Prior to the WBS Penguins’ lone game of the week Friday night against the Cleveland Monsters, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that forward Sam Poulin was taking a leave of absence from WBS for personal reasons. In 13 games for WBS this season, Poulin had scored four goals and no assists. In his first three NHL games this season for Pittsburgh, Poulin recorded one assist.
Friday, December 9: Cleveland 1 @ WBS 8
Lindy gets the start tonight pic.twitter.com/GguRopo85Y— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 9, 2022
Even though Dustin Tokarski remains among the top goaltenders in the AHL in goals against average and save percentage at week’s end, WBS went with Filip Lindberg for its lone game of the week against Cleveland. It turned out to be a great choice.
Cleveland put up a good fight in the first period, keeping WBS off the scoreboard until just five seconds before the end of the first period. Nathan Légaré provided the breakthrough at 19:55 of the first period with his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Jonathan Gruden and Xavier Ouellet.
It's Leggy's world. We're just living in it. pic.twitter.com/zqmS7wMPzd— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
Just as they did in last Sunday’s game against the Hershey Bears, WBS broke the game wide open in the second period. Drew O’Connor started the festivities 50 seconds into the second period with his seventh goal of the season, assisted by Alex Nylander.
O'Connor goes five-hole for a 2-0 lead pic.twitter.com/paTBnXPiLQ— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
The goal would be the launching point for a career-best evening on the part of O’Connor.
Cleveland brought the game back to 2-1 just 37 seconds after O’Connor’s goal through Justin Richards’s sixth goal of the season, assisted by Tyler Angle and Emil Bemstrom. Cleveland would get nothing else the rest of the game.
O’Connor restored the two-goal lead off a slick Alex Nylander primary assist at 3:41 of the second period. Drake Caggiula also scored an assist.
The feed from Nyls. The one-touch bar down from OC. You love to see it pic.twitter.com/GVD8QD16rx— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
That goal seemed to open the floodgates.
Corey Andonovski’s fourth goal of the year, from Kyle Olson and Sam Houde, made it 4-1.
Ando might be the new mayor of Snipe City pic.twitter.com/BcvTT87ax5— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
Caggiula’s fourth goal of the season, assisted by O’Connor, made it 5-1 at 11:36 of the second period and spelled the end of Monsters goaltender Daniil Tarasov’s evening.
Jules has got the moves, folks pic.twitter.com/Oy9WavzjgO— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
Jet Greaves came in to clean up, but the Penguins kept making a mess of things for the Monsters. After scoring off a Nylander assist earlier in the period, O’Connor returned the favor for Nylander’s eighth of the season at 17:45 of the second for a 6-1 lead.
OC + Nyls = unreal sauce and dish ability pic.twitter.com/OyLBr7LUWP— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
WBS continued to pour on the offense in the third period with two power play goals, first by Gruden at 4:39 of the third to expand the lead to 7-1. Ouellet and Ty Smith provided the assists.
PSA: Gruden in front of the net is dangerous pic.twitter.com/6iBaFZxbDm— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
Valtteri Puustinen then closed out the scoring at 9:39 of the third with his team-leading ninth of the season, assisted by Caggiula and O’Connor.
Teamwork makes the dream work! pic.twitter.com/abKapdiVDS— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
By the time the dust settled, 11 out of 18 WBS skaters had found the scoresheet in an 8-1 victory. The top three scorers (Nylander, goal and two assists; Caggiula, goal and two assists; O’Connor, two goals and three assists) swept the stars of the game, while Lindberg finished with 36 saves on 37 Cleveland shots for his fifth victory of the season.
The 15 goals scored across this game and last Sunday’s 7-3 drubbing of the Hershey Bears are, according to Penguins broadcaster Nick Hart, a WBS franchise record for a two-game stretch.
At week’s end, Cleveland held the league’s best power play, converting at a 32.1% rate...which makes WBS’s perfect 5/ penalty kill for the game all the more impressive. The Penguins converted 2/5 advantages on the evening.
Drew O'Connor posted five points (2+3) to lead the #WBSPens offensive attack in an 8-1 win over the @MonstersHockey on Friday night at the @MoSunArenaPA— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 10, 2022
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/fPrHN2rWOZ
Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of December 11:
- Hershey Bears: 25 games played, 17-5-3, 37 points
- Providence Bruins: 24 games played, 15-4-5, 35 points
- Bridgeport Islanders: 24 games played, 14-6-4, 32 points
- WBS Penguins: 21 games played, 12-6-3, 27 points
- Charlotte Checkers: 24 games played, 12-9-3, 27 points
- Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 22 games played, 11-9-2, 24 points
- Springfield Thunderbirds: 24 games played, 9-10-5, 23 points
- Hartford Wolf Pack: 22 games played, 7-10-5, 19 points
Powered by nine points in his last two games, Drew O’Connor has roared into the WBS scoring lead with 22 points (8G+14A). His 14 assists also leads the team, one clear of Xavier Ouellet’s 13. Only Valtteri Puustinen has more goals than O’Connor, with nine. Puustinen is second in points with 19 (9G+10A), with Alex Nylander (8G+10A) and Filip Hållander (7G+11A) tied for third with 18 points each. The top two defenders in scoring on the team, Ty Smith (4G+9A) and Xavier Ouellet (13 assists), tie for fifth on the team in scoring with 13 points each.
An inactive week leaves Dustin Tokarski’s numbers unchanged from last week (7-3-3 record, 2.04 GAA, .930 save percentage), while Filip Lindberg improved to 5-3-0, a 2.52 GAA, and a .912 save percentage. Tokarski’s GAA and save percentage still trail Hunter Shepard of Hershey at 1.83 and .932 respectively, and Shepard was promoted to Washington on December 5. Providence’s Brandon Bussi shares the league lead in save percentage with Shepard, but Bussi’s GAA of 2.28 places him fifth.
WBS improved their power play to a 20.9% conversion percentage, good for 14th in the AHL. The penalty kill improved to an 81.3% percentage, tied for 13th in the AHL at week’s end.
The Week Ahead
After a first half of December in which WBS only had three games in the first 15 days, the second half of December will be much more busy, as WBS will play eight games in the last 16 days of the year. That stretch of games begins this Friday, December 16, as WBS welcomes Hershey to town for a pair of games. Friday’s game starts at 7:05 pm EST, while the rematch Saturday, December 17, starts at 6:05 pm EST and serves as WBS’s annual Teddy Bear Toss night.