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WBS Weekly: Without Nylander, WBS drops three games to fall further behind playoff line

The WBS power play continues to shine, contributing 2 of WBS’s 3 goals this week, but WBS ends the week 7 points back of 6th place Bridgeport with 14 games to go.

The annual WBS Penguins St. Patrick’s Day jersey. WBS wore these jerseys for Saturday’s home game against Utica, and they will wear them again this Friday.

Wednesday, March 8: Toronto 3 @ WBS 1

The WBS Penguins entered the week hoping a four-game homestand would be the cure to their ails, but they entered the week minus their All-Star Alex Nylander. Through Pittsburgh’s various promotions and demotions of Nylander throughout the week, he was unavailable to WBS for all of their games this week. As a result, if the Penguins were to pull themselves out of the Atlantic Division basement, it would have to be at the hands of the other Penguins.

After a scoreless first period Wednesday against Toronto, Lukas Svejkovsky continued the red-hot streak of the WBS power play with his 3rd goal of the season at 3:26 of the second. Mitch Reinke and Tyler Sikura scored assists.

Toronto tied the game at 6:44 of the second through Jordie Benn’s 2nd of the season for the Marlies, then took the lead at 11:33 of the third through former Penguin Joseph Blandisi’s 12th goal of the year. Kyle Clifford scored his 5th of the year into an empty net at 18:11 of the third to salt away the 3-1 victory.

Toronto’s All-Star goaltender Joseph Woll was outstanding in net, stopping 31 of 32 WBS shots and improving to 15-1 this season for the Marlies. Dustin Tokarski stopped 22 of 24 Marlies shots, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Friday, March 10: Lehigh Valley 4 @ WBS 1

Next up was round 9 of the season between the Penguins and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Phantoms defender Ronnie Attard scored his 9th goal of the season at 3:37 of the first to lead all AHL rookie blueliners and put Lehigh Valley up 1-0.

WBS tied the game at 2:35 of the second on a power play, as Sam Houde posted his 11th goal of the season. Mark Friedman and Nathan Légaré recorded assists.

Just 25 seconds away from the end of the second period, Cooper Marody scored his 7th goal of the season for the Phantoms to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. The goal ended up being the game-winner, as Lehigh Valley fought off a 12-6 WBS shot advantage in the last 20 minutes and scored two empty-netters in the final minutes (Marody and Max Willman) to win 4-1. The Phantoms improved to 5-3-0-1 against the Penguins this season, with 3 more games to go.

Phantoms goaltender Samuel Ersson stopped 25 of 26 WBS shots for his 18th win of the season, while Dustin Tokarski once again stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced.

Saturday, March 11: Utica 4 @ WBS 1

Clad in their annual St. Patrick’s Day alternates, WBS hosted Utica to close out the week. Utica’s Simon Nemec opened the scoring at 2:37 of the first with his 8th goal of the season, which was matched by WBS captain Taylor Fedun at 3:46 of the first. Fedun’s goal, his 3rd of the season, was scored off a face off win by Tyler Sikura.

The second period and half of the third period proceeded scoreless, but Brian Halonen for Utica broke the tie with 7:23 to play with his 15th goal of the season. Utica expanded their lead to 3-1 at 16:08 of the third, as Graeme Clarke converted a turnover by Sam Houde into his 21st goal of the season. Joe Gambardella fired home his 9th goal of the season into an empty net at 18:45 of the third to finish off the 4-1 victory.

Utica’s Isaac Poulter stopped 24 of 25 WBS shots for his 4th win of the season in 8 appearances. Taylor Gauthier took the net for WBS on Saturday and stopped 25 of 28 shots in the losing effort.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of March 12

  1. Providence Bruins: 58 games played, 34-14-8-2, 78 points
  2. Hershey Bears: 57 games played, 34-16-5-2, 75 points
  3. Charlotte Checkers: 59 games played, 33-20-3-3, 72 points
  4. Springfield Thunderbirds: 58 games played, 31-21-2-4, 68 points
  5. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 59 games played, 31-22-3-3, 68 points
  6. Bridgeport Islanders: 58 games played, 27-23-7-1, 62 points
  7. Hartford Wolf Pack: 58 games played, 24-23-4-7, 59 points
  8. WBS Penguins: 58 games played, 23-26-4-5, 55 points


The WBS team leader in points, as long as Alex Nylander is in Pittsburgh, is Valtteri Puustinen with 47 (21 goals, 26 assists). Drake Caggiula is second with 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points. Filip Hållander is third, with 9 goals and 21 assists for 30 points.

Goaltender Dustin Tokarski ends the week with a record of 10-11-5, a GAA of 2.44 that ranks 7th in the AHL, and a .917 save percentage that ranks 6th. Taylor Gauthier ends the week with a record of 7-3-3, a GAA of 2.57, and a save percentage of .913 in 16 appearances.

The Penguins as a team are second to last in the AHL with 154 goals scored through 58 games, and of those, 46 are power play goals. At the time of this writing, the Penguins are 10th in the AHL in goals allowed, with 171. The white-hot power play ends the week at a 20.4% conversion percentage that ties for 13th in the AHL, while the penalty kill ranks 16th at 81.2%.

The Week Ahead

WBS faces a slate of 3 games in 3 days this weekend. First up is Rochester, who comes to town Friday, March 17, for a 7:05 pm EDT face off. WBS then hits the road Saturday, March 18, to visit Syracuse for a 7:00 pm EDT face off. WBS then heads to Lehigh Valley Sunday, March 19, for a 4:05 pm EDT scheduled face off.