To open the week, we add another entry to my list of “Predictions Sure to Go Wrong”.
I was sure, beyond any doubt, that this hit laid out by Penguins captain Josh Currie last Sunday in Hershey would lead to some kind of league discipline.
However, due to either Hershey not submitting the hit for league review or the league deciding that the hit was OK, no discipline came down from the AHL offices. Currie was therefore free to center the top line for WBS as they dragged their seven-game losing streak into Newark to take on the Binghamton Devils on Wednesday.
Wednesday, March 31: WBS 3 @ Binghamton 2 (OT)
Early on, it looked as though the streak would become eight, as Graeme Clarke scored his fifth goal of the year just 28 seconds into this contest. The Penguins settled down from there, though, as Jan Drozg (16:30 of the first) and Nick Schilkey (12:12 of the second) gave WBS a 2-1 lead.
WBS came up 1:39 short in their effort to see the 2-1 lead through to full time, as Nolan Foote scored his fifth of the season at 18:21 of the third to send the game to overtime.
It took nearly the full overtime, but Jordy Bellerive had the answer.
Bellerive’s team-leading seventh of the year came unassisted, and it finally snapped the skid for the WBS Penguins, giving them a 3-2 victory.
Alex D’Orio took the start and earned his first win of the season, stopping 22 of 24 Devils shots. His counterpart, Gilles Senn, stopped 40 of 43 WBS shots in the hard-luck losing effort.
Nolan Foote’s equalizer in the third period, paired with an assist on Clarke’s opener, were good enough for third star. WBS defender Pierre-Olivier Joseph, back with the Penguins, assisted on two goals for second star, while Bellerive took top honors with the overtime winner.
Saturday, April 3: WBS 4 @ Lehigh Valley 5 (SO)
Next up for the Penguins was another trip to Allentown and a date with the Phantoms. This one featured a wild, back-and-forth first period, as Cal O’Reilly’s third of the year at 4:47 of the first was quickly answered by Felix Robert’s 3rd of the year at 5:43 of the first.
Approximately five minutes later, Drew O’Connor’s fourth of the year, on a power play, at 10:35 of the first was matched 58 seconds later by Tyson Foerster’s fifth of the year.
Goal #2 - Drew O'Connor grabs his fourth of the season. pic.twitter.com/gDR9E2hrgv— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 4, 2021
The first period’s last laugh was taken by Pierre-Olivier Joseph, with this nifty power play goal at 19:39 of the first.
The first period ended 3-2 to WBS, with WBS also taking a 17-10 shot advantage.
In the second period, Jan Drozg scored his fifth goal of the year unassisted at 14:59 to expand the WBS lead to two.
Lehigh Valley answered rather quickly, with Wade Allison scoring his fourth goal of the year at 16:39 of the second to draw the Phantoms back to 4-3 after 40 minutes.
WBS tried once again to see a lead through to the end, but for the second straight game, they could not...despite some magic from Alex D’Orio in goal.
Try as D’Orio might, he could not hold off the onslaught forever, as Foerster scored his second of the game and sixth of the season just 49 seconds from the end of the third to force extra time.
Overtime proceeded without a goal. In the shootout, Drew O’Connor, Jan Drozg, and the returning Radim Zohorna could not score for the Penguins, while Foerster scored for Lehigh Valley to give the Phantoms the extra point 5-4.
The scoresheet shows D’Orio with 26 saves on 30 shots, but this is the rare occasion where the scoresheet does not tell the whole tale, as this was generally regarded to be D’Orio’s best game as a professional to date. It’s a cruel game, though, as the win instead went to Penguin killer Zane McIntyre’s 32 saves on 36 shots.
The #WBSPens pick up a point on the road, dropping a 5-4 shootout decision to the @LVPhantoms - Postgame highlights presented by @PALottery - #PALottery #PennsylvaniaLottery pic.twitter.com/Bl3VZVPrdX— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 4, 2021
The split of the week’s games left WBS with a record of 6-7-3-2 and 17 points in 18 games. By points, they are tied for third with Syracuse, as the co-point leaders Hershey and Lehigh Valley are pulling away from the pack with 26 points each. Rochester holds fifth with 16 points, Utica 13, and Binghamton 11.
By points percentage, though, things start to get weird. Lehigh Valley’s 26 points in 17 games leave them with a percentage of .765 to lead the division. In second, even though they have had 10 consecutive games postponed due to COVID protocols, are the Utica Comets, whose 13 points in the 9 games they were able to play are good for a .722 points percentage. Hershey’s 26 points in 19 games give a .684 percentage, good for third. Rochester slots in fourth, with 16 points in 14 games for .571. Syracuse takes fifth, with their 17 points coming in 15 games for .567. WBS’s 17 points are in 18 games, so their percentage is .472. Binghamton is in last, with 11 points in 16 games for .344.
As far as the Penguins themselves, Nick Schilkey leads the team in scoring after 18 games, with 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points. Second is Tim Schaller, with 6 goals and 6 assists for 12 points. Radim Zohorna ended the week back with WBS, and his 3 goals and 8 assists rank third in points. Jordy Bellerive and Josh Currie are tied for fourth, with Bellerive’s 7 goals leading the team.
The WBS power play converted one of its 5 chances in Newark and both of its chances in Allentown to end the week with a 19.2% power play conversion percentage on the season, good for 13th in the league. The penalty kill fended off all 7 penalties it faced to end the week with a kill percentage of 83.1%, up to 7th in the AHL.
The Week Ahead
The Penguins get to enjoy a relatively quiet week this week before activity kicks into gear this upcoming weekend. First up is a home game Saturday, April 10 against Binghamton, start time 5:00 pm EDT. Following that is a trek down to Hershey on Sunday afternoon, April 11, at 3:00 pm EDT, for a game against the Bears.