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WBS Weekly: WBS caps a seesaw week by destroying Bridgeport 9-2

Two dominating home wins sandwiched a disappointing road loss to Lehigh Valley, as the Penguins finished the week back in playoff position.

The WBS Penguins donned special Black Widow-themed jerseys for their Marvel Superheroes Night Saturday night against Bridgeport.

Wednesday, March 30: Hartford 1 @ WBS 5

The WBS Penguins opened the week by welcoming the Hartford Wolf Pack to town to close out the month of March. The Penguins were looking to continue this season’s trend against Hartford in which the home team had won each of the previous four meetings.

After a scoreless first period, WBS exploded in the second with four straight goals. Kasper Bjorkqvist started it off with his seventh goal of the season, assisted by Kyle Olson.

It took another 8:40 for the second goal, scored by Will Reilly and assisted by Drew O’Connor and Valtteri Puustinen. The goal was Reilly’s first of the season.

That goal seemed to open the floodgates, as Sam Poulin and Felix Robert then scored 42 seconds apart from each other to extend the lead to 4-0. Poulin’s 13th of the season, assisted by O’Connor and Juuso Riikola, was a power play goal, while Robert’s 14th of the season was assisted by Nathan Legare and Michael Chaput.

Hartford’s Anthony Greco scored at 18:58 of the second to bring the Wolf Pack back to within 4-1. The Wolf Pack almost brought it back to 4-2 in the early stages of the third period, but an apparent goal was called off for incidental contact with goaltender Louis Domingue.

Hartford could get no closer, as Chaput finished the proceedings with his eighth goal of the season at 13:41 of the third to give WBS a 5-1 victory. Domingue finished with 24 saves on 25 shots for his fifth win in eight starts since returning to the WBS lineup. His counterpart, Keith Kinkaid, stopped 22 of 27 shots in the losing effort. Poulin’s power play goal was the only advantage goal scored on the night, as WBS finished 1/3 on the power play and 4/4 on the penalty kill.

Friday, April 1: WBS 2 @ Lehigh Valley 4

WBS opened April with the AHL TV Free Game of the Week, as they traveled south to Allentown to visit the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for their 10th game of the season. WBS opened the scoring at 3:16 of the first through Michael Chaput’s ninth goal of the season, with Felix Robert and Mitch Reinke providing assists.

Lehigh Valley, fighting to jump up to sixth place, leveled the proceedings at 7:40 of the first through Ryan MacKinnon’s first goal for Lehigh Valley this season. The first period ended 1-1.

Just 47 seconds into the second period, Kyle Olson hit double digits in goals with his 10th of the season to put WBS up 2-1. Drew O’Connor and Filip Hållander provided the assists.

Once again, Lehigh Valley managed to tie the game, this time through Tanner Laczynksi’s 5th of the season at 10:59 of the second. The second period ended 2-2.

It was the Phantoms who managed to score first in the third period, as Wade Allison scored his 8th of the season at 5:21 of the third. Unlike in the first two periods, WBS was unable to tie the game back up, and Max Willman’s empty netter two seconds from full time gave Lehigh Valley a crucial 4-2 victory to kick off an extremely busy month of April.

WBS goaltender Tommy Nappier saved 26 of 29 shots in the losing effort, while Lehigh Valley’s Felix Sandstrom stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win. Neither team converted either of its two power play attempts.

Saturday, April 2: Bridgeport 2 @ WBS 9

WBS closed out the week by celebrating the superheroes of Marvel Comics, welcoming the Bridgeport Islanders to town. Bridgeport entered the game holding the final playoff spot in the Atlantic by a margin of 0.0005 standings percentage points, so the game was massive for both sides.

Bridgeport came out of the gates strong, with Austin Czarnik (10) and Chris Terry (23) staking the visitors to a 2-0 lead 11:52 into the first period, but that’s all that they would get on this day. The assembled crowd of 7,716, an announced sellout, were subsequently treated to a record-tying display of Penguins offense.

Alex Nylander began the comeback at 13:48 of the first with his 20th goal of the season, 12th for WBS. WBS then put up 5 in the middle 20 minutes, as Sam Poulin (14), Jamie Devane (3), Felix Robert (15), Kyle Olson (11), and Michael Chaput (10) tallied at even strength. WBS led 6-2 after the second period, and that was the end of the day for Bridgeport starting goaltender Jakub Skarek, who finished with 25 saves on 31 WBS shots.

Ken Appleby came in to start the third period for the Islanders, and he proceeded to give up Drew O’Connor’s 10th goal of the season for WBS on his first shot faced. Poulin scored his second of the day and 15th of the season at 7:26 of the third on a power play for 8-2.

Finally, and perhaps mercifully, O’Connor scored his second of the period and 11th of the season at 18:39 of the third to tie the all-time WBS record for goals scored in a game with 9. You’d have to go back to February 17, 2010, and an Albany River Rats team that doesn’t exist anymore for the last time WBS put up 9 in a game.

O’Connor and Poulin finished with two goals each, while Juuso Riikola finished with three assists and Jordy Bellerive and Cam Lee got two helpers each. Only Will Reilly, Matt Bartkowski, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph were kept off the scoresheet.

Louis Domingue recovered from his shaky first period to finish with 29 saves on 31 shots. WBS’s power play finished 1 for 2, while the penalty kill finished a perfect week with four successful kills.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of April 3:

  1. Springfield Thunderbirds: 64 games played, 12 remaining, 37-20-5-2, .633 points percentage
  2. Charlotte Checkers: 64 games played, 8 remaining, 37-23-4-0, .609
  3. Providence Bruins: 59 games played, 13 remaining, 30-19-4-6, .593
  4. Hershey Bears: 65 games played, 11 remaining, 30-26-5-2, .524
  5. Hartford Wolf Pack: 62 games played, 10 remaining, 29-26-5-2, .524
  6. WBS Penguins: 65 games played, 11 remaining, 30-27-4-4, .523
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 64 games played, 8 remaining, 27-27-6-4, .500
  8. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 63 games played, 13 remaining, 25-27-7-4, .484

Statistics, powered by HockeyDB:

Juuso Riikola’s 27 assists are good for 13th in the AHL among defensemen, while Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s 31 points are good for 17th in the AHL among defensemen.

The WBS power play is back down to worst in the AHL with a 14.6% conversion percentage. In fact, the bottom three power plays in the AHL are the three teams fighting for the Atlantic’s final playoff spot: Lehigh Valley 29th, Bridgeport 30th, WBS 31st. The penalty kill is back into the top half of the AHL with a kill percentage of 81.0%, 14th in the AHL at week’s end.

WBS gets a rare respite this week, with only two games on the schedule. First up is Lehigh Valley at home Wednesday night, April 6, start time 7:05 pm EDT. Then, WBS heads up to Syracuse on Saturday, April 9 for one of two visits this month, the only games they play outside of the Atlantic Division all month. Start time on Saturday is 7:00 pm EDT.