The Worcester Sharks were bloodied, both literally and figuratively, early in the contest but stormed back with four second period goals en route to a 5-2 win that sent the Bridgeport Sound Tigers home feeling like they were the ones beaten up Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 5,023 fans.
After a long trip home following a loss in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania Saturday night the last thing the WorSharks wanted to do was fall behind early Sunday, but as has happened far too often this season Worcester surrendered the opening goal when Tony Romano’s centering feed deflected toward the top of the circle to the right of WorSharks netminder Harri Sateri. Sound Tigers defenseman Matt Donovan fired the puck on net and past a screened Sateri at 2:53 of the opening period.
Following a shift where Bridgeport enforcer Trevor Gillies was giving WorSharks center Ben Guite “the business” at every opportunity Frazer McLaren jumped off the bench in a line-change and went after Gillies. It was a one sided battle at 7:08 with Gillies pounding McLaren to the ice and cutting him across the nose. As both Gillies and McLaren were the sixth skaters on the ice for their respective teams there is a chance for supplementary discipline from the AHL.
Just 24 seconds later Bridgeport agitator Micheal Haley jumped Worcester captain Mike Moore from behind, and in the ensuing battle bloodied Moore’s nose. Haley got an extra minor out of the deal and headed to the penalty box to serve his seven minutes. Moore went off to the WorSharks locker room for repairs and then into the sin bin to serve his remaining time, but with no stoppage in play between the end of Moore’s major and Haley’s extra time both players left the box at the same time. Despite repeated warnings to the linesmen from both penalty box attendants Moore and Haley went right back at it with Moore getting the better of the second battle. Both were given fighting majors and game misconducts, and face potential six game suspensions for fighting while leaving the penalty boxes.
A couple of minutes later Brodie Reid would get into the first fight of his pro career when he and Tyler McNeely dropped the gloves in the WorSharks zone, with Reid getting the edge in the battle. In a scary moment, as both players tumbled to the ice a skate cut linesmen Brian MacDonald’s left hand and a significant pool of blood appeared on the ice before he could be skated off to the Worcester dressing room for repairs. As if any proof was needed that the officials often need to be as tough as the players MacDonald rejoined the other officials on the ice to start the second period after being stitched up.
During a power play early in the second period the WorSharks appeared to tie the game when John McCarthy’s shot beat Bridgeport goaltender Kevin Poulin and looked to enter, and pass through, the Sound Tigers goal. But because neither referee saw the puck enter the goal nor did the goal judge turn the light on play continued despite the WorSharks–and a couple of Bridgeport players–looking around wondering how the puck hit the endboards. Despite repeated urging from the Worcester bench none of the on-ice officials went to the net to see if there was a hole in the back the puck may have passed through. While the AHL does not use instant replay to determine goals it is being tested in one AHL city for potential use next season. In an odd irony, the city where the test is being held is Bridgeport.
There was no question at all that Brandon Mashinter’s shot was a goal a couple minutes later when he beat Poulin just inside the far post at 4:41. Sena Acolatse started the play with a nice outlet pass to Guite, who then threw an easy pass over to Mashinter that the forward ripped on goal. While Mashinter’s goal was being announced Bridgeport carried the puck into the WorSharks goal, but McCarthy caused a turnover and sent James Livingston rushing down the right wing side toward the Sound Tigers end. Livingston made a self pass off the right boards and skated past the defense, picking the puck up at the halfboards and beating Poulin through the five-hole from the low right circle at 5:09.
Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson pulled Poulin in favor of Anders Nilsson and that stemmed the tide for a short while, but the WorSharks were on a roll and never took their foot off the gas. Nilsson made a couple of nice saves to keep his team within a goal, but had no chance on Tony Lucia’s bid at 16:03. Tim Kennedy started the play by bringing the puck into the Sound Tigers zone, and while he turned back to find a trailer Lucia went straight to the goal. He stood there totally uncovered for over five seconds until Taylor Doherty saw him all alone at the top of the crease. Doherty put a shot on goal that Nilsson saved but Lucia was able to backhand the rebound over Nilsson and into the net.
It would get even worse for Bridgeport when Nilsson couldn’t get to his feet after the goal due to an ankle injury and Poulin had to go back in. Only no one could find Poulin, who had stormed off to the locker room in such a manner that had DCU Center security in the area dodging flying equipment. Just before referee Chris Cozzan was going to force the Sound Tigers to take their timeout Poulin skated through the player gate and took his position.
Recently signed Sebastian Stalberg showed why San Jose went after him quickly on the collegiate free agent market at 17:56 with an NHL-quality goal to make it 4-1 Worcester. After Mashinter rushed the puck down the left wing side he threw a back pass to Ryan Del Monte, who them spotted Stalberg racing into the zone from the bench. Stalberg accepted the pass, and while he was calming the puck skated right to the high slot to find a clear shooting lane. His laser of a wrist shot beat Poulin to become the sixth WorSharks player in team history to score in his first game with the team.
In the third period Bridgeport would make it interesting with a shorthanded goal by Sean Backman at 10:57, but Sateri and the WorSharks defense would hold to keep the Sound Tigers at bay the rest of the game. Kennedy would add an empty net goal at 19:21, with a head’s up assist by Matt Irwin, for the 5-2 final.
Scratches for the WorSharks were Jack Combs, Jimmy Bonneau, Nick Petrecki, Marek Viedensky, Cam MacIntyre, and Andrew Murray. Tyson Sexsmith was the back-up netminder.
More on the McCarthy shot that appeared to pass through the net…WorSharks beat writer Bill Ballou went to the goal judge between the second and third periods, and the goal judge claimed the puck hit the post and went wide. Sharkspage talked to several fans sitting on that side of the arena, to include a handful of Bridgeport fans, and not a single one of them thought the puck did anything but go through the net. Ballou has some more information on the situation here. The big issue this writer has about the situation is none of the four on-ice officials went to the net to check for a hole. To me that is inexcusable.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – Mashinter (g,a)
2. WOR – Livingston (g)
3. WOR – Stalberg (g)
The Sharkspage player of the game is Tim Kennedy
Bridgeport 1 0 1 – 2
Worcester 0 4 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Bridgeport, Donovan 8 (Romano, Cox), 2:53. Penalties-Gogol Wor (slashing), 3:21; Gillies Bri (fighting), 7:08; McLaren Wor (fighting), 7:08; Haley Bri (roughing, fighting), 7:32; Moore Wor (fighting), 7:32; DiBenedetto Bri (holding), 10:28; Haley Bri (fighting, game misconduct – leaving penalty bench), 14:47; Moore Wor (fighting, game misconduct – leaving penalty bench), 14:47; McNeely Bri (fighting), 16:23; Reid Wor (fighting), 16:23; Guite Wor (goaltender interference), 18:34; Frischmon Bri (hooking), 19:42.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Mashinter 16 (Acolatse, Guite), 4:41. 3, Worcester, Livingston 6 (McCarthy), 5:09. 4, Worcester, Lucia 7 (Doherty, Kennedy), 16:03. 5, Worcester, Stalberg 1 (Del Monte, Mashinter), 17:56. Penalties-Landry Bri (tripping), 0:59; Stalberg Wor (tripping), 6:37.
3rd Period-6, Bridgeport, Backman 6 (Frischmon), 10:57 (SH). 7, Worcester, Kennedy 10 (Irwin, Pelech), 19:21 (EN). Penalties-Ness Bri (interference), 7:10; Katic Bri (slashing), 9:29; Ness Bri (interference), 12:03; Reid Wor (interference), 12:10; Guite Wor (goaltender interference), 17:35; Rakhshani Bri (goaltender interference), 18:30.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 10-6-19-35. Worcester 17-18-10-45.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 0 / 5; Worcester 0 / 8.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 17-16-3 (38 shots-35 saves); Nilsson 15-8-2 (6 shots-5 saves). Worcester, Sateri 12-12-0 (35 shots-33 saves).
Referees-Chris Cozzan (18), Geno Binda (22).
Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Todd Whittemore (70).