The Baby Penguins play one game on Wednesday against rivals Lehigh Valley before taking Thanksgiving off and playing a home and home with Syracuse on Friday and Saturday. Pedan remains suspended and should be back for the 2nd game of the weekend against Syracuse. Wilson, Kostopoulos, Josephs are still out injured, and add DiPauli and Prow to that list. Sestito would also appear to be injured, but there hasn’t been any confirmation of that. Tiffels was recalled from Wheeling after putting together 7 points (3G, 4A) in 6 games down there while Corrado returns from the NHL Penguins.
Wednesday Night (11/22/2017)
Lehigh Valley (Home) – 4-3 Win
With all the injured players above out injured, Spionzzi and Tiffels are the only two healthy scratches with McGrath sliding onto the 4th line with Blueger and Johnson. WBS took a very early lead through the Dea line, who once again were flying. Aston-Reese applied a good forecheck, turning the puck over to Dea who did a drop pass to Haggerty who showed off some ridiculous hands to curl and drag Mark Alt and slide the puck past Lyon in the Lehigh Valley net. For the rest of the period, the Phantoms hammered the Penguins, going into the 1st intermission with a 16-5 lead in shots and a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard. The Baby Penguins came back out flying for the rest of the game and had a 33-17 lead in shots for the remaining 2 periods and potting another 2 goals through the Dea line with one for Dea and one for Haggerty (all 3 players were involved in all 3 goals, with ZAR picking up 3 assists on the night). Wilkes-Barre got the game winner through the line of Simon – Smith – Thomas, after Czuczman kept the puck in the Phantoms end and Simon set up Smith for a wrister from the slot. Unsurprisingly, DeSmith turned in yet another solid performance, saving 31 of 33 shots.
Friday Night (11/24/2017)
Syracuse Crunch (Away) – 5-2 Loss
Burton and McGrath take a turn out of the lineup as DiPauli returns from injury and Tiffels joins him on a line with Blueger for his first game since coming back from Wheeling. An awful first period was once again an issue for the Baby Penguins, going down 3-0 and giving up 14 shots in an abysmal 20 minutes along with the powerplay failing to convert on the 3 opportunities. A better 2nd period helped to cut the lead to 3-1 Syracuse through a ColinSmith powerplay goal, with WBS converting on only their 3rd powerplay goal in 33 powerplay attempts in the month of November. Another good play from Colin Smith to corral a bouncing puck and set up Simon on a quick 2 on 1 put the game to 3-2 with 6 and a half minutes to go. Ben Thomas, a winger for Syracuse, then took a boarding major 30 seconds later against the returning DiPauli, giving the Penguins a 5 minute powerplay and a great chance to tie the game up. However, the Penguins awful powerplay as of late let them down, failing to convert even once on the major, before conceding an empty netter to go down 4-2 with a minute left in the game. Syracuse then added insult to injury tagging on another empty netter as the Penguins had a late game powerplay opportunity turning into a 6 on 4 with DeSmith pulled ending the game at 5-2.
Saturday Night (11/25/2017)
Syracuse Crunch (Home) – 4-3 Loss
The only change from Friday night is Pedan returning from his suspension in place of Trotman. Otherwise, all the same. A fun first period with 2 goals a piece for Syracuse and WBS, with Tiffels scoring his first of his career to equalise against an early Syracuse goal and Blueger adding a 2nd to take a lead, with Johnson adding assists on both goals. Syracuse scored late in the first on the powerplay to tie it at 2. Despite a plethora of powerplay opportunities, WBS continued to struggle with the extra man and gave up 2 goals, including one shorthanded, for Syracuse to take a 4-2 lead going into the 3rd period. Corrado added his 2nd of the year, and the Penguins earned a PP opportunity with 4 minutes left in the 3rd to tie the game, but much like Friday night, they failed to cash in and fell to Syracuse for the 2nd time in 2 nights.
1) The point streak is officially over, finishing at 12 games with an 11-0-1 record. WBS have the depth and the talent to go on another similar tear if they respond to the weekend effectively. They’re an incredibly stacked team, and have the second-best record in the entire AHL next to the Toronto Marlies. If the two meet in the playoffs, it will be a barnburner of a series.
2) The Baby Penguins powerplay is just awful right now. In the month of November, they scored 3 goals on 40 powerplay situations, a percentage of 7.5%. With the amount of talent on the Penguins powerplay, there needs to be a significant up-turn in production if they intend to push for home seeding throughout the playoffs.
3) Talking of things going cold, Daniel Sprong has been colder than a brisk Amsterdam wind. After getting off a white hot start scoring 7 goals and 3 assists in his first 5 games, the next 12 games from Sprong have generated only 2 goals and 2 assists. As the powerplay has gone dry, so has Sprong, with his even strength scoring amounting to only 4 of his 9 goals this year. Sprong was recently the recipient of some new linemates, moving on from Johnson/Burton and Quinney to DiPauli and Blueger. It remains to be seen if that gives him better production, but his cold stretch is becoming a significant issue for the Baby Penguins.