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WBS Weekly: Filip Hållander injured in loss to Charlotte, Alex Nylander beats Hartford in OT

After a scary injury to Hållander on Friday night, Alex Nylander completed a thrilling comeback against Hartford on Saturday.

The WBS Penguins salute their fans following a defeat of the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday night.
Photo taken by me

Wednesday, January 4: Charlotte 3 @ WBS 5

Following Tristan Jarry leaving the Winter Classic early due to injury, the Pittsburgh Penguins recalled Dustin Tokarski, leaving WBS without one of the top-5 goaltenders in the AHL so far this season. As a result, WBS started Taylor Gauthier on Wednesday, fresh off a victory on New Year’s Eve in his AHL debut.

The red-hot Sam Houde started the week off quickly with his sixth goal of the season, his third straight game with a goal. Alex Nylander and Colin Swoyer recorded assists.

Charlotte struck quickly in the last four minutes of the first period, with Connor Bunnaman’s unassisted shorthanded goal (his fifth of the season) at 16:31 of the first and Henry Bowlby’s 4th of the year at 19:19 giving Charlotte a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Valtteri Puustinen tied the game at 12:33 of the second with his 13th goal of the season on a power play, with Drake Caggiula and Mitch Reinke assisting. Just like Houde, it was Puustinen’s third straight game with a goal.

Houde then scored his second goal of the night, fourth in three games at 17:01 of the second, with Lukas Svejkovsky and Puustinen assisting, to give WBS a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Alex Nylander expanded the lead to 4-2 at 4:43 of the third period with his 12th goal of the season, assisted by Filip Hållander and Jon Lizotte.

Charlotte’s Santtu Kinnunen brought the lead down to 4-3 at 9:36 of the third with his 3rd goal of the season on a power play, but Drake Caggiula sealed the win away with an empty netter at 19:38 of the third for a 5-3 final. Hållander and Jonathan Gruden recorded assists.

Gauthier finished with 24 saves on 27 shots for his second straight win, while Alex Lyon saved 27 of 31 WBS shots for the Charlotte loss. Both teams went 1 for 3 on the power play.

Friday, January 6: Charlotte 4 @ WBS 2

Despite Filip Lindberg serving as the backup goaltender on Wednesday, WBS recalled Tommy Nappier from Wheeling to serve as the backup for the weekend’s games.

WBS came out strongly in the first 15 minutes of the Friday night rematch, with Filip Hållander and Alex Nylander scoring their 8th and 13th goals of the season respectively to put WBS up 2-0. Sam Houde and Colin Swoyer recorded assists on Hållander’s goal, while Valtteri Puustinen and Houde assisted on Nylander’s goal.

Things went off the rails from there, though. Over the next 11:02 of game time, between the end of the first period and beginning of the second, Charlotte put four on the board. Grigori Denisenko scored twice, Riley Nash scored the game-winner at 5:08 of the second, and Santtu Kinnunen gave some insurance at 6:02 of the second.

With 1:12 to play in the third period, Hållander was fighting for possession of the puck in his offensive zone corner when he was tackled backward onto the ice. He appeared to hit the ice hard on the back of his head and neck, and he did not get up. Teams motioned quickly for medical assistance, leading to Hållander being stretchered off the ice. The final 1:12 of the game was cancelled, and Charlotte was given the 4-2 victory.

Taylor Gauthier finished with 30 saves on 34 shots in the losing effort, while Charlotte’s Mack Guzda saved 20 of 22 WBS shots for the victory.

Saturday, January 7: Hartford 3 @ WBS 4 (OT)

On Saturday morning, the Penguins announced that “after testing and examination, (Filip) Hållander was released from the hospital…and is at home resting.” No further updates were given from the team before or after Saturday’s game against the last-place Hartford Wolf Pack.

Hartford certainly didn’t play like a last-place team on Saturday night, holding WBS to a total of 11 shots over the first two periods and getting goals from Brandon Scanlin, WIll Cuylle, and Zac Jones to take a 3-0 lead over WBS at the halfway point of the game.

WBS started a comeback through Jonathan Gruden, who scored his seventh goal of the season at 12:57 of the second. Drake Caggiula and Jack St. Ivany recorded assists.

Gruden scored his second of the night and 8th of the season off a slick deflection of a Jon Lizotte point shot. Caggiula also received an assist.

The Penguins kept pressing, and they forced an equalizer at 8:40 of the third. Jon Lizotte forced a turnover in the WBS offensive zone to prevent a Hartford breakout, and a few seconds later, Corey Andonovski poked home a rebound for his sixth goal of the season. St. Ivany and Caggiula scored assists; for Caggiula, it was a trifecta of assists.

The game went to overtime, where Alex Nylander brought the house down with one of the most electrifying game-winners seen at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in many years.

Nylander’s 14th goal of the year, assisted by Valtteri Puustinen and St. Ivany, gave WBS the extra point and a 4-3 victory. It was St. Ivany’s third assist of the game, his first points since October 26.

To this point in the season, WBS had rarely started the same goaltender two nights in a row, alternating between Dustin Tokarski and Filip Lindberg pretty consistently. But this week, Taylor Gauthier started all third games in the span of four nights, finishing Saturday night with 26 saves on 29 shots for his third win of the season. Hartford’s Dylan Garand finished with 18 saves on 22 shots in the loss.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of January 8:

  1. Hershey Bears: 34 games played, 23-8-2-1, 49 points
  2. Providence Bruins: 34 games played, 20-7-5-2, 47 points
  3. Charlotte Checkers: 33 games played, 18-12-2-1, 39 points
  4. WBS Penguins: 31 games played, 16-10-2-3, 37 points
  5. Bridgeport Islanders: 34 games played, 14-13-6-1, 35 points
  6. Springfield Thunderbirds: 34 games played, 15-14-1-4, 35 points
  7. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 32 games played, 15-13-2-2, 34 points
  8. Hartford Wolf Pack: 32 games played, 11-13-2-6, 30 points


Despite all the roster changes lately due to callups, illnesses, and injuries, Valtteri Puustinen and Alex Nylander continue to lead the WBS offense. Nylander leads the team with 14 goals to Puustinen’s 13, while Puustinen leads in points with 28 to Nylander’s 27. Before his injury, Filip Hållander led the team in assists with 17, just ahead of the 15 assists scored by Xavier Ouellet and Puustinen.

With Dustin Tokarski called up and Filip Lindberg’s status uncertain, Taylor Gauthier ended the week with a record of 3-1, a GAA of 2.78, and a save percentage of .908 in four games.

The WBS power play ended the week at a conversion percentage of 18.7%, good for 20th in the AHL. The penalty kill maintained its mid-league status with a kill percentage of 81.7%, tied for 14th in the AHL.

The Week Ahead

After three games at home this past week, WBS heads on the road for three games this week. First off is game #10 of the season against the Hershey Bears, this time at GIANT Center in Hershey Wednesday, January 11, start time 7:00 pm EST. After that, WBS will jet off to Charlotte for their second and final visit of the season to North Carolina and two games against the Checkers. Games on Saturday, January 14, and Sunday, January 15, will each start at 4:00 pm EST.