The Worcester Sharks opened their home slate of games Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts with a huge opening ceremony to mark the start of their seventh campaign, but it was the Albany Devils who controlled the ice during the game as they swept in and captured a 4-0 victory to spoil the WorSharks home opener and send many of the sellout crowd of 6,659 home early.
The WorSharks would get the first power play of the game at 5:30 of the opening period, but it was Albany that would have the best chance in those two minutes. It took a nifty save by Worcester goaltender Harri Sateri to keep the Devils off the board. Worcester had no good chances on their power play, and soon after with a delayed penalty against the WorSharks being signaled and Team Teal getting caught running around in their own end the puck ended up on the stick of Harri Pesonen standing all alone about 15 feet out in front of Sateri. Pesonen saw Adam Henrique skating out of the right wing corner all alone to make it two attackers against the lone goaltender, and Pesonen threw a nice pass to Henrique that he tipped just inside the near post for the 1-0 Devils lead at 8:53. To add further insult, it was a slash that had knocked Henrique’s stick out of his hands that was the delayed call.
Worcester best bid came about halfway through the stanza when newcomer Jon Matsumoto skated through the Albany defense and put a video game quality deke on Devils netminder Keith Kinkaid, but the puck just flipped on edge before Matsumoto’s backhand attempt and the puck went inches high over the crossbar. That miss would loom large as Albany would connect at 14:20 of the period for their first power play goal on the season when Pesonen tipped a booming slapshot from Bobby Butler past Sateri.
It was another case of “one pass too many”, something that’s already happening far too often this season for the WorSharks, that set up the Devils third goal. Rookies Travis Oleksuk and Yanni Gourde broke into the Devils zone on a two on one but fumbled pass attempts back at each other instead of either one taking a shot, and Albany recovered the puck and broke back all nearly all 200 feet for a scoring chance of their own. Jacob Josefson was the player to take the shot for the Devils about 15 feet out just inside the right wing circle, and the puck broke through Sateri and just inches over the goal line at 15:39.
After Sena Acolatse drew a boarding minor early in the third period fans were hoping that would begin a late comeback bid, but again Worcester fumbled an extra pass attempt that sent the Devils breaking into the Worcester zone where Josefson notched his second of the game at 4:13 to make it a 4-0 Albany lead. A couple of minutes later defenseman Nick Petrecki took exception to a clean hip check thrown against him by Tim Sestito and started pounding away. When Alexander Urbom skated over to defend Sestito Brandon Mashinter one-punched him to the ice. Both Petrecki and Mashinter earned double minor roughing penalties–Petrecki also received a well deserved 10 minute continuing altercation misconduct–which killed any chance of a miracle comeback.
Ironically, it was while two men down that Worcester looked its best, with John McCarthy and Matt Pelech each blocking shots and Sateri coming up big with a couple nice saves.
Things got a little chippy late in the contest after former WorSharks captain Jay Leach cross checked Freddie Hamilton twice in the back in front of the Devils bench. Pelech came over to defend his rookie teammate while Leach held on for his life wanting no real part of fighting Pelech. Leach received an extra minor for the cross check, but referee Jon McIsaac gave Pelech a game misconduct for leaving the bench to start an altercation. It looked to this writer that Pelech was already on the ice when the cross check happened. In the closing seconds Worcester defenseman Mikael Tam and Albany forward Joe Whitney looked interested in making acquaintances, but the linesmen jumped in to break the pair up.
The WorSharks scratches were Jimmy Bonneau, Taylor Doherty, Curt Gogol, James Livingston, Daniil Tarasov, Brodie Reid, and Marek Viedensky. Bonneau has now served all eight games of his suspension that carried over from last season and could be in the line-up Friday against Bridgeport. Gogol and Tarasov have yet to see action for Worcester. Alex Stalock was the back-up netminder.
The WorSharks power play has been pretty bad so far this season, going a woeful 0-9 and giving up a goal on the power play Saturday night while converting on just three of 23 in their four games. Their two shorthanded goal allowed so far tie them for worst in the AHL. Worcester’s penalty kill is also near the bottom of the league as the WorSharks are averaging giving up a goal a game while shorthanded.
Worcester had 14 players that finished the game at (-1). Danny Groulx, Frazer McLaren, and Nick Petrecki were all even. Mikael Tam finished the game (-2). The only WorSharks skater that has played in all four games that is even or better is Tim Kennedy (even).
Being shut out usually ends player point scoring streaks, but Worcester has a player with a two game point streak still intact–goaltender Alex Stalock. Yes, you read that correctly. Stalock now has six career assists for the WorSharks, which is the team record for points by a goaltender. Stalock entered the season tied in that category with Thomas Greiss at four.
Telling stat of the game: Groulx, Kennedy, Freddie Hamilton, Bracken Kearns, and Yanni Gourde combined for no shots on goal. Now add to that John McCarthy, Brandon Mashinter, and James Sheppard each having just one. You can’t have a total of three shots from the players considered your “offensive weapons” and expect to win.
For any that may have missed it, the WorSharks game at Providence originally schedule for Sunday (10/21) has been rescheduled for Friday, March 1. The way Worcester is playing, that’s probably a good thing.
The three stars of the game were
1. ALB – 35 Keith Kinkaid (30 save shutout)
2. ALB – 10 Jacob Josefson (2g)
3. ALB – 18 Harri Pesonen (g,a)
The Sharkspage player of the game was Jon Matsumoto.
Even strength lines
Albany 2 1 1 – 4
Worcester 0 0 0 – 0
1st Period-1, Albany, Henrique 1 (Pesonen, Anderson), 8:53. 2, Albany, Pesonen 1 (Butler, Larsson), 14:20 (PP). Penalties-Henrique Alb (hooking), 5:30; Groulx Wor (holding), 12:37; Leach Alb (cross-checking), 18:29.
2nd Period-3, Albany, Josefson 1 (Whitney, Larsson), 15:39. Penalties-Larsson Alb (boarding), 2:14; Leach Alb (hooking), 8:10; Henrique Alb (delay of game), 17:31; Gourde Wor (holding), 18:10; Josefson Alb (hooking), 19:29.
3rd Period-4, Albany, Josefson 2 (Sestito), 4:13 (SH). Penalties-Stalberg Wor (closing hand on puck), 0:17; Sislo Alb (boarding), 4:02; Mashinter Wor (roughing, roughing), 6:33; Petrecki Wor (roughing, roughing, misconduct – continuing altercation), 6:33; Sislo Alb (hooking), 9:15; Leach Alb (cross-checking, fighting), 14:05; Pelech Wor (fighting, game misconduct – leaving the bench), 14:05; Whitney Alb (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:06; Tam Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:06.
Shots on Goal-Albany 9-8-10-27. Worcester 8-14-8-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Albany 1 / 6; Worcester 0 / 9.
Goalies-Albany, Kinkaid 1-1-0 (30 shots-30 saves). Worcester, Sateri 0-1-1 (27 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Jon McIsaac (45).
Linesmen-Ed Boyle (81), Todd Whittemore (70).