Rookie Sharks lose to Canucks 5-3 in second game of Vancouver Prospect Tournament, face Edmonton tonight
The Sharks rookie team ran into a hot goaltender in 6-foot-4 Eddie Lack Monday night in Penticton, British Columbia. Instead of building a four goal lead as they did a night earlier against Anaheim, a younger San Jose squad was forced to battle back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period. Leigh Salters and defenseman Nick Schaus scored to bring their team within one, but speedy Vancouver defenseman Chris Tanev and Pierre-Olivier Morin scored to effectively put the game out of reach. Schaus added his second goal of the game late en route to a 5-3 loss to Vancouver.
Inserted into the lineup by Worcester Sharks head coach Roy Sommer, forwards Zach OBrien, Leigh Salters, Michael Sgarbossa, Cam Braes, Samuel Finn, Daniel “Rudy” Erlich, defenseman Justin Braun, Nick Schaus, German Konrad Abeltshauser, and a standout in last year’s rookie games and training camp Joe Loprieno all made their first appearances. After backing up J.P. Anderson Sunday, Thomas Heemskerk made his first start of the tournament.
The game began with more than it’s share of agitation, including 3 first period fights. The San Jose and Vancouver rookies combined for 25 penalties, 8 fighting majors and 76 total penalty minutes. Aaron Volpatti dropped the gloves with defenseman Joe Loprieno 2:13 into the first period, Sharks tryout Curt Gogol had his second fight in as many nights against defenseman Taylor Ellington. 1:01 later, 6-foot-3 Kevin Henderson drove the net and 6-foot-4 defenseman Sawyer Hannay took umbrage and got pummeled for his efforts, and in the second period 6-foot-6 Tayler Jordan and 6-foot-4, 225-pound Leigh Salters dropped the gloves in a semi-heavyweight tussel. Fighting is a part of the game, and it can keep opponents in check when appropriate. In the short rookie tournament window, prospects looking to fill that role have to showcase their skills whether the moment calls for it or not. 4,200 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre did not seem to mind the early hostilities.
The Canucks opened the scoring on the rush with Alex Friesen firing a cross ice pass to Matt Fraser for a one-timer. “(Friesen) found me, and it was pretty easy from there.” Fraser told Canucks TV after scoring his first goal of the tournament. “I wanted to get a shot on net, the biggest thing from there was not to miss the net and have the puck run out of the zone.” The 6-foot-2, 207-pound tryout registered 32 goals, 56 points, and 117 penalty minutes with Kootenay of the WHL last year before earning a brief 2 game stint with Peoria in the AHL. “Undrafted, drafted or free agent, everyone is here to make an impression,” he said. In edition to his 11 fights in the WHL last year, he was also named the league’s Humanitarian of the Year after raising $14,000 for a local hospital.
The Sharks rookies did not have success getting pucks on net early against the Swedish goaltender Lack. They were outshot 10-7 in the first period, and often did not have enough traffic in front to create quality scoring chances. “It comes down to just getting in front of the goalie, he is playing great,” defenseman Justin Braun said during the first intermission. Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel compared Eddie Lack to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in style and personality, and through the early stages of the game that held true. San Jose’s Philip Varone made excellent use of his speed to create a scoring chance from behind the net, and fan-favorite Daniel Erlich made a hard cut around a defender to snap a shot on goal before being flattened. Lack was all over both opportunities, and he swallowed up a third quality redirection attempt from Kevin Henderson later in the first.
Down 1-0 and with Vancouver carrying the play, Sharks were lacking a little bit of composure towards the end of the period. OHL center Michael Sgarbossa (Barrie/Saginaw) upended Stefan Schneider with a borderline check just inside the zone. Sgarbossa took out the legs of Schneider and sent him flying, the techincal hockey term being ass over teakettle. Sgarbossa was given two minutes for kneeing at 18:42, and Freddie Hamilton was also given a roughing call in the post-fight scuffle. A hit to energize the team and provide life on the bench is good. A borderline hit that could injure the opponent and draw two minor penalties, not so much.
Sgarbossa would be a constant thorn along the boards and in front of the net, and his temperment and drive were noted. At the start of the second period, he tried to deke around defenseman Kevin Connauton, but could not pull off the move. Lanky forward Marek Viedensky pulled down a player in front of the Canucks net, drawing another penalty 54 seconds into the middle frame.
One of the Sharks big German defenseman, 6-foot-3 Dominik Bielke, made an excellent block on the subsequent penalty kill. “A lot of Germans have made their first steps in the NHL through the Sharks,” 6-foot-5 Konrad Abeltshauser told SJsharks.com. “I want to be the next one to make that step in ‘the show’”.
The list of German-drafted alumni in the Sharks organization is a long one (Marco Sturm – Dingolfing, Marcel Goc – Calw, Christian Ehrhoff – Moers, Dimitri Patzold – born in Kazakhstan, moved to Germany, Patrick Ehelechner – Rosenheim, Kai Hospelt – Koln, Thomas Greiss – Koln, Timo Pielmeier – Deggendorf, Dominik Bielke – Berlin, Konrad Abeltshauser – Bad Tolz). It was an easy decision for the NHL to schedule a San Jose exhibition game against Alder Mannheim of the Deutscher Eishockey Liga (DEL) on October 2nd. It will bring Sharktoberfest to Germany during the height of beer drinking season. Two German league exectutives mentioned to this blog that the profile of the sport is small but growing across Germany, but it is very big in the Bavarian region. The exhibition will take place 6 days before the Sharks kick off the season against Columbus with a pair of NHL Compuware Premiere games at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
On the ice, the game went from bad to worse for the Sharks prospects. A power play earned on a Pierre-Olivier Morin cross check lasted all of 4 seconds when Cam Braes took a slashing call. An end-to-end rush by speedy Vancouver defenseman Chris Tanev set up the next goal for Aaron Volpatti. Two Sharks released Tanev through the neutral zone, and Nick Schaus tried but could not cover the pass on the 2-on-1. 4-on-4, Volpatti punched the puck out of the air to beat Thomas Heemskerk. The momentum shift was palpable, as the top Canucks line of Morin-Schroeder-Sweatt pinned the Sharks deep in their zone and created several scoring opportunities.
Heemskerk made a quality save on a Schroeder-Sweatt 2-on-1 late in second, but another quick Vancouver rush set up the third goal. With his back to the boards in the neutral zone, right wing Kellan Tochkin fed Aaron Volpatti a soft pass in stride. Volpatti blew into the Sharks zone with speed, and snapped a shot home to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead after two periods.
San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was asked by Canucks TV’s Kristin Reid about replacing captain Rob Blake for 2010-11. “I don’t think we do (replace a Rob Blake) individually, we have to do it collectively. There won’t be one person that steps up and assumes his role,” McLellan said. “The six defenseman that play on a nightly basis are going to have to eat up his minutes and compensate for his experience, maybe even more importantly his leadership skills. The ability he had in the locker room to lead some of the younger players, and even some of the older veterans, was enormous.”
McLellan was also asked about the success of the Chicago Blackhawks, and whether other NHL teams will try to emulate them. “I thought Chicago played with as much speed as anyone in the game. A lot of us have big, strong physical teams, but they were a little quicker. Not necessarily skating-wise, but with their puck movement. They passed very well,” McLellan said. “Their young players elevated their game at a time in the season when it was very important. The Bolland’s, the Byfuglien’s, the superstars were there but those other guys really elevated their game and led them to the victory.”
After a pretty impressive fight in the second period, Leigh Salters ran over defenseman Adam Polasek to start the third. Results are important in a 5-team tournament, but the hockey staffs are also looking at how individuals and teams respond to different situations. Down 3-0 with the Canucks prospects rolling, the Sharks started trying to chip away at the lead shift by shift. ““I think it shows a lot of moxie. When you’re down 3-0 you wonder, as a coach and as an organization, how everyone would come out. But, no one quit,” Worcester Sharks head coach Roy Sommer told SJsharks.com.
The Sharks would get on the board with two early third period goals on the power play. Defenseman Justin Braun hammered a shot from the point that was deflected past Eddie Lack by Salters. Salters would finish the game an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick. After matching penalties on Kevin Henderson and Taylor Ellington, resulting from yet another drive to the net, Nick Schaus scored the first of his two goals on the night at 2:54. Schaus beat Lack far side with a blast from the point, assisted by Abeltshauser.
Vancouver stemmed the tide with goals by Chris Tanev (PP) and Pierre-Olivier Morin, but the Sharks rookie prospect squad was holding their own and carrying the play during stretches in the final 20 minutes. Both teams registered 18 shots after two periods, but in the third San Jose outshot Vancouver 20-9 trying to even up the game. Schaus scored his second goal of the game at 11:09, but with the final minutes ticking down goaltender Thomas Heemkerk was pulled for an extra attacker. Matt Fraser took an ill-advised tripping penalty, giving the Sharks a 6-on-4 advantage in the final two minutes.
Kevin Henderson was tossed from a key offensive zone faceoff, but Varone earned a clean faceoff win and drew the puck back to his defense. Nick Schaus torqued a big point shot on goal which was smothered by goaltender Eddie Lack. Another clean faceoff win by San Jose, another enormous point shot on goal by Schaus. A third straight win, another big point shot from the Sharks defense. Finally the Vancouver rookies got a body down on the ice in front of the Sharks blueline, and the seconds ticket off the clock for a 5-3 Canucks win.
The San Jose Sharks rookies faceoff against the Edmonton Oilers prospect squad tonight at 7:30PM (PT). A live broadcast of the game will be available at youngstars.insinc.com. Anaheim will meet Vancouver today at 4PM. The Oilers are the only undefeated team in the tournament at 2-0. 2010 NHL Entry Draft first overall selection Taylor Hall is expected to suit up for Edmonton against San Jose tonight. Goaltender J.P. Anderson is expected to start for the Sharks. The main San Jose Sharks NHL training camp will open Friday, September 17th.
[Update] Ed Willes: San Jose Sharks a perennial winner except come playoff time – Vancouver Province.