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Tiger Sharks battle to overcome Wolves

By Jack Corcoran
Tallahassee Democrat

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The shock quickly turned to confidence.

Despite giving up a game-tying goal with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks regained their composure against the Mississippi Sea Wolves on Thursday as goaltender Scott LaGrand stopped all four breakaways he faced to give the Tiger Sharks a 5-4 victory in front of 2,669 at the Civic Center.

Brent Cullaton had the game-winning goal, securing LaGrand's seventh shootout victory in 10 games this season.

"I feel very confident going into shootouts," LaGrand said. "I have had success this year. During the course of a season you're usually going to get into 15 shootouts. It makes a big difference point-wise if you're 7-3. Those are four extra points. And those points mean something right now."

They certainly do.

The Tiger Sharks jumped from 12th place into a tie for 10th with Mobile, passing idle New Orleans in the battle for the final two playoff spots in the East Coast Hockey League's Southern Conference. Tallahassee (27-28-8) and Mobile each have 62 points but they each have played two more games than New Orleans, which has 60 points. The top 11 teams make the playoffs.

The Tiger Sharks were momentarily staggered after Mississippi defenseman Bob Woods tied the score at 19:50 by banking in a shot from behind the net off LaGrand's skate. The Sea Wolves had two extra attackers during the scramble around the net, having pulled goalie Chuck Thuss after Tiger Shark forward Brett Punchard picked up a holding penalty at 18:20.

"I couldn't believe it went in," said Cullaton, who beat Thuss with a high backhander in the shootout for his 23rd goal of the year. "I looked up at the clock and said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' "

Forward Brian Farrell said the goal was upsetting but not devastating.

"It was frustrating," said Farrell, who gave the Tiger Sharks a 5-3 lead 2:28 into the third period, finishing off a two-on-one with Scott Chartier.

"I wanted to win because we're put out there for a reason in the end, and usually we shut them down. But the guy scored from behind the net off Scottie's skate. If he had come out front, we would have cleared it."

The Sea Wolves (38-20-5) pulled to within a goal at 4:42 of the third period, getting a goal by Vashi Nedomansky that appeared to go in off the skate of Tallahassee defenseman Jan Kobezda.

"They got a couple of fortunate goals," said LaGrand, who had 37 saves. "They got a couple of lucky bounces that put them back in the game. But there comes a point in the season where guys have to step up. And it's time."

The Tiger Sharks, who fell behind 5-0 in the first 13 minutes of Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Jacksonville, got off to another shaky start. But this time the damage was limited to a goal by Mississippi forward Andrew Dale, who blew past T.J. Tanberg just inside the blue line and then sneaked a shot under the crossbar 60 seconds into the game.

Tanberg helped pull the Tiger Sharks even at 14:36 of the first period, setting up Smirnov in front for his team-leading 25th goal of the season. Smirnov chalked up No. 26 on a power play 4:27 into the second, giving the Tiger Sharks a 2-1 lead.

Tiger Sharks 5,Sea Wolves 4 (SO)

Tiger Sharks1-2-1-1-5
Mississippi 1-1-2-0-4

First period - 1, Mississippi, Andrew Dale (Karl Infanger) 1:00.
2, Tallahassee, Smirnov (Tanberg, Silverman) 14:36.

Penalties - LaPorte, TA, minor (high-sticking) 2:58;
Troy Mann, MS, minor (holding), 4:26;
Silverman, TA, minor (tripping), 1:19;
Kevin Hilton, MS, minor (interference), 17:59.

Second period - 3, Tallahassee, Smirnov (Farrell, Swinson) pp, 4:27.
4, D.J. Mando (Karl Infanger, Patrick Rochon) pp, 122:41.
5, Tallahassee, McLean (Callahan, Silverman), 14:17.

Penalties - Vashi Nedomansky, MS, minor (hooking), 3:38;
LaPorte, TA, major (fighting), 7:23;
D.J. Mando, MS, major (fighting), 7:23;
Callahan, TA, minor (interference), 8:07;
Smirnov, TA, minor (roughing), 10:29;
Callahan, TA, minor (roughing), 15:41.

Third period - 6, Tallahassee, Brian Farrell (Chartier, Dartsen), 2:28.
7, Mississippi, Vashi Nedomansky (unassisted), pp, 4:42.
8, Mississippi, Bob Woods (Mikhail Kravets, Karl Infanger), pp, 19:50.

Penalties - Silverman, TA, minor (holding the stick), 3:07;
Sancimino, TA, minor (roughing), 5:32;
Smirnov, TA, minor (cross-checking), 7:41;

Mike Martone, MS, minor (slashing), 10:04;
Cullaton, TA, minor (holding), 11:20;
Punchard, TA, minor (holding), 18:20.

Shootout - 9, Tallahassee, Cardinal (unassisted).

Shots on goal - Tallahassee (11-10-7-1-29). Mississippi (8-15-18-0-41).

Goalies - Tallahassee, LaGrand (26-of-30).
Mississippi, Thuss (24-of-29)

Power play opportunities - Tallahassee (1-of-4), Mississippi (3-of-10).

Attendance - 2,669.

Referee - George Harrison.

Linesmen - Craig Ross, John Campbell.

March 19, 1999

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