see a breakaway on a power play, but sometimes you don’t ask questions. You just take the breakaway and score on it.

Less than five minutes later, Charlotte’s Chase Priskie scored his first of the year to give the Checkers a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. On the strength of four straight power plays in the middle frame, WBS outshot Charlotte 16-7 in the second.

That lead held up for most of the third period, but at 14:56, Kyle Olson pocketed his fourth of the season, assisted by Chaput, to square the proceedings at 2.

Regulation ended tied at 2, with Charlotte outshooting WBS 34-31. But the overtime was dominated by WBS, who outshot the Checkers 6-1 in the bonus five minutes and got this vicious shot by Filip Hållander to get the extra point 3-2. Pierre-Olivier Joseph scored the assist.

In a curious statistical anomaly, there have been eight different players to score game-winning goals for WBS in their eight victories. Third star honors went to Chase Priskie for his goal; second star honors went to WBS goalie Louis Domingue, who stopped 33 of 35 shots for the win; Hållander took first star of the game.

Wednesday, November 24: WBS 3 @ Charlotte 4

Charlotte once again struck first in the return match, with Alexis Heponiemi opening the scoring 6:49 into the first. WBS again responded quickly, with Pierre-Olivier Joseph scoring his first of the year less than a minute later. Jan Drozg and Chris Bigras got the assists.

Charlotte took the lead again at 13:38 of the first through Riley Sheahan’s goal. WBS responded again, as Kasper Bjorkqvist scored his second of the season at 3:38 of the second. Juuso Riikola and Michael Chaput got the assists.

Charlotte roared out of the gates in the third period, getting goals at 0:40 from Zac Dalpe on a power play and at 2:17 from Max McCormick to take a two-goal lead. They would need both of those goals to take the win, as Jordy Bellerive brought the final margin back to 1 with his second of the year at 5:50 of the third.

WBS goalie Tommy Nappier started the second game of the back to back, and he finished with 25 saves on 29 shots in the losing effort.

Saturday, November 27: Providence 5 @ WBS 1

WBS closed out the week at home for its annual Hockey Fights Cancer game, welcoming the Providence Bruins to town. The first period ended scoreless, with each team getting 11 shots on goal but no goals. Each team got one goal in the second period, with Radim Zohorna’s foutth of the year canceled out by Brady Lyle’s goal for Providence.

The third period, however, was the Zach Senyshyn Show. It was perhaps prescient by WBS’s play-by-play broadcaster Nick Hart when he shared this tidbit during the pregame buildup:

Senyshyn did more than just score a goal. He scored three in the third period for his second hat trick of the season. The hat trick powered a four-goal Providence third period and a 5-1 victory to move the Bruins up to third place in the Atlantic Division.

Louis Domingue did well to stop 18 of 19 shots in the first two periods, but he finished with 22 saves on 26 shots on account of that devastating Bruins third period.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of November 28:

  1. Springfield Thunderbirds: 14-3-2, .789 points percentage
  2. Hartford Wolf Pack: 12-4-2, .722
  3. Providence Bruins: 8-5-4, .588
  4. Hershey Bears: 8-6-3, .559
  5. Charlotte Checkers: 8-8-2, .500
  6. WBS Penguins: 8-8-2, .500
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 6-11-3, .375
  8. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 3-10-5, .306

WBS Penguins Statistics, powered by HockeyDB:

The WBS power play went 1 for 6 in Charlotte on Tuesday, 0 for 2 in Charlotte on Wednesday, and 0 for 5 against Providence on Saturday. For the season, the power play has fallen back to league’s worst at 9.6%, the only team in the league under 10% power play conversion percentage.

The WBS penalty kill fended off both Charlotte power plays on Tuesday, 3 of 4 Charlotte opportunities on Wednesday, and 4 of 5 opportunities against Providence on Saturday to finish November with a kill percentage of 81.6%, 15th in the AHL.

WBS will open the month of December with a tough 3-game weekend…or, they’re scheduled to, anyway. They’ll have to play those 3 games without Drew O’Connor, who was called back up to Pittsburgh following Bryan Rust’s injury; O’Connor, as shown above, scored 3 goals and 2 assists in his 5 WBS games.

First up is their first trip to Syracuse of the season on Friday, December 3, start time 7:00 pm EST. Then Charlotte comes back to town on Teddy Bear Toss Night this Saturday, December 4, start time 6:05 pm EST.

Then, to close the weekend, the Penguins are finally scheduled to take on their I-81 rivals, the Hershey Bears, this Sunday, December 5, at 3:00 pm EST at GIANT Center. The Penguins have 12 games scheduled against the Bears this season, and a whopping six of them are in December.

That being said, it’s far from a certainty that WBS will actually go to Hershey this Sunday. The American Hockey League postponed two Hershey games against Lehigh Valley due to COVID-19 protocols affecting the Bears, with the second of those originally set for this Wednesday. Should Hershey clear those protocols in time, they’ll have a Saturday night engagement in Lehigh Valley before their game against WBS on Sunday.