James Sheppard scored two power play goals, Matt Tennyson registered three assists and Alex Stalock made 22 saves as the Worcester Sharks rallied when trailing after two periods for an AHL leading sixth time to defeat the Hershey Bears 4-3 in the shootout Saturday night at the Giant Center. Jon Matsumoto scored the winning goal in the shootout, and Travis Oleksuk dished out two assists for the Sharks, who trail the Providence Bruins and Portland Pirates by one point for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bears jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when rookie defenseman Cameron Schilling ripped a shot from the left point past Stalock just 36-seconds into the game for his third goal of the season on the Bears first shot on goal. Matsumoto answered back for the Sharks with a power play goal, his fourth goal of the season, at 6:17 off a deflection in front of a Tennyson wrist shot from the right point after a face-off win by Oleksuk.
With the Sharks playing sloppy in their own end later in the period, Mike Carman put the Bears up 2-1 at 10:33 with his third goal of the season off a deflection in front of a Garrett Stafford slap shot from the right point. Nearly three minutes later at 13:26, Zach Hamill extended the Bears lead to 3-1 when he beat Stalock stick side with a wrist shot from the slot for his ninth goal of the season after a sweet deke on Sharks defenseman Mikael Tam.
Looking to spark the Sharks, Brandon Mashinter dropped the gloves with Bears forward Alex Berry in a quick scrap at 13:33. At 14:28, Sharks rookie Yanni Gourde, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, dropped Bears forward Matt Pope in their battle but both were assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The physical play carried over into the second period as Tam engaged in a marathon battle against Bears forward Garrett Mitchell at 3:23 for his first professional fight. Sheppard pulled the Sharks to within a goal with a power play goal, his fourth goal of the season, at 4:05 when he beat Bears goaltender Braden Holtby with a low slap shot from on top of the face-off circles. Matsumoto and Tennyson were credited with the assists.
Sheppard tied the game at 9:49 of the third period with his second power play goal of the game, this time off a deflection in front of a Tennyson shot from the right point that beat Holtby over the glove. Oleksuk was credited with the secondary assist.
Eyebrows were raised at 15:01 when Sharks defenseman Sena Acolatse was given a misconduct for “inciting” after he either said something to or stared at Bears captain Boyd Kane. Despite Acolatse being shown the gate, the Sharks had a golden chance to win the game when Mashinter was awarded a penalty shot on what could have been interpreted as a “make-up call” at 17:59 but was denied by Holtby.
After a scoreless overtime session that saw the Bears out shoot the Sharks 3-0, the teams headed to the shootout where Matsumoto scored the lone goal in the fourth round while Stalock was a perfect 5-for-5 to seal a Sharks win.
NOTES: Shots were 35-25 in favor of the Sharks… The Sharks went 3-for-6 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill… Stalock has stopped 10 of the last 11 shooters he has faced in the shootout and is now 9-5-3-1 with a 2.57 goals-against-average and .911 save percentage… With the two fights, the Sharks now have 35 through 25 games… Matt Irwin (inj), Danny Groulx (inj), Nick Petrecki (inj), Taylor Doherty (inj), Curt Gogol (inj), Sebastian Stalberg (scr) and Jimmy Bonneau (scr) did not dress for the Sharks… This was the first of four meetings between the teams this season… The Sharks are 1-0-0-0 against the Bears this season, 8-5-0-1 on the road and 13-9-1-2 with 29 points overall.
1. James Sheppard – Sharks (2-0-2)
2. Matt Tennyson – Sharks (0-3-3)
3. Zach Hamill – Bears (1-0-1)