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WBS Weekly: Penguins split pair of home games against Hershey

WBS got two outstanding goaltending performances this past weekend against Hershey for 3 out of 4 points.

Penguins forward Alex Nylander, showing off this year’s Christmas-themed jersey Saturday night against Hershey.

Friday, December 16: Hershey 1 @ WBS 3

The Hershey Bears brought the American Hockey League’s best record to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for their seventh and eighth games of the season against the WBS Penguins. WBS, meanwhile, entered the game having lost defender Mark Friedman and their leading scorer Drew O’Connor to promotion to Pittsburgh. As has been demonstrated so many times over the last two decades, though, records don’t always matter when it’s the Penguins and the Bears.

WBS jumped out of the gates to a 2-0 lead at 8:37 of the first period through a pair of goals from less likely sources. Jonathan Gruden opened the scoring at 4:57 of the first period with his sixth goal of the year. Xavier Ouellet tallied his 14th assist of the season on the goal, with Nathan Légaré posting his first assist.

Tyler Sikura doubled the lead at 8:37 of the first with his fourth goal of the season assisted by Mitch Reinke (7) and Corey Andonovski (4).

Despite being outshot 11-3 in the second period and having to kill off three penalties, WBS held their 2-0 lead. Sam Houde expanded the lead to 3-0 at 3:48 of the third with his third of the season, assisted by Ty Glover (2) and Taylor Fedun (1).

That was more than enough for Dustin Tokarski, who missed a shutout by only 50 seconds as Gabriel Carlsson scored his first goal for Hershey at 19:10 of the third. Tokarski stopped the other 29 shots he faced for his eighth win of the season and top honors on the evening. Zach Fucale for Hershey stopped 23 of 26 shots in the losing effort, then was promptly promoted to Washington.

Saturday, December 17: Hershey 2 @ WBS 1 (OT)

The rematch 23 hours later was the return of the Teddy Bear Toss, as well as the return of a time-honored tradition for the WBS Penguins…Christmas jerseys.

Hershey overwhelmed the Penguins in the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s game, outshooting WBS 15-3 and getting Mike Sgarbossa’s 8th goal of the season at 8:11 of the first for a 1-0 lead. The Bears very nearly held the lead through the end of the second period, which would have forced the Teddy Bear Toss to take place at second intermission instead of upon the first WBS goal, but Alex Nylander came through at 18:48 of the second.

The goal seemed to spark the Penguins, as they outshot the Bears 10-4 in the final 20 minutes, but they could not find a breakthrough. Overtime featured two shots per team, but it was Sgarbossa’s second goal of the night and ninth of the season that sent the Bears home with the second point.

In the absence of Hershey’s top two goaltenders Hunter Shepard and Zach Fucale, Clay Stevenson took the Bears net and stopped 23 of 24 shots for his second win in three appearances. Filip Lindberg for WBS stopped 30 of 32 Hershey shots in a hard-luck loss.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of December 18:

  1. Hershey Bears: 28 games played, 19-6-3, 41 points
  2. Providence Bruins: 26 games played, 16-4-6, 38 points
  3. Bridgeport Islanders: 27 games played, 14-8-5, 33 points
  4. WBS Penguins: 23 games played, 13-6-4, 30 points
  5. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 25 games played, 12-10-3, 27 points
  6. Charlotte Checkers: 26 games played, 12-11-3, 27 points
  7. Springfield Thunderbirds: 27 games played, 10-12-5, 25 points
  8. Hartford Wolf Pack: 25 games played, 9-11-5, 23 points


With Drew O’Connor called up to Pittsburgh, Alex Nylander and Valtteri Puustinen are now the Penguins’ leading active scorers, each with 9 goals and 10 assists. Filip Hållander is one point behind at 18 (7 goals, 11 assists). Xavier Ouellet is fourth with 14 points, all assists. Drake Caggiula and Ty Smith tie for fifth among active players with 4 goals and 9 assists each.

Dustin Tokarski’s performance on Friday night dropped his GAA back under 2, as he ends the week 8-3-3 with a 1.97 GAA and a .933 save percentage. His GAA is best among active goaltenders, with Hunter Shepard promoted to Washington, while his save percentage is second only to Brandon Bussi’s .936 for Providence. After a slow start to the season, Filip Lindberg (5-3-1) is back among the top 15 in the AHL in major goaltender stats with a GAA of 2.45 (8th among active players) and a save percentage of .915 (tied for 12th).

The Week Ahead

The last week before Christmas sees WBS hitting the road for a three-game tour of Canada. First up are the Toronto Marlies Tuesday night, December 20, at 7:00 pm EST. The Belleville Senators await the next night, Wednesday, December 21, start time 7:05 pm EDT. Finally, WBS visits Laval for a Friday night tilt against the Rocket December 23, start time 7:00 pm EST.