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WBS Weekly: Penguins roar back to life for a playoff push

A three-goal comeback on St. Patrick’s Day sparked WBS to a five-point weekend, leaving the Penguins four points out of the playoffs with 11 games left.

Penguins forward Jonathan Gruden leans in for a faceoff Friday night against Rochester, sporting this year’s St. Patrick’s Day jersey.

Friday, March 17: Rochester 4 @ WBS 5 (SO)

The WBS Penguins opened a three-game weekend by welcoming the Rochester Americans to town for St. Patrick’s Day. The weekend started out very badly for WBS, as the Amerks scored three goals in a 6:06 stretch of the first period to take a 3-0 lead.

Jonathan Gruden, returning to the lineup for his second game since February 18, scored his 13th goal of the season for WBS at 17:45 of the first to bring WBS back to 3-1. Mitch Reinke and Valtteri Puustinen recorded assists.

Drake Caggiula brought WBS back to within 3-2 at 18:53 of the second period with his 15th goal of the season on a power play. Tyler Sikura and Reinke recorded assists.

Defender Peter DiLiberatore completed the comeback at 11:46 of the third with his 2nd goal for WBS since his acquisition at the trade deadline. Lukas Svejkovsky and Caggiula recorded assists.

Just 19 seconds after DiLiberatore’s goal, Justin Addamo put WBS ahead 4-3 with his 3rd goal of the season, assisted by Sam Houde and Taylor Fedun.

Rochester’s Jeremy Davies stopped the bleeding at 14:04 of the third with his 11th goal of the season to tie the proceedings at 4. Nothing else was scored in regulation or overtime, leading to a shootout.

Goaltenders Dustin Tokarski for WBS and Malcolm Subban for Rochester tied each other through regulation in overtime, with each recording 31 saves on 35 shots. Happily for the home side, Tokarski prevailed in the shootout with three saves, while Ty Glover scored this beauty in round 2 of the shootout to give WBS the extra point.

Saturday, March 18: WBS 3 @ Syracuse 4 (OT)

Next up for WBS was a visit to Syracuse to mark 21 years and a day after the most infamous night in WBS history: The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre. Several times during the game on Saturday, it looked as though the two sides wanted to replicate some of the nastiness of that night, with several post-whistle scrums and two fights in the second period.

As far as the scoreboard, Justin Addamo opened the scoring with his second goal in as many nights and 4th of the season at 7:38 of the first. Ty Glover and Taylor Fedun scored the assists.

Syracuse quickly responded, as Lucas Edmonds scored his 12th goal of the year at 10:58 of the first to tie the game at 1.

In the second period, sandwiched between the two fights, Tyler Sikura scored his 8th goal of the season at 12:45 to give WBS a 2-1 lead. Filip Hållander, returning to the lineup after a two-week absence, recorded his 22nd assist of the season on the goal.

Syracuse responded again in the third period, as former Penguin Felix Robert and Trevor Carrick scored 35 seconds apart to put the Crunch ahead 4-3 at the 4:32 mark of the third.

WBS wouldn’t concede, though, as Hållander scored his 10th goal of the season at 11:42 of the third to tie the game at 3. Lukas Svejkovsky and Tyler Sikura recorded assists.

The game eventually went to overtime, and seconds after WBS killed off an ill-advised Jonathan Gruden cross-checking penalty in the extra session, it was Declan Carlile who was able to poke home a loose puck in front of the WBS goal with goaltender Taylor Gauthier out of position.

Syracuse goaltender Hugo Alnefelt took the win with 23 saves on 26 shots, while Gauthier finished with 25 saves on 29 shots.

Sunday, March 19: WBS 5 @ Lehigh Valley 2

After two wild, back-and-forth games, WBS closed out their weekend with a decisive performance in Lehigh Valley against their longtime rivals. Drake Caggiula opened the scoring just one minute into the game with his 16th goal of the season, assisted by Valtteri Puustinen and Jonathan Gruden.

Caggiula doubled his fun at 1:04 of the second with a shorthanded goal, his 17th of the season. Jack St. Ivany and Gruden got in on the assists.

Lehigh Valley nearly got onto the board early in the second, but this play was eventually called back for goaltender interference.

The Phantoms did get on the board at 17:58 of the second through Jackson Cates’s 11th goal of the season, but Jonathan Gruden scored his 14th of the season at 19:23 of the second to restore the two-goal lead. Caggiula scored his 3rd point of the game and 28th assist of the season on the play.

Justin Addamo made it 3 straight games with a goal at 15:06 of the third to put WBS up 4-1. His 5th goal of the season was assisted by Jack St. Ivany and Colin Swoyer.

Bobby Brink responded just 18 seconds later with his 8th goal of the season for Lehigh Valley to bring the Phantoms back to within 4-2, but Filip Hållander closed out the proceedings with an empty net goal at 19:14 of the third to clinch a 5-2 victory.

Dustin Tokarski turned in a strong performance, stopping 36 of 38 Phantoms shots for his 12th victory of the season. Lehigh Valley’s Samuel Ersson finished with 25 saves on 29 shots in the losing effort.

Atlantic Division Standings, through the games of March 19:

  1. Providence Bruins: 61 games played, 37-14-8-2, 84 points
  2. Hershey Bears: 60 games played, 37-16-5-2, 81 points
  3. Charlotte Checkers: 61 games played, 35-20-3-3, 76 points
  4. Springfield Thunderbirds: 61 games played, 32-22-2-5, 71 points
  5. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 62 games played, 31-25-3-3, 68 points
  6. Bridgeport Islanders: 61 games played, 28-25-7-1, 64 points
  7. Hartford Wolf Pack: 61 games played, 26-24-4-7, 63 points
  8. WBS Penguins: 61 games played, 25-26-5-5, 60 points


What an offensive outburst for WBS this weekend, with 13 goals on the board over 3 games. Valtteri Puustinen leads active WBS players at week’s end with 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists). Drake Caggiula’s five-point weekend brings him up to 17 goals and 28 assists for 45 points. Jonathan Gruden is up to 14 goals, Filip Hållander is up to 11, and Sam Houde also has 11 to fill out the double-digit goals club. Hållander also has 22 assists to end the week third among active Penguins in scoring with 33points.

Dustin Tokarski’s record at week’s end is 12-11-5, with a 2.47 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Tokarski’s GAA is tied for ninth in the AHL among qualified goaltenders, while his save percentage ranks sixth in the league. Taylor Gauthier’s overtime loss on Saturday drops him to 7-3-4 with a 2.65 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 17 appearances.

The Week Ahead

Next up for WBS is a three-game homestand, starting Saturday, March 25 at 6:05 pm EDT with another matchup against Lehigh Valley. Then it’s a big one on Sunday evening, March 26 at 5:05 pm EDT, as one of the teams WBS is chasing for the playoffs, Hartford, comes to town.