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How the Land of the Rising Sun became Sharks Territory for a 1998 weekend

RicciJapan

“It’s fucking ridiculous,” said then San Jose Sharks center Bernie Nicholls in an Oct. 1998 interview with Tony Cooper of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Two NHL teams playing in Japan, why are we going over there? It’s not fair to the organizations. My question is why?”

CREATION OF NHL GAME ONE

At a press conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 26, 1997, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the Vancouver Canucks and the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim would open the 1997-98 NHL regular season with a two game set at Yoyogi Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

The games, which were the first regular season games to be played outside of North America, were part of the league’s Game ONe enterprise to increase exposure of the NHL brand and give the Japanese fans a preview of what they could expect at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, which would feature participation from active NHL players for the first time ever.

After the tremendous success of Game ONe ’97, Bettman announced at the tail end of the Nagano Winter Olympics that the NHL would return to Japan to open the 1998-99 regular season. The two teams selected to particiapte in the two-game set were the Sharks and the Calgary Flames.

REACTION IN SAN JOSE

The league’s selection of the Sharks and Flames for Game ONe ’98 caught many in the hockey realm by surprise. The Mighty Ducks and Canucks were logical choices for Game ONe ’97 with then Anaheim superstar Paul Kariya being of Japanese decent and Vancouver being a legitimate Pacific Rim city.

But the Sharks and Flames? The only history these two teams had with each other at the time was their epic seven game series in the first round of the 1995 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which saw the eighth seeded Sharks eliminate the top seeded Flames in double overtime of game seven in Calgary.

Calgary Flames forward Andrew Cassels (L, #21) and

Perhaps the league was interested in a brother versus brother showdown as Darryl Sutter was the head coach of the Sharks at the time and Brian Sutter was the coach of the Flames? Whatever the league’s reasons were, it was a decision that some within the Sharks organization, specifically Darryl and Nicholls, weren’t happy about and both made their feelings well known as opening day approached.

Darryl, who played the 1978-79 season with Iwakura Tomakomi of the Japan league and led the league in scoring with 41 points (28-13-41), was told by then Sharks owner George Gund III to scale back his public comments regarding his displeasure of going overseas for the two games after Gund received a phone call from someone high up on the NHL’s executive chain ordering him to do so.

“We logged the second-most miles in the league last season (1997-98), said a pedestrian Darryl to Cooper. “So, I suppose, what’s another 5,000 miles?”

While Darryl toned down his public comments, Nicholls turned up the volume in voicing his frustration with the league sending the Sharks and Flames overseas.

“I’m all for promoting the game by going to cities in the Untied States or Canada that are going to have a team,” said Nicholls to Cooper. “Is (commissioner Gary) Bettman going to Japan? I don’t think so.

“I can’t wait until New York or New Jersey has to go. To me, it’s another stupid thing Bettman has come up with. I wish someone would tell me why we’re doing this. We travel more than any team in the league and we’re traveling some more. If it was a four or five hour trip, I’d have no problem. I have no problem with the country or anything. We’re not going over there sightseeing — we’re going to work. I just don’t understand why we’re doing this.”

THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN

AP9810070285After participating in a cultural sensitivity class, the Sharks left for Tokyo on Oct. 6, 1998. Once there, the Sharks began their ambassadorial duties, which they took very seriously in the wake of Team USA hockey members thrashing their rooms at the Olympic Village after being eliminated at the Nagano Olympics eight months prior.

Some of those duties saw Sharks forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Murphy conduct a hockey clinic for Japanese kids; goaltender Mike Vernon donned a Japanese robe and helped break open a ceremonial barrel of sake at a reception inside a hotel banquet room; forward Mike Ricci and defenseman Bryan Marchment were also asked to wear robes at the same reception as well as bang on Taiko drums.

In addition to their goodwill gestures, some of the Sharks players got a chance to experience the local culture. In the Roppongi district, forward Marco Sturm and defensemen Scott Hannan and Andy Sutton each received a massage that consisted of the masseuse walking on their backs and legs for an hour.

At the conclusion of their Thursday afternoon practice, Nicholls, Murphy and fellow forward Shawn Burr took a taxi to a sushi parlor where each ordered the house special. While the food was good, the bill wasn’t as it came out to 66,000 yen, which translated into near five hundred dollars at the time.

FINAL PREPERATIONS

Once their acts of diplomacy and sightseeing adventures were done, the Sharks were ready for the first game of their two game set against the Flames at Yoyogi Arena. However, the Sharks squad that was prepared to take the ice wasn’t the team many fans (home and abroad) had expected to see.

While then Sharks General Manager Dean Lombardi was able to sign two of the Sharks’ restricted free agents in Ricci and defenseman Mike Rathje before the team headed overseas, Lombardi was unable to sign the Sharks’ biggest offensive weapons in restricted free agent forwards Owen Nolan and Jeff Friesen.

San Jose Sharks forward Mike Ricci (R #18) is tripIn addition, the Sharks were without defensemen Marcus Ragnarsson, who suffered a broken left thumb via a slash in the final preseason game, and Gary Suter, who was recovering from triceps surgery. To top it all off, visa issues kept defenseman Andre Zyuzin from joining the team until late Friday afternoon Japan time, half a day before the opening game.

Going into the two game set with a makeshift squad seemed appropriate for the Sharks as Yoyogi Arena, which hosted Game ONe ’97 and the swimming competitions at the 1964 Olympics, had a makeshift rink with horrible ice conditions. In fact, one end of the rink had a diving board hanging over it as a swimming pool was underneath the rink.

It was on that rink during Game ONe ’97 that Canucks forward Mark Messier suffered a groin injury that hampered him all of the 1997-98 season. In response, the NHL flew in a temporary refrigeration system for the Game ONe ’98 series but a combination of outside warm air, the humid atmosphere of the arena itself and thick air inside made the ice surface sloppy and dangerous to play on.

“Godawful ice” is how coach Darryl Sutter described the rink and playing conditions to Mark Purdy of the Mercury News after the first game of the set. “But when it’s like that, you’ve just got be simple and stupid.”

HOCKEY AFTERNOONS IN TOKYO

On a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon (Oct. 9, 1998), which was Friday night back in San Jose, the Sharks and Flames took the ice for the first game of their two game set. Though it wasn’t a sellout crowd (Yoyogi Arena holds 10,000 people), the Sharks and Flames put on an exciting game in front of the announced 8,400 fans in attendance, which included near 500 Sharks fans who made the trip from Northern California and made Yoyogi Arena feel like the Shark Tank with traditional Sharks cheers, chants and chomps.

Murphy put the Sharks ahead 1-0 when he buried home the rebound of Sturm’s shot from the right circle for a late first period power play goal. However, the Sharks’ lead only lasted 26-seconds as the Flames answered right back when forward Jason Wiemer finished off a two-on-two rush with linemate Dave Roche.

The Flames went ahead 2-1 at 7:03 of the second period when forward Valeri Bure swiped the puck from Marchment, who was positioned near the front of his own net, and beat Vernon over the shoulder with a quick snap shot.

In the third period, the Sharks tied the game at 6:14 when they got a goal from an unlikely candidate in Rathje, who had just three goals in 81 games the season prior. With the puck on top of the left circle, Rathje fired a shot that hit one of the Flames players in front, then bounced off the skate of another Flames player before beating Flames goaltender Ken Wregget.

FleuryMarleauJapanAs was the case when the Sharks scored in the first period, the Flames answered right back, this time two-and-a-half minutes later, when forward Andrew Cassels curled around from behind the net and beat Vernon for the go-ahead goal at 9:44, one second after the penalty to Sharks defenseman Bill Houlder expired.

Just as it appeared the Sharks were going to open the season with a loss, Ricci corralled a pass out of the corner from linemate Stéphane Matteau and beat Wregget with a shot from the faceoff circle at 17:42 for the tying goal that forced overtime.

In the extra session, Flames forward Theo Fleury had the Flames’ best chance to win the game on a point blank chance with 30-seconds left but was stopped by Vernon, who finished with 27 saves, 16 of which came in the third period and overtime, and had to endure several pileups in front of his goal crease.

“Have you been in the subway system here?” asked Vernon post game to Purdy. “That’s the way it was in there, with people running all over you.”

Despite bad ice and a makeshift lineup, the Sharks were able to grab one point as the result of strong play from Vernon, Murphy, Ricci, who had a goal and an assist, and Hannan, who dished out two assists in his first career NHL game.

The next day (Oct. 10, 1998), Hockey Night in Canada joined the second game in progress, which saw Fleury register a five point game with a hat trick in a 5-3 Flames win. In addition, the game marked the last NHL game in the career of current Sharks television color commentator Jamie Baker, who registered an assist for the Sharks in the loss.

Flames_Japan_186

“I don’t think we played well enough to win this game,” said Ricci post game to Purdy. “No offense to anyone, but obviously this trip wasn’t the best situation and it’s definitely been a disappointment.”

“It was a pain in the ass, a waste of time,” said Sharks head coach Darryl Sutter of the Tokyo trip to Purdy after the game two loss. “Even the league has addressed that. First they said they would be coming here every year for the next 20 years. Now they say it will be maybe every other year. So basically what they’re saying is, forget about it.”

PHOTO CREDIT
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Calgary Flames Hockey Club
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“Hits and Misses” for Sharks at Canucks in 2011 Young Stars Tournament

Result: SHARKS 3, Canucks 5      {Sharks finish Young Stars Tournament with a 1-2 record}

Sharks forward Nathan Moon, seen here against Winnipeg on Monday night, scored two goals in the second period against the Vancouver Cancuks Wednesday evening. Photo courtesy of Winnipeg Sun

HITS

Ben ThomsonThomson scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament at 6:30 of the first period to give the Sharks an early 1-0 lead.  With the puck in the Canucks zone, Sharks defenseman Zach Bell fired a shot on net from the top of the blueline that was deflected in front of the goalie crease Sharks forward Freddie Hamilton, who was battling for position in front of Canucks goalie David Honzik.  First to the loose puck, Thomson corralled the puck onto his stick and buried home a goal with a shot from in-between the two face-off circles in the slot.

Nathan MoonMoon scored his first two goals of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament at 1:03 and 7:11 of the second period respectively.  With the Sharks on a power play, Sharks defenseman Antoine Corbin dumped the puck into the Canucks zone from center ice.  Honzik came out of his goalie crease to play the puck behind his net but had a miscommunication with his teammate and gave the puck right to Moon, who quickly put the puck into the open net to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead……..Moon’s second goal also came on the power play and gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead.  With the puck inside the Canucks zone, Sharks defenseman Sena Acolatse sent a pass across the blueline to Corbin, who created space with a quick move before passing the puck down to Moon, who was positioned on the high side of the goal line near the goalie crease.  With his head on a swivel, Moon attempted a quick pass down to linemate Mike Connolly, who was open on the opposite side of the goalie crease, but the puck deflected off the stick of Canucks defenseman Anthony Zanetti, who was positioned between Moon and Connolly, and into the Canucks net for the goal.

Michael Sgarbossa – While Sgarbossa didn’t registered a point, he did use his speed to draw a hooking penalty that resulted in Moon’s second power play goal of the game.  In addition, Sgarbossa did something after the game that shocked many viewers {and the Canucks broadcasters} when he dropped gloves and fought Canucks forward Alex Friesen.  Giving up 16 pounds to Friesen, Sgarbossa landed several hard shots that rocked and stunned Friesen before taking each other down to the ice.

Sena Acolatse – In addition to his excellent two-way play, Acolatse logged the most ice minutes for the Sharks tonight, registering an assist and gave Worcester Sharks fans another glimpse of what they can expect from his this upcoming season by demonstrating how hard his shot is.  Acolatse’s shot is so hard that he broke two hockey sticks tonight when going for his cannonading shot.

Zach Bell – Bell came up a goal short of registering a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” as he registered an assist on the Thomson goal and dropped the gloves with Canucks forward Antoine Roussel in the second period.  The fight was Bell’s second of the tournament.

Invitees – Of all the invitees that played for the Sharks in this year’s Young Stars Tournament, there were four players that I was truly impressed and those four were Bell, Moon, Charles Inglis and Scooter Vaughan.  I would love to see Bell offered a contract just so Sharks fans can say, “Ring the Bell” everytime he drops the gloves.  On a serious note, he showed good awareness when on the ice and contributed with solid play.  Moon, Inglis and Vaughan are all reliable, solid two-way forwards who can play both special teams {power play and penalty kill}.  In addition, Inglis and Vaughan demonstrated they can use their speed to make something out of nothing and can generate scoring chances by using their speed.  All of these players would be welcomed additions to the Sharks organization and I truly hope they are signed.

MISSES

Sharks Team – After outscoring the Calgary Flames 6-1 Sunday evening in the first game of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament, the Sharks were outscored in their final two games by a combined score of 9-3.  Even worse is the fact that the Sharks had the lead three different times tonight against the Canucks {1-0, 2-1, 3-2} and still came out on the short end.

J.P. Anderson – Seeing his first action in net since taking over for Thomas Heemskerk halfway through the Flames game, Anderson allowed more goals tonight {five} than he did in both of his starts in the 2010 Young Stars Tournament {four}.  After making an unbelievable left pad save in the opening minutes of the game, Anderson, who finished with 19 saves, never got into his zone that {Mississauga} Majors and Sharks fans have come to expect.  To be fair though, Anderson couldn’t have done anything on a couple of the goals.  Prab Rai‘s goal at 3:51 of the second period that tied the game at 2-2 was one of the luckiest goals scored in the tournament as his shot from in-between the two face-off circles pinballed in front of traffic near the goalie crease before squeaking past Anderson for the goal.……Adam Polasek‘s power play goal at 14:25 of the second period, which gave the Canucks their first lead of the game at 4-3, was the result of traffic being in front of Anderson, who wasn’t able to track the puck once it left Polasek’s stick at the blueline.

Sharks Defense – Three of the Canucks’ five goals were scored due to miscues by the Sharks defenders.  The first Canucks goal, which was scored by Steven Janes at 11:33 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1, came as the result of a turnover inside the Sharks zone by Bell, who failed to clear the puck once near the blueline.  Bell’s partner, Corbin, committed a defensive sin by watching the puck instead of playing the body as he allowed Canucks forward Michael Curtis to skate into the slot before passing the puck over to James, who was positioned in the lower face-off circle, for the one timer goal.…..In the second period, Sharks defenseman Justin Sefton was beat to a loose puck by Canucks forward Darren Archibald, who played the puck off the lower side board inside the Sharks zone after a stretch pass from teammate Anton Rodin.  Skating in on Anderson, Archibald let loose a snap shot from inside the lower face-off circle that beat Anderson through the five-hole for the game tying {3-3} goal at 11:42.…..In the third period, Corbin was picked on again by the Canucks as Rodin scored in the game’s final minutes to seal a 5-3 win for the Canucks.  Playing the puck off the lower side board inside the Sharks zone after a stretch pass from Polasek, Roudin used his speed to beat Corbin, went wide, cut in on Anderson and scored a beauty of a goal.

LINE PAIRINGS

Line 1:  Brodie Reid / Nathan Moon / Mike Connolly{A}

Line 2:  Dylan Wruck / Michael Sgarbossa / Scooter Vaughan{A}

Line 3:  Trevor Cheek / Freddie Hamilton / Ben Thomson

Line 4:  Joe Antilla / Charles Inglis / Curt Gogol

D1:  Antoine Corbin / Zach Bell

D2:  Sena Acolatse{A} / Dylan DeMelo

D3:  William Wrenn / Justin Sefton

G:  J.P. Anderson / Thomas Heemskerk

“Hits and Misses” for Jets at Sharks in 2011 Young Stars Tournament

Result:  Jets 4, SHARKS                       Next Game: Sept. 14, Sharks @ Canucks, 4:00 PM PT

Photo courtesy of http://www.sharksahl.com

HITS

Michael Sgarbossa – For the second consecutive game, Sgarbossa was the standout Shark as he was always around the puck in the all three zones of the ice.  His body must be part magnetic because once inside the offensive zone, the puck seemed to gravitate towards him once he was in either scoring position {He was robbed of several goals by Jets goalie Edward Pasquale, including a laser shot from in-between the top of the two face-off circles late in the third period} or a position to set-up a teammate for a scoring opportunity.  His line with Dylan Wruck and James Livingston was easily the best Sharks line all game and most consistent with their cycle and generated scoring chances.

Sena AcolatseAcolatse is perhaps the most poised Sharks prospect defenseman with the puck.  He is always aware of his surroundings {sacrificed his body in front of goalie Thomas Heemskerk to break up a Jets scoring chance after a turnover at center ice in the third period}, keeps his head on a swivel {evident by his long stretch pass to Freddie Hamilton in the first period that nearly resulted in a goal} and glides with ease once he’s in possession of the puck.  In addition, his rocket shot from the blueline is lethal and will cause goalies in the AHL this upcoming season headaches on a nightly basis.

Physical Play – While they may not have generated many scoring chances, the overall play of Charles Inglis, Scooter Vaughan and Curt Gogol was quite impressive.  Vaughan continuously put his body on a jets player all game with solid checking while Gogol and Inglis showed they can be an asset on the penalty kill with their solid defensive play.  Inglis himself generated a scoring chance out of nothing late in the third period while on the penalty kill and moments later, drew a power play opportunity for the Sharks with his relentless pursuit of the puck.  Gogol displayed how good he can be when he’s disciplined and won his scrap with Klarc Wilson in the second period after landing a huge haymaker.  Lastly, Sharks defenseman Zach Bell had a rock-em, sock-em scrap with Austen Brassard midway through the second period that started in the Jets zone and ended at center ice.  Bell land shot after shot to Brassard before both men went down to the ice.

Penalty Kill – The Sharks were a perfect 5-for-5 in killing off the Jets power play opportunities.  The Sharks had tremendous zone movement and their pressure forced the Jets shooters to keep the puck out on the perimeter, resulting a majority of the Jets shot attempts being blocked or easily saved by Heemskerk.

Thomas HeemskerkHeemskerk was solid in net again for the Sharks, stopping 18-of-21 shots, and the goals scored on him were from in close on breakaways and an odd man rush.  For the tournament, Heemskerk has stopped 45-of-48 shots for a 0.9375 save percentage and a 1.5 goals-against-average.

MISSES

Sharks Team – Coming off a 6-1 victory over the Calgary Flames prospect team Sunday evening, the Sharks prospects appeared to be a little too full of themselves when taking the ice tonight for their second game in the Young Stars Tournament, and learned a valuable lesson tonight in that they cannot get too full of themselves based on the results of one game.  There is a huge difference between being confident and having too much swag.  To make it to the next level, one cannot get too high on themselves or too low.

First Period – Despite allowing only seven shots on goal in the first period, the Jets scored on two of those shots in a 6:13 span to lead 2-0 at the end of the period.  Levko Koper scored the game winning goal for the Jets at 9:11 of the period to give the Jets an early 1-0 lead.  With the puck inside the Jets zone, Jets defenseman Sebastian Owuya softly chipped the puck out of the zone off the lower side glass and pass Bell, who was pinching up on the play in the neutral zone.  Koper tracked down the loose puck, rushed into the Sharks zone from the left side board, cut in front on Heemskerk and scored on a shot that barley squirted by Heemskerk {Koper would add an empty net goal at 19:14 of the third period to seal the 4-0 victory}…………Mark Scheifele, the Jets’ first round draft pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, gave the Jets a 2-0 lead at 15:24 of the period with his short-handed breakaway goal.  With the Sharks on a power play and puck possession inside the Jets zone, the Sharks turned the puck over at the blueline, and Scheifele tracked down the loose puck in the neutral zone, skated in all alone on Heemskerk, went forehand-to-backhand and put the puck upstairs for the goal.

Third Period – Only trailing the Jets 2-0 entering the final frame, the Sharks’ comeback hopes were quickly dashed as Jason Gregoire scored just 22 seconds into the period on a 2-on-1 rush to put the Jets up 3-0.  With Sharks defenseman William Wrenn caught alone, Scheifele skated into the Sharks zone with Gregoire and threaded pass through Wrenn’s legs down to Gregoire, who quickly fired a shot on net for the goal. 

Power Play – Despite having several opportunities with the man advantage, including a 6-on-4 advantage in the final minutes of the game after pulling Heemskerk for an extra skater, the Sharks were unable to capitalize on their power play chances and surrendered two short-handed goals in the process {Scheifele goal and Koper empty netter}.  The Sharks prospects did have good puck movement once they established their power play unit inside the Jets zone but were hesitant to shoot at times and continued to pass the puck along the perimeter.

LINE PAIRINGS

Line 1:  Trevor Cheek / Freddie Hamilton / Scooter Vaughan

Line 2:  Dylan Wruck / Michael Sgarbossa / James Livingston{A}

Line 3:  Joe Antilla / Nathan Moon / Brodie Reid

Line 4:  Ben Thomson / Charles Inglis / Curt Gogol

D1:  Konrad Abeltshauser / Zack Bell

D2:  Antoine Corbin / Sena Acolatse{A}

D3:  Taylor Doherty{A} / William Wrenn

G:  Thomas Heemskerk / J.P. Anderson

“Hits and Misses” for Sharks at Flames in 2011 Young Stars Tournament

Result: SHARKS 6, Flames 1                       Next Game: Sept. 12, Jets @ Sharks, 7:30 PM PT

San Jose Sharks forward Michael Sgarbossa had a two point night {goal, assist} to help lead the Sharks to a 6-1 victory over the Calgary Flames at the 2011 Young Stars Tournament. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com

HITS

Charles InglisInglis scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament on the Sharks’ first shot of the game at 3:13 of the first period to give the Sharks an early 1-0 lead.  After Flames goalie Joni Ortio misplayed the puck behind his own net and turned it over to Sharks forward Ben Thomson, Thomson quickly fired a pass down to linemate Joe Antilla, who fired a shot towards the open net from the lower face-off circle that was stopped by the stick of a Flames player in the goalie crease.  However, as the Flames began to breakout of their own zone, Flames defenseman Christopher Breen turned the puck over at the top of the slot to Inglis, who quickly fired a laser of a shot on net that beat Ortio for the goal.

Michael SgarbossaSgarbossa had a two point night {goal, assist} and scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament on the Sharks’ second shot of the game at 5:45 of the first period to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead.  Cleanly carrying the puck out of his own zone, Sgarbossa got the puck over to linemate Brodie Reid on the lower side board.  Once at the Flames blueline, Reid passed the puck back to Sgarbossa, who found a seam and sniped the puck past Ortio top shelf on the stick side for the goal.

Trevor CheekCheek scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament at 7:46 of the second period to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead.  Battling for the puck near the Flames blueline, Sharks forward Nathan Moon, who had chased the loose puck down from the neutral zone, chipped the puck past Flames defenseman TJ Brodie and somehow, the puck landed on the stick of Cheek.  With the puck on his stick, Cheek made a strong move to the net and fired a backhand shot on net that squeezed/trickled through the legs of Ortio for the goal.

Curt GogolGogol scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament at 16:00 of the second period to give the Sharks a 4-0 lead.  Relentlessly pursuing the puck with a strong forecheck, Moon was able to cause a turnover inside the Flames zone after Breen softly chipped the puck off the lower side boards.  Gogol was able to intercept the clear attempt and displayed his sweet hands by going backhand-to-forehand while skating in on Ortio before scoring top shelf for the goal.

Brodie Reid – Reid had a two point night {goal, assist} and scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament at 0:53 of the third period to give the Sharks a 5-0 lead.  With the puck inside the Flames’ zone, Sgarbossa sent a beauty of a cross ice/zone pass to Reid, who was positioned near the high end board on the goal line.  With the puck on his stick, Reid fired an off-angle shot on net that banked in right off of Ortio.  Does anyone else think that Reid worked his tail off this game to prove that his former Northeastern head coach, Greg Cronin, was wrong with his comments this past spring after Reid announced he was leaving the university? {You can read those comments by clicking HERE}

Sena AcolatseAcolatse scored his first goal of the 2011 Young Stars Tournament at 7:53 of the third period to give the Sharks a 6-0 lead.  With the Sharks on a Power Play and himself positioned near the lower side board, Acolatse ripped a slapshot blast from just inside the blueline that ricocheted off the stick of two Flames players before beating Ortio high on the glove side for the goal.

Thomas Heemskerk – Only playing the first 30 minutes of the game, Heemskerk played outstanding and stood on top of his head by stopping all 26 shots he faced.  In the first period, Heemskerk made 16 saves, including a breakaway opportunity for Maxwell Reinhart, who had two point blank opportunities after beating Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty to the loose puck in the neutral zone while the Sharks were on the Power Play.

J.P. Anderson – Reliving Heemskerk of goaltending duties midway through the second period, Anderson was outstanding as well in net for the Sharks, stopping12-of-13 shots he faced.  The lone shot that beat Anderson for a goal was Roman Horak‘s penalty shot that just barley trickled past Anderson’s pads on the right side after Horak went five hole with a backhand shot.  The goal came in the game’s final several minutes.

Nathan Moon – While Moon did not score a goal, he did register an assist and his strong forecheck play and relentless pursuit of loose pucks resulted in two Sharks goals {Cheek and Gogol}

Sharks Team – Despite being outshot by the Flames 39-26 for the game {16-4 after first period, 29-11 after second period}, the Sharks, who only returned eight players from last year’s Young Stars Tournament, were able to capitalize on their scoring chances by remaining poised and composed, which can be attributed to head coach Roy Sommer, who is also the head coach of the Worcester Sharks.  In addition, the Sharks were anchored by unbelievable goaltending from both Heemskerk and Anderson.

MISSES

First Period – Despite leading 2-0 after the first period, the score did not tell the whole story of the period as the Sharks were outshot 16-4 and could have found themselves trailing early had it not been for Heemskerk’s performance in net.  The Sharks spent way too much time skating around in their own zone as the result of turnovers and not being able to clear the puck out.  The team did get better as the game went along but the Sharks cannot have a repeat of that kind of start in their upcoming games against the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks.  One can only play with fire so much before they are eventually burned.

Curt Gogol – While Gogol did get a “hit” for his beauty of a goal, Gogol gets a “miss” because of the undisciplined penalty he took in the second period shortly after Cheek’s goal.  Yes, Gogol’s game is that of a physical presence but he has to be smart about when he retaliates against an opposing player.  The knock on Gogol his entire WHL career has been his discipline, something he has committed himself to improving upon ever since being traded to the Chilliwack Bruins this past WHL season.  I would love to see more of the scoring skills Gogol displayed tonight while harnessing that edge he plays with into a controlled frenzy that allows him to be smart with his physical play.

LINE PAIRINGS

Line 1:  James Livingston / Freddie Hamilton / Mike Connolly{A}

Line 2:  Brodie Reid / Michael Sgarbossa / Dylan Wruck

Line 3:  Trevor Cheek / Nathan Moon / Curt Gogol

Line 4:  Ben Thomson / Charles Inglis / Joe Antilla

D1:  Konrad Abeltshauser / Taylor Doherty{A}

D2:  Sena Acolatse{A} / Antoine Corbin

D3:  Dylan DeMelo / Justin Sefton

G:  Thomas Heemskerk / J.P. Anderson