A rash of injuries to the San Jose Sharks forward corps opened the door for Bracken Kearns to make the most of his third National Hockey League call up.
The former Dinos captain, who finished his four-year university career in 2005, potted his first NHL goal on Dec. 29, 2013 at the age of 32, flying into the slot and sliding a loose puck past Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Scoring in the NHL is an exceedingly rare achievement for a Dinos graduate — Kearns became the first Dino to go on to score an NHL goal since Terry Johnson in 1983–84 for the St. Louis Blues. Johnson played for the Dinos in 1978–79.
Kearns scored in three consecutive games over the winter break. On Dec. 31 he tipped a slap shot past Jonas Hiller in a rematch against the Ducks, and started the new year off with a goal against Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Kearns is currently centering the Sharks’s third line. He has impressed his coaches with his work ethic and faceoff ability, and has seen his ice time increase steadily in the last three games. He has earned time centering the team’s second powerplay unit.
Since leaving the Dinos, Kearns has slowly worked his way up the North American professional hockey circuit, spending time with two teams in the East Coast Hockey League, six American Hockey League teams and a five-game stint with the NHL’s Florida Panthers before joining the Sharks. When the Sharks ran into injury troubles during last year’s playoffs, Kearns was called up for seven games.
Kearns will continue to make the best of this opportunity while the Sharks await the return of players like established NHLer Raffi Torres and rookie sensation Tomas Hertl from injury. If he continues to impress the Sharks, he could end up as a permanent option for the team going forward.