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AHL Weekly: Shark warning in effect

WEEKLY RELEASE #23

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The Worcester Sharks’ 2009-10 season began unevenly, with an 8-3-0-1 start followed by seven straight losses and a slide into the Atlantic Division cellar. But since then, the Sharks have shown no signs of letting up as they pursue their first division title.

Coached by Roy Sommer, who ranks fourth in AHL history with 431 career wins, Worcester is 30-10-2-2 since Nov. 21 and enters the new week with 81 points on the year, good for a three-point edge on Portland for first place in the Atlantic. Boasting the AHL’s third-ranked offense at 3.38 goals per game, the fourth-year Sharks are well within range of surpassing franchise records for both wins (42; 2008-09) and points (93; 2006-07) in a single season, and are poised to make a run at the best season ever by a San Jose AHL affiliate: the 44-win, 98-point effort by Kentucky in 1998-99, Sommer’s first year at the helm.

The AHL’s fourth-youngest team on opening night, Worcester now boasts nine players with double-digit goals and eight who have already topped the 30-point plateau, and the Sharks feature two of the AHL’s top three rookie scorers in Logan Couture (20-31-51) and Benn Ferriero (19-26-45). Couture, drafted ninth overall by San Jose in 2007, ranks second in the league with eight game-winning goals and has six points in six games since returning from injury on Feb. 26. Ferriero, one of five Massachusetts natives on the Sharks roster, paces all AHL rookies with three shorthanded goals on the year and has authored 12 multiple-point games.

Couture and Ferriero are among the 12 players who have ridden the Worcester-to-San-Jose shuttle this season. Second-year pro Steven Zalewski, who leads the AHL Sharks with 56 points (20-36-56) in 62 contests, skated in his first three NHL contests earlier this season. Rookie John McCarthy (8-21-29) leads Worcester and ranks third among AHL rookies with a plus-24 rating, and was rewarded with four NHL games. Defensemen Derek Joslin (1-20-21), Jason Demers (2-10-12) and Joe Callahan (4-11-15) have all been called on to log minutes on the San Jose blue line.

Between injuries and recalls, captain Ryan Vesce has posted 11-11-22 in 19 games with Worcester, and Jamie McGinn has chipped in 7-14-21 in 27 AHL matches while adding 7-1-8 in 43 games with San Jose. Former Calder Cup champion Danny Groulx leads all AHL defensemen with a career-high 41 assists and 49 points while playing all 63 of Worcester’s games thus far. Dan DaSilva has established AHL career highs in goals (15), assists (20) and points (35) in his first full season with the Sharks, and T.J. Trevelyan is tied for third on the club with 19 goals (19-14-33) despite missing 17 games to injury. Rookie Brandon Mashinter has contributed 17-14-31 and a team-high 111 penalty minutes in 62 games; second-year forward Andrew Desjardins boasts 13-18-31 totals in 63 games; and Dwight Helminen has 22 points (12-10-22) in his first year in Worcester along with one goal in four games with the big club.

Goaltender Alex Stalock (33-15-2, 2.61, .907) has been a workhorse in net for the Sharks, appearing in 51 of the team’s 63 games to this point. The 22-year-old rookie leads all AHL netminders in wins (33) and minutes played (2,966), while ranking third in both saves (1,253) and shots faced (1,382).

Worcester hosts Hartford (Wednesday) and Binghamton (Friday) this week before the league-leading Hershey Bears invade the DCU Center on Sunday. The Sharks will then play 10 of their final 14 games on the road.

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BEAT GOES ON IN CHOCOLATETOWN … With three more wins last week, Hershey became the first team to reach the 100-point plateau this season, and the first to clinch a spot in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Chocolate and White have won five straight, eight of their last nine, 20 of their last 23, and 32 of 36 contests since Dec. 12. They have not lost back-to-back games since Nov. 21-25, and have not dropped consecutive decisions in regulation since Oct. 23-24.

The Bears’ AHL-record home winning streak is now up to 23 straight games, and Hershey’s 24-game home points streak (23-0-0-1) has tied a league record, previously accomplished by the Springfield Falcons spanning the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.

Hershey continues to chase the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers’ records of 57 wins and 124 points in a season. The Bears (49-12-0-2) need to win nine of their last 17 games and to earn 25 of a possible 34 points down the stretch to eclipse those marks.

Veteran Bryan Helmer also etched his place in the record book on Sunday, earning his 387th career assist to become the AHL’s all-time leader in assists by a defenseman. With 506 AHL points and 967 AHL games to his credit, Helmer still has two other AHL milestones in his sights: John Slaney’s record for points by a defenseman (519), and Bill Needham’s all-time mark for games played by a defenseman (981).

CHANGE IS GOOD … A number of players who changed their address prior to the NHL’s Mar. 3 trade deadline enjoyed notable success with their new AHL teams during last week’s action. Syracuse’s Chad Kolarik led the group, putting up five points (2-3-5) in his first three games for the Crunch – including a season-high three-point showing (1-2-3) on Sunday – after registering just four points in his final 11 games for San Antonio. Greg Moore, the Crunch’s other recent acquisition, recorded two goals and an assist in his first three games for Syracuse.

Alexandre Picard, who went to Phoenix in the deal that sent Kolarik to Columbus, netted a pair of goals on Sunday as San Antonio rolled to a 7-2 win over Rockford. Defenseman Dylan Reese, who shifted from Syracuse to Bridgeport in exchange for Moore, netted a goal and an assist in his Sound Tigers debut on Tuesday and was promptly recalled to appear in his first two career NHL games with the N.Y. Islanders. Mike Radja, the other return on the Moore deal, has one goal and three assists in his first four games for Bridgeport.

Albany’s 4-2 win at Norfolk on Saturday featured goaltender Justin Pogge’s first victory in a River Rats uniform and two assists from former Calder Cup champion Oskar Osala, both acquired by parent-club Carolina at the deadline.

ETC. … Hamilton is now riding a season-high eight-game winning streak, including shootout triumphs over Chicago and Hartford on consecutive days last weekend… Named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week earlier today, Jerome Samson has a point in nine of his last 10 games (9-7-16) for Albany… The IceHogs played twice at San Antonio last weekend and scored in the first minute of both games, with Matt Keith (27 seconds on Saturday) and Bryan Bickell (37 seconds on Sunday) doing the honors… Kyle Turris, drafted third overall by Phoenix in 2007, shows 10-11-21 in his last 19 games for San Antonio and leads the Rampage with 12 multiple-point efforts… Norfolk rookie Dana Tyrell has 15 points (4-11-15) in his last 13 games after totaling 11 points (2-9-11) in his first 47 games of the season… Jon Gleed’s first goal in 108 career AHL games gave Bridgeport a 2-1 overtime win at Manchester on Sunday… Lowell had dropped four consecutive shootouts and had not prevailed in one since Oct. 23 prior to their 3-2 win at Providence on Sunday, which also marked the Bruins’ first shootout loss of the year (5-1)… Devils forward Matt Halischuk shows six points (4-2-6) in six outings since returning from a 10-game injury absence… Springfield forward Charles Linglet has racked up four goals and 11 points during his current six-game scoring streak… Peoria’s Cam Paddock had gone his first 244 career AHL games without a two-goal effort before scoring twice in Sunday’s 4-2 win at Milwaukee… Texas has posted a 13-3-0-1 record this season against in-state rivals Houston and San Antonio… Hartford has scored the game’s first goal just four times in its last 20 contests, and in a league-low 24 of 64 games overall… With three wins to begin the month, Syracuse is 23-5-1-1 in March since the 2007-08 season.