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WBS Weekly: Two third period comebacks fuel 3-game winning streak

WBS took 7 out of a possible 8 points this week to surge back towards the playoff positions in the Atlantic Division.

WBS goaltender Filip Lindberg in the net Saturday night against Springfield.

Monday, November 21: WBS 4 @ Charlotte 5 (SO)

The WBS Penguins opened up a four-game week with their first trip to Charlotte of the season for a two-game set with the Checkers. The first game on Monday was a story of special teams for each team, as WBS recorded three special teams goals against Charlotte’s two power play goals.

Filip Hållander (power play), Jonathan Gruden (shorthanded), and Alex Nylander scored in a row to put WBS up 3-1 in the second period, but Patrick Giles and Aleksi Heponiemi (power play) retaliated to square the game at 3 after 40 minutes. Drew O’Connor’s power play goal at 1:14 of the third was matched by Gregory Denisenko’s power play goal at 14:19 of the third to tie the game at 4, which is how regulation and overtime ended. Nylander, Sam Poulin, Valtteri Puustinen, and Drake Caggiula failed on their shootout attempts, while Denisenko converted his attempt in round 4 to give Charlotte the extra point.

Dustin Tokarski, in net for WBS, stopped 36 of 40 shots in a standout performance, while Alex Lyon stopped 32 of 36 shots and all four shootout attempts for the victory.

Wednesday, November 23: WBS 5 @ Charlotte 2

In the return game on Wednesday night, five different Penguins scored goals, while Tokarski put in another strong performance. Sam Poulin, Valtteri Puustinen, Drew O’Connor, and Tyler Sikura posted goals in the first 30:54 of the contest to put WBS up 4-1 after two periods of play. Michael Del Zotto tried to spark a comeback with his second goal of the season at 7:40 of the third, but Mark Friedman opened his WBS account with his first of the season into an empty net at 18:16 of the third to lock down the victory.

Tokarski, again in net, stopped 31 of 33 shots for the victory, while first-year goaltender Mack Guzda stopped 23 of 27 WBS shots in the losing effort.

Friday, November 25: Lehigh Valley 2 @ WBS 3 (SO)

WBS returned home for Black Friday, but awaiting them in NEPA were the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Phantoms gave a rude welcome to the Penguins at first, as Tyson Foerster scored his 4th of the year at 13:33 of the first, then Elliot Desnoyers scored his sixth of the year at 10:33 of the third for a 2-0 lead inside the final 10 minutes.

To their immense credit, WBS did not quit. Valtteri Puustinen started the comeback with his fifth of the season at 13:13 of the third, assisted by Drake Caggiula and Xavier Ouellet.

Then, with Kyle Olson in the penalty box for tripping, Caggiula forced a turnover in the Lehigh Valley zone. Filip Hållander picked it up, then fed Caggiula for a shorthanded goal to tie the game at 2 with just two minutes left.

Given a second chance at a shootout in the week, Dustin Tokarski was perfect, stopping Foerster, Alex Kile, and Desnoyers. Alex Nylander scored in the first round, and that’s all WBS needed for their second straight win.

Tokarski finished with 32 saves on 34 shots and the 200th victory of his AHL career, only the 16th goaltender in league history to reach that milestone. Pat Nagle took the loss for Lehigh Valley, stopping 33 of 35 WBS shots.

Saturday, November 26: WBS 3 @ Springfield 2 (SO)

To close out the week, WBS returned to Springfield for another contest against the Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds forward Hugh McGing opened the scoring at 19:22 of the first with his fourth of the year. Sam Poulin matched the goal at 13:31 of the second with his fourth of the season, assisted by Jon Lizotte and Ty Smith.

Will Bitten restored the Thunderbirds lead with a power play goal, his seventh of the season, just 3 seconds away from the end of the second period.

WBS needed another third period comeback if they were going to end this week on a high note, and that’s exactly what Valtteri Puustinen gave them.

Puustinen’s sixth of the season, assisted by Drew O’Connor, came in with 3:05 left in the clock to tie the game at 2. The rest of regulation and overtime proceeded without any more goals, leading to WBS’s third shootout of the week.

Penguins starting goaltender Filip Lindberg allowed a shootout goal to Dmitrii Samorukov in round 1, but he stopped Brady Lyle and Bitten in rounds 2 and 3.

Alex Nylander beat Springfield goaltender Joel Hofer in round 1.

Xavier Ouellet was stopped in round 2, but Poulin broke the tie in round 3 and gave the Penguins their seventh point of the week.

Lindberg finished with 33 saves on 35 shots for his first win since October 29. Hofer finished with 40 saves on 42 WBS shots in the losing effort.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of November 27:

  1. Providence Bruins: 19 games played, 12-2-5, 29 points
  2. Hershey Bears: 18 games played, 12-4-2, 26 points
  3. Bridgeport Islanders: 18 games played, 11-3-4, 26 points
  4. Charlotte Checkers: 19 games played, 11-5-3, 25 points
  5. WBS Penguins: 17 games played, 10-5-2, 22 points
  6. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 16 games played, 8-6-2, 18 points
  7. Springfield Thunderbirds: 19 games played, 7-8-4, 18 points
  8. Hartford Wolf Pack: 17 games played, 5-7-5, 15 points


Filip Hållander has maintained his point-per-game pace through 16 games, with 6 goals and 10 assists to lead all WBS scorers. Valtteri Puustinen and Alex Nylander also have 6 goals so far this season, with Puustinen’s 8 assists ranking him second on the team in scoring (14 points) ahead of Nylander’s 7 assists (13 points). Drew O’Connor ranks fourth with 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points. A pair of defenders tie for fifth, with Ty Smith on 4 goals and 6 assists tied with Xavier Ouellet’s 10 assists.

After three wild starts this week, Dustin Tokarski finished the week with a record of 7-2-2, tied for fourth in the league in wins. His GAA of 1.70 ranks second in the AHL behind only Hershey’s Hunter Shepard at 1.69. Tokarski and Shepard tied for the AHL lead in save percentage at week’s end with .940. Filip Lindberg, back in the win column this week, finished the week with a record of 3-3-0, a GAA of 2.67, and a save percentage of .904 in 7 appearances.

The WBS power play holds a conversion percentage of 18.6% through 17 games, good for 21st in the AHL. Over half of the teams in the AHL have conversion percentages over 20%, with two teams above 30%. WBS’s penalty kill has dispatched 80% of penalties this season, good for 16th in the AHL.

The Week Ahead

WBS closes out November with a rare Tuesday night visit to Hershey to take on the Bears November 29, start time 7:00 pm EST. Opening up December will be a home date Saturday, December 3 against Bridgeport, start time 6:05 pm EST. Following that, it’s back down I-81 for another visit to Hershey Sunday, December 4, start time 3:00 pm EST.