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WBS Weekly: WBS gains a split of their Canadian road trip

Back to back lopsided games in Toronto, a win in Belleville, and a late loss in Laval drops WBS to 7th place in the Atlantic with 14 games to go.

WBS Penguins forward Anthony Angello celebrates his goal Tuesday night in Toronto.

Tuesday, March 22: WBS 5 @ Toronto 1

The WBS Penguins began their road trip of Canada with two games in Toronto against the Marlies. Toronto opened the first game with a power play goal by Joey Anderson, his 21st goal of the season, at 14:07 of the first to take a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, but that’s as much as they would get on the first night.

WBS took over in the second period, exploding for four goals in the middle session. Kasper Bjorkqvist (his 6th of the season), Anthony Angello (7), Jamie Devane (2), and birthday celebrator Kyle Olson (9) propelled WBS to a 4-1 lead after the second period. Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Will Reilly each provided two assists in the period; for Joseph, that moves him to 22 on the season.

WBS held the lead throughout the 3rd period and even expanded it at 17:21 of the third, as Michael Chaput scored his sixth of the season unassisted to make the final score 5-1.

Goaltender Louis Domingue stopped 30 of 31 shots for the victory. Toronto’s Michael Hutchinson stopped 29 of 34 shots in the losing effort. Toronto’s power play goal was their only conversion in 4 chances, while WBS was unable to convert either of its two power play opportunities.

Wednesday, March 23: WBS 1 @ Toronto 6

In the return game on Wednesday night, Toronto once again scored first, as Josh Ho-Sang scored his 13th goal of the season at 18:29 of the first. Unlike Tuesday night, though, Toronto expanded on its lead in the second period rather than conceding it. Jack Kopacka (9), Nick Robertson (5, power play), and Bobby McMann (16) expanded Toronto’s lead to 4-0 at 15:42 of the second.

Drew O’Connor did his best to spark WBS back into it by scoring a power play goal at 19:59 of the second period, his ninth of the season.

Unfortunately, the spark did not lead to a third period comeback, as Toronto put up two more power play goals in the third period. Ho-Sang scored his second of the night at 3:01 of the third, then McMann scored his 2nd of the night at 12:49 of the third to bring the final score to 6-1.

Starting his sixth straight game for WBS, Domingue stopped 28 of 34 shots in the losing effort. Toronto switched their goalies for the return match, and Keith Petruzzelli shined, stopping 32 of 33 shots for his third victory of the season in as many starts. The Toronto power play dominated on Wednesday, converting 3/5 attempts, while O’Connor’s power play goal was WBS’s only conversion in three chances.

Friday, March 25: WBS 3 @ Belleville 1

Tommy Nappier took the net for his first game since March 4 as WBS moved on from Toronto to Belleville to take on the Senators on Friday night. After a scoreless first period, Valtteri Puustinen opened the scoring at 8:39 of the second with his 18th goal of the season. Drew O’Connor and Felix Robert recorded assists.

The lead lasted only 2:10, as Logan Shaw scored at 10:49 to bring the Senators back to a 1-1 tie.

The tie was broken in the third period by Alex Nylander, who scored his 19th of the season for all teams and his 11th for WBS at 9:54 of the third. Sam Poulin and Juuso Riikola recorded assists. Jonathan Gruden capped the victory with an empty netter at 18:48 of the third, making the final score 3-1.

Nappier finished with 22 saves on 23 shots for the victory, his 9th of the season and first since February 26. Mads Sogaard stopped 27 of 29 WBS shots in the losing effort. WBS did not convert any of its four power play opportunities, while the WBS PK recovered from its Wednesday performance to stop all five Senators advantages.

Saturday, March 26: WBS 3 @ Laval 5

WBS closed out their marathon week in Canada with only their second visit ever to Laval to take on the Rocket. Head coach J.D. Forrest seemed to mark the occasion by choosing all six Quebec-born players on his roster (Sam Poulin, Nathan Legare, Michael Chaput, Felix Robert, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, and Louis Domingue) for the starting lineup.

A wild first period, ending in 3v3 action due to penalties, ended 2-1 to Laval. Kevin Roy opened the scoring at 1:19 of the first with his 11th of the season, which Michael Chaput matched at 3:23 with his seventh of the season. Cam Lee and Jonathan Gruden recorded assists.

Veteran Cedric Paquette, playing his fifth game for Laval, scored his fifth goal of the season at 10:18 of the first to put Laval ahead 2-1.

Laval extended the lead to 3-1 through Gabriel Bourque’s seventh goal of the season at 17:54 of the second, but Sam Poulin quickly answered at 19:15 of the second with his 12th of the season. Anthony Angello and Alex Nylander got the assists.

Defender Chris Bigras brought WBS back to level terms at 7:49 of the third with an unassisted goal, his third of the season.

Unfortunately, though, WBS could not get the final breakthrough. Laval’s Nate Schnarr scored his 14th of the season at 15:15 of the third, then Rafaël Harvey-Pinard scored his 16th of the year into an empty net at 19:16 of the third to give the Rocket a 5-3 victory.

Louis Domingue finished with 20 saves on 24 shots in the losing effort, while Cayden Primeau stopped 29 of 32 shots for the victory. WBS’s power play did not convert in three chances, while the penalty kill was able to dispatch all four Laval advantages.

Atlantic Division standings, through the games of March 27:

  1. Springfield Thunderbirds: 61 games played, 15 remaining, 34-20-5-2, .615 points percentage
  2. Providence Bruins: 57 games played, 15 remaining, 30-18-3-6, .605
  3. Charlotte Checkers: 62 games played, 10 remaining, 35-23-4-0, .597
  4. Hartford Wolf Pack: 58 games played, 14 remaining, 29-22-5-2, .560
  5. Hershey Bears: 63 games played, 13 remaining, 30-24-5-4, .548
  6. Bridgeport Islanders: 62 games played, 10 remaining, 27-25-6-4, .516 (holds tiebreaker over WBS with 21 regulation wins to WBS’s 20)
  7. WBS Penguins: 62 games played, 14 remaining, 28-26-4-4, .516
  8. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 60 games played, 16 remaining, 22-27-7-4, .458

Statistics, powered by HockeyDB:

Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s 22 assists fuel his 31 points at week’s end, tying with Milwaukee’s Jeremy Davies for 13th in the AHL among defenders.

At week’s end, the WBS power play has dropped to second-worst in the AHL with a 14.2% conversion percentage. Only Lehigh Valley’s power play (13.9%) is worse. The penalty kill ended the week with a season kill percentage of 80.2% that ranks 19th in the AHL.

WBS will return home to close out the month of March against Hartford on Wednesday, March 30, start time 7:05 pm EDT. WBS heads down to Allentown to take on Lehigh Valley on Friday, April 1, start time 7:05 pm EDT. To close out the week, WBS welcomes Bridgeport to town Saturday, April 2, start time 6:05 pm EDT, in a pivotal game for both sides as they jockey for the 6th and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.