First NHL goal ‘a dream come true’ for Amherst’s John Leonard

  • John Leonard scored his first career NHL goal Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks. It tied the game for the San Jose Sharks at 1.  AP

  • San Jose Sharks left wing John Leonard  celebrates after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period  in San Jose, Calif., Monday.  The Amherst native and UMass product tied the game at 1. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 2/16/2021 12:01:09 AM

Amherst native John Leonard scored the first goal of his NHL career Monday – with an assist from a familiar source.

The San Jose Sharks rookie found the net with 10 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the first period on the power play, ripping a shot from the right circle past Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson. As soon as the puck hit the twine, Leonard raised both hands in the air with his stick then pumped them down, raising his left leg. He spun around and embraced his teammates, who converged on him at the glass.

“It means a lot. It’s a dream come true,” Leonard said postgame. “You dream as a kid of scoring a goal in the NHL and fortunate enough it happened tonight. Even better we got the win.”

Leonard’s goal tied the game at 1, and San Jose went on to beat the Ducks, 3-2.

Former UMass teammate – and roommate – Mario Ferraro assisted the goal. He wasn’t the first to hug Leonard after the goal, but he fist pumped on the way and wrapped Leonard in a headlock once he got there.

“Wouldn’t want it any other way,” Leonard said during the intermission report.

Ferraro assisted on four of Leonard’s goals during the two seasons they played together at UMass.

The moment’s gravity didn’t sink in until he was back on the bench.

“When you’re playing, you’re kind of in the moment and you black out for the moment,” Leonard said. “When I got back to the bench, it felt real.”

Though there were no fans in the arena, Leonard had his cheering section going crazy back in Amherst. The Leonards – his dad John Sr., mom Cindy and older sister Alyssa – watched the game live. Cindy and Alyssa jumped for joy. His younger brother Ryan, a sophomore forward for Pope Francis, was asleep.

“The text messages were going crazy,” John Sr. said. “Special moment.”

John Leonard said he had the puck and would likely give it to his parents at some point.

The goal marked an arrival and a comeback for Leonard. He started the season with the Sharks then was reassigned to their AHL affiliate the San Jose Barracuda on Jan. 29. Leonard played two games, scoring his first professional goal, and was recalled to San Jose on Feb. 11.

“I think I just tried to focus on playing with a lot more consistency (with the Barracuda), not taking any shifts off, holding on to pucks a little bit more,” Leonard said. “Being better down low in the O zone, create more O zone time.”

He has three points in nine NHL games this season. San Jose next plays at St. Louis on Thursday.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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