The Worcester Sharks finally put together a full 60 minute effort on both ends of the ice and behind multiple point nights by Tim Kennedy, Bracken Kearns, and John McCarthy defeated the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 5-1 Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts for their first victory of the season.
Despite the opening 20 minutes being scoreless it was undoubtedly the best period of the season, at least until that point, for the WorSharks. Without several big saves in the first period from Bridgeport netminder Kevin Poulin Worcester could have easily blown the Sound Tigers right back to the Nutmeg State, but the real improvement for the WorSharks was in their own end. The shot totals say Bridgeport had five in stanza, but none were great scoring chances and were easily turned aside by goaltender Alex Stalock. Several other scoring chances were lost by Bridgeport as they were separated from the puck by Worcester blue liners, lead by Nick Petrecki who leveled at least four different Sound Tigers before the game was even 10 minutes old.
With Jimmy Bonneau suiting up for the first time in this campaign after serving an eight game suspension that carried over from last season fans figured it wouldn’t take too long for him to get back into the swing of things, and after a face-off in the neutral zone at 6:45 of the first period Bonneau found a willing dance partner in Brett Gallant. It was a spirited bout–hometown scoring gives the edge to Bonneau–after which both players exchanged sort of a “high five” while being separated by the linesmen.
During the first intermission, despite the obvious improved play by the WorSharks, several different fans were grumbling how this was looking a lot like games of last season where the WorSharks would control play for huge stretches of the contest only to fall behind when luck broke in the other direction. It took just 29 seconds of the middle period to put them at ease a little bit when Kennedy beat Poulin to the blocker side. The play began with McCarthy leading a three on two rush down the left wing side into the Bridgeport zone. McCarthy hit Sena Acolatse, who had joined the rush up the center of the ice, with a nice pass at the Sound Tigers blue line and as the defenseman crashed the net he continued the puck over to Kearns on the right wing side. Kearns fired a pass back to McCarthy just inside the left circle, where the Captain spotted Kennedy trailing the play. An easy pass over to his line mate followed by a nice wrist shot to the far post lit the lamp for Worcester.
Worcester would get a couple of power play chances, including one called against Sound Tigers defenseman Nathan McIver for throwing a check to the head of diminutive forward Yanni Gourde that was the correct call despite no real damage being done, but it was Bridgeport having the best chance over that span when Colin McDonald ripped one that beat Stalock to the glove side. But luckily for the WorSharks the puck found all iron and bounded away harmlessly. Unluckily for McIver it was Frazer McLaren that found him soon after McIver got out of the box, and after just a few seconds McIver gave up the battle after appearing to be injured by a McLaren punch. McIver went off to the locker room and did return to the penalty box before his time expired, although he did not play in the third period.
Soon after there was a scary moment when Bridgeport forward Kirill Kabanov skated over to the Sound Tigers bench obviously injured and the coaching staff started yelling at the on ice officials to stop play so Kabanov could be removed from the ice to seek medical treatment. At the DCU Center the access to the visitor’s locker room is not behind the player’s bench but is instead across from the Zamboni entrance, so play needed to be stopped to get him off the ice. At the time details were sketchy as to what happened, although spectators sitting behind the WorSharks net–the net on the Bridgeport bench side–were all calling the injury serious. Since the game ended a video was popped up that appears to show Petrecki inadvertently cut Kabanov’s right hand/wrist area with his skate as Kabanov was falling to the ice. There was no official word from the Sound Tigers last night, but sources are saying Kabanov was taken by ambulance to St Vincent Hospital, which is directly across from the DCU Center, for treatment.
A few moments later the WorSharks would make it 2-0 when Bridgeport got caught watching two Worcester forwards exchange passes from behind the Sound Tigers net. Kennedy and Kearns both touched the puck twice during the exchange, and as neither was well marked by the defense each had plenty of time to make a good play with the puck. After Kennedy’s second return pass to Kearns he went right to the front of the net drawing a crowd, which allowed Curt Gogol to skate from the bench on a line change all the way to the low slot with no Bridgeport player picking him up. With no player guarding Kearns behind the goal line he easily slid over enough to create a clear passing lane and Gogol connected on the bang-bang play at 9:20.
Acolatse would increase the WorSharks lead to 3-0 with a booming slapshot from the top of the left wing circle. The defenseman collected a nice diagonal cross ice pass from Freddie Hamilton and teed up the puck for a blast only to have McDonald slide across in an attempt to block the shot. Acolatse, who earlier in the game had taken a high hit from McDonald, got his revenge by simply out waiting the sliding forward and then ripped a blast on Poulin that beat the netminder to the stick side at 15:48. Travis Oleksuk had the second assist.
Bridgeport would finally get on the board at 8:56 of the third period with an even strength goal after Stalock stoned the Sound Tigers twice while they had the man advantage. It was some nice tic-tac-toe passing that got Brock Nelson all alone with the puck to the left of Stalock, and had Nelson waiting just a split second longer to fire it Stalock might have gotten to that shot too. But Nelson, who had 36 goals in two season with North Dakota (NCAA), knows how to score and made sure Stalock had no time to react.
Unlike the past couple of seasons where the WorSharks would sit back with the lead Worcester never took their foot off the accelerator and continued to press Bridgeport all over the ice surface. That style of play lead to a frustration slashing penalty on the Sound Tigers, and a penalty for delay of game to Bridgeport for falling on the puck gave the WorSharks a late five on three advantage. Jon Matsumoto would grab his first of the season when Sebastian Stalberg took a pass from Matt Tennyson found Matsumoto all alone at the back post behind Poulin for the easy empty netter at 18:32. Kearns would make it 5-1 with 57.8 seconds remaining with a goal that looked a lot like Matsumoto’s tally, only with Kearns a little farther away from the net. McCarthy and Kennedy had the assist on that goal.
The two teams each head away from Worcester for road game Saturday night, the WorSharks in Manchester to take on the Monarchs and the Sound Tigers in Springfield to take on the new-look Falcons, but will meet again Sunday afternoon at the DCU center for a quick rematch.
Worcester’s scratches were Taylor Doherty (ribs), James Livingston (healthy), Brandon Mashinter (healthy), Matt Pelech (suspended, game one of four), Brodie Reid (shoulder), Mikael Tam (lower body), Daniil Tarasov (healthy), and Marek Viedensky (healthy). With the WorSharks down to five healthy defenseman they dipped into the ECHL and signed Mike Banwell from Trenton. Banwell played college hockey here in New England at Maine, and has played a handful of AHL games over the past two seasons for Albany. Harri Sateri was the back-up netminder.
Since this writer is not afraid of pointing out how poorly some AHL officials go about their jobs it’s only fair that it be mentioned when one does a good job. Pierre Lambert, who officiated in the Quebec Major Junior League last season and was doing his first AHL game, looked invisible on the ice. And in officiating, that’s a good thing. If you were to ask both coaches about the officiating of the game odds are they’d be hard pressed to come up with anything major missed. The same may not be said for the next two WorSharks games, who will have to contend with Terry Koharski in both games as he’s paired with Chris Brown Saturday in Manchester and Sunday back here with Mark Lemelin.
Even strength lines
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 22 Tim Kennedy (g,2a)
2. WOR – 14 Sena Acolatse (g)
3. WOR – 13 Curt Gogol (gwg)
This is why the WorSharks should wait until the end of the game to figure out the three stars. My original Sharkspage player of the game was going to be Nick Petrecki for all his huge hits early in the game, but now it will go to Bracken Kearns as he should have been the #2 star of the game.
Bridgeport 0 0 1 – 1
Worcester 0 3 2 – 5
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Niederreiter Bri (hooking), 0:33; Kearns Wor (hooking), 1:37; Gallant Bri (fighting), 6:45; Bonneau Wor (fighting), 6:45; Kearns Wor (roughing), 16:25.
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Kennedy 2 (McCarthy, Kearns), 0:29. 2, Worcester, Gogol 1 (Kennedy, Kearns), 9:20. 3, Worcester, Acolatse 2 (Hamilton, Oleksuk), 15:48. Penalties-Ness Bri (interference), 1:13; McIver Bri (checking to the head), 3:57; McIver Bri (fighting), 6:56; McLaren Wor (fighting), 6:56; Persson Bri (interference), 19:27.
3rd Period-4, Bridgeport, Nelson 2 (Landry, Ness), 8:56. 5, Worcester, Matsumoto 1 (Stalberg, Sheppard), 18:32 (PP). 6, Worcester, Kearns 1 (McCarthy, Kennedy), 19:02 (PP). Penalties-Gogol Wor (high-sticking), 6:51; Riley Bri (slashing), 16:28; Hamonic Bri (closing hand on puck), 17:33.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 5-8-6-19. Worcester 11-13-8-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 0 / 3; Worcester 2 / 6.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 3-1-0 (32 shots-27 saves). Worcester, Stalock 1-2-0 (19 shots-18 saves).
Referees-Pierre Lambert (39).
Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Robert St. Lawrence (10).