Wednesday, February 1: Springfield 3 @ WBS 2
HALLY’S BACK. GRUDS IS BACK. TICK IS BACK pic.twitter.com/DfmiKecvO9— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 1, 2023
The WBS Penguins opened their last week of activity before All-Stars welcoming back not just the demoted Jonathan Gruden and Dustin Tokarski, but Filip Hållander as well, returning to the lineup after being slammed to the ice January 6 against Charlotte. WBS started off well, with Corey Andonovski scoring his 8th goal of the season just 2:18 into the proceedings. Mitch Reinke and Alex Nylander posted assists.
Springfield tied the score at 12:47 of the second through their league-second-best power play. Brady Lyle scored his 4th goal of the season, assisted by Matthew Peca and Matthew Highmore. For Highmore, it was his 30th assist of the season, worthy of his All-Star selection.
The third period opened with Matthew Kessel taking an interference major and a game misconduct just 1 minute in, then Hållander took a hooking penalty at 2:29 to make it 4 on 4. Lyle scored his second of the game during the 4 on 4 time, at 3:47 of the third period. Nikita Alexandrov and Dmitrii Samorukov provided the assists to put Springfield ahead 2-1.
Just two seconds after Hållander returned to the ice, WBS’s All-Star, Nylander, scored unassisted to tie the game at 2. Nylander’s 18th goal of the season was unassisted.
The difference maker, however, was Springfield’s power play. Hållander took an ill-advised hooking penalty with 4:55 to play, then Peca scored his first goal for Springfield this season with 4:01 to play to give Springfield a 3-2 lead that they would not concede. Highmore and Lyle provided the assists.
Dustin Tokarksi saved 14 of 17 shots on the night for the loss, while Springfield’s All-Star goaltender Joel Hofer stopped 28 of 30 shots for the victory. Springfield’s power play finished the night 2 for 4, while WBS converted on 1 of 6 chances.
Brady Lyle picked up three points (2+1) to lead the Springfield Thunderbirds to a 3-2 win over the #WBSPens on Wednesday night at the @MoSunArenaPA— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 2, 2023
Postgame Highlights courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/7aLXVEEahP
Friday, February 3: WBS 2 @ Springfield 4
Springfield continued its momentum into its return match against WBS on Friday night, getting the opening goal just 4:03 into the game from Keean Washkurak (his 5th of the season). Will Bitten provided the lone assist.
The Thunderbirds power play once again showed up early and often. With Nathan Légaré in the penalty box for holding, Matthew Highmore hit double digits in goals with his 10th of the season at 8:50 of the first to put Springfield up 2-0. Once again, Matthew Peca and Brady Lyle figured on the power play goal with assists.
The WBS power play responded late in the first, as Colin Swoyer recorded his first AHL goal at 17:15 of the first. The returning Lukas Svejkovsky and Légaré provided assists.
Sauce just saucin' his way to his first AHL goal with this power play tally pic.twitter.com/KyvWPOkuDd— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 4, 2023
Mitch Reinke gave the Springfield power play another chance with a holding penalty at 13:24 of the second, and they converted. This time, it was the AHL’s hardest shot record holder Martin Frk with his 15th of the season, assisted by Lyle and Peca, for a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Alex Nylander responded at 3:56 of the third with his 19th goal of the season, assisted by Tyler Sikura and Drake Caggiula, to bring WBS back to 3-2.
But 3-2 is as close as WBS would get, as Peca scored his 2nd of the season into an empty net 45 seconds from full time to clinch a 4-2 win for Springfield. Nikita Alexandrov and Steven Santini recorded assists.
Vadim Zherenko took the net on this night for Springfield, and he stopped 28 of 30 shots for the victory. Taylor Gauthier took the start for WBS and posted a career high in saves, 37, on 40 shots in the losing effort. The Springfield power play only got 2 opportunities on the night, but converted them both, while the WBS power play went 1 for 4.
Saturday, February 4: WBS 2 @ Hartford 8
How the boys are lining up tonight pic.twitter.com/W2lgt1h1L6— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 4, 2023
WBS’s last game before the All-Star break started badly and ended worse. Tim Gettinger opened the game with a Hartford record by scoring 8 seconds into the game, the fastest opening goal in Wolf Pack history. The Wolf Pack would end up putting three more on the board before chasing Filip Lindberg from the game at 4:38 of the second.
Taylor Fedun broke the shutout bid of Louis Domingue with his first goal of the season at 7:47 of the second, assisted by Drake Caggiula and Corey Andonovski.
Feds takes care of business pic.twitter.com/R3XGuP9dri— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 5, 2023
Gettinger opened the third period with his second of the night and 8th of the season 52 seconds into the third period, and from there the wheels fell off. Turner Elson, Matt Rempe, and Brandon Scanlin scored within a two minute span of the third period to expand the lead to 8-1, the most goals WBS has conceded in a game this season.
Jonathan Gruden posted his 12th goal of the season at 12:47, with Alex Nylander and Chris Ortiz providing assists, but the game was long since decided by that point as WBS finished 0-3 on the week, 1-6 in their last two weeks, 5-9-1 since New Year’s, and in last place in the Atlantic Division.
A look at Gruden's tally from tonight pic.twitter.com/HH8qti7jI9— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 5, 2023
At the time of his initial removal, Lindberg saved 8 of 12 shots. Gauthier came in and saved 9 of 11 shots in his 24:27 of work before being removed for equipment issues, and Lindberg proceeded to get 5 more saves on 7 more shots to finish with 13 saves on 19 shots. For his part, Domingue saved 21 of 23 shots for the win.
Atlantic Division Standings at the All-Star Break
- Hershey Bears: 45 games played, 29-11-4-1, 63 points
- Providence Bruins: 45 games played, 27-9-7-2, 63 points
- Charlotte Checkers: 44 games played, 25-15-2-2, 54 points
- Springfield Thunderbirds: 45 games played, 23-17-1-4, 51 points
- Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 44 games played, 22-17-3-2, 49 points
- Hartford Wolf Pack: 45 games played, 19-17-3-6, 47 points
- Bridgeport Islanders: 45 games played, 19-18-7-1, 46 points
- WBS Penguins: 44 games played, 20-19-2-3, 45 points
Alex Nylander continues his perfect balance at the break, with 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points in 43 games to lead the team in goals and points. Valtteri Puustinen is in second, with 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points in 44 games. Drake Caggiula leads the team with 23 assists, and Jonathan Gruden sits third in goals with 12.
Dustin Tokarski, promoted back to Pittsburgh on Saturday, hits the break with a record of 9-7-4, a 2.31 GAA, and a .920 save percentage in 21 games. Filip Lindberg’s slide continues, hitting the break with a record of 6-10-1, a 3.20 GAA, and a .892 save percentage in 18 games. Taylor Gauthier holds a record of 5-2, a 2.44 GAA, and a .915 save percentage in 10 games.
The Week Ahead
Alex Nylander heads off to Laval for All-Stars starting Sunday night, February 5, with the Skills Competition at 6 pm EST, followed by the All-Star Challenge Monday night, February 6, starting at 7 pm EST. The All-Star festivities are available on NHL Network in the United States, TSN/RDS in Canada, and streaming on AHL TV around the world with no subscription required.
WBS gets back to work Friday, February 10, with a visit to Providence, start time 7:05 pm EST. Providence then follows WBS back home Saturday, February 11, start time 6:05 pm EST.