The Worcester Sharks bussed six hours west right after Friday night’s debacle against Manchester to take on the Hershey Bears Saturday night in the Keystone State, and for most of the game skated stride for stride with the cream of the crop in the AHL but still needed a late extra attacker goal to send the game into overtime and a shootout where the WorSharks only scored once but goaltender Tyson Sexsmith stopped all seven Bears attempts against him to lead his team to a 3-2 victory at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania in front of 10,739 fans for head coach Roy Sommer’s 500th career AHL victory.
The Bears and WorSharks are one/two in the American Hockey League in penalty minutes, so there was little doubt the game would be physical and that special teams would play a huge roll. It took just 4:21 for the rough stuff to begin, although checking the boxscore it looks like just a “too many men” minor on Hershey. What it really happened was after a big Matt Pelech hit Bears tough guy Joel Rechlicz jumped over the boards to go after Pelech. Referee Chris Brown chose to ignore why Rechlicz was on the ice and instead assigned the bench minor.
The next time Rechlicz and Pelech were on the ice things were a little different as Rechlicz skated over to Pelech in the corner to the left of Sexsmith and crosschecked the defenseman in the face when Pelech indicated he wasn’t interested in fighting as Worcester was rushing the puck up ice. The two did drop the mitts, and inexplicably referee Brown just gave Rechlicz an extra minor for high sticking instead of the match penalty Rechlicz deserved at 9:12. This writer is positive the WorSharks will be sending the tape of that incident to the AHL for review.
While the AHL is reviewing the circumstances that lead up to the first fight they will also be looking at the Boyd Kane boarding major that led to fight number two. In the same corner as the first incident Kane skated up behind WorSharks forward Curt Gogol and drove the rookie head first into the glass like he was trying to drive a spike through the pane. Jimmy Bonneau skated right over to Kane and never gave him the chance to drop the gloves as Bonneau unleashed several hard shots as the two went to the ice almost on top of Gogol. Kane received a double major and a game misconduct while Bonneau got a fighting major and a roughing minor instead of what looked to be an obvious instigator minor. Gogol eventually skated off on his own but did not return.
After is was all said and done the WorSharks ended up with a rare three minute major power play, and Jack Combs would connect for his tenth of the year in just 23 games with Worcester. The WorSharks had rotated around so that Chad Costello was at the right point, and his shot on goal was saved by Bears netminder Dany Sabourin. Worcester crashed the net, with Nathan Moon being the first to it and he put it back on net. The rebound of that shot was in the pile of players in front, where Combs calmly reached out to collect it and with his feet behind the goal line to the right of the net threw a tough angle shot between Sabourin and the post that lit the lamp at 17:09.
Hershey has the best power play in the AHL, and they showed why on their first chance when Taylor Doherty was in the penalty box for an automatic delay of game minor for flipping the puck over the glass in the defensive zone. The Bears swarmed all over the Worcester zone, twice blocking clearing attempts. The second time turned out to be the killer when Chris Bourque picked off Mike Moore’s clearing attempt and fired it back on goal, beating Sexsmith high blocker side and just under inside the corner at 18:52.
The second period saw Bonneau and Rechlicz duke it out at 2:52 of the period, with Bonneau landing a couple of good shots but Rechlicz getting the overall edge in the battle. After the fight Rechlicz threw his elbow pad at the Worcester bench, although he was saved a potential misconduct by referee Brown’s “boys will be boys” attitude. The fight was the WorSharks 82nd on the season, setting a team record in just 46 games. The period saw Hershey get three power play chances, but thanks to Sexsmith and the crossbar the score was still 1-1 after two periods.
The two teams would exchange power play chances in the first half of the third period, with the WorSharks generating the better of the chances on their try but both Sabourin and Sexsmith kept the game even with key saves. When Taylor Doherty was sent off on a double minor for high sticking at 10:16 WorSharks fans had premonitions of what was to come next, but again Worcester came up big skating a man down and kept the Bears from taking the lead.
When you play a team as offensively gifted as the Bears the one thing you can’t do is turn the puck over deep in your own zone, but the WorSharks did just that late in the third period and Hershey made them pay for it when Kyle Greentree fired a puck from between the face-off dots that Sexsmith saved and thought he had control of. He didn’t, and Cody Eakin batted the puck from behind Sexsmith into the net at 17:59 to give Hershey a 2-1 lead.
Worcester threw everything they had at the Bears trying to get the equalizer, and caught a break when Mike Carman was called for a tripping minor late in the period. Sommer called his timeout and sent six skaters into the Bears zone for the face-off, and while it likely wasn’t as he drew it up Tim Kennedy made sure the result was the same at 18:44. Kennedy cleanly won the draw back to Moore, who passed it along the blueline to Matt Irwin. His blast went wide of the net but Combs, who really plays well behind the goal line, gathered the lose puck and fired it through the crease and a maze of players right to Kennedy all alone in the low left circle. Kennedy had all 24 square feet to shoot at and didn’t miss. Moore is credited with the second assist but the video shows it should be Irwin’s.
The two teams would go to overtime where Combs had the best chance, but his backhander missed a yawning net from a bad angle. The shootout would go to a seventh round scoreless when Brodie Reid would finally beat Sabourin, and when Sexsmith made the save on Patrick McNeill’s attempt the WorSharks departed on another six hour bus ride home, only this time in a much better mood than the last one.
Worcester scratches were Ben Guite, Tony Lucia, Brian O’Hanley, Frazer McLaren, and Cam MacIntyre. Hopefully Curt Gogol will not be an addition to that list. Harri Sateri was the back-up netminder.
Roy Sommer juggled his lines after Friday’s loss to Manchester. How they went out in Hershey at even strength was:
It’s tough to tell who butchers names more, the intermission sports guy on WTAG or the Hershey PA announcer. Both were not even close sometimes on easy ones. It’s inexcusable.
The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – Reid (shootout game winner)
2. HER – Sabourin (the losing goalie in a shootout gets 2nd star? Really Hershey?)
3. HER – Bourque (g)
The Sharkspage player of the game is Jack Combs.
Worcester 1 0 1 0 – 3
Hershey 1 0 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Combs 10 (Moon, Costello), 17:09 (PP). 2, Hershey, Bourque 23 18:52 (PP). Penalties-served by Mink Her (bench minor – too many men), 4:21; Pelech Wor (fighting), 9:12; Rechlicz Her (high-sticking, fighting), 9:12; Bonneau Wor (roughing, fighting), 12:54; Kane Her (major – boarding, fighting, game misconduct – boarding), 12:54; Doherty Wor (delay of game), 18:11.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Bonneau Wor (fighting), 2:52; Rechlicz Her (fighting), 2:52; Moore Wor (interference), 7:02; Moon Wor (clipping), 16:37.
3rd Period-3, Hershey, Eakin 10 (Greentree, Micflikier), 17:59. 4, Worcester, Kennedy 4 (Combs, Moore), 18:44 (PP). Penalties-Petrecki Wor (tripping), 4:59; Collins Her (slashing), 7:59; Doherty Wor (double minor – high-sticking), 10:16; Carman Her (tripping), 18:37.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Worcester 1 (Costello NG, Mashinter NG, Kennedy NG, Combs NG, Irwin NG, Connolly NG, Reid G), Hershey 0 (Bourque NG, Micflikier NG, Eakin NG, Potulny NG, Greentree NG, Mitchell NG, McNeill NG).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 13-10-5-3-1-32. Hershey 6-11-7-0-0-24.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 2 / 6; Hershey 1 / 6.
Goalies-Worcester, Sexsmith 10-8-5 (24 shots-22 saves). Hershey, Sabourin 10-7-3 (31 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86).
Linesmen-Francis Trempe (56), Jud Ritter (34).