Reinforcements have kept Sharks blue line solid

Reinforcements have kept Sharks blue line solid
Banwell and Brennan have played well for Worcester as Sharks deal with injuries

By Andrew Nawn

Injuries have decimated the Worcester Sharks blue line so far this season but haven’t decimated the team overall. Defensemen Mike Banwell and Mike Brennan have stepped up to solidify a solid blue line in the absence of the four defensemen missing from the Worcester’s blue line. Nick Petrecki (16 games), Taylor Doherty (12 games), Danny Groulx (10 games), and Matt Irwin (3 games) make out the group of injured Sharks defensemen who are missing games as a result of injuries.

With key parts missing from the Sharks blue line, this has given the chance for Mike Banwell and Mike Brennan to make an impact here in Worcester. Brennan and Banwell each came into this season with previous AHL experience having played in a combined 310 AHL games.

Mike Brennan who hails from Smithtown, New York played four years (2004-2008) at Boston College, where he collected 38 points (6 goals, 32 assists) and 168 career games and also won a National Championship in 2008 with Sharks Defenseman Nick Petrecki. The 6 foot, 205 pound defenseman has skated in 282 AHL career games and has amassed 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists) and 406 penalty minutes. The 26 year old’s best AHL season came with the Toronto Marlies in the 2010-2011 season, when he skated in 72 games and tied a career high in goals (3), assists (7), and points (10).

Mike Banwell, a native of Scarborough, Ontario enjoyed four seasons (2007-2011) at the University of Maine, skating in 109 career games and collecting 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) to go along with 169 penalty minutes. While skating in 28 career games with the Albany Devils the 25 year old, 6’2 and 195 pound defenseman collected 4 assists and 25 penalty minutes.

Associate coach David Cunniff has liked what he has seen so far.

“Both Brennan and Banwell play the game gritty and tough, just like most of our defensemen. So it is really isn’t a change of pace when comparing these two guys, to the rest of the defensemen on this team,” said Cunniff. “The constant competiveness these two display is one of the things that recently hasn’t just helped them out but has benefited the team in recent games and practices.”

Banwell and Brennan have gotten more and more comfortable with the Sharks with each passing game.

“It’s pretty obvious to see that these two guys are improving all parts of their game, as they get more comfortable with each game they skate in,” said Cunniff. “If there is any example of how much we depended on these guys, just look at the game on 12/16 verse Portland where we only dressed five defensemen and really counted on these two guys to take up a lot of ice time.”

With injuries giving both Brennan and Banwell a chance to play and contribute, it looks like they are not only making the most of this opportunity but helping the Sharks stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

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