The Worcester Sharks may have lost the even strength battle but were able to connect for three power play goals and were a perfect five for five while shorthanded, which was good enough to get the game into a shootout where Jon Matsumoto scored the only goal to give the WorSharks a 4-3 comeback win Saturday night over the Hershey Bears at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
WorSharks rookie Mikael Tam takes on Hershey Bears forward Garrett Mitchell in an
epic length battle Saturday night. Tam was the apparent winner of the bout.
Photo courtesy of DENNIS GOTTESMAN
Things didn’t start off great for Worcester when just 36 seconds into the game the Bears would connect off a clean face off win to the right of WorSharks netminder Alex Stalock. The draw went directly back to defenseman Cameron Schilling, who blasted it from the point and past Stalock. The puck may have hit Worcester forward Bracken Kearns on the way by as Kearns made a bee-line to Schilling to make a shot block attempt.
Worcester would get that goal back with their first power play tally of the night at 6:17 when Travis Oleksuk, who was playing defense on the WorSharks second power play unit, threw a nice pass over to Matt Tennyson. With Matsumoto and James Sheppard both setting a screen in front of the Bears net Tennyson let a shot fly that Matsumoto just got a piece of to deflect it past Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby.
Unfortunately for the WorSharks the Bears would notch two more times in the opening period, with each goal coming from a former Worcester player. Hershey’s second goal came at 10:33 of the period when former WorSharks defenseman Garret Stafford launched one at the net that was tipped by center Mike Carman and past Stalock. The second goal was a hard wrist shot from Zach Hamill that beat Stalock from in front cleanly at 13:26. Former Worcester IceCats forward Jon DiSalvatore had the second assist on that goal.
The opening 20 minutes would see two fights, although referee Ryan Fraser only called major penalties in one of the altercations. It wouldn’t be the only head scratching call from the referee in this game. The ‘real’ fight came at 13:33 of the period when Brandon Mashinter and Alex Berry did battle in front of the Worcester bench. At 14:28 Yanni Gourde, who was celebrating his 21st birthday Saturday night, dropped the mitts with Matt Pope and leveled his much larger opponent quickly. For some unknown reason Fraser only gave out matching unsportsmanlike conduct minors to the pair. That could have had an impact as just a handful of seconds later Mikael Tam picked up a slashing minor to give Hershey a rare four on three power play in regulation. Stalock came up big to keep the deficit at two.
Sheppard would have the only goal of the second period when he connected for the WorSharks second power play goal in the contest. Worcester broke into the Bears zone but didn’t get a great opportunity. Hershey recovered the loose puck at the half-boards to the left of Holtby, but Hamill’s clearing attempt was picked off by Sheppard. His blast went wide and rebounded almost out of the zone. Tennyson was able to just slow it up along the boards–ironically at almost the exact spot that Hamill’s failed clear took place–where Matsumoto was able to recover and feed the puck back to Sheppard at the blue line high between the circles. Sheppard skated in a stride or two and blasted one past Holtby at 4:05.
There was one fight in the middle stanza, and there was no doubting this one would draw majors as Tam took on Garrett Mitchell in a flip-flipping battle that almost seemed to last as long as a championship prize fight round. After nearly a minute of battling the visitor’s side of the press box gave the win to Tam.
The WorSharks entered Saturday night’s contest as the best team in the American Hockey League when trailing after two periods, and the cardiac kids did it again when they converted for their third power play goal of the game at 9:48. This one was almost an exact carbon copy of their first, with the same pass by Oleksuk over to Tennyson and with the same shot into a two player screen. This time it was Sheppard instead of Matsumoto, but the results were the same: tie game.
In one of the most bizarre moments this writer has ever witnessed in a professional hockey game, referee Fraser picked a 3-3 game with 4:59 remaining in regulation to send Sena Acolatse off for ‘inciting’ after a scrum of players got together after a whistle. Fraser then compounded that error by awarding Mashinter a penalty shot on a breakaway where it looked like a minor was more than appropriate. Holtby made the save on that bid, and despite being down one of their best defensemen and having to use a rookie and two try-out players in key situations Worcester weathered the storm and got the game through regulation and overtime and into shootout. Matsumoto as the only shooter to connect, beating Holtby in round four. Oleksuk missed his bid to ice the contest in round five, but Stalock made the save on Boyd Kane’s attempt to give Worcester the 4-3 win.
Scratches for Worcester were Jimmy Bonneau, Taylor Doherty, Nick Petrecki, Sebastian Stalberg, Curt Gogol, Danny Groulx, and Matt Irwin. To help bolster the depleted blue line corps the WorSharks have recently resigned Mike Banwell to a try-out contract. It’s Banwell’s second stint with Worcester, and it may have started earlier had he not injured his hand on Veterans Day in a fight while playing in the ECHL. Harri Sateri was the back-up netminder.
By not scoring a goal Saturday Yanni Gourde doesn’t join Sena Acolatse as the only active Worcester player to score on their birthday. Acolatse did it earlier this season, on October 28th vs Bridgeport. Gourde should have become the first WorSharks player to get into a fight on his birthday, but referee Ryan Fraser rained on that parade by only issuing minors for unsportsmanlike conduct. The all time franchise leader for scoring goals on his birthday is Riley Armstrong, who had two on November 8, 2008 at Binghamton. The only WorSharks goaltender to win a game on his birthday is Harri Sateri, who beat Manchester last season on December 28th. Sateri may get a chance to run that birthday winning streak to two games as Worcester plays again this season on that date, ironically at home again against Manchester.
When you look at the stats sheet and see a (-3) next to a player’s name it’s unlikely “good game” pops into your head in a positive way, but Matt Tennyson had a pretty good game despite being on the ice for all three even strength goals against. Tennyson was on the ice for all six goals scored in the contest but doesn’t get a “plus” for any of his three assists on the power play. A close look at the video of the three Hershey regular strength goals shows Tennyson’s play can’t be faulted on any of them.
After having just five shots in his first 10 games Frazer McLaren has 15 in his last six. A lot of that is due to his new lines mates, James Livingston and Freddie Hamilton. They don’t have the firepower of the old ‘Crazed Rats’ line (John McCarthy/Andrew Desjardins/Dan DaSilva), but lately they’ve been playing with the same intensity.
Jon Matsumoto had a goal and an assist in the contest, so he only needed a fight to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick. Odds were good that wasn’t going to happen as Matsumoto has only fought once in the pros, on November 19, 2008 when he took on Albany’s Joe Jensen while a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms. In that game Matsumoto was just an assist short of the Gordie Howe.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 15 James Sheppard (2g)
2. WOR – 5 Matt Tennyson (3a)
3. HER – 19 Zach Hamill (g)
The Sharkspage player of the game was Jon Matsumoto.
Worcester 1 1 1 0 – 4
Hershey 3 0 0 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Hershey, Schilling 3 (Taffe, Potulny), 0:36. 2, Worcester, Matsumoto 4 (Tennyson, Oleksuk), 6:17 (PP). 3, Hershey, Carman 3 (Stafford, Pope), 10:33. 4, Hershey, Hamill 9 (Syner, DiSalvatore), 13:26. Penalties-Hamill Her (slashing), 4:41; Mashinter Wor (fighting), 13:33; Berry Her (fighting), 13:33; Gourde Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:28; Pope Her (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:28; Tam Wor (slashing), 14:49; Stafford Her (hooking), 19:34.
2nd Period-5, Worcester, Sheppard 4 (Matsumoto, Tennyson), 4:05 (PP). Penalties-Tam Wor (fighting), 3:23; Kundratek Her (slashing), 3:23; Mitchell Her (fighting), 3:23; Hamill Her (delay of game), 8:43; Livingston Wor (cross-checking), 12:00; Tam Wor (holding), 15:21.
3rd Period-6, Worcester, Sheppard 5 (Tennyson, Oleksuk), 9:48 (PP). Penalties-Kearns Wor (interference), 4:41; DiSalvatore Her (high-sticking), 5:11; Marshall Her (tripping), 9:44; Mashinter Wor (roughing), 12:32; Acolatse Wor (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:01.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Worcester 1 (Sheppard NG, Kennedy NG, Reid NG, Matsumoto G, Oleksuk NG), Hershey 0 (Taffe NG, Hamill NG, DiSalvatore NG, Potulny NG, Kane NG).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 9-12-13-0-1-35. Hershey 9-5-8-3-0-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 3 / 6; Hershey 0 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, Stalock 9-5-1 (25 shots-22 saves). Hershey, Holtby 10-8-1 (34 shots-31 saves).
Referees-Ryan Fraser (14).
Linesmen-Scott Adams (20), Leo Boylan (97).