The Pacific Division Shootout concluded on Tuesday night with the Sharks falling to the Anaheim Ducks in overtime, 2-1. The Sharks finished the tournament with a record of 1-1-2.
Not happy with the overtime defeat, Worcester Sharks Head Coach Roy Sommer stated, “Some of the guys stepped up to the plate and they will benefit from the experience.”
Sommer’s assistant coach, David Cunniff, believes that Lukas Kaspar and Mike Iggulden took the proper approach to the tournament and that they will be better for it.
“Iggulden and Kaspar really competed,” said Cunniff. “With one full professional season under their belts, their was a question about how hard they would work. But those guys came in, worked hard and set the tempo for the rest of the team.”
Kaspar was Johnny-on-the-spot yet again on Tuesday night. Planted in front of the net, where he was frequently found during the tournament, the young Czech left wing chipped home a rebound off of a Marc-Edouard Vlasic
shot from the point.
Also assisting on the goal was Iggulden. Just last season, Iggulden was playing in the Pacific Division Shootout as a tryout. A year later, he finds himself better prepared and more confident.
“My goals for this season are different than they were last year,” said Iggulden. “I am still trying to impress everyone, but I am a lot more confident. I know what to expect now.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound center was looking for a team after finishing his collegiate career at Cornell in 2004-05. After impressing the Sharks scouts at training camp last season, he signed a contract with the Sharks on January 16. At season’s end, Iggulden was one of three Cleveland Barons (AHL) rookies to record 20+ goals (22-26=48).
With one solid season behind him, he isn’t content with his game. The hunger is evident to the man who coached him last season.
“Watching him in the tournament, I noticed Iggulden has worked on his speed,” said Sommer. “He worked hard and went to the net a lot too.”
“Iggy really was working hard,” agreed Cunniff. “He was really active and doing all of the small things. He was back-checking and fore-checking and it was good to see.”
Even with the praise, Iggulden knows there is more ahead of him. Friday marks the first day of the main training camp. Now that he went through it last season, he is more comfortable with the process.
“Everything was so new last year,” explained. “I was really nervous about everything, really. I just want to use this tournament as a stepping stone to camp and work as hard as I can.”
THE GROWING TREE
Last season, Dan Spang and Derek Joslin, both defensemen, were given a chance to play in the American Hockey League with Cleveland. Spang appeared in eight games following his season at Boston University and Joslin was able to get into two games.
Each player left a good impression with Cunniff, who focuses on developing defensemen at the AHL level. As Cunniff talked about the two, he echoed the characteristics of poise and simplicity.
“They are both going to be good players,” said Cunniff. “They never get in to trouble and they are very poised. They’re both poised with the puck and keep the game real simple.”
Joslin was excited to hear that his work was noticed and like Iggulden, the more experience he gets the more confident he becomes.
“My confidence level is a great deal higher than when I played in this last year,” said Joslin. “It is great to play in this because it is faster and the more you play, the better your reaction time becomes.”
His focus will also turn to Friday and the opening of training camp. Last season was his first camp and he wants to see how far his game has developed.
“I am really looking forward to playing in the NHL camp,” said Joslin. “The pace here was great, but it picks up a few levels when you go there. It will show me where I am at and where I need to get.”
STUCK IN A PICKLE
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
was happy with his play during the tournament. Several observers left the Shootout saying that he emerged as one of the best young defensemen out of the four teams.
Cunniff saw it coming at last year’s camp.
“Even last year, I said he was going to be a player,” said Cunniff. “He does a number of things well and it is good to see him growing as a player.”
Vlasic led the Sharks defensemen in the Shootout with six points (2-4=6), which tied for the team lead.
“I thought the Tournament went pretty well,” assessed Vlasic. “The speed of the game was a lot different then I’ve been used to, but I got comfortable with it after the first period of the first game.”
Vlasic still has one more season of eligibility with Quebec of the QMJHL, but he is still looking to make an opportunity for himself.
“I’m looking forward to working hard in training camp and showing that I belong at this level.”
Michal Macho made the hit of the night on Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan with 17:19 left in the third period. Killing a penalty, Macho gained a head of steam towards mid-ice after an aggressive forecheck. Ryan accepted a pass across the middle and Macho leveled him to the ice with a hard body check.
“I saw him coming through the middle and he was going slow so I was able to put a good hit on him,” said Macho. “It could have been better, but I came in too low on him.”
Marty McSorley, the new color commentator for FSN Bay Area’s coverage of San Jose Sharks hockey, took in Monday and Tuesday’s action at the Pacific Division Shootout. On Monday, he and Randy Hahn met in person for the first time since the hire and the two discussed the upcoming season.
“I’m very familiar with Randy, from his time in Edmonton and my time here in San Jose,” said McSorley. “We have a lot in common and it will give us a lot to talk about on air. Randy is a true hockey person as he is a fan first. There won’t be any tension and I think we’ll have an easy time finding a flow.”
After watching the two games, McSorley was impressed with what he saw.
“They’ve got some big, strong defensemen coming down the pike. Give them time and they will be exciting players.”
McSorley, the head coach for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons from 2002-04, firmly believes in the development of players and took the time to get to know the Sharks prospects.
“This is tremendously important and San Jose really gets it,” said the two-time Stanley Cup winner. “Some teams put older players in it. But San Jose uses their young prospects and puts them into situations that they normally wouldn’t see. It puts pressure on them and when you see them year after year, you see where they are in their learning curve.”
Cunniff also likes to see the learning curve. Knowing that he will likely inherit a number of the players in Worcester at some point, he uses the opportunity to the fullest.
“I’m going to work with them at some point. So when I see problems, I let them know what they need to work on and hopefully break them of some bad habits.”