The Worcester Sharks traveled an hour west down the Massachusetts Turnpike mired in a five game (0-4-0-1) winless streak to take on the Springfield Falcons, who were riding high as the best team in the American Hockey League and unbeaten in eight in a row (7-0-1-0), but has been so often the case over the last few seasons the WorSharks left Hoop City with two points in their back pockets after defeating their former division rivals 3-1 Friday night at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts in front of a crowd of 4,021 that included a fairly large contingent of rooters for Team Teal.
Worcester defenseman Denny Urban takes down Falcons Jonathan Audy-Marchessault
during Friday's 3-1 WorSharks victory in Springfield
Photo courtesy of DAVID MOLNAR, Republican staff photographer
When playing a team as hot as the Falcons have been and facing a goaltender like Curtis McElhinney, who entered the game near the top in nearly every major goaltending category and leading the AHL in shutouts, the last thing Worcester wanted to do was come out flat. Unfortunately, the notoriously slow starting WorSharks did just that as the vast majority of the play early on was in their own end. Despite some pretty good play from Worcester netminder Harri Sateri Springfield was able to light the lamp at 3:07 of the opening period when 40 year old Bryan Helmer made an even better play.
The veteran blueliner for Springfield, who has been around so long he was once captain for the Worcester IceCats in the 1999–2000 season and has played for five “triple A” level North American teams that don’t even exist anymore, had the puck at the left point and instead of blasting it through traffic just sort of half slapped it into the pile of players in front of Sateri. Left winger Scott Howes, who was marked pretty well by WorSharks defenseman Michael Wilson, was able to get a stick on the shot at tip the puck just enough to beat Sateri to the stick side as the puck glanced off the far post and went in.
A minute after the Howes tally Worcester would find themselves shorthanded when Mikael Tam was whistled for hooking, but it was newcomer Tommy Grant that turned the tide with a nifty shorthanded goal after picking up a turnover at center ice. Grant grabbed the loose puck and streaked down the left wing side, and with defenseman Nick Holden draped over his back Grant threw a nice backhander that handcuffed McElhinney at 4:18. The goal was Grant’s first in three games with Worcester.
It would stay knotted 1-1 until the midpoint of the second period when John McCarthy and James Livingston would break out together on a two on one rush after McCarthy made a nice bounce pass off the left wing half wall in the WorSharks zone. Livingston then lead the rush down the left side, and with McCarthy heading down the middle of the ice and defenseman Denny Urban streaking down the right side trailing the play. Livingston froze McElhinney by holding the puck until he was deep in the left wing circle and lasered one over the diving Dalton Prout and just under the crossbar to the glove side of McElhinney at 10:32.
Rookie Daniil Tarasov would complete the goal cycle for Worcester with a power play tally at 2:37 of the third period with a nice blast from the bottom of the right wing circle. The play looked innocent enough after Danny Groulx, playing for the first time in nearly two months since suffering a concussion on November 30th, had attracted some traffic on the left wing side after skating deep into the Falcons zone. Instead of forcing the puck to the net Groulx threw a rink-wide pass from the low left wing circle across the slot to Tarasov at the low right wing circle, and Tarasov’s one-timer beat McElhinney clean at 2:37.
Sateri and the WorSharks would make that two goal lead stand up the rest of the way for the 3-1 final.
Scratches for the WorSharks were Taylor Doherty (achilles), Sena Acolatse (jaw), Sebastian Stalberg, Mike Banwell, Travis Oleksuk, Jimmy Bonneau (unknown injury), and Mike Brennan. For the first time in franchise history Worcester had to healthy scratch a veteran because they were over the limit allowed by the AHL. Banwell could have played but apparently he was not part of the line-up head coach Roy Sommer planned to go with so while Banwell was in Springfield his equipment was not. Instead, defenseman-turned-forward Matt Pelech turned into a defenseman again for part of the game. Tim Kennedy returned to the line-up after missing nine games, while Danny Groulx laced them up for the first time in 21 games. Alex Stalock was the back-up netminder.
Earlier this week the WorSharks released William Wrenn and Michael Pelech from their PTOs and returned them to their ECHL teams.
The Brandon Mashinter trade for Tommy Grant is working out for both teams, as Mashinter has already matched his two goals and three assist in his 30 games in Worcester with the same for Connecticut in just five games. Grant has just a single tally for Worcester in three games, but Grant’s shorthanded goal is something Mashinter didn’t have in 247 regular season and playoff contests with Worcester.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 26 James Livingston (gwg)
2. SPR – 28 Scott Howes (g)
3. WOR – 19 Daniil Tarasov (g)
The Sharkspage player of the game was Tommy Grant
Worcester 1 1 1 – 3
Springfield 1 0 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Springfield, Howes 2 (Helmer, Joudrey), 3:07. 2, Worcester, Grant 10 4:18 (SH). Penalties-Ma. Pelech Wor (cross-checking), 0:30; Tam Wor (boarding), 4:07; Gogol Wor (cross-checking), 7:24.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Livingston 3 (McCarthy), 10:32. Penalties-Goloubef Spr (tripping), 0:29; Erixon Spr (slashing), 5:34.
3rd Period-4, Worcester, Tarasov 2 (Groulx, Urban), 2:37 (PP). Penalties-Weber Spr (interference), 1:44; Goloubef Spr (high-sticking), 13:55.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 4-7-7-18. Springfield 9-6-7-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 4; Springfield 0 / 3.
Goalies-Worcester, Sateri 8-9-1 (22 shots-21 saves). Springfield, McElhinney 17-7-2 (18 shots-15 saves).
Referees-Ryan Fraser (14).
Linesmen-Derek Wahl (46), Glen Cooke (6).