The Worcester Sharks got two goals from Bracken Kearns and some timely saves by goaltender Alex Stalock to defeat the Providence Bruins 3-2 Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island in front of a crowd announced at 7,372. The victory snaps the WorSharks road winless streak, stretching back into last season, at 12 games (0-9-3).
Even though the season is still young Worcester has already learned the lesson about how important it is to grab the first goal of the game. Entering the contest the WorSharks were undefeated in the campaign when they got that goal, and winless when they didn’t. So things were looking up for Worcester at 7:12 of the opening period when Nick Petrecki took a John McCarthy pass and fired it on net, and Tim Kennedy was there to tip it past PBruins netminder Michael Hutchinson for the 1-0 lead. Just after the tally Providence would have a great chance to knot the score when a shot broke through Stalock and was heading toward the goal line, but defenseman Danny Groulx swept in to save his netminder and keep the one goal advantage.
With the two teams playing each other so often bad blood carries over from season to season, so it was no shock when Frazer McLaren and Lane MacDermid decided to drop the mitts near the halfway mark of the period in a battle that most local observers give an edge to McLaren.
That bad blood also means physical play, and after a high sticking call on Petrecki found the WorSharks down a skater Groulx found himself on the wrong end of a borderline call to put Worcester down two skaters. Just after the PBruins had a goal waved off for a hand pass Providence would get one that counted when Carter Camper took advantage of all the extra ice to sneak in behind Stalock and bang home a Jamie Tardif feed at 15:45.
Worcester would get its first power play in the last few minutes of the opening period, and would retake the lead with a man advantage goal of their own when Groulx fire a laser on net from the left point that Kearns was just able to get enough of to redirect it past Hutchinson at 18:26. Sena Acolatse picked up his sixth point in eight games with the secondary assist.
Off the ensuing face-off Providence tough guy Bobby Robins decided he wanted to introduce himself to WorSharks winger Brandon Mashinter. That likely didn’t go as well as Robins’ planned when Mashinter twice sent the PBruins forward to the ice, and Robins was saved for further pain when the linesmen jumped in. As Robins attempted to fire up the crowd skating to the penalty bench he sported an obvious cut. Mashinter looked like a guy that just beat the snot out of someone.
The physical play continued into the second period and after Curt Gogol obliterated Christian Hanson behind the PBruins net Hanson took a run at WorSharks defenseman Matt Irwin, earning himself a boarding minor. Irwin’s defensive partner Acolatse went after Hanson, and as every opponent of Acolatse has found out Hanson discovered he was in way over his head in the battle when he was dropped to the ice by the second year defenseman. Unofficially Acolatse has never lost a pro fight (7-0-1).
Kearns would grab his second power play goal of the game at 10:41 of the middle period on sort of broken play where with no better option he put the puck on net and beat Hutchinson. Kearns took a pass from Jon Matsumoto and flipped a backhander on net from between the circles, and the fluttering puck fooled Hutchinson and made the score 3-1.
Providence would carry the play most of the rest of the way but the Worcester defense kept the great chances to a minimum and Stalock was there on the ones where he needed to be. The PBruins did make it a game with a power play goal at 14:57 of the third period by Maxime Sauve and did have a couple good chances with Hutchinson pulled, but Worcester escaped the flurry to grab the first game of their three-in-three divisional weekend.
Scratches for Worcester were Brodie Reid (shoulder), Jimmy Bonneau, Travis Oleksuk, Mikael Tam (foot), Marek Viedensky, Matt Pelech (suspended, game four of four), and Daniil Tarasov (has not skated for the WorSharks yet this season). Earlier this week defenseman Mike Banwell was released from his PTO, going 0-1-1, +2 and winning a fight in his brief stint with Worcester. This writer won’t be surprised if Worcester runs into Banwell on another AHL team in the future. Harri Sateri was the back-up goaltender, and is expected to get the start Saturday night when the WorSharks host the St. John’s IceCaps.
The two teams combined for 70 penalty minutes in the game, and were a combined 4-9 on the power play.
Bill “Mr. Stats” Ballou of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported this morning that the win was Alex Stalock’s 63rd for Worcester, tying him with the IceCats’ Brent Johnson for second place on the all-time city list. Thomas Greiss is the wins leader with 74.
Streaking WorSharks: Danny Groulx (g,3a), John McCarthy (g,a), Jon Matsumoto (g,a), Sena Acolatse (g,3a), Tim Kennedy (2g,2a) all have two game point streaks. Sebastian Stalberg is the only player with at least one shot in every game this season. Nick Petrecki has been even or better in six straight games.
How bad has Providence goaltender Michael Hutchinson been this season? He gave up three goals on 20 shots and his goals against average went down (to 3.75) and his save percentage went up (to .838). Both are well off his career AHL numbers.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 16 Bracken Kearns (2g)
2. PRO – 19 Carter Camper (g)
3. WOR – 22 Tim Kennedy (g)
The Sharkspage player of the game was Sena Acolatse.
Worcester 2 1 0 – 3
Providence 1 0 1 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Kennedy 4 (Petrecki, McCarthy), 7:12. 2, Providence, Camper 1 (Tardif, Spooner), 15:45 (PP). 3, Worcester, Kearns 2 (Groulx, Acolatse), 18:26 (PP). Penalties-Groulx Wor (interference), 2:10; McLaren Wor (fighting), 9:26; MacDermid Pro (fighting), 9:26; Petrecki Wor (high-sticking), 13:59; Groulx Wor (cross-checking), 14:53; Florek Pro (tripping), 17:19; Mashinter Wor (fighting), 18:27; Robins Pro (fighting), 18:27.
2nd Period-4, Worcester, Kearns 3 (Matsumoto), 10:41 (PP). Penalties-Acolatse Wor (fighting), 3:25; Hanson Pro (boarding, fighting), 3:25; Livingston Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:59; Bourque Pro (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:59; Petrecki Wor (slashing), 6:11; Exelby Pro (holding, misconduct), 6:11; McLaren Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:35; Robins Pro (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:35; Cohen Pro (tripping), 8:53; Groulx Wor (closing hand on puck), 15:30; served by Matsumoto Wor (bench minor – too many men), 18:58.
3rd Period-5, Providence, Sauve 4 (Krug, Bourque), 14:57 (PP). Penalties-Gourde Wor (tripping), 14:09.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 9-5-6-20. Providence 13-8-13-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 2 / 3; Providence 2 / 6.
Goalies-Worcester, Stalock 3-2-0 (34 shots-32 saves). Providence, Hutchinson 0-4-0 (20 shots-17 saves).
Referees-Chris Cozzan (18), Terry Koharski (10).
Linesmen-Jack Millea (23), Todd Whittemore (70).