The Worcester Sharks entered the weekend coming off a 3 game series with the St. John’s IceCaps where they took 5 out of 6 points. They were coming into the weekend playing another three games, this time in 3 days, and looking to get a couple more wins. As a team, they have been struggling to put forth a consistent effort but really seem to want to turn that around.
On Friday, the Sharks headed up to Manchester for the first time in Manchester and the second time of the 12 game series over the course of the season. The Manchester Monarchs have suffered a number of call ups and injuries but that has not seemed to stop them from charging forward. They struck first Friday night and that really seemed to set the tone of the game. Although only a few minutes later Curt Gogol evened the score for the Sharks, it would all go downhill from there. Sharks forward Daniil Tarasov, who has been leading the team in goals, was unavailable all weekend. The Sharks brought back a blast from the past in Dan DaSilva who started the season in the ECHL. He skated on the top line with Bracken Kearns and Freddie Hamilton.
The lines all seemed to struggle to put together solid passes and help out goalie Harri Sateri keep pucks out of his net. Manchester went on to score 3 more, including a late third period goal from Brandon Kozun that sealed the 4-1 victory. The two teams would meet again on Sunday afternoon, but that game was in Worcester.
But before the Sharks and Monarchs could have their rematch, the Sharks hosted the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Worcester. The game was also their annual Teddy Bear Toss where fans are requested to bring teddy bears and toss them on the ice following the first Sharks goal. Over the years, the Sharks have not had a great history with the teddy bear toss games, usually losing.
However, this game seemed like it could be different. The Sound Tigers are struggling this season as well and Sharks rookie goalie Troy Grosenick has impressed so far when he played. The Sharks also had a score to settle after the first time the Sound Tigers visited. It was an 7-1 loss for the Sharks and they showed that they had not forgotten that.
Veteran enforcer Jimmy Bonneau made his return to the line-up after having his leg cut open by the blade of a skate and needing stitches. He had not been available the last time the two teams met and showed he was going to make up for it. On his first shift, he squared off with Justin Johnson and after a flurry of punches, Bonneau landed the final one. The pair got five for fighting and an extra minor for removing their helmets. Two seconds later (without exaggeration) Sharks tough guy Matt Pelech squared off with Brett Gallant. This pair also got the fighting major as well as a minor unsportsmanlike conduct for removing their helmets.
Despite the Sharks vastly outshooting Bridgeport, it was the Sound Tigers that struck first. They only had a shot up on the board when Dallas Jackson beat Grosenick. It was disheartening considering the pressure the Sharks had been putting on Sound Tigers goalie Kenny Reiter, but they did not let it get to them. The Sharks continued to dominate on the shots board. Things just weren’t going the way that they needed them to. It seemed like the fans were going to have to wait until the end of the game and just throw their bears then without a goal being scored when an unlikely player had his first goal. Defenseman Taylor Doherty had his first of the season as he sniped a goal from the blue line.
The Sharks held on through the end of regulation and forced overtime. Although it looked like they might have had a goal in overtime, the puck did not cross the line and the teams were headed to the shootout. It was the first professional shootout appearance for Grosenick and he certainly did not disappoint. He turned away all four shooters he faced. On the other hand, Worcester only had to put out three shooters with both Brodie Reid and James Livingston netting goals.
When Sunday afternoon rolled around, the Sharks were ready to take on the Monarchs again. They had looked a lot more put together on Saturday night than they had on Friday. Their biggest struggle seemed to be looking a little snake bitten and having seriously bad luck. Unfortunately, that bad luck carried over into Sunday afternoon. The Sharks were once again leading on shots, but it was the Monarchs that struck first. Rookie Scott Sabourin scored his fourth goal in three games and has been really stepping up for Manchester. The goal came with less than 30 seconds left in the first.
Around the middle of the second period, the Shark suffered from more bad luck. The puck took a bad bounce and right went by Grosenick who got the second straight start. It was a goal he would obviously want back and it gave the Monarchs the two goal lead. Manchester took the 2-0 lead into the third period. It was not for a lack of effort, though, as the Sharks were doing everything but score. They were keeping the pressure on and working well together.
Right at the beginning of the third, Monarchs forward Jordan Weal caught Rylan Schwartz with a high stick. It caused Schwartz to have to look for three missing teeth on the ice and sent Weal to the box for a double minor. As the penalty was winding down, Sharks defenseman Matt Tennyson came up with a huge power play goal to cut the lead to 1 for Manchester. That paved the way for Schwartz, who did not miss a step despite losing teeth, to tie the game up.
The Sharks held the Monarchs off through regulation and the overtime period. Grosenick found himself back in a shootout for the second time in less than 24 hours. He might have wished he could have that second Monarchs goal back, but he stood tall in the shootout. He turned away four of five shooters, only letting Brandon Kozun get by him. They Sharks only had to use four skaters with Dan DaSilva and Sebastian Stalberg netting them for Worcester. The two shootout wins were come from behind wins that put the Sharks on an unexpected winning streak.
The Sharks are off until Friday when they head up to Lewiston to take on the Portland Pirates. In an unusual turn, it’s the only game of the weekend for the Sharks.