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WBS Report: Penguins split home and home series with Hershey

Another late goal doomed WBS in Hershey on Saturday afternoon, but the Penguins earned a measure of payback on Sunday with a six-goal outburst. Four of WBS’s next five are at home, their final home games of the season.

Penguins captain Josh Currie, on his way to a two-goal game against Hershey.
@WBSPenguins

Saturday, April 24: WBS 1 @ Hershey 3

The WBS Penguins began the last third of their season meeting up with the Hershey Bears at a time where the two franchises were on opposite ends of fortune. WBS entered the game second-to-last in the North Division, while Hershey was starting to run away with the division.

Saturday’s game, the seventh of a scheduled 10 between the rivals this season, started rather quietly, with the only real action being provided by a fight between Anthony Angello and Eddie Wittchow following an Angello boarding penalty in the second peeriod. There were no goals in the first 40 minutes, with Penguins goaltender Alex D’Orio stopping all 20 shots he faced in the first two periods and Bears goaltender Zach Fucale stopping all 21 he faced.

All the scoring took place in the third period, opened by Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s sixth goal of the season at 3:53. First-year forward Drew O’Connor matched the goal on a power play at 8:27, his fifth of the season in the AHL.

WBS had a golden opportunity to take a late lead on Hershey for once, with Jonathan Gruden being awarded a penalty shot at 14:09 of the third, but Fucale stopped it. The save proved crucial, as Bears defender Alex Alexeyev scored his first for Hershey in four games this season with just 3:30 left on the clock to give the Bears another late lead. Brian Pinho then slammed the door one second from full time into an empty net; remarkably, of Pinho’s eight goals this season, five have been fired into empty nets.

D’Orio finished with 24 saves on 26 shots in the losing effort, while Fucale’s final tally of 31 saves on 32 shots propelled Hershey to its fourth win in a row over the Penguins and fifth in seven games.

Sunday, April 25: Hershey 3 @ WBS 6

Want to feel old? Sunday’s return game with the Bears marked 17 years since this iconic moment in WBS history...Konstantin Koltzov’s goal in overtime to complete a 3-1 playoff comeback over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

It’s also 16 years to the date from the longest game in WBS history, a triple overtime winner against Binghamton in 2005.

Back in current history, Hershey continued its momentum from the previous day’s victory with Philippe Maillet scoring just 8:31 into the game on a power play. From there, though, WBS woke up.

The Penguins’ outburst started with Chase Berger’s fourth goal of the year at 14:19 of the first.

Captain Josh Currie gave WBS a lead at 18:29 of the first with his sixth of the year.

After Hershey captain Matt Moulson tied the game just 53 seconds into the second, Jonathan Gruden re-broke the tie at 8:17 of the second with his third of the year.

Hershey wouldn’t go away, though. Jonsson-Fjallby scored his second in as many games this time short handed at 15:18 of the second to tie at 3.

Currie swung momentum back to WBS at 17:13 of the second with a power play goal, his second of the game and seventh of the season.

Defender Jon Lizotte gave WBS some much-needed cushion at 4:24 of the third with his fourth of the season, then Anthony Angello salted the proceedings away with his second of the year at 15:40. The final tally: WBS 6, Hershey 3, and WBS’s eighth win of the season.

Alex D’Orio stayed in the net for the second straight game and earned the win with 26 saves on 29 shots. For the Bears, Pheonix Copley took the net, and he stopped only 26 of 32 shots.

Stats

With the victory, WBS climbed into fifth place in the North Division, with a record of 8-11-3-2, 21 points, and a .438 points percentage. Lehigh Valley leads the division by points percentage, with a 14-4-2-1 record and 32 points good for .727, while Hershey leads on points with a record of 17-6-2 and 36 points. Syracuse and Utica are in the middle at 3 and 4, with Rochester down to sixth and Binghamton in last.

Josh Currie’s four-point weekend (two goals and two assists) propelled him back to the WBS scoring lead, with 7 goals and 9 assists in 16 games. Nick Schilkey is in second, with 5G+10A; Tim Schaller is third, with 8G+6A. Drew O’Connor leads all rookies with 5G+8A in only 12 games, while Jordy Bellerive stays tied for the team goal lead with 8.

With power play goals in both games this weekend, WBS’s power play improved to an 18.6% success rate, good for 16th in the AHL. The penalty kill conceded once to Hershey on Sunday, ending the week with a kill percentage of 83.9%, good for 6th in the AHL at week’s end.

The Week Ahead

The WBS Penguins are now in their final stretch of home games this season. As their schedule stands right now, the Hershey game on Sunday started a stretch of five home games for WBS in their next six to close out their home slate. Next up is a date with Lehigh Valley on Wednesday in the WB, start time 7:00 pm EDT; it will be their first game against the Phantoms since April 3. Following that is a visit to Newark to take on the Binghamton Devils on Friday, April 30, start time 7:00 pm EDT. Then, WBS hosts Hershey on Saturday, May 1, at 5:00 pm EDT to close out the week.