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WBS Weekly: Crashing Back to Earth

After a great October, the WBS Penguins got a harsh introduction to November, dropping all three of their games this past week

Penguins forward Jordy Bellerive, challenging Hartford forward Austin Rueschhoff to a fight after Rueschhoff laid out rookie Nathan Legare on a forecheck.

Wednesday, November 3: WBS 0 @ Lehigh Valley 4

The WBS Penguins opened up the month of November with their fourth contest against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their first 8 games. With WBS winning the first three games against their rivals, and with Lehigh Valley coming into the game still looking for their first victory on the season, perhaps it wasn’t a complete surprise that the Phantoms finally found their footing.

LV started out quickly, with Maksim Sushko scoring 2:25 into the game. Tyson Foerster extended the lead to 2-0 at 15:22 of the first, the only time the Phantoms converted a power play in their five chances on the evening. In the third period, Hayden Hodgson expanded the lead to 3-0. Gerry Mayhew tied a bow on the victory with an empty net goal.

Despite four power play opportunities in the second period, and a total of eight on the evening, WBS could not crack Felix Sandstrom. The Swedish goaltender stopped all 25 shots WBS threw at him for his first AHL shutout. For the Penguins, Louis Domingue stopped 22 of 25 shots, including a penalty shot, in the losing effort.

In one of the many quirks of the AHL schedule: Despite having these four early season games against the Phantoms, WBS won’t have a chance to avenge this shutout loss until January 14.

Friday, November 5: Providence 6 @ WBS 2

With captain Taylor Fedun recalled to Pittsburgh, the Penguins welcomed the Providence Bruins to town on Friday for their first game against the Bruins of the season. Providence brought a 2-3-1-1 record into the contest, with a -9 goal differential (14 goals scored, 23 goals conceded), and a 17.9% power play conversion percentage…decidedly un-Providence numbers considering their recent history.

So of course they put up 20 shots in the first 25:06 of the game and put four behind Filip Lindberg. That sendtthe AHL Goaltender of the Month for October to an early shower.

Oskar Steen, Steven Fogarty, Zach Senyshyn, and Chris Wagner all scored goals to give Providence to the 4-0 lead, with only Steen’s goal scored at even strength.

WBS would bring it back to 4-2 in the third period, with Nathan Legare scoring his second of the year at 15:14 of the second and Kyle Olson scoring his first goal at 2:38 of the third to make things somewhat interesting.

Unfortunately, they could get no closer, as Eduards Tralmaks scored a goal at 9:55 of the third, then Steen got his second of the night into an empty net at 18:32 to lock it up.

The Providence power play finished 3/5 on the night, while WBS converted nothing in five attempts. Bruins goaltender Jon Gillies, making his Providence debut, stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win; Louis Domingue stopped 15 of 16 shots in relief of Lindberg.

Saturday, November 6: WBS 3 @ Hartford 4

The week went from bad to worse on Saturday, as the Penguins made their second trip to Hartford of the season and promptly fell behind early again. This time, it was Tanner Fritz and Anthony Bitetto scoring 1:04 apart in the first period to put the Wolf Pack up 2-0. Hartford would expand the lead to as high as 4-0 early in the third through a Tim Gettinger shorthanded goal at 3:03 of the second and Lauri Pajuniemi’s power play goal at 2:10 of the third.

That fourth goal appeared to spark WBS into action, as they scored two within 23 seconds immediately after the Pajuniemi goal. Felix Robert scored first goa at 2:40, his fourth of the season. Then Jordy Bellerive scored his first of the season at 3:03 to bring WBS back to 4-2.

Sam Poulin closed the gap to just one with 43 seconds left to play, but WBS could not get the equalizer as they dropped their third in a row.

Tyler Wall for Hartford finished with 27 saves on 30 shots for the win, his first of the season in his season debut for the Wolf Pack. For the Penguins, Louis Domingue stopped 29 of 33 shots in the losing effort. The WBS power play finished an atrocious week with another dud, failing to convert on 7 opportunities to finish 0 for 20 on the week.

To make matters even worse, WBS defender Cam Lee took a match penalty for a check to the head at 9:41 of the first period. I expect the league to impose further discipline before the Penguins return to the ice on Wednesday against Rochester.

Atlantic Division Standings (through the games of November 7)

  1. Springfield Thunderbirds: 7-1-2, .800 points percentage
  2. Hartford Wolf Pack: 7-3-1, .682
  3. Hershey Bears: 5-2-3, .650
  4. Providence Bruins: 4-3-2, .556
  5. WBS Penguins: 5-4-1, .550
  6. Charlotte Checkers: 4-4-1, .500
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 4-5-2, .455
  8. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 2-6-2, .300

WBS Statistics

from hockeydb:

On account of their 0 for 20 performance this week, the WBS power play fell to second to last in the AHL at week’s end with a 11.1% conversion percentage. Only last-place Lehigh Valley has a worse power play conversion percentage, at 10.4%. The penalty kill also suffered a drop, primarily due to conceding three power play goals to Providence; the PK ended the week with a kill percentage of 80.0%, tied for 18th in the AHL.

No time to lament, though. The games come hot and heavy for WBS this November, with 11 contests on the schedule and another slate of three games in four days this week. Rochester comes to town on Wednesday, November 10, start time 7:05 pm EST, then Charlotte makes its second trip to the WB of the season for a pair of games this weekend. The Penguins and Checkers will play Friday, November 12, at 7:05 pm EST, then again on Saturday, November 13, at 6:05 pm EST.