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WBS Weekly: WBS preparing for Outdoor Classic this Saturday at Cleveland

WBS took three out of a possible six points this week, beating Lehigh Valley, losing at Syracuse, then dropping an overtime decision at home Saturday to Belleville.

WBS Penguins mascot Tux models the special jersey WBS will wear for their game at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH against the Cleveland Monsters.

Wednesday, February 22: Lehigh Valley 3 @ WBS 4

Bolstered by the return of their #1 goaltender Dustin Tokarski, WBS opened the week with their 8th game of the season against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Former Penguins captain Garrett Wilson opened the scoring for Lehigh Valley at 11:06 of the first with his 9th goal of the season. The Phantoms extended the lead to 2-0 at 4:19 of the second through Max Willman’s 7th of the season.

The white-hot WBS power play got the Penguins on the board at 13:17 of the second. Drake Caggiula scored his 12th of the season, with Filip Hållander and Valtteri Puustinen each recording their 21st assists of the season on the play.

Lehigh Valley held the slim 2-1 lead for the majority of the third period, but Nathan Légaré tied the game with 5:21 to go with his 6th of the season. Corey Andonovski and Tyler Sikura recorded assists.

After three quick minors, two from Lehigh Valley and one from WBS, forced a 4 on 3 WBS power play, Alex Nylander broke the tie at 16:44 of the third with his 22nd goal of the season. Puustinen (22) and Mitch Reinke (21) recorded assists.

Just 36 seconds later, with WBS on a 5 on 4 power play, Sam Houde hit double digits in goals with his 10th of the season to put WBS up 4-2. Colin Swoyer and Lukas Svejkovsky scored assists, as the WBS power play finished the game 3 for 5.

Elliot Desnoyers scored his 19th goal of the season on a power play at 18:36 of the third to bring Lehigh Valley back to 4-3, but they could get no closer.

Tokarski finished with 34 saves on 37 shots for his 10th win of the season. Lehigh Valley starter Troy Grosenick saved all 8 shots against him in his 19:39 of game time before departing with an injury. His replacement, Nolan Maier, stopped 19 of 23 shots to take the loss.

Friday, February 24: WBS 2 @ Syracuse 3

Next up on the schedule was a visit to Syracuse to take on the North’s third place team, the Crunch. The teams split power play goals in the first period, with Alex Barré-Boulet’s 17th goal of the season canceled by Alex Nylander’s 23rd of the season. For the Penguins, Drake Caggiula posted his 24th assist of the season on the goal, with Valtteri Puustinen tacking on his 23rd helper.

Syracuse pulled away in the second thanks to the thing that has vexed WBS more than anything else in recent weeks: secondary scoring. Rudolfs Balcers broke the 1-1 tie at 4:37 of the second with his 3rd goal of the season, and Lucas Edmonds extended the lead to 3-1 at 14:20 of the second with his 7th goal of the season.

WBS closed the deficit to 3-2 with 1:11 to go, as Puustinen recorded his 21st goal of the season. Nylander (23) and Caggiula (25) recorded assists.

Unfortunately, the Penguins could not get the equalizer, as the Crunch held on to win 3-2. Dustin Tokarski finished with 27 saves on 30 shots in the losing effort, while Syracuse’s Max Lagace saved 26 of 28 shots for the victory. Each team finished 1 for 4 on advantages.

Saturday, February 25: Belleville 2 @ WBS 1 (OT)

WBS closed out the week with Military Appreciation Night on Saturday, hosting the North Division’s last place team, Belleville. The Senators got on the board first at 17:18 of the first period, as Roby Jarventie slammed home a rebound in front of WBS goaltender Taylor Gauthier for his 8th goal of the season.

Belleville nearly made the 1-0 lead stand up, entirely through the efforts of newly-acquired goaltender Dylan Ferguson. Ferguson was acquired via trade with Toronto on Friday and came 2:08 away from shutting out WBS on his debut. The only reason he didn’t was Tyler Sikura, who scored his 7th goal of the season off assists from Valtteri Puustinen and Filip Hållander.

WBS carried that momentum into overtime with some extended possession early, but all it takes is one moment of magic to swing the game. On this night, that magic was provided by Cole Reinhardt for Belleville, whose 7th goal of the season gave the Senators the 2-1 win and doomed WBS to a 2-6-1-2 record in February.

Ferguson finished his Belleville debut with 38 saves on 39 shots, while Gauthier finished with 20 saves on 22 shots.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of February 26

  1. Providence Bruins: 52 games played, 31-11-8-2, 72 points
  2. Hershey Bears: 52 games played, 32-13-5-2, 71 points
  3. Charlotte Checkers: 53 games played, 30-18-3-2, 65 points
  4. Springfield Thunderbirds: 52 games played, 26-20-2-4, 58 points
  5. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 53 games played, 26-21-3-3, 58 points
  6. Hartford Wolf Pack: 52 games played, 23-20-3-6, 55 points
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 52 games played, 23-21-7-1, 54 points
  8. WBS Penguins: 52 games played, 22-22-3-5, 52 points


The WBS offense continues to be paced by Alex Nylander and Valtteri Puustinen. Nylander has 23 goals and 23 assists at week’s end for 46 points, while Puustinen has 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points. Both are in the top 20 in the AHL in goals at week’s end, with Nylander tied for 7th and Puustinen tied for 14th. Drake Caggiula (12), Jonathan Gruden (12), and Sam Houde (10) are the only other Penguins with double-digit goals.

After his two starts this week, Dustin Tokarski holds a. 10-8-4 record, a 2.38 GAA, and a .919 save percentage at AHL level. Tokarski ranks sixth in the AHL in GAA and fifth in save percentage. Taylor Gauthier holds a record of 6-2-3, a 2.42 GAA, and a .918 save percentage in his 14 appearances.

Entering Saturday’s game, the WBS power play converted 31.7% of its power plays in February to climb up the league rankings. They finished February with a season conversion rate of 19.4%, good for a tie for 16th in the AHL. Their penalty kill is also tied for 16th at 80.9%.

The Week Ahead

WBS hits the road this week for one of the centerpiece games on the AHL calendar. Following a visit to Hershey on Wednesday, March 1 (7:00 pm EST start) to close out their season series with the Bears, WBS heads to Cleveland this weekend. Their game with the Monsters Saturday, March 4, at 1:00 pm EST, will be contested outdoors at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. It will be the second time in WBS’s history that they have played outdoors, over 11 years after their game at HersheyPark Stadium in 2012 where they defeated the Bears 2-1 in overtime. Bally Sports Great Lakes will provide TV coverage, in addition to the usual streaming and radio outlets.

WBS will then close their week with another game against Cleveland, this time at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Sunday, March 5, 3:00 pm EST start.