Sharks host Penguins Sunday
Sharks Go Penguin Hunting This Sunday
By Andrew Stepanek
The Worcester Sharks return home to DCU Center ice this Sunday, November 20 for a 4pm contest with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The “Baby Pens” have gotten off to a real solid start going 10-3-1-2 for 23 points and first place in the AHL’s East Division. It is sure to be a back and forth affair that will give the young physical Sharks all they can handle.
Worcester looks to come out with a big win against the Penguins. The Sharks are in a bit of a rough patch after having the best start in franchise history. The Sharks have just one win in their last eight games and have scored just 16 goals during that span. Worcester has 14 points for fourth place in the Atlantic Division. A win against the streaking Penguins is the perfect way to get back on track.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ start perfectly illustrates the divide between road success and home struggles. The Pens are 8-0-0-1 on the road this season, outscoring their opponents 33-16, but have just one win in six tries at Mohegan Sun Arena (1-3-1-1) heading into Saturday’s action
Going back to last year, Wilkes-Barre had won 12 straight regular-season road games before a 3-2 shootout loss in Portland on Friday; the AHL record is 15, set by the Penguins themselves over the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.
Worcester enters the contest hoping rookie and team leading scorer Mike Connolly can keep up the production. Connolly ranks seventh among all AHL rookies with 13 points (5g, 8a) in 12 games but hasnt scored a goal in his last eight games.
Sharks’ defenseman Matt Irwin has also been solid in his offensive contributions so far in 2011-12. Irwin leads AHL defensemen with six goals, with all of them coming on the power play. #20 is riding a two game point streak (2-2-4) heading into Sunday’s contest vs. The Penguins.
Despite the rocky record as of late, The Worcester Sharks goaltending tandem of Tyson Sexsmith and Harri Sateri has been rather consistent and has kept the Sharks in games.
The Penguins have quite the arsenal of players to watch for. Carl Sneep always seems find his way on the ice for big moments. The 6-3 217 pound defenseman is a team leading +10.
Brian Lerg is the Penguins leading scorer with 14 points (6g, 8a) in 16 games. The small, speedy forward had a six game point streak (0g, 6a) snapped on Friday.
Brian Gibbons has become a rookie sensation for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as he currently ranks ninth among AHL rookies with five goals and eight assists in 16 games.
Expect to see Brad Theissen in the Penguin crease as he boasts a 9-3-0 record along with a 2.17 GAA and a .914 SV%.
Physical prowess comes in the form of 225 pound Simon Despres who leads the league with three game winning goals. Despres has not yet dropped the gloves this season but uses his big body to get in the way. Joey Mormina stands at six feet, six inches and leads the team with 24 penalty minutes.
Speaking of penalties, the Penguins stay out of the box. WBS ranks 26th in the AHL averaging 14.19 penalty minutes per game and have remained disciplined with only 6 fighting majors in 2011-12.
This is a major contrast to the Worcester Sharks who currently lead the league with 22.31 penalty minutes per game complete with 17 fighting majors. The Sharks have made a name for themselves as one of the biggest and scariest teams in the AHL. Players are not afraid to fight to make their presence known. Jimmy Bonneau, Curt Gogol, Cam MacIntyre, Mike Moore, Nathan Moon, Nick Petrecki, Brandon Mashinter, Sena Acolatse, and Frazer McLaren have all dropped their mitts for the teal in the onset of 2011-12.
This affinity for fisticuffs and rough stuff has a direct correlation with special teams. The power play and penalty kill have both excelled and suffered for the Worcester Sharks. At times bad penalties have given opposing teams early leads that have haunted the Sharks late in games.
The Sharks have gone 12 for 64 on the power play, converting 18.8% of the time. They are tied for 16th in the AHL for the best power play percentage. Worcester’s penalty kill is currently 6th in the league as they boast an 85.9 penalty kill percentage.
The Penguins come into the game struggling on the power play. They have gone just 11 for 75 for a 14.7% conversion rate on power plays. They are currently tied for the 21st best power play in the AHL.
Playing shorthanded is when things get interesting for Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins have been lethal scoring four short handed goals this season; however they also have 3 short handed goals against. WBS maintains the 13th best penalty kill unit killing 81.0% of penalties.
Sunday’s game promises to include plenty of intense action and some of the best rookie talent in the AHL.