The Worcester Sharks got multiple point tallies from four players in a night that saw 11 different WorSharks hit the scoresheet, and they needed just about every single one of them to overcome some shaky goaltending in route to upending the Portland Pirates 6-4 Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 2,984 very loud fans.
For most of the season Worcester has had to rely on solid goaltending as their offense doesn’t score many goals but Friday night the roles were reversed and the offense came to life to help bail out goaltender Tyson Sexsmith, who was not sharp at all. Curt Gogol would get things going on the opening shift of the game when he and Ryan Del Monte were behind the Pirates net fighting for a loose puck. Gogol was the one that came up with it, and he wheeled the net in an attempt to jam the puck home. Portland goaltender Justin Pogge didn’t hold his post and Gogol was able to bank it off Pogge and into the net 28 seconds into the contest.
A few moments later Matt Pelech, who has been arguably Worcester’s best defenseman as of late, had a great chance to make it 2-0 when he went coast to coast but just ran out of ice as he tried to muscle the Portland defense into the slot, and Pogge was able to turn aside the bid. Brandon Mashinter, who has been on fire as of late, would have better luck in front of the net at 12:43 with a bang-bang play set up by a nice effort by John McCarthy. Tim Kennedy took a draw in the right wing circle, and despite Worcester losing the face-off McCarthy was able to get to the loose puck in the corner and fire it on net. Pogge made the save but Mashinter picked the rebound out of the air and in for his third goal in two games.
Both of those goals were big because just 3:59 later Portland was back to even on two shots Sexsmith would likely want second chances on. At 13:42 Brett Sterling deflected Mathieu Brodeur’s blast from the blueline past Sexsmith and into the net. Sexsmith looked unprepared for the original shot, and as was a problem all night, seemed to be too deep in his crease. Exactly three minutes later Evan Bloodoff capitalized in the WorSharks inability to clear the puck from their own zone, and in a play that looked like Gogol’s tally Bloodoff wheeled the net and jammed the puck home when Sexsmith failed to hold the post.
With just under three minutes to go in the opening period Pelech would head to the penalty box for roughing after blowing up Jordan Szwarz just inside the Pirates zone. The hit looked high to this writer so there is a possibility Pelech could be hearing from the AHL after the weekend is over. Pelech would play a huge role in the WorSharks regaining the lead when he stepped out of the penalty box and joined an odd man rush into the Portland zone. Pelech was just ahead of the play and had to throw the brakes on to stay onside, and his back foot was just still on the blueline when Kennedy gained the line. With the defense having to worry about Pelech on the left wing Kennedy threw a nice pass to McCarthy on the right win, and McCarthy’s shot banked in off the far post with 37 seconds remaining in the period. Sexsmith, who had made a save earlier during the play in the Worcester zone, got the second assist on the tally.
When the second period began the Pirates replaced Pogge with recently acquired Peter Mannino, and the WorSharks welcomed him to the game with a four on four goal at 1:49 credited to Tony Lucia. Sena Acolatse had the original attempt on goal while Lucia was taken out of the play at the near post by the Pirates defense. With Lucia laying on the ice and the puck nowhere in site to most fans referee Jamie Koharski allowed play to continue, and all of the sudden the goal light went on as the puck was in the back of the net. Nathan Moon grabbed the second assist.
Moon would make it 5-2 WorSharks at 15:27 as the WorSharks swarmed the Pirates net. Pelech was the original shooter, again trying to jam the puck home after a rush from the blueline. Mannino held the post and the puck bounced into the left wing corner, where Jack Combs was able to retrieve it and throw a nice blind backhand pass into the slot. Moon was able to fight off his checker and deflect it into the net.
The later part of the second stanza got a little chippy, and at 16:50 Mark Louis decided to try and fire his team up by taking on Jimmy Bonneau. What ended up happening was Louis got pounded for his troubles as Bonneau earned the easy TKO victory in his 20th fighting major of the season. A few moments later Moon and Szwarz got together, but the linesmen jumped in before either could drop the gloves. Just before time expired in the period Matt Watkins took a run at Taylor Doherty, but the 6’7″ rookie would have none of it as he threw Watkins to the ice like a rag doll.
Former Sharks prospect Ashton Rome made things a little interesting at 2:45 of the third period with an unassisted tally after converting on a turnover in the WorSharks zone to get the Pirates to 5-3, but a McCarthy break in followed by a nifty drop pass by Mashinter allowed Kennedy to blast one by Mannino to make it 6-3 at 6:44. Rome would add a second tally at 16:59 to make it 6-4 to start WorSharks fans worrying a little. Those worries got a lot worse when Worcester was called for two consecutive late ticky-tack minors to put them down two skaters. Portland pulled Mannino to make it a full six on three advantage, but Sexsmith rose to the occasion with two nice saves–and more importantly, no rebounds–to keep it a two goal victory.
Scratches for the WorSharks were Ben Guite, Brian O’Hanley, Frazer McLaren, James Sheppard, Cam MacIntyre, and Andrew Murray. Sheppard was a health scratch due to some roster issues, although what those issues could be were unclear. Word from Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram is those issues should be resolved–one way or another–sometime today. Sena Acolatse, who is recovering from facial surgery, played but changed from a “bird cage” to a full face shield. Harri Sateri was the back-up goaltender.
Friday’s game likely would have had a much different outcome had the Pirates capitalized on even a few of the open nets they had. Several times give-and-go passes had a Pirates player facing a yawning net behind Sexsmith but in every single case they either couldn’t control the return pass or missed the net completely with their shots.
Unlike baseball where a pitcher can’t get a loss when he enters a game when his team trails, goaltender wins in hockey are based on who gives up the game winning goal. Pogge gave up three goals on 13 shots, but Mannino gave up Moon’s game winner so he gets saddled with the loss despite stopping 22 of 25 attempts.
In some Pirates news, they lost forward Marc-Antoine Pouliot to the Phoenix Coyotes when he was recalled prior to the game, forcing Portland to skate with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. That did turn out to be an advantage when blueliner Nathan Oystrick skated gingerly to the locker room with about seven minutes remaining in the opening period and did not return. Also, the Pirates reported on their site that Friday’s game was the 1,500th in franchise history. Counting overtime/shootout losses as ties Portland is 716-555-229 in their 19 AHL seasons.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – Kennedy (g,2a)
2. WOR – McCarthy (g,2a)
3. WOR – Gogol (g)
McCarthy was also the #2 Star of the Night in the AHL.
The Sharkspage player of the game was Brandon Mashinter.
Portland 2 0 2 – 4
Worcester 3 2 1 – 6
1st Period-1, Worcester, Gogol 5 (Del Monte), 0:28. 2, Worcester, Mashinter 15 (McCarthy, Kennedy), 12:43. 3, Portland, Sterling 24 (Brodeur, Miele), 13:42. 4, Portland, Bloodoff 4 (Hextall, Szwarz), 16:42. 5, Worcester, McCarthy 15 (Kennedy, Sexsmith), 19:23. Penalties-Irwin Wor (slashing), 4:32; Pelech Wor (roughing), 17:17; McArdle Por (interference), 19:58.
2nd Period-6, Worcester, Lucia 5 (Acolatse, Moon), 1:49. 7, Worcester, Moon 10 (Combs, Pelech), 15:27. Penalties-Kennedy Wor (high-sticking), 1:23; Watkins Por (goaltender interference), 13:17; Louis Por (fighting), 16:50; Bonneau Wor (fighting), 16:50; Szwarz Por (unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:55; Moon Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:55; Petrecki Wor (high-sticking), 17:55.
3rd Period-8, Portland, Rome 4 2:45. 9, Worcester, Kennedy 9 (Mashinter, McCarthy), 6:44. 10, Portland, Rome 5 (McArdle, Brodeur), 16:59. Penalties-Hextall Por (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:08; Kennedy Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:08; McCarthy Wor (slashing), 17:23; Kennedy Wor (tripping), 18:11.
Shots on Goal-Portland 13-11-18-42. Worcester 13-14-11-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Portland 0 / 6; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Portland, Pogge 13-12-3 (13 shots-10 saves); Mannino 4-6-0 (25 shots-22 saves). Worcester, Sexsmith 12-10-7 (42 shots-38 saves).
Referees-Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Bob Paquette (18), Brian MacDonald (72).