Although they are in the same division, the Worcester Sharks and the St. John’s IceCaps have a lot of space between them. The Sharks play the other teams in their division each 12 times throughout the season. But, the Sharks meeting the IceCaps 10 times this year is a record high. This past week, the Sharks headed to St. John’s for 3 games before heading back to Worcester.
The Sharks spent most of the day on Tuesday traveling, leaving early in the morning. On Wednesday morning they had their pre game skate and then it was time for game 1. Over the past two seasons, the Sharks have had incredible success visiting the IceCaps and have skated to a 5-1 record up there. Coming into the first game, the Sharks had not yet been to over time during the season. That was about to change.
Worcester jumped to an early lead with rookie Rylan Schwartz getting his first of the season unassisted on the penalty kill just over 2 minutes in. Daniil Tarasov added his team leading 7th goal during the second on the power play. Things were looking good for Worcester. But then, the third period came and the tides turned. Andrew Gordon beat Sharks rookie goaltender on the power play to cut the Sharks lead in half. Everything still was okay until the final two minutes of the game. Jerome Sampson added a short handed tally for the IceCaps to send the game to overtime.
It was the first time of the season that Worcester saw overtime and the first time the two teams had gone to overtime at Mile One Centre in St. John’s. It only took the IceCaps 26 seconds to complete the come-from-behind victory. Samson had his second of the night and fourth on the season to seal the win.
On Friday, the teams were right back at it. The Sharks went with Harri Sateri, who has been an excellent goalie but has been struggling so far this season. Wednesday’s game had been a little bit of a chippy one featuring a fight but a number of roughing penalties. This game, it was the fighting that opened things instead of scoring. Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty and IceCaps tough guy Ryan Schnell. Later that same period, Curt Gogol of the Sharks fought Andrew Gordon, someone not usually known for fighting.
In the second frame, the Sharks opened the scoring as they had in Wednesday’s game. This time it was defenseman Matt Tennyson notching his first of the season. However, shortly after that Sharks captain Rob Davison got a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. During the following power play, St. John’s tied it up on a goal from their captain, Jason Jaffray. In the third period, the teams exchanged goals to keep the score tied. Freddie Hamilton had his third of the season for Worcester before Samson added his third goal of the mini-series.
Once again, the teams went to extra time. But this time, neither team was able to end it in overtime. St. John’s was not even able to register a shot on goal. The Sharks found themselves in the first shootout of the season. The IceCaps shot first and when the fifth round came, they were ahead 1-0. Worcester went with James Livingston who managed to score and keep the shootout going. St. John’s got another shootout goal from their sixth shooter, John Albert. But, the Sharks impressively answered with a goal from their sixth shooter, Sebastian Stalberg. It went all the way until the ninth round without St. John’s scoring again when Sena Acolatse put one past Eddie Pasquale to win it for the Sharks.
Another game on Saturday, the final one of the series, appeared to be another situation for extra time. In their third game in four days, the IceCaps and Sharks once again found themselves having to go past the three periods. Prior to the game, the Shark juggled their lineup again to make room for Matt Pelech to return. He had to sit out the previous two games serving a suspension but was able to return for the final game of the series between the two teams.
It was only 2:29 into the game when Pelech showed his grit. He got into a fight with enforcer Blair Riley at the same time Sharks agitator Curt Gogol fought Ben Chiarot. Worcester got the extra penalty and St. John’s went on the power play. About a minute into the man advantage, Samson struck first for the IceCaps. It was his 6th of the season, 4 of which have come during this series.
Despite a hard effort from the Sharks, the score stayed the same until the third period. Second year forward Travis Oleksuk had been struggling to find his step. But, he changed that when he scored his first of the season to tie the game. That was enough to send the game into extra time.
After the overtime period, where the Sharks dominated on chances, the scored was still tied at 1 and the teams were going to overtime for the second straight game. St. John’s went first again. Up first for the Sharks was James Livingston, who had come up big the night before but was unable to help tonight. However, Oleksuk was able to add a shootout goal as well. Brodie Reid scored fourth in the Worcester lineup and that was all they needed. The Shark were shootout victors again.
This was a really important trip for the struggling Sharks. They have done well since St. John’s came back to the AHL and the trip came at a great time for Worcester. Taking 5 points away from the weekend will hopefully see this team start to turn things around. The Sharks had not put together a two game winning streak since mid-March and had not taken 5 points in 3 games since the end of December in 2012. Another big takeaway from the trip will surely also be that starting goaltender Harri Sateri got two wins and made 51 saves on 54 shots. It’s a definite step in the right direction for the Finnish goaltender.
The Sharks made the long trek back early on Sunday and will be off until Friday. On Friday, they head up to Manchester for the second of this season’s 12 meetings and the first in Manchester. On Saturday, the Sharks host the Bridgeport Soundtigers before playing Manchester again, this time hosting them in Worcester.