How quickly things change.
Just one month ago, the Worcester Sharks lost seven games in a row (all in regulation) and eight-of-nine overall. Now, the Sharks find themselves just five points out of a playoff spot in the AHL Eastern Conference after defeating their Atlantic Division rival the Portland Pirates (AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes) 3-2 Tuesday night at the DCU Center.
The Sharks, who have eight games remaining (seven of which are at home), got goals from forwards Travis Oleksuk, Freddie Hamilton and Matt Pelech while rookie goaltender Troy Grosenick made 21 saves for his 17th win of the season.
"It's just more motivation for us to finish the season strong," said Hamilton in a post game interview with Rich Garven of Telegram.com. "We got down with that losing streak a little bit ago, but a lot of credit to our team for battling back. We didn't quit and we've given ourselves a chance here.
"That's something to be proud of, and hopefully, we can close that gap even more. The key word is consistency. Every game is important for us now, and we just have to bear down. We can't take a game off because that might be the difference."
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead at 7:44 of the first period when Oleksuk tracked down a loose puck in the right face-off circle and stuffed the puck past Pirates goaltender Louis Domingue from on top of the crease for his 17th goal of the season. Sharks rookie forward Eriah Hayes was credited with the lone assist.
Hamilton pushed the Sharks lead to 2-0 at 3:43 of the second period when he beat Domingue with a quick shot from deep inside the left face-off circle for a 5-on-3 power play goal, his team leading 20th goal of the season. Sharks defenseman Matt Tennyson and Oleksuk were credited with the assists.
The Pirates cut the Sharks lead in half at 8:17 when forward Tobias Rieder redirected linemate Andy Miele's turnaround shot from the right face-off dot past Grosenick for his 25the goal of the season.
At 6:32 of the third period, the Sharks regained their two goal lead when Pelech tipped in Sharks rookie defenseman Mirco Mueller's shot from the left half board past Domingue for his third goal of the season. Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty was credited with the secondary assist on the goal, which held up as the game winner.
Rieder scored his second goal of the game, and 26th goal of the season, at 9:31 when he stuffed the puck past a sprawled out Grosenick, who had made two spectacular saves seconds prior to rob Pirates forward Jordan Martinhook of a goal.
The Pirates pulled Domingue for the extra attacker with one minute left in the period but the Sharks did an excellent drop of draining out the clock to hold on for a 3-2 victory.
NOTES... Final shots on goal were 35-23 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 1-for-3 on the power play and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill... Grosenick is 6-1 in his last seven starts, and is now 17-11-0 with a 2.71 goals-against-average and .901 save percentage... Hamilton had a game high five shots on goal... Mueller wore no. 41 in his professional debut after registering 27 points (5-22-27) in 60 regular season games and two points (1-1-2) in five playoff games for the WHL Everett Silvertips... Oleksuk has 17 points (7-10-17) in his last 16 games... The Sharks signed Mercyhurst College defenseman Nick Jones to an ATO prior to the start of the game... This was the 12th and final meeting between the Sharks and Pirates this season... The Sharks went 8-4-0-0 against the Pirates, are 17-13-0-1 at the DCU Center and 34-30-3-1 with 72 points overall... The Sharks are back in action April 4 as travel to play their Atlantic Division rival the Providence Bruins in their last road game of the season.
1. Travis Oleksuk - Sharks (1-1-2)
2. Tobias Rieder - Pirates (2-0-2)
3. Matt Pelech - Sharks (1-0-1, GWG)
Carpenter / Kearns (A) / DaSilva
Hamilton (A) / Oleksuk / Hayes
Higgs / Rau / Schmidt
Bonneau / Schwartz / Pelech
Abeltshauser / Tennyson
Mueller / DeMelo
Doherty / Comrie