Friday, March 19:
Lehigh Valley Phantoms Syracuse Crunch 5 @ WBS 2
This week in WBS Penguins history started off rather ominously. Their scheduled opponent for Friday’s home game, Lehigh Valley, had their game on Wednesday against Binghamton postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Lehigh Valley was not able to clear those protocols in time for Friday’s game, so rather than postpone WBS’s first home game with paying customers in over a year, the AHL and the Penguins arranged for the Syracuse Crunch to come to town for a game. The Lehigh Valley contest technically isn’t off entirely, it’s just postponed, so the Syracuse game on Friday counts as an extra game in the standings for both teams.
AHL Game #481, therefore, took place on Friday night in the WB in front of an announced paid attendance of 1,245. In retrospect, if Syracuse comes up with any open dates in their schedule the rest of the way, WBS might be their first call.
The game started off poorly for the home side, as goaltender Emil Larmi came way out of his net to play a puck and missed it. Gabriel Fortier buried it into an empty net for his fourth of the season and Syracuse’s first of the night.
The defensive play from BB— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) March 19, 2021
The jets from Forts
This goal had it all. pic.twitter.com/Bk9amuaNE0
Before 5 minutes elapsed in the second period, Syracuse would put three more past Larmi, who was removed from the proceedings after 24:41 and eight saves on 12 shots.
Tim Schaller at 6:20 of the second and Drew O’Connor at 12:56 of the third tried to draw WBS back into the game, but they could get no closer.
Brady Keeper’s empty netter at 19:00 of the third closed out Syracuse’s third straight victory over WBS and, remarkably, only their fifth win of the season. Sean Day took top honors on the night for the Crunch with two goals, with Otto Somppi assisting on two goals for second honors. Crunch starting goaltender Christopher Gibson, making his season debut for Syracuse, repelled 39 of 41 WBS shots, while backup Shane Starrett stopped all 8 shots he faced in relief.
Sunday, March 21: WBS 4 @ Lehigh Valley 5 (OT)
Happily for Lehigh Valley, they were able to clear the league’s COVID protocols for WBS’s visit to Allentown on Sunday afternoon to finish the weekend. After a scoreless first period, Lehigh Valley’s Wade Allison, in only his second game for the Phantoms, opened the scoring just 14 seconds into the second period. The goal was Allison’s second goal in as many games, and it would kickstart a wild 10-minute stretch.
The lead only lasted 1:33, as Nick Schilkey scored his third for WBS by cleaning up a rebound from a very sharp angle to tie the game at 1.
That tie only lasted 47 seconds thanks to Tyson Foerster, also scoring his second in as many games for the Phantoms. Forward Chris Mueller, playing for his 11th different AHL franchise, expanded the lead to 2 at 4:45 of the second with his second of the season.
Undaunted, WBS ripped off two goals in 50 seconds thanks to Drew O’Connor and Jonathan Gruden. When the dust settled, 0-0 became 3-3 in 10:07.
Jordy Bellerive put WBS ahead 4-3 at 17:29 of the second period, his fifth of the season.
Unfortunately, WBS could not see the lead through the final 20 minutes, as rookie Tanner Laczynski scored his first two professional goals for the Phantoms. The first came in at 6:55 of the third to send the game to overtime, the second at 1:08 of overtime with a glancing blow off goaltender Shane Starrett’s glove. WBS managed a point, but only the point.
Jordy Bellerive finished the night with a goal and an assist, as did Nick Schilkey. Defender Zach Trotman posted two assists as well. Starrett finished with only 18 saves on 23 shots in the losing effort.
For the Phantoms, former Penguins defender Derrick Pouliot provided the primary assist on both of Laczynksi’s goals. Goaltender Felix Sandstrom stopped 22 of 26 shots for the win.
The #WBSPens overcame a 3-1 deficit and picked up a hard-fought point on the road, falling to the @LVPhantoms in overtime on Sunday evening.— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) March 21, 2021
Postgame highlights are presented by the @PALottery21#PALottery #PennsylvaniaLottery pic.twitter.com/jbHCbIZ8cb
With 13 games played in what is now a 33-game season, WBS finished the week with a record of 5-4-3-1 and 14 points. By points, WBS ranks third behind the 18 points of both Hershey and Lehigh Valley. By points percentage, WBS is fifth, with Lehigh Valley leading at .750. Utica sits second at .722, Rochester third at .650, Hershey fourth at .643.
With Radim Zohorna’s promotion to Pittsburgh, Nick Schilkey was able to pull ahead for the team lead in points, ending the week with 3 goals and 8 assists in 13 games. Zohorna still ranks second with 3 and 6 assists, while Jordy Bellerive has a team-leading 5 goals and 3 assists to tie for third. Tim Schaller’s got 4 goals and 4 assists in 13 games, followed by three players at 7 points: Felix Robert, Jon Lizotte, and Cam Lee.
The Week Ahead
The schedule starts to pick up a bit for WBS this upcoming week, with three games in 5 days. First up is what might now be considered a return match against Syracuse as they come back to the WB on Wednesday, start time 7:00 pm EDT. This game is the last of the five games announced for broadcast by AT&T SportsNet last month, so watch out for that.
Following that is a home and home set with the Hershey Bears, first on Friday, March 26 at 7:00 pm EDT, then Sunday, March 28 at Hershey, start time 1:00 pm EDT.