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WBS Weekly: Penguins end losing streak by beating Phantoms on New Year’s Eve

WBS enters 2023 in fifth place in the Atlantic, but with games in hand.

WBS’s leading goal scorer Valtteri Puustinen.

Tuesday, December 27: Hershey 2 @ WBS 1 (SO)

For the ninth time in their first 26 games of the season, the WBS Penguins faced the Hershey Bears to open their last week of 2022.

Hershey dominated the first period, outshooting WBS 15-5. They continued that momentum into the second period, as Ethen Frank scored his 11th goal of the season on a power play at 6:06 of the second priod. Aaron Ness and Mike Sgarbossa recorded assists.

WBS matched the power play goal at 18:19 of the second period with their own power play goal, as Alex Nylander scored his 11th goal of the season. Valtteri Puustinen and Drake Caggiula provided the assists.

The third period and overtime were scoreless, despite Hershey continuing to pile on their shot advantage. By the time overtime ended, the Bears had outshot the Penguins 39-25.

Nylander took the first shootout attempt for WBS, but he overskated the puck and was given a miss. Connor McMichael converted his attempt immediately thereafter, and that’s all that Hershey would need as Filip Hållander and Caggiula were unable to convert their attempts.

Bears starter Zach Fucale finished with 24 saves on 25 shots for third star honors. Tokarski finished with 38 saves on 39 shots for second star honors. McMichael took top honors for his shootout winner.

Friday, December 30: Providence 4 @ WBS 3

After losing Drake Caggiula and Ty Smith to promotion to Pittsburgh, the Penguins welcomed the Providence Bruins to town for their final home game of 2022. Caggiula was returned to WBS before the game, but he was still out of the lineup.

The game featured a clash of two of the best goaltenders in the AHL this season, Dustin Tokarski for WBS and Providence’s Brandon Bussi. WBS struck first through Sam Houde’s fourth goal of the season at 7:47 of the first period, with Nathan Légaré and Colin Swoyer providing the assists; the assist was Swoyer’s first regular season point in his AHL career.

Providence responded just 2:10 later with their own power play goal, as Georgii Merkulov scored his sixth of the season off assists from Justin Brazeau and Chris Wagner. Mike Reilly made it 2-1 Bruins at 9:49 of the second with another power play goal, his third of the season, assisted by Jack Ahcan and Oskar Steen.

Valtteri Puustinen tied the score at 18:13 of the second with his 10th goal of the season, assisted by Corey Andonovski and Taylor Fedun.

Connor Carrick broke the tie for Providence just 3:00 into the third period with his third goal of the season, assisted by Steen and Merkulov. Steen then finished off a three-point night with his sixth goal of the season off a defensive zone turnover by WBS, assisted by Vinni Lettieri.

Puustinen gave a small measure of hope to the assembled WBS fans with his second of the night and 11th of the season at 18:31 of the third, assisted by Alex Nylander and Mitch Reinke.

However, WBS could not get the equalizer from there, as Providence evened the season series at one game apiece with a 4-3 victory.

Providence goaltender Bussi finished with 36 saves on 39 shots to outshine Tokarski’s 23 saves on 27 shots. Merkulov for Providence took third star with a goal and an assist. Puustinen’s pair of goals were good for second star honors, while Steen’s goal and pair of assists took top honors.

Saturday, December 31: WBS 4 @ Lehigh Valley 1

With goaltender Filip Lindberg still out due to the injury he suffered in Belleville before Christmas, first-year pro Taylor Gauthier, signed as a free agent out of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks back in March 2022, made his AHL debut for WBS in Allentown to close out 2022.

Once again, Sam Houde opened the scoring for the Penguins. This time, his fifth of the season came at 4:25 of the first, with Filip Hållander and Jon Lizotte assisting.

Lehigh Valley tied the game at 8:00 of the first, as Cooper Marody scored his 5th of the season on a power play. Artem Anisimov and Garrett Wilson assisted. It was the fifth straight game that the WBS penalty kill conceded a goal.

The power play made up for it on this night, though, as Valtteri Puustinen scored his third goal in two games and his 12th goal on the season on a power play at 14:31 of the first period. Alex Nylander and Mitch Reinke assisted for a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Drake Caggiula, drawing back into the lineup following his temporary promotion, scored his 5th of the season for WBS at 12:44 of the second to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead. Lukas Svejkovsky and Raivis Ansons provided the assists.

Gauthier took it from there, shutting down the Phantoms the rest of the night and finishing his AHL debut with 29 saves on 30 shots and a victory.

Corey Andonovski tacked on an empty-net goal at 15:38 of the third to make the final 4-1, with Hållander tallying his 15th assist of the season.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak and improved WBS’s record over Lehigh Valley this season to 3-1, with eight games left to play against the Phantoms.

Atlantic Division Standings on New Year’s Day

  1. Hershey Bears: 32 games played, 22-7-2-1, 47 points
  2. Providence Bruins: 31 games played, 18-6-5-2, 43 points
  3. Charlotte Checkers: 30 games played, 16-11-2-1, 35 points
  4. Bridgeport Islanders: 31 games played, 14-11-5-1, 34 points
  5. WBS Penguins: 28 games played, 14-9-2-3, 33 points
  6. Springfield Thunderbirds: 32 games played, 14-13-1-4, 33 points
  7. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 30 games played, 14-13-2-1, 31 points
  8. Hartford Wolf Pack: 30 games played, 11-13-1-5, 28 points


Valtteri Puustinen has reclaimed the team lead in points at the turn of the calendar, with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in 29 games. His 12 goals lead the team, one ahead of second place Alex Nylander with 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 28 games. The promoted Drew O’Connor sits in a tie for third with Filip Hållander, with 8 goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 20 games against Hållander’s team-leading 15 assists and 7 goals in 24 games. Xavier Ouellet ranks fifth in points with 2 goals and 14 assists in 29 games.

Dustin Tokarski’s numbers continue to slip slightly, but he still ranks among the league leaders. Through 18 games of activity, Tokarski holds a record of 8-6-4 with a 2.22 GAA and a .926 save percentage. His GAA and save percentage rank fifth in the AHL among qualifying goaltenders.

The WBS power play finished the week with a 19.3% conversion percentage that ranks 18th in the AHL, while the penalty kill sits at 80.7%, good for 15th.

The Week Ahead

WBS enjoys a three-game homestand to kick off 2023 this week, with a pair against Charlotte Wednesday, January 4 and Friday, January 6, both 7:05 pm starts. On Saturday, January 7, Hartford comes to town for a 6:05 pm face off.