Alex Stalock made 30 saves in net and Jon Matsumoto scored what held up as the game-winning-goal at 6:22 of the second period as the Worcester Sharks defeated the Hershey Bears 2-1 Sunday evening at the Giant Center. James Sheppard added two assists and rookie defenseman Matt Tennyson also scored for the Sharks, who remain in sole possession of second place of the Atlantic Division, three points behind the division leading Portland Pirates.
Tennyson put the Sharks up 1-0 at 18:19 of the first period with a power play goal, his third goal of the season, off a play that saw Tennyson slam the puck into the net from down low on the right side after cheating in from the right side and corralling a tape-to-tape pass from Matsumoto. Sheppard was credited with the secondary assist as he set-up the goal by winning a battle for the loose puck in the left corner.
Matsumoto extended the Sharks lead to 2-0 at 6:22 of the second period with his ninth goal of the season off a laser of a shot from on top of the right face-off circle that beat Bears goaltender Braden Holtby over the shoulder. Brodie Reid, who left the puck for Matsumoto, and Sheppard, who stole the puck at center ice, were credited with the assists.
Shortly after Matsumoto's goal, Sharks alternate captain Bracken Kearns tangled with Bears defenseman Steve Oleksy at 8:20 in a Fight of the Year candidate that got the Giant Center rocking. Following the fight, Kearns went to the locker room for repairs to his right hand as Oleksy never took his helmet off during the fight and returned to the game in the third period.
Despite out-shooting the Sharks 8-2 in the second period and having three power play opportunities, the Bears could not get the puck past Stalock, who made one spectacular save after another, one of which robbed Bears forward Ryan Stoa of a power play goal from point blank range. Through two periods, Stalock had 21 saves.
The Bears cut the Sharks lead in half at 4:48 of the third period when forward Jeff Taffe finished off a 2-on-1 rush with linemate Jon DiSalvatore by slamming home a centering feed for his eighth goal of the season after a turnover by Sharks rookie Yanni Gourde at the Bears blue line.
Despite having two power play advantages, one of which came at 18:19 and turned into a 6-on-4 as Holtby was pulled for the extra attacker, the Bears couldn't get the tying goal past Stalock, who made nine saves in the period for a Sharks win.
NOTES: Shots were 31-21 in favor of the Bears... The Sharks went 1-for-4 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill...Stalock is now 12-6-3-1 with a 2.51 goals-against-average and .915 save percentage... In addition to his game-winning shootout goal back on Dec. 15, 2012, Matsumoto has been involved in all five Sharks goals against the Bears this season (2-3-5)... With the one fight, the Sharks now have 41 through 33 games... Danny Groulx (inj), Taylor Doherty (inj), Brandon Mashinter (inj), Tim Kennedy (inj), Curt Gogol (inj), Sena Acolatse (inj) and Jimmy Bonneau (scr) did not dress for the Sharks... Sharks defenseman Matt Pelech played at forward... This was the second of four meetings between the teams this season... The Sharks are 2-0-0-0 against the Bears this season, 11-7-0-1 on the road and 18-12-1-2 with 39 points overall.
1. Jon Matsumoto - Sharks (1-1-2, GWG)
2. Alex Stalock - Sharks (30 saves, win)
3. Matt Tennyson - Sharks (1-0-1)