The Sharks got off to a good start in the Young Stars tournament for the second straight year, following up a 4-1 victory over Anaheim in last season's opening night with a 6-1 win over Calgary on Sunday.
Charles Inglis, Michael Sgarbossa, Trevor Cheek, Curt Gogol, Brodie Reid, and Sena Acolaste all scored for the Sharks, with goaltenders Thomas Heemskerk and J.P. Anderson chipping in to make 38 stops throughout the tilt.
The Sharks iced seven players on tryout contracts tonight, with a whopping six of those players coming up front amongst the forwards. Prospects Michael Sgarbossa and J.P. Anderson both earned contracts with the club following their performance in the 2010 Young Stars tournament, proving that a strong showing can result in a contract offer from Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson.
Trevor Cheek and Nathan Moon's performance throughout the night was admirable and worthy of a possible contract offer if their play continues throughout the week-- Dylan Wruck, who played alongside Sgarbossa and Reid, also meshed well with his two linemates. Defenseman Antoine Corbin, who was paired up with smooth-skating Bay Area native Sena Acolatse, will have to improve throughout the week in order to secure a contract with the club.
Defenseman William Wrenn, whom Fear The Fin interviewed two years ago, was scratched tonight but will likely play tomorrow against Winnipeg.
Here is a breakdown of the lines that were in place throughout the game. Tryout contracts will be signified with a (T) following the respective player's name. Players without a (T) are those who are currently under contract with the Sharks:
Sharks Lines vs. Flames
Mike Connolly - Freddie Hamilton - James Livingston
Dylan Wruck (T) - Michael Sgarbossa - Brodie Reid
Trevor Cheek (T) - Nathan Moon (T) - Curt Gogol
Ben Thomson (T) - Charles Inglis (T) - Joe Antilla (T)
Konrad Abelthauser - Taylor Doherty
Corbin Antoine (T) - Sena Acolatse
Dylan DeMelo - Justin Sefton
Wruck, Sgarbossa, and Reid were the Sharks best forward line all night, accounting for two goals throughout the game. Sgarbossa's goal, which gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead and ended up as the game winner, was especially pleasurable for the ol' cornias to witness. After taking the puck out of his own zone cleanly Sgarbossa broke through the neutral zone and found Brodie Reid on the wing. Driving hard to the net following the play, Sgarbossa found an open seam, received the pass on his tape, and roofed one high glove-side to score his first goal of the tournament.
His play off the puck is a noticeable attribute that stuck out tonight, as Sgarbossa always managed to put himself in position to become a factor in the offensive zone. Last year he posted 36 goals, 46 assists, and finished a +13 in stints with the Sudbury Wolves and Saginaw Spirit in the OHL.
"My brother is six years older than me and I grew up playing with him, trying to keep up with him and all his friends. That definitely prepared me," Sgarbossa said. "Last season I was traded from Saginaw to Sudbury, which kind of seemed like a fresh start. They gave me a role to play, made me the go-to guy. It was really nice to have that confidence put into me by the coaching staff. I just took it and ran with it."
As with many of the prospects here in Penticton, Sgarbossa is hoping his play here will earn him an invite to the big club's training camp. If that doesn't work out, he stated he would likely return to the OHL to develop his game with Sudbury.
Goaltender Thomas Heemskerk, who played the first half of tonight's game, also had a standout performance for the Sharks. Heemskerk kept the Sharks in the game during a turnover-filled first period where the team was outshot 16-5. Staying square to the shooter and refusing to give up any rebounds, Heemskerk played aggressively in net and made the most of his opportunity in Penticton.
"I was surprised at how well it went for the first game back, I haven't played in a game situation since we got eliminated in the playoffs last year," Heemskerk stated. "It didn't seem like there was much of a transition period, which was great. I've tried to work on being more vocal in net to help my teammates out, which is definitely beneficial in games like these when you haven't played together before."
Heemskerk lived in Vancouver and grew up rooting for the Vancouver Canucks. Taking skating lessons as a kid, he humorously opined that his skating ability was going to be a barrier for him making the NHL as a forward. Upon switching to goaltender, Heemskerk enjoyed watching Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, dissecting their play as much as possible. Now he looks to Ryan Miller and Carey Price for inspiration.
"The last few years you realize that, every time you go up a level, you can't just go down to your pads and hope the puck hits you. You learn to read the shot, react, and stay flexible on your skates. The better you can react you can control your saves and put your rebounds where you want, which I think is a very important thing in our position."
Expect Heemskerk to make another appearance throughout the week, as the Sharks will be splitting goalie starts in order to get their netminders into multiple game situations. Heemskerk confirmed that this was the plan going into tonight and will be the protocol going forward.
Although San Jose struggled with turnovers tonight and forced the puck up the middle of the ice quite often in the early going, these types of mistakes come with the territory. With a bunch of 20 year olds thrown together for the first time in their careers, and linemates and defensive partners unfamiliar with one another, a rather disjointed product will be put onto the ice from time to time.
As Sgarbossa said following the game however, he liked what he saw towards the end of the game from his teammates as they became more comfortable on the ice.
"I think a lot of the guys might have been nervous at the start of the game, but I agree, we definitely started to tighten it up in our end towards the latter part of the second and into the third," Sgarbossa said. "It may not have shown up on the shot clock scoreboard, but I feel like we handled it pretty well."
The Sharks face off against the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night at 7:30 PM. It will be the first game in which the new Jets jersey will be worn in a game situation, making it a special experience for fans north of the US border.