Friday, March 1: WBS 2 @ Providence 1 (SO)
Only two games for the WBS Penguins this weekend, but the first of those games was possibly their most crucial of the season to date, as they visited the Providence Bruins, currently holding the fourth playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. WBS opened the week in sixth place, and this game presented them with a prime opportunity to make up some ground.
The starting goaltenders, Tristan Jarry for WBS and Zane McIntyre for Providence, were each perfect through the first 40 minutes, with Jarry stopping 21 Bruins’ shots and McIntyre fending off all 17 WBS’s attempts through the first two periods. It came down to WBS’s star defender, Ethan Prow, to open the scoring in the early seconds of the third period.
After 21 saves in the first two periods, to have that shot beat McIntyre for the first goal could have broken the Bruins entirely, but to their credit, they did not fold. McIntyre stopped the remaining 13 shots he faced in the third period, and Providence’s very large defender Chris Breen tied the game at 5:46 of the third to break Jarry’s shutout attempt.
The game went to overtime, which WBS dominated in shots 9-2, fueled mostly by a power play late in OT on which they were unable to convert. The two sides went to a shootout, with Jarry stopping the attempts of Paul Carey and Lee Stempniak and WBS getting shootout goals from Ben Sexton…
…and Joseph Cramarossa to win the game 2-1.
Interestingly enough, Cramarossa’s winner was only his third shootout attempt of the season. All have been goals, and all have clinched shootout wins for WBS.
Jarry finished with 34 saves on 35 shots for the win, with McIntyre finishing with 39 saves on 40 shots in the losing effort.
The newly arrived Chris Wideman, acquired at the trade deadline last Monday for Jean-Sebastien Dea and assigned to WBS, was given third star honors for assisting on Prow’s goal. Chris Breen was given second honors for his goal, with top honors going to Sexton for also assisting on Prow’s goal and scoring in the shootout.
Saturday, March 2: WBS 3 @ Hartford 4 (OT)
WBS started out their second and final game of the weekend at Hartford with a bang, as Joseph Blandisi scored his 14th of the season just 1:27 into the game.
The quick start was snuffed out as quickly as it began though, as Hartford rattled off the next three goals through Ryan Gropp, Ty Ronning, and John Gilmour to take a 3-1 lead early in the second period. Hartford would see that lead through to the end of the second period, leaving WBS with a two-goal hill to climb to avoid undoing the progress towards the playoffs they achieved the night before.
The Penguins managed to climb that hill through Sexton’s sixth of the year just 39 seconds into the third period…
…then through Jimmy Hayes’s 10th goal of the year on a power play with just 2:38 to go.
Despite being gifted another power play just after converting one, WBS could not convert again, which came back to bite the Penguins in a huge manner when Gropp scored his second of the night and seventh of the season just 22 seconds into OT to give the Wolf Pack the extra point 4-3.
Jarry took the start again in net and saved 28 of 32 shots in the losing effort, while his counterpart Brandon Halverson stopped 31 of 34 shots for the win. Blandisi added an assist to his goal for third star; Hartford’s Gilmour finished with two assists alongside his goal for second honors; Gropp’s two goals, including the game-winner, were enough for top honors.
The overtime loss gave the WBS Penguins a record of 27-22-6-2, good for 62 points and a points percentage of .544. Prow now leads the Penguins outright in scoring, with 16 goals and 25 assists in 56 games; Prow is third in the AHL in goals scored among defenders, and he is tied for fourth in scoring among the AHL’s defenders. Among forwards, Adam Johnson leads the team with 16 goals and 19 assists, with Blandisi (14 goals, 21 assists for all teams), Ryan Haggerty (15 and 15), and Sam Lafferty (eight and 22) also above 30 points.
Jarry has lowered his GAA to 2.69 at week’s end, with a record of 17-10-6 and a save percentage of .913. Among the AHL’s goalies, Jarry is tied for 18th in GAA, 14th in save percentage, and tied for 15th in wins.
The Atlantic Division standings through March 3, 2019:
- Charlotte Checkers: 59 games played, 38-14-6-1, 83 points (best in AHL)
- Bridgeport Sound Tigers: 60 games played, 35-18-5-2, 77 points (9-0-1 in last 10)
- Hershey Bears: 58 games played, 32-22-1-3, 68 points
- Providence Bruins: 59 games played, 29-21-7-2, 67 points
- Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 58 games played, 28-24-3-3, 62 points (25 regulation or OT wins to win the tiebreaker over WBS)
- WBS Penguins: 57 games played, 27-22-6-2, 62 points
- Springfield Thunderbirds: 59 games played, 24-24-6-5, 59 points
- Hartford Wolf Pack: 60 games played, 24-27-6-3, 57 points
At the end of last week, WBS’s magic number to clinch the playoffs was 46, with Providence the team to watch in fourth place. Providence dropped three points this weekend, losing to WBS to open the week, then losing in regulation at Springfield 4-2 on Saturday before defeating the Thunderbirds 5-2 on Sunday. Combine the three dropped points with the three points earned by WBS on the weekend, and the Penguins’ magic number to clinch the playoffs drops to 40, with Providence having a maximum possible final score of 101 points, WBS 39 points below that at 62, then adding one to overcome losing the regulation/overtime win tiebreaker.
WBS will not have a chance to make up its extra games on Hershey, Providence, or Lehigh Valley, the three teams in front of it and within realistic range for playoff standing, this week. Hershey goes on the road for two games at Providence and one at Hartford in three days this weekend. Providence will welcome Springfield in on Sunday to close out its own three in three. Lehigh Valley visits WBS on Wednesday, then hosts Charlotte for two games on the weekend, one on Friday and one on Sunday.
As for the Penguins, they return home for a three-game home stand this week, hosting Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, March 6, then hosting Hartford on Friday, March 8, then Syracuse on Saturday, March 9, all 7:05 p.m. EST starts.