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WBS Weekly: Sam Poulin, Wilkes-Barre battling and rising together

The Penguins defeated Lehigh Valley at home on Wednesday, but they fell on the road at Syracuse.

WBS Penguins forward Sam Poulin establishing position in front of Syracuse goaltender Max Lagace Saturday night in Syracuse.

Wednesday, April 6: Lehigh Valley 1 @ WBS 3

The WBS Penguins opened their two-game week by hosting the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the final time this season. WBS started the week comfortably in playoff position, while Lehigh Valley was trying desperately to get back to the top 6.

WBS opened the scoring at 18:12 of the first period, as Sam Poulin scored his 16th goal of the season. Felix Robert and Filip Hållander provided the assists. For Poulin, it was his 10th goal in his last 14 games.

Jonathan Gruden expanded the lead to 2-0 at 9:02 of the second with WBS’s second shorthanded goal of the season. The goal was Gruden’s 9th of the campaign, with Drew O’Connor and Matt Bartkowski assisting.

Louis Domingue’s bid for his first shutout of the season came 5:30 short, as Lehigh Valley’s Hayden Hodgson scored a goal at 14:30 of the third. Max Willman and Cal O’Reilly registered the assists.

Domingue was able to recover from that goal to shut down the Phantoms from there, and Gruden scored his second of the game and 10th of the season into an empty net at 18:25 of the third to wrap up WBS’s 3-1 victory. Domingue finished with 30 saves on 31 shots.

The WBS power play did not convert its only power play attempt, but the penalty kill was able to shut down all four Phantoms chances.

Saturday, April 9: WBS 0 @ Syracuse 1

During the rest of the season, the Penguins will play only two games outside the Atlantic Division. Both of those are in Syracuse, and the first of those was Saturday night. It was a record-breaking night for the Penguins, but not for the reasons you might think or hope for.

The only goal of the game was scored by Syracuse’s Gemel Smith at 2:56 of the second period, assisted by Nick Perbix and Daniel Walcott.

The rest of the game featured the goaltenders: Domingue on one side, and former WBS Penguin Max Lagace in the net for Syracuse. Domingue once again finished with 30 saves on 31 shots, but Lagace was unbeatable, stopping all 48 shots WBS put on him. That’s a new WBS team record for the most shots put on an opposing goaltender in a shutout.

The WBS penalty kill was again perfect, killing off three Syracuse attempts, while its own power play was unsuccessful in four attempts.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of April 10:

  1. Charlotte Checkers (clinched playoffs): 67 games played, 5 remaining, 39-23-5-0, .619 points percentage
  2. Springfield Thunderbirds: 67 games played, 9 remaining, 37-22-6-2, .612
  3. Providence Bruins: 62 games played, 10 remaining, 32-20-4-6, .597
  4. Hershey Bears: 69 games played, 7 remaining, 33-27-5-4, .543
  5. WBS Penguins: 67 games played, 9 remaining, 31-28-4-4, .522
  6. Hartford Wolf Pack: 66 games played, 6 remaining, 30-28-6-2, .515
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 68 games played, 4 remaining, 29-28-7-4, .507
  8. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 66 games played, 10 remaining, 26-29-7-4, .477

Team Statistics, powered by HockeyDB:

The WBS power play has dropped back to worst in the AHL, with a 14.3% conversion percentage. The penalty kill, meanwhile, continues to surge up the league rankings, finishing the week 10th in the AHL with an 81.6% kill percentage.

As of the morning of Sunday, April 10, the WBS magic number to clinch the playoffs was 15, with 9 games left to play. WBS’s next four are at home to close out the home portion of its schedule. First up is division leaders Charlotte, coming to town Wednesday, April 13, start time 7:05 pm EDT. Next, Hershey comes to town Friday, April 15, start time 7:05 pm EDT. Finally for this week, Bridgeport comes to town Saturday, April 16, start time 6:05 pm EDT.