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WBS Weekly: Sam Poulin stole a point, but Wilkes-Barre falls in OT on opening night

Check out all the highlights for opening night of the 2022-23 WBS Penguins season, plus all you need to know for the 24th season of AHL hockey in NEPA.

Penguins forward Drew O’Connor takes a face off against Lehigh Valley on Saturday, October 15.

A lot of familiar names from last year’s WBS Penguins team departed in the offseason. A lot of new or familiar names joined in the offseason. Despite this, WBS still welcomed back their star rookie class from last season (Valtteri Puustinen, Filip Hållander, Sam Poulin, and Nathan Legare), their defensive captain Taylor Fedun, and their standout rookie goaltender Filip Lindberg to open their 24th season as the top developmental affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.


  • Jordy Bellerive: Lehigh Valley, AHL
  • Felix Robert: Tampa Bay, NHL
  • Cam Lee: Amur Khabarovsky, KHL
  • Radim Zohorna: Calgary, NHL
  • Anthony Angello: St. Louis, NHL
  • Kasper Bjorkqvist: Oulun Kärpät, Liiga
  • Michael Chaput: Barys Astana, KHL
  • Juuso Riikola: IK Oskarshamn, Swedish Hockey League
  • Pierre-Olivier Joseph: Graduation to Pittsburgh


  • Drake Caggiula (FA signing, previously with Buffalo)
  • Lukas Svejkovsky (4th round draft pick, 2020)
  • Jordan Frasca (undrafted FA)
  • Raivis Ansons (5th round draft pick, 2020)
  • Tyler Sikura (FA signing, previously with Cleveland)
  • Mark Friedman (waived by PIT in training camp, played 2 games for WBS last season)
  • Xavier Ouellet (FA signing, previously with Laval for 4 seasons)
  • Dustin Tokarski (returns to WBS after spending last season with Rochester)
  • Taylor Gauthier (undrafted FA)
  • Ty Smith (acquired via trade with New Jersey in the offseason trade that sent John Marino to the Devils)

What’s New in the AHL

For the first time since the Pacific Division expansion in 2015-16, all 32 teams in the American Hockey League will play the same number of games. When Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Bakersfield, and Stockton joined the AHL in 2015-16, they played a 68-game schedule, whereas the rest of the teams played 76 games. This imbalance was corrected for the 2022-23 season, as all teams will play 72 games.

WBS’s Atlantic Division is unchanged, as they are joined by Providence, Hershey, Charlotte, Bridgeport, Lehigh Valley, Hartford, and Springfield. Six of those eight will make the playoffs. The North and Central divisions are also unchanged with seven teams and five playoff qualifiers each, but the Pacific Division experienced a fair bit of shuffling and expansion. The Calgary Flames relocated their affiliate from Stockton to Calgary and rebranded them the Wranglers; the Wranglers will share space at the Saddledome with the Flames.

Also, the AHL welcomed its 32nd franchise with the addition of the Coachella Valley Firebirds to service the Seattle Kraken. Coachella Valley’s new arena will open for business in December of this year. The Firebirds will play 16 of its first 20 games on the road, as well as four “home” games in Everett, WA, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, and Seattle’s practice facility. The new Pacific Division features a massive 10 teams, of which seven will qualify for the AHL playoffs.

Saturday, October 15: Lehigh Valley 3 @ WBS 2 (OT)

Not shown above is the final scratch, which for opening night was Lukas Svejkovsky.

Lehigh Valley struck first as Elliot Desnoyers, Philadelphia’s fifth round draft pick in 2020, scored on his professional debut at 13:41 of the first. Garrett Wilson and Zack MacEwen provided the assists.

WBS leveled the proceedings in the second period through Alex Nylander, returning to WBS after posting 30 points in 44 games for WBS last season. Nylander’s power play goal at 5:35 of the second was assisted by Valtteri Puustinen, kicking off his second season for WBS after 42 points in 73 games last season, and Xavier Ouellet.

Lehigh Valley’s power play restored the lead for the Phantoms at 9:52 of the second through MacEwen, assisted by Cam York and Tyson Foerster.

The Phantoms very nearly saw the lead through to full time, but one of the last cuts from Pittsburgh training camp, Sam Poulin, had other thoughts. Returning to WBS after 37 points in 72 games as a rookie, Poulin tied the game with just a minute to go. Newly acquired defender Ty Smith provided the primary assist, while Nylander scored his second point of the night with the secondary assist.

Unfortunately, Lehigh Valley was able to prevail in overtime through Louie Belpedio, joining the Phantoms after one season in Laval and four in Iowa. Max Willman and Jordy Bellerive provided the assists.

Returning goaltender Dustin Tokarski stopped 19 of 22 shots in the losing effort, while Phantoms free agent acquisition Troy Grosenick, the former Baz Bastien award winner as the best goalie in the AHL (2016-17), stopped 38 of 40 WBS shots for the victory.

Full highlights:

The Penguins hit the road tonight, Monday, October 17, for the first of two Monday games on their schedule this season as they visit the Utica Comets for their home opener at 7:00 pm EDT. This weekend brings three games in three days in three cities, as WBS hosts Laval on Friday, October 21, start time 7:05 pm EDT. Saturday, October 22, the Penguins visit Hartford, start time 7:00 pm EDT. Sunday, October 23, brings a 3:05 pm EDT visit to Providence.