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WBS Weekly: Pens drop two more to end 2021 on a four-game losing streak

Of the six games WBS played in December, five were against the Hershey Bears. The Penguins only took one point out of those games.

Penguins forward Jan Drozg, in the mismatched white helmet, fights for net front position Wednesday night in Hershey.

Monday, December 27: Hershey 4 @ WBS 1

Just hours after the announcement by the American Hockey League that the two-game visit by the Cleveland Monsters to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over New Year’s was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, WBS took to the ice for its third straight game against the Hershey Bears, and fourth out of five in the month of December. The Penguins started out well enough in the first 20 minutes, outshooting Hershey 10-6 and getting a rare power play goal late in the first. Sam Poulin converted this nifty play for the Penguins lead, with Jan Drozg and Valtteri Puustinen on the assists.

That, unfortunately, would be the only offense generated by the Penguins all evening.

Hershey tied the game in the second period through a power play goal by Ryan Dmowski at 7:36. The Bears then took complete control in the third period, outshooting the Penguins 15-3 in the final 20 minutes and getting power play goals from Matt Moulson at 2:05 of the third and Dmowski again at 11:48 of the third. Beck Malenstyn scored his second goal of the season 39 seconds after Dmowski’s second PP goal to answer all remaining questions and give the Bears a 4-1 victory.

The Hershey power play ended the night 3 for 6, with Moulson and Dmowski either scoring or assisting on all three of those goals. Goaltender Hunter Shepard finished with 24 saves on 25 shots for his first victory of the season. On the other side, the Penguins power play finished 1 for 3, with goaltender Louis Domingue saving 30 of 34 shots in his return to the lineup.

Wednesday, December 29: WBS 1 @ Hershey 6

On Tuesday morning, December 28, an already depleted WBS roster got more depleted, as Pittsburgh recalled Kasper Bjorkqvist, P.O. Joseph, Juuso Riikola, and Louis Domingue for the re-initiated Pittsburgh taxi squad. As a result, compared to WBS’s previous visit to Hershey where they dressed 10 forwards and 8 defenders, the lineup for Wednesday night’s visit was 13 forwards and 5 defenders.

It went about as well as you’d expect.

WBS did well to keep the first period scoreless, with starting goaltender Alex D’Orio making 11 saves, but Hershey’s overwhelming quality shown through in the second period. Tobias Geisser and Marcus Vela scored their first goals of the season, and Mason Morelli and Bobby Nardella potted their respective fourth goals of the season for a four-goal middle session.

The only bright spot of the night was Jan Drozg, who scored his first of the season just 13 seconds after Nardella’s goal to bring WBS back to 4-1 after 40 minutes.

Hershey extended their advantage to 6-1 with two goals in 1:08 in the third period. Dylan McIlrath and Ryan Dmowski scored goals to put a bow on Hershey’s 14th victory of the season.

Again in goal for Hershey, Hunter Shepard finished with 19 saves on 20 shots in the winning effort, while D’Orio stopped 28 of 34 Hershey shots. Hershey’s power play did not get any opportunities on this night, while WBS did not convert either of its two chances.

With the New Year’s series against Cleveland postponed, that left WBS with six games played in the month of December. In the non-Hershey game against Springfield back on December 12, the Penguins won 6-0. In the five Hershey games, WBS only managed an overtime point back on December 11, losing all five games by a combined score of 25-8.

To make matters worse, WBS has seven more against Hershey this season, with two of those this upcoming weekend and a total of four in January.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of January 2:

  1. Springfield Thunderbirds: 27 games played, 17-7-2-1, .685 points percentage
  2. Hartford Wolf Pack: 25 games played, 14-7-2-2, .640
  3. Hershey Bears: 27 games played, 15-9-2-1, .611
  4. Providence Bruins: 24 games played, 12-8-3-1, .582
  5. Charlotte Checkers: 27 games played, 14-11-2-0, .556
  6. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 26 games played, 9-11-4-2, .462
  7. WBS Penguins: 24 games played, 9-12-1-2, .438
  8. Bridgeport Islanders: 32 games played, 10-16-3-3, .406

Team Statistics, powered by HockeyDB:

The WBS power play managed one goal in five chances this week to finish the week with a 9.8% conversion percentage, still last in the AHL. The 10 power play goals scored is also worst in the AHL. The penalty kill had a dreadful Monday as described above, finishing the week at 78.9%, 26th in the AHL.

The American Hockey League announced on New Year’s Day that they are adding six days to the regular season schedule, with the regular season now scheduled to end on April 30, 2022. The league is still expecting to finish its expanded Calder Cup playoffs by June 30, though heading into 2022, that might be of little consequence to WBS, who ended 2021 just outside of playoff position in 7th place.

Those six days might come in handy, as through the end of December, WBS has only completed 24 out of its scheduled 76 games. They’ve got three on the road this weekend, first at Utica this Friday night, January 7, start time 7:00 pm EST. Then it’s two more in Hershey, Saturday, January 8 at 7:00 pm EST, then Sunday, January 9, at 5:00 pm EST.