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WBS Weekly: WBS Pens clinch Calder Cup Playoff spot, will host Hershey

For the 18th time in 21 possible seasons, the WBS Penguins will take part in the Calder Cup Playoffs. There are two games left in the regular season before the playoffs open May 6.

Goaltender Joel Blomqvist, selected #52 overall in the 2020 NHL Draft by Pittsburgh, made his AHL debut Saturday night in Springfield for the WBS Penguins.

Tuesday, April 19: Hershey 0 @ WBS 3

The WBS Penguins opened up their last four-game week of the season by welcoming the Hershey Bears to town for their final regular season meeting and WBS’s final home game of the regular season.

In a season series that heavily favored the Bears, WBS closed it out with a strong performance. Michael Chaput scored his 12th goal of the season shorthanded at 18:40 of the second to open the scoring.

Alex Nylander scored his 21st goal of the season for all clubs and his 13th for WBS in 42 games at 4:19 to give some insurance. Pierre-Olivier Joseph moved to double digits in goals with his 10th of the season at 16:31 of the third into an empty net to top off the scoring. Tommy Nappier shut it down from there with 24 saves on 24 shots and his first professional shutout to clinch a 3-0 victory for the Penguins. The WBS penalty kill dispatched all three Hershey advantages, while the power play did not convert on its only chance.

Friday, April 22: WBS 4 @ Providence 1

WBS then hit the road for its final five games of the season. First up was a visit to Providence, with a chance to clinch the playoffs on the line with a victory and other results.

WBS seized the moment, led by two power play goals from Radim Zohorna (his 9th and 10th goals of the season). Matt Bartkowski contributed his 4th of the year at 8:17 of the second to break a 1-1 tie, and Kyle Olson scored his 12th of the season at 14:56 of the third to lock up a strong 4-1 victory. Tommy Nappier followed up his shutout performance with 23 saves on 24 shots for his 4th straight victory and 13th win of the season. The WBS power play finished 2 for 7 on the evening, while the penalty kill fended off 4 of 5 Providence chances.

The victory, combined with Bridgeport’s 4-2 victory over Springfield, Charlotte’s 2-1 victory over Hartford, and Hershey’s 4-3 overtime victory at Lehigh Valley, clinched the final three Atlantic Division playoff spots for WBS, Hershey, and Bridgeport.

Saturday, April 23: WBS 1 @ Springfield 3

With the playoffs formally clinched, WBS gave the net on Saturday night to Pittsburgh’s 2nd round draft choice in the 2020 draft, Joel Blomqvist, for his AHL debut in Springfield. Blomqvist performed well, saving 25 of 27 shots, and WBS opened the scoring with Radim Zohorna’s third power play goal in 2 games and his 11th of the season.

However, Springfield defender Tommy Cross tied the game 1-1 in the first period just 32 seconds after Zohorna’s opener. Former Penguin James Neal scored his 14th of the season for Springfield in 27 games to break the 1-1 tie, and Will Bitten closed the proceedings with an empty netter at 19:04 of the third to give the Thunderbirds a crucial 3-1 victory as they spar with Providence for the Atlantic Division’s second opening-round bye. Springfield’s Joel Hofer stopped 32 of 33 shots in the winning effort. Each team’s power play converted once; WBS in 3 chances, Springfield in 6.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s 2-1 victory over Providence on Saturday clinched the regular season Atlantic Division championship and the first opening-round bye for the Checkers. Bridgeport is locked into sixth place, and WBS and Hershey are slated to face each other in the opening round.

Sunday, April 24: WBS 3 @ Hartford 6

The Penguins closed out the weekend taking on Hartford, whose 4-16-1-0 record since March 11 dropped them out of the playoffs. The Wolf Pack looked to put on one final show for its supporters in its season finale, and it was certainly a show.

Filip Hållander excelled for the Penguins, scoring his 13th and 14th goals of the season. Alex Nylander added his 22nd goal of the season and 14th for WBS in the second period, but Hartford exploded for four goals over the last 20:21 of the game to take the 6-3 victory.

Tommy Nappier returned to the net and stopped 25 of 30 shots in the losing effort, while Hartford’s Adam Huska stopped 28 of 31 shots for his 10th win of the season. WBS did not convert its only power play opportunity, while the penalty kill dispatched 5 out of 6 Hartford advantages.

By virtue of Syracuse’s 5-3 victory in Hershey in the final game of the season for the Bears, WBS clinched 4th place in the Atlantic to host Hershey in the best-of-3 opening round series.

Atlantic Division standings, through the games of April 24:

  1. Charlotte Checkers (division champions): Schedule complete, 42-24-5-1, .625 points percentage
  2. Springfield Thunderbirds (clinched playoffs): 74 games played, 2 remaining, 41-24-6-3, .615
  3. Providence Bruins (clinched playoffs): 69 games played, 3 remaining, 36-23-4-6, .594
  4. WBS Penguins (clinched playoffs and 4th place): 74 games played, 2 remaining, 35-31-4-4, .527
  5. Hershey Bears (clinched playoffs and 5th place): Schedule complete, 34-32-6-4, .513
  6. Bridgeport Islanders (clinched playoffs and 6th place): Schedule complete, 31-30-7-4, .507
  7. Hartford Wolf Pack: Schedule complete, 32-32-6-2, .500
  8. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 73 games played, 3 remaining, 28-30-10-5, .486

Statistics, powered by HockeyDB:

The WBS Penguins have been in operation for 23 seasons. There have been playoffs available for WBS to play for in 21 of those seasons, with playoffs in the last two seasons lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By virtue of making the playoffs this season, WBS have qualified for playoffs in 18 out of 21 possible seasons…a remarkable streak of consistency.

The Penguins have two more games on its regular season schedule before it can start preparing for Hershey in the playoffs. First up is a visit to Syracuse on Friday, April 29, start time 7:00 pm EDT. WBS will then wrap up its regular season on Saturday, April 30, at Lehigh Valley, start time 7:05 pm EDT.

The opening round of the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs begins Friday, May 6, 7:05 pm EDT, with Game 1 between WBS and Hershey at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Game 2 at GIANT Center is set for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, at 5:00 pm EDT. If needed, Game 3 will be back in the WB Monday, May 9, start time 7:05 pm EDT.