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Wilkes-Barre Penguins eliminated from AHL playoffs

The Atlantic Division playoff field is set, after WBS was eliminated on Wednesday and helped to eliminate Bridgeport on Saturday.

Ty Glover celebrates one of his two goals Saturday at Bridgeport.

Wednesday, April 5: Charlotte 5 @ WBS 0

For all the offensive struggles the WBS Penguins as a team have had this season, there was still one thing they could say for themselves through 66 games. No one had been able to shut them out. They had been able to put at least one goal on the board every night.

That is, until Wednesday, when Charlotte came to town and WBS’s playoff hopes hung by a thread.

Checkers captain Zac Dalpe scored his 21st goal of the season just 90 seconds into the game, and that was all Charlotte would need as Jean-Francois Berube posted a 21-save shutout. Four other Checkers scored goals, as Charlotte posted the first clean sheet on the Penguins this season, 5-0.

The loss, combined with a Hartford overtime victory in Toronto on Wednesday night, meant that for only the fourth time in their 23-year history, the WBS Penguins will not qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Friday, April 7: WBS 1 @ Providence 3

WBS kicked off its final road trip of the season by welcoming Sam Poulin back to the gamenight lineup. Poulin had been granted a leave of absence from the Penguins organization since December 7 for personal reasons, but he announced his intent to return to the Penguins March 15. Friday marked his first game action since December 4.

Eduards Tralmaks opened the scoring for Providence at 19:42 of the second period with his 4th goal of the season. The goal was matched at 5:35 of the third period by Jami Krannila, who joined WBS April 4 on an amateur tryout following a four-year career at St. Cloud State. Kranilla’s power play goal was assisted by Jonathan Gruden and Ty Smith.

The Atlantic Division leaders wouldn’t go away quietly, though, as Vinni Lettieri scored his 21st goal of the season at 11:11 of the third. Shane Bowers then potted an empty netter with 22 seconds to go to clinch a 3-1 victory and continue their quest for the Atlantic’s top seed.

Providence goaltender Brandon Bussi continued his outstanding season with 36 saves on 37 WBS shots for his 21st win of the season. Dustin Tokarski’s losing streak reached five games after 22 saves on 24 shots.

Saturday, April 8: WBS 8 @ Bridgeport 2

WBS finished out the week with a visit to Bridgeport, where the Islanders were hanging onto their playoff lives not unlike the Penguins three nights earlier. In a game the Islanders could not afford to lose, the Penguins blew them away with a shocking outburst of offense.

Ty Glover opened the scoring at 2:31 of the second period with his 5th goal of the season. Ty Smith and Corey Andonovski provided assists.

Nathan Légaré made it 2-0 at 6:44 of the second with his 7th of the season, assisted by Valtteri Puustinen.

Bridgeport tried to respond, as Andy Andreoff scored his 34th goal of the season at 7:32 of the second to bring the Islanders back to 2-1. But WBS would not back down. Drake Caggiula scored just 27 seconds later to restore the two goal advantage. Jonathan Gruden and Sam Houde assisted on Caggiula’s 21st of the season.

Two minutes later, Légaré doubled his fun with his 2nd of the night and 8th of the season, with Josh Maniscalco and Puustinen assisting.

Not to be outdone, Glover also doubled his money at 14:50 of the second period to close out a five-goal middle session for the Penguins. Jamie Devane and Colin Swoyer assisted on Glover’s 6th goal of the season.

Glover’s second goal chased Bridgeport starter Cory Schneider from the game, but Jakub Skarek didn’t fare much better. Caggiula joined the two-goal party at 5:06 of the third with a power play goal, his 22nd of the season. Puustinen and Gruden assisted; for Puustinen, it was his third assist of the night.

Next up for WBS was the snake-bitten Kyle Olson, who finally scored his first goal of the season at 8:29 of the third to make it 7-1. Glover and Devane assisted.

After William Dufour scored his 21st of the season at 18:19 of the third, Josh Maniscalco closed the proceedings with his 2nd goal of the season at 18:55 of the third. Olson and Glover assisted.

The 8-2 victory, combined with Hartford’s 5-3 win over Providence and Lehigh Valley’s 4-3 win over Springfield on Saturday night, eliminated Bridgeport from playoff contention and clinched the Atlantic’s final four playoff spots for Springfield, Charlotte, Lehigh Valley, and Hartford.

Glover finished with two goals and two assists, good enough for the game’s top honors and the AHL’s second star of the night. Twelve different Penguins scored points. Taylor Gauthier finished with 25 saves on 27 shots for his 8th win of the season.

Atlantic Division standings, through the games of April 9:

  1. Hershey Bears (clinched first round bye): 69 games played, 43-17-5-4, 95 points
  2. Providence Bruins (clinched first round bye): 69 games played, 42-17-8-2, 94 points
  3. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (clinched playoffs): 69 games played, 37-26-3-3, 80 points
  4. Springfield Thunderbirds (clinched playoffs): 69 games played, 36-25-3-5, 80 points
  5. Charlotte Checkers (clinched playoffs): 69 games played, 36-25-5-3, 80 points
  6. Hartford Wolf Pack (clinched playoffs): 70 games played, 34-25-4-7, 79 points
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 69 games played, 32-29-7-1, 72 points
  8. WBS Penguins: 69 games played, 26-30-7-6, 65 points


Valtteri Puustinen’s three-assist night on Saturday elevated him to 56 points on the season (23 goals, 33 assists) through 69 games to lead the team. Drake Caggiula is second, with 22 goals and 29 assists for 51 points. Alex Nylander is third, still on 25 goals and 25 assists for 50 points after being shuttled back and forth from Pittsburgh. Then, it’s a 17-point drop to Filip Hallander and Tyler Sikura tied at 33 points.

Dustin Tokarski ends the week on a five-game losing streak, with a record of 12-15-6, a 2.61 GAA, and a .912 save percentage in 34 appearances. Taylor Gauthier improved to 8-3-6 with a 2.71 GAA and a .907 save percentage in 20 appearances.

The Week Ahead

WBS closes out its schedule by first heading to Laval tonight, Monday, April 10, to make up a game against the Rocket that was postponed just before Christmas due to weather. Puck drops at 7:00 pm EDT tonight. From there, it’s up to Hartford on Friday, April 14, puck drop 7:00 pm EDT. The season finale is Saturday, April 15, as WBS hosts Charlotte for Fan Appreciation Night at 6:05 pm EDT.