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Worcester blows four goal lead in monumental third period collapse

Worcester Sharks forward Eriah Hayes attempts to screen St. John's IceCaps goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during Sunday afternoon's game at the Mile One Centre (facebook.com/stjohnsicecaps).
Worcester Sharks forward Eriah Hayes attempts to screen St. John's IceCaps goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during Sunday afternoon's game at the Mile One Centre (facebook.com/stjohnsicecaps).

Despite etching out a 4-0 lead through the first 45 minutes of play, the Worcester Sharks surrendered five unanswered goals in a devastating 5-4 overtime loss to the St. John's IceCaps (AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets) Sunday afternoon at the Mile One Centre.

The Sharks, who have earned 27 points out of a possible 34 in their last 17 games, got goals from forwards Rylan Schwartz, Travis Oleksuk, Micheal Haley and defenseman Matt Taormina. Goaltender Aaron Dell made 23 saves in his sixth consecutive start.

Schwartz put the Sharks up 1-0 at 15:54 of the first period when he crashed the net and pushed a trickling puck over the goal line for his first goal of the season. Sharks forward Trevor Parkes, who took the initial shot on goal from just inside the top of the right faceoff circle, and defenseman Taylor Fedun had the assists on the goal.

Nearly three minutes later at 18:46, Oleksuk made it 2-0 with a power play goal, his sixth goal of the season, off a give-and-go with defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser that saw Oleksuk bury the puck into an open net from the bottom edge of the right faceoff circle after an across the slot pass from on top of the left faceoff circle by Abeltshauser. Haley had the secondary assist on the goal, which came on the Sharks' third power play opportunity.

With the Sharks on their sixth power play of the game near the midway point of the second period, Taormina blasted a slap shot from on top of the faceoff circles past IceCaps goaltender Connor Hellebuyck at 8:15 for his seventh goal of the season. Fedun and Sharks forward Evan Trupp were credited with the assists.

After two sets of fighting majors that featured Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty against IceCaps forward JC Lipon at 18:31 and Fedun against IceCaps forward Blair Riley at 18:57 (Riley was assessed an extra two minutes for charging), Haley made it 4-0 at 19:35 as he corralled a pass from Oleksuk on the right goal line and shuffled a shot past Hellebuyck from on top of crease on the right side for his 14th goal of the season. Sharks forward Freddie Hamilton had the secondary assist on the goal, which ended Hellebuyck's night as he was replaced by Jussi Olkinuora at the start the third period.

With Olkinuora in net to start the third period, the IceCaps turned up their intensity and got on the scoreboard at 5:39 when Riley got the puck past Dell from point blank range for his fifth goal of the season after Dell had made several saves and Doherty whiffed on a clearing attempt. Just two-and-a-half minutes later at 8:10, IceCaps forward Patrice Cormier fired the puck through the wickets of Dell from inside the left faceoff circle for his sixth goal of the season.

At 15:04, Sharks defenseman Gus Young was assessed an interference penalty, the only penalty of the third period, and the IceCaps capitalized at 15:18 when defenseman Brenden Kichton buried home a rebound from the left side of the crease for his fifth goal of the season. The IceCaps pulled even at 18:19 when with the extra attacker, forward Chase Balisy redirected linemate Eric O'Dell's pass through the slot from the left faceoff circle past Dell for his 12th goal of the season.

In overtime, Taormina turned the puck over deep inside his own zone along the left side to IceCaps forward Carl Klingberg, who fed the puck to an arriving Kichton. With the puck on his stick, Kichton skated in and fired a snap shot from on top of the faceoff circles that beat Dell glove side for the game-winning-goal at 3:25.

NOTES... Shots on goal were 40-28 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 3-for-7 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill... Dell is now 5-3-2 with a 1.96 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage... Haley had a game high seven shots on goal and a multi-point game with a goal and assist... Fedun didn't return to the game after his second period fight with Riley and had a multi-point game as well with two assists... Oleksuk also had a multi-point game with a goal and an assist... Sharks forward Willie Coetzee had six shots on goal... Earlier in the day, defenseman Dylan DeMelo was reassigned back to the Sharks from San Jose... This was the fourth of eight meetings between the Sharks and IceCaps this season... The Sharks are 2-1-1 against the IceCaps, 12-10-5 on the road and 26-17-6 with 57 points overall... The Sharks are back in action Feb. 20 when they host the Norfolk Admirals at 7:30 pm/et.

THREE STARS
1. Brenden Kichton - IceCaps (2-0-2, GWG)
2. Micheal Haley - Sharks (1-1-2)
3. Chase Balisy - IceCaps (1-1-2)

LINES
McCarthy / Carpenter / Hayes
Lerg (C) / Trupp / Coetzee
Haley (A) / Oleksuk / Hamilton
Schwartz / Crane / Parkes

DEFENSE
Taormina (A) / Bigos
Abeltshauser / Doherty
Young / Fedun

GOALIES
Dell
Anderson

SCRATCHES
Bonneau
Grosenick
Jones
Emanuelsson (inj)
Langlois (inj)