For the second time this season, a replacement opponent defeated WBS in Wilkes-Barre, then Syracuse continued its winning ways over the Penguins. WBS is on a three-game losing streak, with Hershey on deck and 10 games to go.
Friday, April 16:
Lehigh Valley Phantoms Binghamton Devils 6 @ WBS 3
The COVID-19 issues plaguing the Lehigh Valley Phantoms forced the Phantoms to postpone all three of their games this past week, including Friday’s contest in Wilkes-Barre against the Penguins. For the second time this season, WBS enlisted a replacement opponent to come to town to entertain the paying customers. This time, it was the Binghamton Devils, who agreed to come to town just 19 hours before they were scheduled to take on the Hershey Bears in Hershey.
Just as when Syracuse came to town on short notice to take on the Penguins and soundly defeated them, Binghamton did the same. WBS was actually up 2-1 in the second period of this game, on the strength of a Jon Lizotte short handed goal in the second period.
But Binghamton put three on the board in a four-minute span in the second through A.J. Greer, Nate Schnarr, and Kevin Bahl.
WBS brought the deficit back to 4-3 in the third period with a Josh Currie powerplay goal, but Ben Thomson’s goal just 52 seconds after that and Danick Martel’s empty-netter 38 seconds from full time sealed away the Devils victory 6-3.
The game marked the AHL debuts of goaltenders for both teams. For WBS, it was Tommy Nappier, signed on March 18 after a stellar four-year career at Ohio State. Nappier left Ohio State with the third-best save percentage in program history at .925 and the fifth-best goals against average at 2.31, but he conceded five goals on 21 shots in his pro debut to take the loss.
His opponent, Markeks Mitens, made his pro debut after four years at Lake Superior State University, leading the Lakers to the WCHA men’s ice hockey championship this past season and a berth in the NCAA men’s Frozen Four. Mitens earned third star honors in his debut, stopping 33 of 36 WBS shots in the winning effort.
Saturday, April 17: WBS 1 @ Syracuse 4
Following the replacement opponent game, WBS headed north to once again visit the Syracuse Crunch, and once again, Syracuse did not treat its visitors kindly. Only Tim Schaller could beat Syracuse goaltender Spencer Martin for his eighth goal of the season and second in as many games, as Martin turned away all 24 other shots he faced.
For the Crunch, it was the Otto Somppi Show, as Somppi scored two goals of his own (his fifth and sixth of the season) and assisted on the other two goals scored by the Crunch for a four-point night and top star honors. Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk added the other goals to give Syracuse their fifth straight victory over the Penguins this season and their 11th win in all contests.
For the Penguins in net, Alex D’Orio took the cage. In rather limited action (only 16 shots faced), D’Orio stopped only 13 of them to take his 2nd loss of the season.
Tim Schaller tallied his eighth goal of the season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who dropped a 4-1 decision to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night.— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 18, 2021
Postgame highlights are made available courtesy of the @PALottery - #PALottery #PennsylvaniaLottery pic.twitter.com/xciHPQqrcz
Tim Schaller’s two goals in the two games have propelled him to a tie for the team lead with Jordy Bellerive, who each have put eight on the board so far this year. Schaller’s six assists give him a total of 14 points in 22 games, tied with Nick Schilkey (5G + 9A) for the team lead in overall scoring. Bellerive’s four assists give him a total of 12 points, tied with Josh Currie (5G + 7A) for third place. Forward Jan Drozg also has five goals on the season in 20 games, one ahead of rookies Drew O’Connor and Felix Robert with four goals each.
As a team, the WBS Penguins finished the week with a record of 7-10-3-2 through 22 games, good for 19 points and a 432 points percentage. By points percentage, WBS is in sixth place. Idle Lehigh Valley leads the North in points percentage with .750, ahead of Hershey in second (.727), Utica in third (.607), Syracuse in fourth (.575), and Rochester in fifth (.500).
By points, Hershey’s 32 points in 22 games (15-5-2-0) lead the division, five clear of Lehigh Valley’s 27 points (12-3-2-1) with four more games played and nine clear of Syracuse’s 23 points (11-8-1-0) with two more games played. Rochester and WBS each have 19 points to tie for fourth, with Utica’s 17 and Binghamton’s 16 bringing up the rear.
The WBS power play is 2/8 against Binghamton but neither of its chances against Syracuse, resulting in a conversion percentage of 17.7% that is 15th in the league. The penalty kill conceded one to Binghamton but nothing to Syracuse, ending with a kill percentage of 84.0% that is seventh in the AHL and only 2.7 percentage points behind the leaders from Lehigh Valley.
The Week Ahead
Don’t look now, but with 22 games in the bag, there are only 10 games left in this abbreviated AHL season for the WBS Penguins. The season slate with Syracuse is finished; there are four dates with Hershey left on the Penguins’ schedule, three with Lehigh Valley, and three with Binghamton.
On deck this week is a pair with the division-leading Hershey Bears, starting with a visit to GIANT Center Saturday, April 24, starting at 1 pm EDT. Hershey then comes up to WBS on Sunday, April 25, for a 5 pm start, kicking off a stretch of WBS’s last five home games of the season in a seven-game stretch.