Tuesday, November 29: WBS 3 @ Hershey 4 (SO)
The two starting goaltenders for WBS’s first game of the week, at Hershey, finished last week 1-2 in goals against average across the entire AHL and tied for best save percentage in the league. Hershey’s Hunter Shepard and WBS’s Dustin Tokarski were perhaps destined to face each other to open the week, as they faced off last Tuesday at GIANT Center.
WBS opened with two goals in the first 7:50, with Drake Caggiula’s third of the season just 1:09 into the proceedings and Valtteri Puustinen’s seventh of the season staking WBS to an early 2-0 lead.
Hershey responded, as they so often do. Mason Morelli’s fourth of the season at 15:41 of the first and Jake Massie’s 1st of the season at 6:52 of the second tied the game at 2 after 40 minutes.
At the end of the second period, Hershey’s Kale Kesey and WBS’s Drew O’Connor got into a bit of a dustup. Kesey was assessed an instigator minor, a fighting major, and the instigator’s misconduct, while O’Connor only took a roughing penalty. That gave WBS a five-minute major power play to start the third period, and Nathan Légaré took advantage.
Once again, Hershey managed to tie the game. Mike Vecchione’s sixth of the season at 11:04 of the third tied the game at 3, and the game eventually went to a shootout.
Despite making 40 saves on 43 shots in regulation and overtime, Tokarski could only stop Connor McMichael in the shootout, as Sam Anas bested the Penguins goaltender in round two. Shepard, who stopped 16 of 19 WBS shots in regulation and overtime, stopped Alex Nylander, Sam Poulin, and Caggiula in the shootout to give Hershey the extra point.
Drake Caggiula (1+1), Valtteri Puustinen (1+1) and Drew O'Connor (0+2) each recorded multiple points, while Dustin Tokarski made 40 saves, but the #WBSPens dropped a 4-3 shootout to @TheHersheyBears on Tuesday night.— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) November 30, 2022
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/c6WgfDpSPi
Saturday, December 3: Bridgeport 5 @ WBS
Prior to Saturday night’s game against the Bridgeport Islanders, the WBS Penguins inducted three individuals into its franchise Hall of Fame:
- Steve Barrouk, former president and CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry and former chair of the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority Board, one of several individuals credited with their roles in the development of the Mohegan Arena at Casey Plaza in the 1990s.
- Tom Grace, former radio announcer for the WBS Penguins with more than 1,000 games called, three-time winner of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for outstanding coverage of a team (once for individual radio coverage, twice for TV coverage with WBRE-TV 28 and the former Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh).
- Tom Kostopoulos, currently the director of player development for the Pittsburgh Penguins and holder of pretty much every significant record in WBS Penguins history (games played, goals, assists, points, playoff games, playoff goals, playoff assists, playoff points), one of only four players in history to record at least 600 games played in both the AHL and NHL.
Unfortunately for the honorees and those assembled to salute them, the Bridgeport Islanders utterly spoiled the party. After a scoreless first period, the Islanders ran off five straight goals on goaltender Dustin Tokarski through five different goal scorers.
If not for Nathan Légaré’s third of the season at 14:39 of the third, Cory Schneider would have had a shutout for Bridgeport. As it stood, he finished with 32 saves on 33 shots for the victory, while Tokarski finished with 22 saves on 27 shots in the losing effort.
The @AHLIslanders put a damper on the #WBSPens Hall of Fame celebration, posting a 5-1 victory on Saturday night at the @MoSunArenaPA— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 4, 2022
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/NTRrdp8Kp4
Sunday, December 4: WBS 7 @ Hershey 3
WBS had no time to mope over the loss, though, as another road game against Hershey was on deck. The Bears and the Penguins traded goals in the first 20 minutes, starting with Sam Anas’s 5th of the season at 1:19 of the first matched by Filip Hållander’s seventh of the season at 10:03 of the first period.
Filip Hallander. That's it. That's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/KEq7OJoTdY— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 4, 2022
Hershey’s Hendrix Lapierre scored his sixth of the season on a power play at 12:05 of the first, which was answered by an Alex Nylander power play goal at 16:16.
Tic-tac-toe Nyls has a goal ✨ pic.twitter.com/ucPJdKVXb8— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 4, 2022
Hershey got the last laugh in the first period, as Mike Sgarbossa scored his fifth of the season at 17:25 of the first period to give Hershey a 3-2 lead.
Then the second period happened, and the WBS offense exploded.
Within the first 7:49 of the second period, the Penguins put 5 goals on the board. Valtteri Puustinen (8, power play), Mitch Reinke (1), Drew O’Connor (6), Jonathan Gruden (4), and Tyler Sikura (3) chased starting goaltender Zach Fucale from the game after 14 saves on 21 shots. His replacement, Justin Kapelmaster, stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief, as WBS managed to see the 7-3 lead through to the end of the game without any further incident.
WBS goaltender Filip Lindberg stopped 21 of 24 shots for the victory.
The #WBSPens rattled off five goals in the second period to post a 7-3 victory over @TheHersheyBears at the Giant Center on Sunday. Drew O'Connor led the attack with a goal and three assists on the afternoon.— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) December 5, 2022
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/KrQoFJpGkQ
Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of December 4:
- Providence Bruins: 22 games played, 14-3-5, 33 points
- Hershey Bears: 21 games played, 14-5-2, 30 points
- Bridgeport Islanders: 21 games played, 13-4-4, 30 points
- Charlotte Checkers: 21 games played, 12-6-3, 27 points
- WBS Penguins: 20 games played, 11-6-3, 25 points
- Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 19 games played, 9-8-2, 20 points
- Springfield Thunderbirds: 22 games played, 8-10-4, 20 points
- Hartford Wolf Pack: 19 games played, 5-9-5, 15 points
Valtteri Puustinen once again leads the WBS Penguins in goals with eight at week’s end. He and Filip Hållander are tied for the team scoring lead with 18 points (Puustinen with 10 assists, Hållander with 7G+11A). Drew O’Connor is third, with 17 points (6G+11A). Alex Nylander is fourth, with 7G+8A for 15 points. Defender Ty Smith is fifth, with 4G+8A for 12 points and a one-point lead over Xavier Ouellet’s 11 assists.
Dustin Tokarski’s numbers ballooned after this past week, as he ends the week with a 7-3-3 record, a GAA of 2.04, and a save percentage of .930. He still holds the second-best GAA in the AHL, still trailing the 1.83 GAA of Hunter Shepard of Hershey. Tokarski’s save percentage clocks in at third in the AHL, just .002 behind Shepard and Brandon Bussi of Providence. Filip Lindberg, meanwhile, is starting to regain his footing, finishing with a 4-3-0 record, a 2.71 GAA, and a .901 save percentage.
The WBS power play ends the week with a 19.8% conversion percentage, good for 18th in the AHL. The penalty kill ends the week with a kill percentage of 80.0%, good for 17th in the AHL.
The Week Ahead
After a series of fast and furious weeks, the WBS Penguins get a break this week, with only one game on its schedule. Friday, December 9, the Cleveland Monsters come to town for a 7:05 pm face off.