The Worcester Sharks, behind Riley Armstrong's first professional hat trick, defeated the Norfolk Admirals 5-1 in a fight-filled contest Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,174 fans.
Norfolk would grab their lone goal halfway through the first period after trapping the WorSharks fourth line in their own zone. As Worcester began to break down defensively, Chris Gratton fed Mike Lundin at the blue line for a one-timer that beat WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss clean to the glove side for the 1-0 lead.
Both Lundin and Gratton are playing in the AHL for the first time after stints in the NHL. Gratton has played 1,086 games over 15 seasons for six different NHL franchises, including three different stints with Tampa Bay, before being assigned to Norfolk on December 9th. Lundin had gone straight to the NHL from the University of Maine and played 106 games for the Lightning before being sent down on December 13th.
Worcester would get the equalizer on the power play at 18:58 of the opening period when defenseman Michael Wilson blasted a low slapshot to the far post that Admirals goaltender Mike McKenna handled easily. The rebound went right to the tape of Armstrong, who buried it to knot the game at 1-1.
With just six seconds left in the period and the teams lined up in the neutral zone for a face-off, Norfolk's Brent Henley and Worcester's Frazer McLaren began to jaw at each other. Just as the puck was dropped the two went at it, but the fight was cut short when Henley lost his footing just a few seconds into the struggle.
Not to be outdone, and while Steve Downie and Andrew Desjardins continued jawing at each other on the benches after almost dropping them in the previous shift, Brad Staubitz and Jay Rosehill dropped the gloves just two seconds after play resumed. It was a true main-event type battle, with each player landing several clean shots with both hands. Rosehill gets the edge because of a cut over the right eye of Staubitz, but without the cut the fight would have been just about dead even.
Downie would earn himself a ten minute misconduct from the bench during the fight.
Worcester hasn't gotten too many bounces going their way in the last month or so, but their number came up several times Friday night with each one resulting in a goal.
The first would happen 2:47 into period number two when a Desjardins feed would send Armstrong down the right side. Armstrong would put a fairly easy shot on McKenna, who deflected the rebound off to his left and behind the goal. Armstrong would get to the puck first and nearly fanned on the bouncing puck, getting just enough of the puck to get it moving toward the slot. As the puck bounced along it hit the back of McKenna's left skate, which had come off the post, and just over the goal line for the 2-1 lead.
Matt Fornataro would make it 3-1 on another odd bounce goal. Fornataro would fire a high blast that McKenna deflected with his blocker off the end glass. The puck would bounce directly back at McKenna, landing on top of the net. The puck would bounce off and hit McKenna in the back, rolling into the net.
Worcester would put the proverbial knife in the back of Norfolk with a shorthanded goal with just 34 seconds left in the second period. Greiss would send a lose puck over to Desjardins, who streaked down the right side. Desjardins threw a centering pass across the slot that a Norfolk defender just got a piece of. Ryan Vesce managed to get just enough of the puck on his backhand to propel it along the ice toward the net, where it banked off the right post and in for the 4-1 lead.
Armstrong would net his third of the game on the power play when he pounced on a lose puck and pushed it into the net from a scrum in front of the Norfolk net and with Riku Helenius, who had replaced McKenna to start the third period, down and out at 16:40 of the third.. The power play was a result of Helenius slashing Matt Jones in the head after Jones and Helenius collided while Helenius tried to make a save. Jones was uninjured.
With Norfolk down 5-1, it was only a matter of time before tempers flared again between the two teams. According to the scoreboard, it was "no time", as just as the linesman dropped the puck to begin play after the Armstrong goal, opposing centers Blair Jones and T.J. Fox went at, with Fox retreating to his blueline before standing his ground. Fox isn't a fighter at all, but he acquitted himself well in battle against his larger opponent.
It would take just five seconds for the next fight, and it was one that was definitely going to happen at some point. After the face off Downie slashed Desjardins, and they both dropped the gloves and began throwing bombs at each other. Downey is a much better fighter than Desjardins and got the better of the two early in the fight, but Desjardins got the sweater over Downey's head, and with the linesmen trying to separate them, landed shot after shot at the defenseless Downie.
Even with the linesmen trying to break up the altercation, neither player was willing to stop fighting. It took Admirals captain Zenon Konopka coming over to Downie to get him to stop fighting, and order was soon restored. Both Downie and Desjardins were given game misconducts.
Worcester would be on the power play for much of the games last 3 minutes with Norfolk being called for two minors in addition to Downey's slashing penalty. WorSharks fans were ready to jump out of their seats as Armstrong fired a slapshot at a yawning open net, but an absolutely incredible save by Helenius kept the score at its 5-1 final.
P.J. Fenton was the only healthy scratch for the WorSharks. The injury list remains unchanged, with Kyle McLaren (hand), Mike Morris (concussion), and Cory Larose (concussion) all on the injured list. Defenseman Derek Joslin was recalled to San Jose prior to the game, and winger Jamie McGinn was reassigned back to Worcester.
Former San Jose defensive prospect Ty Wishart was recalled to Tampa Bay Friday afternoon. Wishart and Matt Carle, along with draft picks, were traded to Tampa Bay for defenseman Dan Boyle. With Wishart's recall Norfolk dressed only 17 skaters, and had only four natural defensemen.
Worcester fans got a scare when Armstrong went hard into the end board heels first early in the third period. After being tended to by the training staff he had to be helped off the ice, and after a few moments of sitting on the end of the bench walked to the locker room under his own power. He missed a couple of shifts but returned no worse for wear.
Worcester finished the home portion of the four game series against Norfolk at 2-0, winning the first contest on November 16 by a 4-3 score. The two teams will play twice in Norfolk, on January 16th and 17th. Considering the two games at the DCU Center, those two games should be very physical affairs. Bookending those games are trips to Philadelphia and Hershey. That will be a very interesting four game stretch for the WorSharks.
Referee David Banfield had two pretty bad calls during the game. He called Armstrong for slashing at 16:28 of the first after Armstrong played a waist high clearing attempt and his stick hit a Norfolk Admiral forward in the arm. The only was that can be called a slash is if the referee thinks it's not a play at the puck. That fact Armstrong hit the puck should have made his intention clear. He also called Claude Lemieux for tripping after Lemieux knocked a puck carrier over with his shoulder.
The three stars of the game were
1. Armstrong (hat trick)
2. Vesce (g,a)
3. Greiss (27 saves, assist)
My ballot was Armstrong, Vesce, and Desjardins (3a)
Because of the scrum in front of the net on what was Armstrong's third goal it was initially unknown who scored the goal, so no hats were thrown on the ice. When he skated on the ice after being announced as the game's first star, several hats rained down on the ice in celebration.
Even Strength Lines
Traverse, Buckley, Demers, and Wilson all played in various combinations.
Penalty Kill Lines
Power Play Lines
Faceoffs (offense/nuetral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Zalewski 2-3/3-2/0-1 = 5-6
Dasjardins 1-3/3-4/1-0 = 5-7
Vesce 3-1/1-1/3-3 = 7-5
Fox 0-1/2-0/1-0 = 3-1
Fornataro 0-0/0-1/1-0 = 1-1
Lemieux 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Vesce 0-0/0-1/2-1 = 2-2
Zalewski 0-0/3-0/2-1 = 5-1
Power Play Lines
Vesce 1-2/0-0/0-0 = 1-2
Armstrong 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Zalewski 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1
NOR 1 0 0 - 1
WOR 1 3 1 - 5
Scoring - 1. Norfolk, M. Lundin (1) (C. Gratton, B. Henley) 13:25, 2. Worcester, R. Armstrong (11) (M. Wilson, L. Kaspar) 18:58 PP
Penalties - R. Armstrong Wor (hooking) 0:32, G. Potulny Nor (high-sticking) 16:23, R. Armstrong Wor (slashing) 16:28, B. Henley Nor (fighting) 19:54, F. McLaren Wor (fighting) 19:54, S. Downie Nor (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct 75.4) 19:56, J. Rosehill Nor (fighting) 19:56, B. Staubitz Wor (fighting) 19:56
Scoring - 3. Worcester, R. Armstrong (12) (A. Desjardins, B. Westgarth) 2:47, 4. Worcester, M. Fornataro (2) (R. Vesce, P. Traverse) 14:37, 5. Worcester, R. Vesce (11) (A. Desjardins, T. Greiss) 19:26 SH
Penalties - L. Kaspar Wor (holding) 18:04
Scoring - 6. Worcester, R. Armstrong (13) (A. Desjardins, C. Lemieux) 16:40 PP
Penalties - M. Moore Wor (roughing) 5:35, Z. Konopka Nor (tripping) 5:46, C. Lemieux Wor (tripping) 6:43, M. Curadeau Nor (hooking) 11:58, R. Helenius Nor (slashing) 15:36, B. Jones Nor (fighting) 16:40, T. Fox Wor (fighting) 16:40, S. Downie Nor (slashing, fighting, game misconduct - persisting a fight 47.5) 16:45, A. Desjardins Wor (fighting, game misconduct - persisting a fight 47.5) 16:45, C. Lawrence Nor (slashing) 17:31, Z. Konopka Nor (hooking) 18:17
NOR Shots: 9 12 7 TOTAL: 28
WOR Shots: 11 8 12 TOTAL: 31
Power Play Conversion
Norfolk Admirals 0-5. Worcester Sharks 2-6.
McKenna 6-8-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 39:58 SV: 15 GA: 4 [L]
Helenius 0-0-0 Start: 3rd 0:00 Min: 20:00 SV: 11 GA: 1
Greiss 10-9-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:56 SV: 27 GA: 1 [W]
Attendance : 3174. Referee: David Banfield (44). Linemen: Bob Bernard (4), Chris Millea (33)