Despite this being a shorter, more irregular season for the WBS Penguins, the fact remains that they are a farm team. Their best performers can (and quite often are) promoted to Pittsburgh or the Pittsburgh taxi squad seemingly at whim.
Such roster turnover started to hit WBS at the very end of their week off leading into their game on February 20 at Hershey. Forwards Jordy Bellerive and Josh Currie were moved from WBS to the taxi squad on February 19, along with goaltender Emil Larmi. In their place, Frederick Gaudreau and Anthony Angello, and goaltender Maxime Lagace, arrived in the WB.
February 20, 2021: WBS 1 @ Hershey 3
Lagace was quickly put to work upon his arrival, defending the cage as WBS took on the Hershey Bears in front of a crowd of 404 at GIANT Center. Forward Zach Nastasiuk, in his eighth AHL season, scored his first for WBS at 6:27 on a power play, but from there, the show belonged to rookie Hershey forward Connor McMichael. McMichael, who scored his first pro goal for Hershey just 9 days earlier against the Penguins, scored his first professional hat trick:
- A power play goal at 8:39 of the first,
- An unassisted tally at 1:19 of the second, and
- An empty netter cherry on top to close out the Bears victory.
Lagace ended with 28 saves on 30 shots in the loss, while Zach Fucale for Hershey stopped 34 of 35 WBS shots in his first start of the season.
February 24, 2021: Hershey 2 @ WBS 4
The two sides were right back at it this past Wednesday, but this time with vastly different results. WBS got a significant upgrade on the blue line before the game, with Kevin Czuczman returned to Wilkes-Barre to play his 175th game for the farm team after two in Pittsburgh during the early part of the season.
After Will Graber for Hershey opened the scoring at 18:26 of the first, Radim Zohorna scored his first AHL goal at 19:48 of the first to level the proceedings.
Zohorna wasn’t done; after Anthony Angello and Mike Sgarbossa exchanged goals in the second...
...Zohorna doubled his fun with his second of the game at 10:39 of the second.
His second goal proved to be the game-winner, with Nick Schilkey scoring his first for WBS in his fourth AHL season at 3:58 of the third to provide some insurance.
The victory was Hershey’s first regulation loss of the season. Goaltender Maxime Lagace turned in another solid performance with 26 saves on 28 shots in the winning effort, while Ilya Samsonov stopped only 15 of 19 shots in a rehab start.
February 26, 2021: Lehigh Valley 2 @ WBS 4
WBS followed up dishing out Hershey’s first regulation loss by doing the same to their other Pennsylvania rival, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, on Friday night. The win came despite losing Anthony Angello to the taxi squad following Jason Zucker’s injury on Tuesday against Washington.
WBS started fast in this one, with Will Reilly scoring his second of the season just 2:38 into the game.
The Penguins never really looked back after that, sandwiching Jon Lizotte’s first of the season and Jan Drozg’s second of the year around the 5th of the year by Zayde Wisdom of Lehigh Valley in the second period.
Rookie center Felix Robert opened his WBS account at 3:14 of the third, which was more than enough to withstand Max Willman’s 4th of the year at 3:57 of the third for a second straight victory. Lagace was in net again and stopped 23 of 25 Phantoms shots for the win; his opposing number, Zane McIntyre, stopped 20 of 24 WBS shots in the loss.
February 27, 2021: WBS 5 @ Lehigh Valley 4 (OT)
Two last bits of roster business before this game, as first, Jordy Bellerive was returned to WBS from the taxi squad. Later on, Sam Miletic, out the entire season to this point to non-COVID illness, was activated and sent to WBS for their return match at Lehigh Valley to close out the week.
This was a wild, back-and-forth affair, with each team matching the other’s goals and neither gaining a strong foothold. Felix Robert, Jordy Bellerive, Nick Schilkey, and Miletic all scored in regulation, but they were matched by two from Max Willman, one from Ryan Fitzgerald, and Zayde Wisdom’s sixth of the year to force overtime.
Frederick Gaudreau didn’t make us wait long.
As a home fan, you hate to see the game end on a back pass turnover like that. However, when you’re on the good side of it...you take it and scamper back home with the 5-4 victory and a three-game winning streak.
Lagace got a night off in net in favor of Shane Starrett’s first start for WBS after three seasons in Bakersfield. Starrett finished with 21 saves on 25 shots in the victorious effort, while Felix Sandstrom for Lehigh Valley finished with 31 saves on 36 shots in the loss.
At week’s end, WBS holds a record of 4-2-1 for 9 points and a points percentage of .643. By points percentage, that’s fifth in the North Division, but by raw points, it’s fourth. With all the roster changes, it’s not really a surprise that the team leaders in points are Nick Schilkey (2 goals and 6 assists in 7 games), Radim Zohorna (2 and 4 in 7 games), Felix Robert (2 and 3 in 5 games), and Jon Lizotte (1 and 4 in 5 games). Jordy Bellerive’s three goals leads the team, who have already had sixteen different goal scorers on the season.
On special teams, WBS’s power play finished the week at 18.5%, good for tenth in the AHL, while its penalty kill is 11th at 83.3%.
Save These Dates
On February 19, WBS announced that the local MyNetwork TV affiliate, WQMY, will televise six of the WBS home games during the season. AT&T SportsNet followed that up with an announcement on February 23 that they will be simulcasting five of those broadcasts. Unfortunately, we’ve already had two of those games, with the victories on February 24 and 26 shared to audiences in both the WB and Pittsburgh.
Make sure, then, that you save these dates and times in order to watch the WBS Penguins on AT&T SportsNet:
- Wednesday, March 3 at 5:00 pm vs. Syracuse
- Monday, March 8 at 5:00 pm vs. Lehigh Valley
- Wednesday, March 24 at 5:00 pm vs. Syracuse
Readers in the WB will also get the April 10 game against Binghamton, start time 5:00 pm, on WQMY. Check your local cable or satellite providers.
The Week Ahead
The month of March opens with two games in this upcoming week. WBS will host Syracuse for the third of 5 AT&T SportsNet TV games on Wednesday, March 3, start time 5:00 pm EST.
Then it’s back to Newark, where WBS will take on the Binghamton Devils on Saturday, March 6, start time 7:00 pm EST.