The Worcester Sharks went into Hartford looking to eliminate the bad taste in their mouths they got from losing a third period lead Wednesday in Portland, but the WorSharks instead took a second helping from the same plate when they coughed up another third period lead to drop a 3-1 contest to the Connecticut Whale Saturday night at the XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Hartford, Connecticut in front of a crowd announced at 9,166.
Tyson Sexsmith, who did everything but score a goal, was the hard luck loser for the WorSharks. And maybe WorSharks head coach Roy Sommer should have let him try to score as Worcester’s forward simply can’t put the puck in the net enough times to give the WorSharks a legitimate chance to win many nights. Worcester is 6th in the AHL in shots per game (32.51) and 23rd in goals scored (2.69). That’s a whole lot of pucks not going into the net.
Saturday night the WorSharks made Whale back-up goaltender Cam Talbot, who had lost his last five starts, look like Mike Liut with many shots that simply were not good enough to beat even a high school goalie. Talbot did have to make a handful of great saves, most of which came toward the end of the game when Worcester poured on the effort trying to get a game tying goal. But for the most part if was the WorSharks offense, or lack of one, that was the problem.
After a scoreless first period that saw the WorSharks outshoot the Whale 14-6 and Sexsmith making what may be the highlight save of the year on a Casey Wellman bid Worcester would get the opening goal of the game at 6:59 of the middle stanza when enforcer Jimmy Bonneau collected a Matt Irwin feed and skated down the right wing side. Bonneau was holding the puck looking for someone to pass to but with Worcester changing behind the play he was pretty much on his own, so with no better option available he flipped the puck on net, only to hit Whale defenseman Wade Redden. Bonneau was able to out-muscle Redden to backhand the puck out of the air and off the Whale’s other defenseman Sam Klassen. It then deflected over Talbot and just inside the crossbar for the 1-0 lead. Marek Viedensky had the second assist.
Despite Bonneau’s goal the period belonged to Sexsmith, who made 19 saves in the stanza and most of those were of the highlight variety. First Sexsmith stoned Tommy Grant on a breakaway bid, and then just after the Bonneau tally Sexsmith was forced to make several consecutive big saves on a couple bids by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and a point blank shot by Kris Newbury.
The third period began a lot like the second, with the Whale carrying the play and Sexsmith holding them at bay. Just when it looked like Sexsmith might steal the win for the WorSharks Connecticut would connect twice with the Worcester defense standing around to grab the lead. The Whale’s first goal was by Andreas Thuresson at 8:52, who banged a rebound of Grant’s shot past Sexsmith and into a yawning net after the WorSharks failed to pick Thuresson up in the slot. Just 57 seconds later Newbury gave the Whale the lead when he converted on a two on one rush that had the Worcester defense spinning in circles.
Worcester had a couple good chances late to tie it, the best being Jack Combs with a high quality bid right at the top of the crease, but Talbot was there to keep his team in the lead. With Sexsmith pulled for an extra attacker Connecticut was given a rare awarded goal when Tim Kennedy hauled Wellman down from behind in the neutral zone while on a breakaway for the 3-1 final.
Worcester’s scratches were Ben Guite (concussion), Tony Lucia (concussion), Sena Acolatse (facial injury), Frazer McLaren (groin), Curt Gogol (concussion), Cam MacIntyre (concussion), and Harri Sateri (healthy). Alex Stalock was the back-up goaltender, and he is expected to make the start for Worcester on Sunday in Springfield.
There were three transactions during the week, with Chad Costello being released from his PTO and sent back to Colorado (ECHL) and Ian O’Connor being signed to a PTO from Stockton (ECHL). This is O’Connor’s second stint with the WorSharks, although he didn’t get into any games in his first stay. He is from New Hampshire, and played four seasons for Providence College in Hockey East. In a slightly humorous tale, O’Connor’s mom couldn’t be at the game because she was in Stockton with plans to see O’Connor play for the Thunder in three games this weekend. Hopefully he’ll be around the east coast long enough for his family to catch him in a game. The third transaction was John McCarthy being reassigned from San Jose to Worcester yesterday. It’s unknown if he will be in the line-up Sunday.
It was another strong game for defenseman Matt Pelech, who has played with renewed vigor since his return to the blueline after a handful of game at forward. Pelech took on Jared Nightingale late in the opening period and won the battle with a fast beginning and some great counter punches late in the contest. Between the two quick Connecticut goals Pelech also destroyed Tommy Grant with a huge open ice hip check.
The three stars of the game were
1. CT – Newbury (gwg)
2. CT – Talbot (34 saves)
3. WOR – Sexsmith (35 saves)
The Sharkspage player of the game was Tyson Sexsmith.
Worcester 0 1 0 – 1
Connecticut 0 0 3 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Del Monte Wor (slashing), 10:03; Pelech Wor (fighting), 14:42; Nightingale Ct (fighting), 14:42.
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Bonneau 2 (Irwin, Viedensky), 6:59. Penalties-Sexsmith Wor (roughing), 2:08; Newbury Ct (hooking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:45; Moon Wor (hooking), 16:35.
3rd Period-2, Connecticut, Thuresson 11 (Grant, Redden), 8:52. 3, Connecticut, Newbury 19 (Deveaux), 9:49. 4, Connecticut, Wellman 17 (Audy-Marchessault, Valentenko), 19:23 (EN). Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Worcester 14-12-9-35. Connecticut 6-19-13-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 2; Connecticut 0 / 3.
Goalies-Worcester, Sexsmith 10-9-5 (37 shots-35 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 11-11-0 (35 shots-34 saves).
Referees-Jean Hebert (43).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (7), Jim Briggs (83).