This is an important time of the year for a lot of teams around the AHL. At the start of the weekend, none of the teams had clinched a spot. That is different now, with Texas earning a spot yesterday, but that means there are still 15 spots left to be decided. With teams playing within their conference so much, every game counts and every point matters.
The Worcester Sharks had put together an impressive streak coming into the weekend. They were on a 6-game winning streak, having swept the past two three-in-three weekends. That is not an easy feat to accomplish, especially given the way the Sharks had been struggling lately. It was giving everyone hope that they might be able to do the improbable. With a few changes to the line-up, the Sharks were making a late season push to make it into the post-season.
Worcester opened their weekend with a game against the Springfield Falcons. The Sharks were looking to extend their winning streak to 7 games. Despite getting off to a slow start and being down 1-0 at the end of the first period, it seemed like they might be able to pull off a win. They got two second period goals, from Bracken Kearns and Dan DaSilva, that sent them into the second intermission with a lead. The line of Kearns, DaSilva, and John McCarthy has really seemed to be gelling and putting forward a lot of pressure. With an assist on the Kearns goal, DaSilva also tied for the all-time lead in points as a Worcester Shark.
Unfortunately, the third period was where it fell apart. The Falcons put up three third period goals, including one just 22 seconds in. The Falcons got goals from Dana Tyrell and Matt Taormina, both recent additions acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, along with Sean Collins. Worcester just did not look like they quite had the fire that they had been playing with while they went on their winning streak.
Saturday night’s contest was even more important. Although the Falcons are also in the Eastern Conference with the Sharks, the Hershey Bears are one of the teams Worcester needs to jump over in order to slide into the playoffs. So when the Bears came into Worcester on Saturday, everyone knew it was important.
The pace of the game for most of it seemed to be firmly in favor of Hershey. They were hitting harder and getting the better quality shots. Sharks goalie Harri Sateri was making some important saves and that kept the Sharks tied at 1 going into the second intermission. The lone Sharks goal through the first two periods belonged to Freddie Hamilton.
Just about halfway through the third, Hershey retook the lead and it seemed questionable if Worcester had it in them to fight back. But the Sharks were not willing to go down without a fight. They ended up putting up 18 shots just in the final frame. They also added 3 goals in just 3:15 of hockey during the last six minutes of the game. Dan DaSilva lead the way, netting his 15th of the season and taking sole control of the all-time lead in Worcester Sharks scoring. A minute later, defenseman Taylor Doherty shot him a rocket from the blue line. Then two minutes after that, Travis Oleksuk added a tally of his own, putting the Sharks up 4-2 with just under three minutes remaining.
It was a stunning finish for the Bears, who had thought that they had the game under control. It was an important win for the Sharks as they looked to make that push towards the end of the season to sneak into the playoffs. The Sharks would then wrap up the weekend with a Sunday afternoon game in Providence against the Bruins. This was an equally important game as the Bruins occupied the 8th and final spot in playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Providence opted to start Malcolm Subban who has proved extremely difficult for the Sharks to solve. With the exception of one game, where the Sharks beat Subban and the Bruins in the shootout, he had won every other match-up. This game also marked Sharks Head Coach Roy Sommer tying the all-time record for most games coached in the AHL with 1,256.
The game between the two fierce division rivals started off very physical. Although the Sharks had not been fighting as often lately as they have in the past, there were three fighting majors through the first half of the game and an instance of matching roughing penalties. This newest line-up for the Sharks has a number of players that are looking to prove what they’re all about.
The first score of the game did not come until 38 minutes had passed when Bruins’ Justin Florek beat Harri Sateri. The Bruins took the lead into the second intermission. When the third period came, the Bruins extended their lead with a goal by Zach Trotman. But, less than a minute later, Dan DaSilva would continue is hot steak with his 16th goal of the year. His 16 goals and 17 assists have come in just 49 games after he started the season in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign.
Despite DaSilva’s goal, the scoring would be done for the game and Bruins held on for the win. With the loss to a team the Sharks need to catch, their playoff hopes got a little further from being a reality. The Sharks have not yet been mathematically eliminated from the post season but will need to put together a truly incredible end.
The Sharks will be right back at in this weekend, visiting Manchester for the final time of the season to take on the Monarchs on Friday night. They’ll then close out their weekend by visiting Albany for the second of two meetings between them and the Devils this season.