Despite not having three of their leading scorers in forwards Jeremy Langlois, Daniil Tarasov and Chris Tierney, the Worcester Sharks won for the 11th time in their last 13 games with a 4-3 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers) Wednesday night at the PPL Center.
The win, which vaulted the Sharks into the seventh seed of the AHL Eastern Conference Calder Cup Playoff race, was a milestone for head coach Roy Sommer, who in his 17th season became the third coach in AHL history to win 600 games (Sommer is only 36 wins from tying Fred "Bun" Cook" for the all-time lead).
"I never really had thought about it, but I knew it could happen soon," said Sommer in a post game interview with Jeff Moeller. "It's good to finally get it over with, but it is quite an honor."
With Tierney and Tarasov both on recall in San Jose and Langlois out indefinitely with a foot injury, the Sharks got goals from forwards Ryan Carpenter (who also had an assist), Eriah Hayes, Bryan Lerg and Micheal Haley. In addition, forward John McCarthy and defenseman Matt Taormina dished out two assists each while goaltender Aaron Dell made 30 saves in net for his third win of the season.
The Phantoms struck first at 3:19 of the first period when forward Jake Akeson beat Dell with a snap shot from on top of the left faceoff circle that got through traffic in front for a power play goal, his 10th goal of the season.
Carpenter tied the game at 13:30 when he crashed the net and slid home a rebound through the wickets of Phantoms goaltender Rob Zepp for his seventh goal of the season. McCarthy and Sharks defenseman Gus Young, who took the initial shot on goal from on top of the left circle, had the assists on the goal.
At 14:15 of the second period, Carpenter skated across the crease with the puck and sent a no look backhanded pass to Hayes, who buried a one-timer from in front of the hash marks in the slot through the wickets of Zepp for his fourth goal of the season and a 2-1 Sharks lead. McCarthy had the secondary assist on the goal.
64-seconds after Hayes' goal, Sharks forward Travis Oleksuk engaged in his second fight of the season as he dropped the gloves with Phantoms forward Nick Cousins after Haley was hit from behind (away from the puck) at the blue line by Phantoms forward Zach Stortini.
Halfway through the third period at 10:13, Lerg extended the Sharks lead to 3-1 when he stuffed home a rebound from point blank range for a power play goal, his seven goal of the season. Sharks forward Evan Trupp, who had first crack at the rebound, and Taormina had the assists on the goal.
Haley got his revenge for the Stortini hit at 13:48 when he got positioning in front of Zepp and redirected Taormina's slap shot from the top of the right point (just inside the blue line) for a power play goal, his 12th goal of the season. Oleksuk was credited with the secondary assist on the goal.
With just 87-seconds left in the period, Phantoms defenseman Brandon Manning scored his eighth goal of the season off a snap shot from inside the right circle that appeared to ring off the crossbar but was ruled a good goal after a lengthy video review. At 19:58, Stortini squirted the puck past Dell from on top of the crease for his eighth goal of the season to make the final score 4-3 in favor of the Sharks.
"We have had a number of people out of the line, and I thought we out-skated them from the start," said Sommer. "It was a great effort from a number of guys who really stepped it up."
NOTES... Shots on goal were 44-33 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 2-for-7 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill... Dell is now 3-2-1 with a 1.95 goals-against-average and .917 save percentage... Trupp and Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty each had a team high six shots on goal... Forwards Spencer Asuchak and Trevor Parkes made their AHL season debuts after signing PTO's with the Sharks on Feb. 3... McCarthy and forward Jimmy Bonneau were the only two Sharks skaters without a shot on goal... Tierney was called up to San Jose earlier in the day... Coach Sommer needs 11 wins to pass Frank Mathers for second all-time in AHL wins... This was the third of four meetings between the Sharks and Phantoms this season... The Sharks are 2-1-0 against the Phantoms, 10-9-4 on the road and 24-16-5 with 53 points overall... The Sharks are back in action Feb. 6 when they travel to play the Norfolk Admirals at 7:30 pm/et.
1. Ryan Carpenter - Sharks (1-1-2)
2. Bryan Lerg - Sharks (1-0-1)
3. Rob Zepp - Phantoms (40 saves)
Lerg (C) / Trupp / Coetzee
McCarthy / Carpenter / Hayes
Haley (A) / Oleksuk / Hamilton
Bonneau / Parkes / Asuchak
**Author's note: first two lines might be inversed**
Taormina (A) / Doherty
Abeltshauser / DeMelo
Young / Fedun