Kicking off their second consecutive three-in-three weekend, the Worcester Sharks avenged an overtime loss from two weeks ago by defeating the St. John's IceCaps (AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets) 6-3 at the DCU Center Friday night for their 17th win in their last 21 games.
The Sharks, who moved into the sixth seed in the AHL Eastern Conference Calder Cup Playoff standings, got a four point game from forward Evan Trupp, which featured his first professional hat trick, and three assists from Trupp's linemate Trevor Parkes. In addition, the Sharks got goals from forwards Eriah Hayes, Rylan Schwartz and John McCarthy, while goaltender Aaron Dell made 29 saves in net for his eighth win of the season.
"We've been on fire for a long time," said Sharks head coach Roy Sommer in a post game interview with Rich Garven of Telegram.com. "We were way out of a playoff spot, and now we're 13 games over .500 after being a couple of games under .500. We've battled back. We're just finding a way to win hockey games. If it's not one line, it's another line."
The game got off to an explosive start just two-seconds in as Sharks enforcer Jimmy Bonneau dropped the gloves with IceCaps forward Blair Riley in response to what Riley did a couple weeks ago in St. John's to Sharks defensemen Gus Young and Taylor Fedun when Bonneau wasn't dressed. After a near minute scrap that saw repeated overhand rights landed, both Bonneau and Riley were assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for removing their helmets, five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct.
Feeding off the energy of the fight, the Sharks took a 1-0 lead at 1:12 when Trupp corralled a neutral zone pass from Parkes, skated into the IceCaps zone and beat goaltender Connor Hellebuyck top shelf with a snap shot from inside the left faceoff circle near the slot for his first goal of the game and 11th of the season. Sharks defenseman Matt Taormina had the secondary assist.
The IceCaps tied the game at 4:17 when after some nice tic-tac-toe passing, forward John Albert buried home an across the slot centering feed from linemate JC Lipon for his 15 goal of the season.
Hayes put the Sharks head 2-1 at 8:42 with a missile of a slap shot from on top of the right circle while on the move that surprised Hellebuyck. Hayes' linemate Ryan Carpenter had the lone assist on the goal, which was Hayes' fifth of the season and third in his last 10 games.
As was the case when the Sharks went ahead earlier in the period, the IceCaps got the tying goal at 16:11 when forward Chase Balisy redirected defenseman Brenden Kichton's centering feed from the right circle faceoff dot past Dell for his 13th goal of the season.
A bit past the midway point of the second period, it appeared the IceCaps were going to take their first lead of the game as they hemmed the Sharks inside their own zone for nearly three minutes. The Sharks were able to get a clear with Parkes pursing the puck all the way down the ice so the Sharks could get a full line change. Parkes' aggressive forecheck caused IceCaps defenseman Julian Melchiori to skate back with the puck from the blue line of his own zone all the way to right corner, where he lost his balance into the boards. With the puck in the corner, Parkes sent a backhand pass to the right circle for Trupp, who sent an across the slot diagonal pass to Schwartz, who redirected the puck past Hellebuyck for his second goal of the season at 12:33.
The lead only lasted 44-seconds as IceCaps forward Scott Kosmachuk deflected in Lipon's drifting wrist shot from on top of the right circle for his 12th goal of the season.
Nearly two-and-a-half minutes later at 15:41, Lerg fired a keep in slap shot on net from the left point that was deflected in from the left hash mark inside the slot by Trupp to give the Sharks a 4-3 lead.
Unlike the previous three times when the Sharks scored, there would be no tying goal from the IceCaps as Dell made 14 saves in the third period to preserve the Sharks' lead. With Hellebuyck pulled for the extra attacker inside the final two minutes of the period, McCarthy scored an empty net goal, his ninth goal of the season, at 18:12.
Trupp completed the hat trick at 19:35 with an empty net goal, his 13th goal of the season, that was assisted by Sharks defenseman Dylan DeMelo and Parkes.
NOTES... Shots on goal were 32-29 in favor of the IceCaps... The Sharks didn't have a power play and went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill... Dell is now 8-3-2 with a 1.90 goals-against-average and .929 save percentage... Trupp had a team high five shots on goal... McCarthy (2-1-3), Hayes (1-2-3) and Carpenter (1-3-4) extended their point streaks to three games each... The line of Lerg/Trupp/Parkes combined for eight points (3-5-8) and a plus-eight rating... This was the fifth of eight meetings between the Sharks and IceCaps this season... The Sharks are 3-1-1 against the IceCaps, 17-7-3 at the DCU Center and 30-17-6 with 66 points overall... The Sharks' three-in-three weekend continues Saturday night (Feb. 28) as they rematch the IceCaps at 7 p.m./et.
1. Evan Trupp - Sharks (3-1-4, Hat Trick)
2. Trevor Parkes - Sharks (0-3-3)
3. Scott Kosmachuk - IceCaps (1-1-2)
McCarthy / Carpenter / Hayes
Lerg (C) / Trupp / Parkes
Haley (A) / Oleksuk / Hamilton
Bonneau / Schwartz / Coetzee
Taormina (A) / Tennyson
DeMelo / Doherty
Young / Fedun