The Worcester Sharks, already eliminated from playoff contention last Wednesday by the Springfield Falcons, returned the favor by bouncing their Miss Pike rivals out of the playoff picture with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 4,259.
After a disappointing 4-1 loss in Manchester Saturday night, the last thing the hometown faithful wanted to see was a quick score by the Falcons, but that's exactly what they got when just 1:42 into the first period when Grant Potulny picked up a lose puck at the WorSharks blue line and skated around rookie Ty Wishart and beat netminder Thomas Greiss with a quick wrist shot. It's one that Greiss most definitely would have like a second crack at.
Worcester would get a break on what was just about the only mistake Falcons goaltender Jeff Deslauriers made all game. With Springfield on the power play Worcester cleared the puck into the Falcons zone and Deslauriers went into the corner to his right to field the puck. His pass attempt to his defenseman at the blue line missed badly and ended up on the stick of T.J. Fox just inside the red line. Fox wasted no time firing the puck into the yawning net to knot the game at 1-1.
The WorSharks would take the lead on their first power play opportunity when Tom Cavanagh threw a long pass from deep in the WorSharks zone to Lukas Kaspar at the Falcons blue line. Kaspar entered the zone and skated around waiting for Worcester to get set up in the zone, and then hit Brad Staubitz with a great pass. Staubitz faked the shot and skated around the sprawling defender, firing a laser through a crowd and past Deslauriers.
Worcester, which outshot Springfield in the first period 17-10 in the first period, totally controlled play in the second period but couldn't light the lamp. Deslauriers made 15 saves in the second stanza, including one on a Wishart backhander as the WorSharks broke in 3 on 1 while shorthanded that may be the best save of the year seen at the DCU Center.
Not to be outdone, Greiss, who had to make just three saves in the second period, made a great save of his own after Liam Reddox picked newcomer David MacDonald's pocket cleanly at the Worcester blue line and streaked in alone on Greiss, firing a wrister Greiss just got the blocker on. Greiss had to have quick reflexes as the rebound was fired right back at him, but he easily steered it aside to preserve the 2-1 lead.
After Staubitz was called for a terrible hooking call early in the third period--he had lifted the stick of a Falcons player with the puck and got called for a minor--Springfield would tie the game 2-2 when Rob Schremp knocked in a lose puck after Greiss had made two quick saves.
Mike Iggulden would get the eventual game winner on the power play at 9:13 when he took a Derek Joslin feed across the slot and beat Deslauriers cleanly over the blocker and into the top corner. Graham Mink would add an insurance goal at 15:55 when he skated into the slot from the left side boards and fired a backhander past Deslauriers for a 4-2 lead.
Springfield, which needed a win to keep its slim playoff hope alive, pulled Deslauriers for an extra attacker with 3:22 remaining in the game but could only muster two shots with the extra man. Several attempts by Worcester at the empty net went wide for the 4-2 final, with the WorSharks not only doubling up Springfield in goals but also shots on goal, 44-22.
Before the game Worcester Sharks President & CEO Mike Lehr addressed season ticket holders in a Q&A session that covered many different topics, including the possibility of adding teams to the WorSharks schedule. Teams like Rochester and Syracuse were mentioned as teams the WorSharks were looking at possibly adding. The WorSharks also announced the date of the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic, with an official announcement coming from the AHL very soon. While the thought of scooping the AHL is intriguing, I'll let them announce the dates. The NHL All-Star game, taking place in Montreal, is set for January 25, 2009.
Lehr was a busy man during afternoon as he present Riley Armstrong with his "Man of the Year" Award in a pregame ceremony. Armstrong was one of 29 candidates for the AHL's Yanick Dupre Memorial Award. Lehr and Armstrong also ended the day together as Armstrong had his head shaved at center ice for the “Locks of Love” charity. He was joined by 13 fans and WorSharks staffers in the charitable cause. Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.
When I left the DCU Center the cutting was still going on, but it turns out I should have stayed as according to the WorSharks website broadcaster Eric Lindquist also had his head shaved after $400 in donations were raised.
The WorSharks announced several team awards during the course of the game. The Unsung Hero Award was given to Brennan Evans. The Star of the Year Award, given to the player with the most starts of the game, was Mike Iggulden. The Rookie of the Year was Derek Joslin, and the MVP was Tom Cavanagh.
Before the game I spoke to Bruce Landon, President & General Manager of the Springfield Falcons. The Falcons are in the middle of a drive to add 500 season tickets to their base. Landon, who has been involved with Springfield hockey for 24 years since retiring from playing pro hockey, indicated that if that target isn't reached the future of AHL hockey in Springfield is uncertain.
Cap Raeder joined Roy Sommer and David Cunniff behind the WorSharks bench.
The only Worcester skater to not register a shot on goal was defenseman David MacDonald. MacDonald did attempt a couple of shots, but none of them made it to the Springfield net.
Worcester's scratches were Nate Raduns, Matt Jones, Ashton Rome, Mike Morris, Riley Armstrong, Frazer McLaren, Dan Spang, J.D. Forrest, and Marc Busenburg.
Speaking of Frazer McLaren, the rookie took on one of the AHL's legitimate tough guys in Kevin Westgarth Saturday night in the WorSharks 4-1 loss in Manchester. McLaren handled Westgarth pretty easily, hitting him with from several angles leaving Westgarth unsure of where the next shot was going to come from and forcing him to take McLaren to the ice.
The three stars of the game were
1. Mink (1g,1a)
2. Potulny (1g,1a)
3. Iggulden (1g)
My vote would have been Mink; Cavanagh (2a), and Deslauriers (40 saves)
Even Strength Lines
To start the third period the WorSharks went with Wishart/Walsh and MacDonald/Joslin, but went back to the original lines about 5 minutes into the period.
Penalty Kill Lines
Power Play Lines
Faceoffs (offense/neutral/defense = total) Unofficial
Zalewski 6-1/5-1/4-3 = 15-5
Cavanagh 6-4/2-2/4-2 = 12-8
Fox 3-2/3-3/1-0 = 7-5
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
McGinn 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1
Fenton 0-1/1-0/0-0 = 1-1
Iggulden 1-0/1-1/0-0 = 2-1
Springfield Falcons 1 0 1 -- 2
Worcester Sharks 2 0 2 -- 4
Scoring - 1. Springfield, G. Potulny (28) 1:42
2. Worcester, T. Fox (12) 7:17 SH
3. Worcester, B. Staubitz (5) (T. Cavanagh, L. Kaspar) 14:37 PP
Penalties - B. Staubitz Wor (interference) 5:55, R. Schremp Spr (roughing) 10:42, P. Fenton Wor (slashing) 10:42, C. Wild Spr (holding) 12:47, T. Peckham Spr (tripping) 19:59
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - T. Sestito Spr (tripping) 7:11, B. Evans Wor (hooking) 13:07
Scoring - 4. Springfield, R. Schremp (22) (M. Pouliot, G. Potulny) 6:35 PP
5. Worcester, M. Iggulden (27) (D. Joslin, G. Mink) 9:13 PP
6. Worcester, G. Mink (24) (D. Packard, T. Cavanagh) 15:55
Penalties - B. Staubitz Wor (hooking) 6:26, C. Wild Spr (hooking) 8:49
SPR Shots: 10 3 9 -- 22
WOR Shots: 17 15 12 -- 44
Power Play Conversion
Springfield Falcons 1-3. Worcester Sharks 2-4.
Springfield Falcons: Deslauriers 25-23-5 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 56:38 SV: 40 GA: 4 [L]
Worcester Sharks: Greiss 18-21-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:59 SV: 20 GA: 2 [W]
Start : 4:10 PM
End : 6:23 PM
Attendance : 4259
Referee: Frederic L'Ecuyer (48)
Linesmen: Chris Low (88); Tim Low (68)