With this season being the 20th playing season of the American Hockey league in Worcester it’s a great time to look back and assemble the all-time 20th anniversary team for Worcester. With 2014-15 likely the last the city will see of the AHL at the DCU Center it’s doubly important to remember the history the city has in that league.
Last week I revealed the Worcester’s all-time 20th anniversary AHL team: 4th line, and a little background on how the team was selected. This week it’s the third line.
F: Ryan Vesce
If there was ever a “Mr Clutch” award in Worcester hockey history, Ryan Vesce would be the runaway winner. The WorSharks record holder for most overtime goals in a season and career leader in game winners Vesce just had a knack for scoring key goals. Vesce finished his career in Worcester with 101 points on 38 goals and 63 assists in 102 games, but he will be remembered most for his two overtime playoff goals, one in double OT against Hartford and a very late first OT goal vs Lowell. Vesce currently played for Minsk Dynamo of the KHL.
F: Jeff Panzer
Another in a long line of diminutive goal scorers for the Worcester IceCats, Jeff Panzer had three good seasons in the city ending up with 62 goals and 84 assists in 210 career games for the IceCats. At posting time Panzer ranks 5th all-time on Worcester’s career goals and points lists, and 8th on the career assist list after just having been passed by current WorSharks forward John McCarthy. Panzer was captain of the IceCats in 2003-04, and after leaving the club at the end of that season never found his offensive stride again, retiring from pro hockey in 2008.
F: Logan Couture
Another player that just makes it over the threshold of games is Logan Couture, who for his 46 games with the WorSharks was a man among boys with his 53 points, on 20 goals and 33 assists, in his half season in Worcester. Couture’s 1.15 points per game is the highest for Worcester Sharks with more than 40 games played, and is just second to Joe Pavelski’s 1.63 for players with two or more games played. Couture also had nine game winning goals in just 42 games in 2009-10. His charging major on Hartford goaltender Matt Zaba in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs showed what he will do to try and score, and he’s turned that effort into a great career in San Jose.
D: Matt Irwin
Matt Irwin’s 88 career points for the WorSharks ranks him third in franchise history and sixth all-time for defensemen. Irwin was just about as good on the power play as anyone could expect from a defenseman, with 15 of his 22 career goals and nearly half his career assists in Worcester coming with the man advantage. Not gifted with great speed Irwin turned his puck handling abilities and good positional defense in the AHL into an NHL career with 141 games played for San Jose over the past three seasons.
D: Rory Fitzpatrick
Long before the “Vote for Rory” campaign Rory Fitzpatrick patrolled the blue line for the Worcester IceCats, and in his three seasons in the city during the late 1990s he was about as solid on defense as they come. Dispute being primarily a stay-at-home defenseman Fitzpatrick put up a respectable 73 points in 192 career games, and parlayed that into a decent journeyman career in the NHL, playing 287 games over 10 seasons. Fitzpatrick last played in 2009-10 for the Rochester Americans (AHL) ending his 15 season, 810 game pro career.
G: Curtis Sanford
Second in games played by a goaltender in Worcester IceCats history, Curtis Sanford is the career wins leader for the franchise and third overall in Worcester’s AHL history. Sanford never had what would be considered a great season in Worcester, he was just the most solid over the longest period of time for the IceCats. Sanford ended up playing 144 NHL games with the Blues, Canucks, and Blue Jackets, and just retired from pro hockey after three seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL.