With a three goal deficit to make up in 20 minutes, the San Jose Sharks had two options: hold or fold.
By holding, and with a young lineup in tow, it nearly earned them the completion of a breathtaking comeback.
Despite two goals from rookie defenseman Nick Schaus and goaltender Thomas Heemskerk
's 22 saves, many stopped with a high degree of difficulty, the Sharks three-goal third period comeback fell short in a 5-3 setback to the host Vancouver Canucks at the 2010 YoungStars Tournament at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.
The Sharks, who fell to 1-1 in the round robin format, were without towering defensemen Taylor Doherty
and Nick Petrecki
, and notable prospect forwards Benn Ferriero
and Brandon Mashinter
Schaus left an offensive impression in his tournament debut, joined by others such as forwards Daniel Erlich and Zach O'Brien who were able to crack the tournament lineup for the first time.
“I think it shows a lot of moxie,” said Worcester Sharks head coach Roy Sommer, who guided the prospects behind the bench. “When you're down 3-0 you wonder, as a coach and as an organization, how everyone would come out. But, no one quit.”
Heemskerk, coming off 24-12-4 regular season finish in 2009-10 with Everett of the Western Hockey League, nearly matched 6-foot-5 counterpart Eddie Lack save-for-save in the opening period with the Canucks eventually owning a 10-7 shots advantage.
Vancouver, who earned their first win of the tournament to also move to 1-1, opened the scoring with 7:44 left in the first period when Matt Fraser launched an Alex Friesen feed from between the circles with a one-timer that eluded Heemskerk's glove.
Heemskerk kept the Sharks within reach by stopping Bill Sweatt on a breakaway late in the period.
Back-to-back goals from Canucks power forward Aaron Volpatti boosted the lead to 3-0 by the end of the second, beginning with the finishing of an end-to-end rush at 4:24, engineered by Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, who found Vopatti at the left post with a feed from the right circle.
Volpatti notched his second goal of the game for the 3-0 lead by capitalizing off a Sharks turnover in the neutral zone and finding the back of the net on a right circle wrist shot with 3:52 remaining.
That's when the Sharks responded, looking for screens and deflections to break Lack's perfect run of 18 saves and capitalize off the Canucks lineup that featured five of its top six forwards playing their second game in 24 hours.
Leigh Salters used his 6-foot-4 frame at the doorstep to re-direct Justin Braun
's blast with 50 seconds into the period to get the Sharks on the board.
Schaus then earned his first of two goals to get the Sharks back in the game at a 3-2 deficit just 2:04 later on the power-play. Konrad Abeltshauser
, who collected his first of two assists, fed Schaus at the left point and he ripped a shot through traffic that scooted by Lack's blocker side.
“Nick's been good,” said Sommer. “I thought the kids were nervous to start the game, but once they settled in, they played pretty good. They were solid and made good decisions.”
Vancouver earned two more goals to restore breathing room at 5-2 when Tanev converted a power-play goal at 6:59 from the right circle and Pierre-Olivier Morin buried a wrist shot with 9:26 left.
The Sharks drew to within two goals again when Schaus gathered the puck against the right boards and fired a seeing-eye one-timer through traffic and over Lack's glove with 8:51 left.
“I just wanted to get the D involved on the play,” said Schaus. “I was getting down in the play. The puck came off the wall and I was able to one-time it and beat (Lack).”
Heemskerk was pulled for an extra-attacker with less than two-minutes remaining and the comeback picked up steam when Fraser earned a tripping penalty with 1:56 left for a Sharks 6-on-4 skating situation.
Yet several chances, including two point shots by Schaus, slightly missed before time ran out.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
With Petrecki out for the second game of the tournament, defenseman Joe Loprieno was the heir to the captain's “C” on his jersey.
DROP THE MITTS, PART II
Tempers flared early and often, just like the previous night in a 4-1 win over Anaheim. Eight fighting majors were handed out, with three bouts in the first period featuring Loprieno battling Volpatti, then Curt Gogol
landing several rights on defenseman Taylor Ellington just 1:01 after the first scrap.
Worcester Sharks-bred forward Kevin Henderson battled Sawyer Hannay with 1:37 left in the first period. Salters then scrapped with Tayler Jordan with 3:03 gone in the second period.
OIL UP THE SHIP
The Sharks will practice Tuesday afternoon in Penticton during their day off and return to the ice for their final game of the tournament on Wednesday, facing the Edmonton Oilers and the #1 overall selection at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Taylor Hall, at 7:30 p.m. The game's webcast can be seen live, streamed online at www.sjsharks.com.