(Photo: Heather Stebbins, The Pink Puck)
That opening headline might be unfamiliar to Worcester Sharks fans, but that’s exactly how the season has started. They are the only team in the Eastern Conference that has not yet lost a game. They join the reigning Calder Cup Champion Texas Stars and the Milwaukee Admirals of the Western Conference as the only undefeated teams in the league.
The Sharks opened their season on the road against the Binghamton Senators. The teams only face off twice this season and game one went to the Sharks. Although it had to go to overtime, the Sharks came off on top by a score of 3-2.
Next up for the Sharks was a home and home series with the Providence Bruins. They first took the trip down route 146 to Providence to take on the Bruins on Friday night. It was the first of 12 meetings for the teams that have been serious rivals season in and season out.
Worcester wasted no time in getting on the board first, something they have done in each of their three games so far. Petter Emanuelsson had his first professional goal in just his second game and followed that up with a second goal later in the first. The lone goal for the Bruins came from Justin Florek. All three goals that stood came in the first period.
What was possibly more bizarre from this game was that there were also two disallowed goals. The first goal under review came from the Sharks. However, it appears that the review was not working at that time. The officials stuck with the call on the ice that there had been no goal with no video review. Later in the game, it appeared that Justin Florek might have scored another. This time, the video review played numerous times throughout the arena. It looked like it could have been a close call. The puck crossed over the line just as the net was coming off it’s hinges. But, one of the Bruins was also tangled up with Sharks goalie Troy Grosenick. Either way, the rule on the ice of no goal stood.
Although the Bruins pulled retuning goalie Malcolm Subban towards the end of the game, the Sharks held on for the win and to keep their win streak going into their home opener.
When Saturday, October 18th came around, the Sharks geared up for their home opener. They were also celebrating twenty years of Worcester Hockey. The Worcester IceCats were in the city for 11 seasons and now the Sharks are entering their 9th season. The Opening Ceremony included raising a special banner with the 20th anniversary logo for the city designed by a fan.
As was the case in the first and second games of the season, the Sharks struck first. This time it was defenseman Taylor Doherty with a shot from the blue line that looked like it bounced off a Bruins player and went by Malcolm Subban, who was once again in net for the Bruins. The Sharks followed this up with an impressive first professional goal for Melker Karlsson in his first game in the AHL. It was an impressive goal as he fell to the ice but committed.
The next two goals would be for Providence as they tied up the score. But halfway through the second period, veteran and new Sharks forward Micheal Haley netted his second of the season in just three games.
Just as was the case in the game Friday, this game was not without excitement. Once again, the Bruins pulled Subban towards the end of the game. This time, however, the result was a little different. With less than 5 seconds remaining, Alexander Khokhlachev beat Grosenick for his first of the season. Khokhlachev also assisted on both Bruins goals.
This meant that Sharks were headed to overtime for the second time in three games. Overtime started as four on four. Once again, the Sharks made it past the four minute mark before anyone scored. So, with the new rules in the AHL, that meant that the overtime went to three on three. It was familiar territory for the Sharks, who made it to that point in their season opener as well. Just like in Binghamton, it was once again a defenseman that came to the rescue to give the Sharks the win. This time, it was Dylan DeMelo, who returned for his second full season with the Sharks and is the youngest member of the team.
What Sophomore Slump?
It’s still early in the season and there are a lot of things that can change, but some players have been shining in their second professional seasons.
Troy Grosenick made a strong showing in his first season. His numbers might not have always told the whole story, but he impressed a lot of people in his first season. His second season has not been different, so far. He has gotten all three starts and has three wins to show for it. So far he has a GAA of 1.86 and a save percentage of .944. This season, Grosenick will likely have to take on a heavier workload. Last season, he split time with Harri Sateri, but this season he will be the clear starting goalie.
Like the San Jose Sharks, the Worcester Sharks are rotating through a series of alternate captains. Through the first three games, only one player has been an alternate captain in all the games. Dylan DeMelo is coming off his first full professional season where he lead defensemen in points. He has already recorded his first goal of the season. More importantly than that, Demelo seems to have grown a lot, building off of last season. He has become an incredibly strong force and already looks reliable in front of Grosenick.
Dynamic Duo on Defense
This season, Worcester is rolling with a defensive pair so tall that it must be one of the tallest in the league. Taylor Doherty, who is back for his fourth season and comes in at 6’8 has been skating with Konrad Abeltshauser, a 6’5 defenseman who is in his second season.
Again, it is early in the season, too early to tell for sure what the shape of a team will be. However, these two seem to be made to play together on the blue line. Both impressed in camp with San Jose and were among the last defensemen cut. Doherty brings an imposing presence to the ice and continues to increase his physicality. Abeltshauser moves the puck well and covers the blue line well. Both of them, being so tall, cover a lot of ground and move surprisingly fluidly for players so tall.
Rookies Adjusting Quickly
This season saw two players come over together after playing on the same Swedish Hockey League team. Petter Emanuelsson has been playing with what would probably be called the fourth line. But, that has not stopped him from contributing. His two goals in the second game tie him for the early lead in goals on the Sharks.
Melker Karlsson was injured during preseason but made his AHL debut on Opening Night. It was immediately clear that he had the same quick speed that Emanuelsson has. Having played in the Swedish Hockey League, they were used to having to skate at a faster pace. The commitment that Karlsson showed when he scored his first AHL goal from his knees was nothing short of impressive.
Ryan Carpenter, the only other rookie to have played a game yet, played on a line with Karlsson and Haley in the Home Opener. Carpenter joined the Sharks at the end of the 2013-2014 season after finishing at Bowling Green University. He skated in 12 games but was without his first professional goal. But, he got onto the scoresheet early this year, registering the first goal of the season for his first professional goal. He also assisted on Karlsson’s first goal. He has also shown good speed as well as a quick shot.
The Sharks have 5 more home games before they have to hit the road again. Their next game is against the Hartford Wolf Pack.