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WBS Weekly: Hershey brings WBS back down to size with two wins in 24 hours

The WBS Penguins have only lost two games in regulation this season. Both were this weekend, and both were to Hershey.

WBS Penguins forward Alex Nylander.

Saturday, November 5: Hershey 2 @ WBS 1

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins stormed into the month of November with the American Hockey League’s best record by points percentage, no regulation losses, and October’s Goaltender of the Month in Dustin Tokarski. Leave it to the Penguins’ longest-serving and fiercest rival, the Hershey Bears, to bring WBS back to earth.

The first period of Saturday night’s contest at Mohegan Arena at Casey Plaza went scoreless, with Hershey’s Zach Fucale fending off 13 WBS shots against Tokarski’s six saves. The breakthrough goal came at 13:23 of the second period, as Mike Sgarbossa, in his fifth game of season for the Bears, scored his third goal. Mike Vecchione, in his second season in Hershey following 44 points in 59 games last year, recorded his sixth assist of the season, with rookie Vincent Iorio also picking up an assist.

While WBS could not convert on its first four power plays of the game (one of those being a double-minor), Hershey converted their first. Ethen Frank scored his third goal of the season at 18:30 of the second on the player advantage, assisted by Sam Anas and Bobby Nardella, to put Hershey up 2-0 after 40 minutes.

Fucale nearly finished off the shutout, but Alex Nylander denied him the clean sheet at 19:05 of the third with his fifth goal of the season, on WBS’s sixth and final power play of the game. Tyler Sikura and Ty Smith provided the assists.

WBS could not get the equalizer in the final minute, though.

Fucale finished the game with 30 saves on 31 shots. Tokarski suffered his second loss of the season after a four-game winning streak, stopping 25 of 27 Hershey shots.

Sunday, November 6: WBS 3 @ Hershey 4

If the Penguins were looking for a response in their Sunday afternoon matinee at Hershey, they found the exact opposite. One week after their spectacular duel at GIANT Center, WBS’s Filip Lindberg and Hershey’s Hunter Shepard faced off again, with Shepard once again bringing his game but Lindberg not matching.

Hershey took command in the second half of the first period, with Shane Gersich and Mason Morelli scoring their first goals of the season for Hershey 2:05 apart. Gersich didn’t need any assists, while Hendrix Lapierre assisted on Morelli’s goal.

Lapierre picked up his second assist of the night at 6:28 of the second, as he provided the primary help for Ethen Frank’s fourth of the season. Hershey made it 4-0 at 8:07 of the second through the first professional goal for Henrik Rybinski, assisted by Aaron Ness and Henrik Borgstrom. After 40 minutes, Hershey outshot WBS 26-13.

To their credit, WBS attempted a furious comeback in the third period. Jonathan Gruden broke Shepard’s shutout bid 13 seconds into the final session with his first goal of the season. Filip Hållander and Mark Friedman picked up assists.

Hållander returned the favor later in the third, stuffing home a rebound of a Gruden shot to bring WBS back to 4-2. Valtteri Puustinen added an assist to Hållander’s third goal of the season.

Hållander then brought WBS back to within one with 1:22 to play, scoring on a power play with Lindberg pulled, but they could get no closer despite outshooting the Bears 20-3 in the final period.

The AHL box score says Shepard finished with 30 saves on 32 shots, so one of the goals against in the third period is not charged to him for some reason. Lindberg finished with 25 saves on 29 shots in the losing effort.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of November 6:

  1. Providence Bruins: 11 games played, 8-1-2, 18 points
  2. Bridgeport Islanders: 10 games played, 7-2-1, 15 points
  3. WBS Penguins: 9 games played, 6-2-1, 13 points
  4. Hershey Bears: 9 games played, 5-2-2, 12 points
  5. Charlotte Checkers: 9 games played, 5-2-2, 12 points
  6. Springfield Thunderbirds: 10 games played, 5-4-1, 11 points
  7. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 9 games played, 3-5-1, 7 points
  8. Hartford Wolf Pack: 8 games played: 2-4-2, 6 points

Stats and Things:

After the weekend’s games, Filip Hållander has claimed the team’s scoring lead, with 4 goals and 5 assists for 9 points in 10 games. Alex Nylander is second at 8 points, with his 5 goals leading the team. Valtteri Puustinen is third, with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points in 10 games. Drew O’Connor, returned to WBS from Pittsburgh during Sunday’s game, is tied with Ty Smith for 6 points (2 goals and 4 assists each).

Dustin Tokarski ends the week with a record of 4-1-1, a goals against average of 1.50, and a save percentage of .945. Tokarski’s GAA is best in the AHL, while his save percentage is tied for second best. Filip Lindberg ends the week with a 2-1-0 record, a 2.68 GAA, and a .900 save percentage in four appearances.

The WBS power play has 7 goals in 44 chances for a conversion percentage of 15.9% that ranks 26th in the AHL. The penalty kill has conceded 7 goals in 33 chances for a kill percentage of 78.8% that ranks 17th in the AHL.

The Week Ahead:

WBS returns home for a pair of games this weekend. First up is Hartford on Veterans Day, November 11, start time 7:05 pm EST. Then, the defending Eastern Conference champion Springfield Thunderbirds come to town on Saturday, November 12, start time 6:05 pm EST.