On Friday afternoon, the American Hockey League announced a slate of six additional All-Stars to take the place of players unable to participate in the All-Star Classic, February 5-6 in Laval, Quebec. Two of the replacements took place in the Atlantic Division, as defenders Cam York of Lehigh Valley and Xavier Ouellet of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton were announced as “unavailable for the event”. Taking their respective places are Hartford defender Zac Jones and WBS forward Alex Nylander.
Tuesday, January 24: WBS 1 @ Utica 5 (resumption of suspended game)
Our lines for the restart— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 24, 2023
Kyle Olson is backkk pic.twitter.com/vsQAstrvkA
The WBS Penguins opened their week with a short stopover in Utica to complete a game against the Comets from October 17 that was suspended due to a power outage. The game resumed with 2:43 left in the second period, Utica up 2-1, and WBS about to start a power play. Utica proceeded to kill off that penalty, get a goal from Robbie Russo in the final second of the second period, then get an empty netter from Nolan Stevens and a goal from Jack Dugan 17 seconds apart late in the third period to win 5-1.
Filip Lindberg played the first 37:17 of the game before the stoppage, saving 12 of 14 Comets shots. Dustin Tokarski played the resumption of the game, stopping only 6 of 8 shots before his injury recall back to Pittsburgh.
Wednesday, January 25: WBS 2 @ Rochester 3
Ortiz in for Adam Smith. Lindberg in pic.twitter.com/Cd0dIZcngN— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 25, 2023
Next up for WBS was their only trip to Rochester of the season to take on an Americans team that was 5-0 over WBS during the last 5 years. WBS looked poised to end that streak after the first 20 minutes, as Alex Nylander posted his 17th goal of the season on a power play at 4:01 of the first, assisted by Drake Caggiula and Valtteri Puustinen.
Nyls puts the power in power play pic.twitter.com/5gvTFBr8zp— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 26, 2023
Sam Houde expanded the lead to 2-0 at 14:28 of the first with his 9th goal of the year, assisted by Puustinen and Corey Andonovski.
Houdey makes it look easy pic.twitter.com/XDPgSPZUx4— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 26, 2023
However, WBS could not hold the lead. Lawrence Pilut brought Rochester back to 2-1 at 4:02 of the second with his first goal of the season, then Jeremy Davies scored his 5th of the season at 10:41 of the second to tie the game at 2. Vinnie Hinostroza then scored his first goal for Rochester in his second game with the team on a power play at 4:42 of the third to give Rochester a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
Filip Lindberg took the start in net and stopped 26 of 29 shots in the losing effort. Malcolm Subban started in net for Rochester and saved 24 of 26 shots for his 10th win of the season.
Friday, January 27: WBS 2 @ Lehigh Valley 4
Our lines tonight pic.twitter.com/Si2iApS2l7— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 27, 2023
WBS then visited Allentown for their sixth game of the season against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and the hosts treated the guests extremely rudely. Two power play goals in the first period and two more goals 1:26 apart early in the second sparked the Phantoms to a 4-0 lead inside the first 25 minutes of the game and spelled a quick end to Filip Lindberg’s evening. Phantoms All-Star Tyson Foerster led the charge with two goals, including this beauty to send Lindberg packing.
TysonIsHIM.mp4#WBSvsLV | #OurValleyOurHome pic.twitter.com/bk4Yi5Vmg1— Lehigh Valley Phantoms (@LVPhantoms) January 28, 2023
WBS tried to mount a comeback in the third period, getting goals from Tyler Sikura at 9:54 of the third and Corey Andonovski at 11:31, but it was not enough. Of note: Drake Caggiula’s primary assist on Sikura’s goal gave him 20 on the season, and Taylor Fedun’s primary assist on Andonovski’s goal officially pushed the Penguins captain to 200 career AHL points.
A look at Sikky's goal! pic.twitter.com/CMbxJotbNY— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2023
And Ando's!! pic.twitter.com/Gr2z9zf33G— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2023
Lindberg stopped only 14 of 18 Phantoms shots before being removed in favor of Taylor Gauthier, who stopped all 8 shots he faced. Meanwhile, Samuel Ersson was a wall in net for Lehigh Valley, stopping 34 of 36 WBS shots for his 11th win of the season.
Saturday, January 28: Bridgeport 1 @ WBS 3
Got our lines for the night pic.twitter.com/uJDryjPKtj— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2023
The reeling Penguins closed the week at home on Saturday to honor “Cross Check Cancer” night against the Bridgeport Islanders. Valtteri Puustinen opened the scoring for WBS with his 15th goal of the season, a power play goal at 8:54 of the first period. Alex Nylander and Drake Caggiula recorded assists.
Puusty gets the people going pic.twitter.com/fSPSfWqNTD— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 28, 2023
Bridgeport responded at 4:32 of the second period, as Cole Bardreau scored his 11th goal of the season.
Ty Glover broke the tie at 16:53 of the second with his 2nd goal of the season. Josh Maniscalco recorded his first AHL point in his 18th career game for WBS with the only assist.
Gloves makes it twoooo pic.twitter.com/KfyNnreE8h— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 29, 2023
That goal proved to be the game-winner, as Taylor Gauthier stopped all 13 Bridgeport shots in the third period and a total of 28 out of 29 for the game to slam the door. Puustinen managed to direct home a bouncing breakout pass from Tyler Sikura in the final minute for an empty net goal, his 16th of the season, to finish off the proceedings.
Empty-netters are good for the soul pic.twitter.com/4fLcRDidCz— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 29, 2023
Taylor Gauthier made 28 saves, while Valtteri Puustinen picked up a pair of goals and Ty Glover netted the game-winner, as the #WBSPens downed the @AHLIslanders, 3-1, on Saturday night at the @MoSunArenaPA— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) January 29, 2023
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/g84fqMJAf0
Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of January 29:
- Hershey Bears: 42 games played, 28-9-4-1, 61 points
- Providence Bruins: 42 games played, 24-9-7-2, 57 points
- Charlotte Checkers: 42 games played, 23-15-2-2, 50 points
- Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 41 games played, 20-16-3-2, 45 points
- WBS Penguins: 41 games played, 20-16-2-3, 45 points
- Springfield Thunderbirds: 42 games played, 20-17-1-4, 45 points
- Bridgeport Islanders: 43 games played, 19-17-6-1, 45 points
- Hartford Wolf Pack: 42 games played, 17-16-3-6, 43 points
Newly crowned All-Star Alex Nylander leads WBS in goals at week’s end with 17, just ahead of Valtteri Puustinen’s 16. The two forwards are tied for the team’s points lead with 34 each, four ahead of Drake Caggiula’s 30 points (9 goals and a team-leading 21 assists). From there, with Drew O’Connor still promoted to Pittsburgh and Filip Hållander still injured, it’s Tyler Sikura with 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points, Mitch Reinke’s goal and 15 assists for 16 points, then Sam Houde’s 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points.
Dustin Tokarski’s cameo appearance on Tuesday dropped his season numbers to 9-6-4, a 2.27 GAA (T-4th in AHL), and a .923 save percentage (T-4th in AHL). Filip Lindberg is starting to struggle in his second season, ending the week with a record of 6-9-1, a 2.92 GAA, and a .901 save percentage. Taylor Gauthier ends the week with a record of 5-1-0, a 2.20 GAA, and a .919 save percentage in 8 appearances.
The Week Ahead
WBS faces its own sprint to All-Stars this week with three games in four days, bolstered by the return of Jonathan Gruden and Tokarski from Pittsburgh. Springfield comes to town Wednesday, February 1, start time 7:05 pm EST. WBS returns the favor with a visit to Springfield Friday, February 3, start time 7:05 pm EST. Finally, WBS closes out its pre-All Star schedule with a visit to Hartford Saturday, February 4, start time 7:00 pm EST.