With the Pacific Division Shootout beginning on Friday night, the Sharks would grab an empty point against the Phoenix Coyotes in a 6-5 overtime thriller. Losing a three-goal lead late in the third, the Coyotes would get a goal from Kyle Wilson 1:59 into overtime for the win.
Despite the sour outcome, the Sharks can take a number of positives out of the loss. Lukas Kaspar, the Sharks first round pick in 2004, was extremely active throughout the contest and was a big reason the Sharks were able to jump out to a 5-2 lead.
Playing in his second Pacific Division Shootout, the young left wing from the Czech Republic stood out with his spectacular overall play. A highly skilled forward, Kaspar keyed the Sharks success by planting himself in front of the net at every turn. His six-foot-two, 200-pound frame constantly screened Phoenix netminder Pier-Olivier Pelletier and helped provide scoring chance after scoring chance for the Sharks.
“He was really good in the first two periods,” said Worcester Sharks head coach Roy Sommer, who is leading the team of prospects as well. “He was in front of the net and he really did some good things.”
The first of which occurred just forty seconds into the game when the Sharks had an extra attacker on the ice due to a delayed penalty. Not willing to let an opportunity slip by, Kaspar deflected a huge shot from defenseman Randy King and beat Coyotes goaltender Pier-Olivier Pelletier to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
“It was real good to score on the first shift of the season,” said Kaspar. “I think it will be a sign of good things to come.”
The lead was extended when a screen provided by Kaspar allowed a King shot to get in on Pelletier. The shot ricocheted wildly to Brock Hooton who quickly turned the juicy rebound into a 2-0 first period lead.
“The coaches really wanted me to get in front of the net,” said Kaspar. “So I listened and good things happened. It is very encouraging.”
After Phoenix tied the game at two, Kaspar and 2005 second round pick, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, showed signs of a solid chemistry. With Kaspar setting yet another screen on Pelletier, Vlasic’s bomb from the point found its way to the back of the net.
“I thought the game went well for me. I was nervous at first, but settled down and was able to play my game,” said Vlasic. “I felt I played pretty well on defense and on offense.”
The two continued to gel, hooking up on a nice passing play for the Sharks fourth goal. With a five-on-three, Kaspar, a left-handed shot, picked the puck up on his backhand. He made a quick transition and made a no-look pass to Vlasic who he felt inching down the slot. Vlasic took the pass and buried a wrist-shot for his second goal.
“Vlasic is a special player,” said Sommer. “He’s got good vision, good hockey sense, good hands and a good shot.”
During the course of the game, Vlasic let go two hard slap shots. While not as hard as Christian Ehrhoff’s shot, his skill set translates to a player who will show offensive flash when needed.
“He has a different shot than Ehrhoff,” analyzed Sommer. “He doesn’t have a high wind-up but still gets good velocity on it.”
Although the loss is difficult to swallow, the Sharks won’t have long to dwell on it. They return to the ice tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. against Los Angeles.
Vlasic stated it best by saying, “obviously we would have liked to come away with the win, but we’ll get back after it tomorrow.”
Brady Leisenring wasn’t a huge factor on the scoresheet, although he recorded an assist, but his tenacity was extremely obvious on the ice. The right wing from the University of Vermont was active on the forecheck and produced several scoring chances.
“I wanted to go out there and execute the team plan and work within our system,” said Leisenring. “I tried to do the things that allowed me to earn a tryout with the Sharks, like use my speed.”
Sommer coached Leisenring late last season as he appeared in three games with the Cleveland Barons (AHL) following his collegiate career.
“He scored a goal for us last year,” said Sommer. “He did some good things out there tonight and worked really hard.”
THE ADVISORY BOARD
The Pacific Division Shootout provided fans their first look and some players their first experience wearing visors. With the AHL requiring all players to wear visors this season, the Pacific Division Shootout adopted the rule change.
“I’ve gotten accustomed to it through using it this summer, but this was my first real game using it,” said center Joe Pavelski
, who just finished his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. “I don’t mind it except when it fogs up.”
Under the watchful eyes of coaches, scouts and general managers, the Sharks prospects weren’t afraid to give up their bodies for the betterment of the team. Among the players seen sliding across the ice to block a shot were: Ashton Rome, James DeLory, Michal Macho and Kaspar.
WHEN A FIGHT ENDS
Typically, when a fight ends on the ice, the two combatants go to the penalty box or back to their locker rooms. In an interesting twist, Sharks right wing Jonathan Tremblay and Coyotes left wing Kevin Cormier fought to a draw. The officials sent the two back to their locker rooms as the fight occurred with less than five minutes left in the second period.
The two players exited the ice at the same door just seconds after each other. When they realized that, the two came together and exchanged words. What was said?
“I know him a little bit,” said Tremblay. “It was a quick fight and nothing really happened, so we told each other that depending on the score, we should do it again.”