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WBS Weekly: Penguins lose three third-period leads in four nights

Providence, Lehigh Valley, and Syracuse turned third-period comebacks to send the Penguins further to playoff elimination.

Defender Ty Smith warming up on Saturday night in a special Old Forge Pizzas jersey
Screenshot taken from AHL TV

Wednesday, March 29: Providence 4 @ WBS 3 (SO)

The WBS Penguins welcomed defender Ty Smith back to the lineup for his first game since February 18 as the Atlantic Division-leading Providence Bruins came to town. After not scoring in his previous 12 games, Valtteri Puustinen opened the scoring on Wednesday night with his 22nd goal of the season at 13:20 of the first, assisted by Jonathan Gruden and Drake Caggiula. For Caggiula, it was his 30th assist of the season for WBS.

Just 49 seconds later, Tyler Sikura made it 2-0 with his 9th goal of the season. Taylor Fedun and Smith recorded the assists.

Just 25 seconds later, though, Providence’s Samuel Asselin scored his 7th goal of the season to bring the game back to 2-1.

After a scoreless second period, Luke Toporowski scored his 13th goal of the season at 4:51 of the third to tie the game at 2. Georgii Merkulov and Justin Brazeau recorded assists.

Puustinen gave WBS a 3-2 lead at 5:43 of the third with his 2nd of the night and 23rd of the season, assisted by Smith and Caggiula.

Once again, Providence was able to tie the game in the third period. This time, it was Fabian Lysell who fired home the equalizer, his 13th goal of the season, at 9:05 of the third.

Neither side was able to break the tie in the third period or overtime, requiring a shootout. Standout Providence goaltender Brandon Bussi stopped the attempts by Ty Glover, Smith, and Sam Houde, while Lysell was able to beat WBS goaltender Dustin Tokarski to give the Bruins the extra point.

Bussi finished with 21 saves on 24 shots and the win, while Tokarski stopped 28 of 31 shots in the losing effort.

Friday, March 31: WBS 2 @ Lehigh Valley 4

The tweet says it all…that’s Michigan State’s Jagger Joshua, the University of Denver’s Justin Lee, and Pittsburgh’s #21 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft Owen Pickering all making their WBS debuts as the Penguins concluded their 2022-23 schedule with Lehigh Valley.

Drake Caggiula opened the scoring at 8:12 of the first period with his 19th goal of the season, assisted by Valtteri Puustinen and Jonathan Gruden.

Lehigh Valley’s Tyson Foerster tied the game at 17:14 of the first with his 20th goal of the season on a power play.

In the second period, Ty Smith returned to the goal column with a power play goal, his 5th of the season, at 13:27 of the second period. Puustinen and Tyler Sikura provided assists.

Once again, WBS took a lead into the third period, and once again, they were unable to hold it. The Phantoms utterly dominated the third period, not allowing a WBS shot for the first 18:25 of the final session and getting goals from Jordy Bellerive and Bobby Brink (2) to win 4-2 and take the season series from the Penguins 7-4-0-1.

Phantoms goaltender Samuel Ersson stopped 17 of 19 WBS shots for the win, while Dustin Tokarski stopped 25 of 28 shots in the loss.

Saturday, April 1: Syracuse 4 @ Old Forge Pizzas 3 (OT)

To close out the week, WBS went with a bit of whimsy, rebranding themselves the Old Forge Pizzas to pay tribute to the “Pizza Capital of the World”, Old Forge, PA. The initiative was the first in a five-year series of tributes the Penguins are rolling out to honor various towns and boroughs within Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Drake Caggiula continued his hot streak with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 16:12 of the first, his 20th goal of the season.

Former Penguin Felix Robert tied the score at 16:31 of the second with his 18th goal of the season on a power play, only to see Ty Smith score a power play goal in his 2nd straight game at 17:39 of the second to give the Pizzas the 2-1 lead. Smith’s 6th goal of the season was assisted by Tyler Sikura.

For the third straight game, the Pizzas took a lead into the third period. On this night, they expanded on the lead, with Sam Houde scoring his 12th of the season at 2:07 of the third off assists from Corey Andonovski and Nathan Légaré.

However, the Pizzas fell victim once again to a third period comeback, this time engineered by the all-time leading goal scorer in Syracuse Crunch history, Alex Barré-Boulet. Barré-Boulet scored at 9:38 of the third to tie the Crunch record at 107, then he scored again at 16:12 to set the all-time mark and force overtime.

Barré-Boulet then finished off a four-point night by providing the secondary assist on the game-winning goal by Phil Myers, his 7th of the season. The assist moved Barré-Boulet to 53 helpers on the season, which is second only to T.J. Tynan of Ontario.

Crunch goaltender Max Lagace stopped 18 of 21 shots for the victory, while Taylor Gauthier stopped 29 of 33 shots in the Pizzas’ losing effort.

Atlantic Division standings, through the games of April 3

  1. Hershey Bears (clinched playoffs): 66 games played, 41-16-5-4, 91 points
  2. Providence Bruins (clinched playoffs): 66 games played, 40-16-8-2, 90 points
  3. Springfield Thunderbirds: 66 games played, 36-23-2-5, 79 points
  4. Charlotte Checkers: 66 games played, 35-23-5-3, 78 points
  5. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 67 games played, 35-26-3-3, 76 points
  6. Hartford Wolf Pack: 67 games played, 31-25-4-7, 73 points
  7. Bridgeport Islanders: 66 games played, 31-27-7-1, 70 points
  8. WBS Penguins: 66 games played, 25-28-7-6, 63 points


Valtteri Puustinen remains the team leader in points after two goals and two assists this week, ending with 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points in 66 games. Drake Caggiula ranks second after his own two goal, two assist week, with 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points in 60 games. With Alex Nylander still promoted to Pittsburgh, the next two players on the scoring list are Filip Hållander and Tyler Sikura, tied with 33 points.

Dustin Tokarski ends the week with a record of 12-13-6, a GAA of 2.55, and a save percentage of .914. His GAA ranks 11th in the AHL, while his save percentage ties for 7th. Taylor Gauthier finishes the week with a record of 7-3-6, a GAA of 2.75, and a save percentage of .906 in 19 appearances.

As a team, the Penguins are tied with Henderson for second-worst in the league at week’s end with 178 goals forced in 66 games, only 7 goals better than the league’s worst goal-scoring team in San Diego. At 201 goals allowed, the Penguins are tied with Charlotte for 12th best in the league.

The Week Ahead

With the playoffs falling further out of range, the Penguins will host Charlotte on Wednesday, April 5, start time 7:05 pm EDT. From there, WBS takes their final road trip of the season, visiting Providence Friday, April 7 at 7:00 pm EDT, then visiting Bridgeport Saturday, April 8, also at 7:00 pm EDT.