LB Michael Wilhoite says activation for Sunday's game is 'fate'

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LB Michael Wilhoite says activation for Sunday's game is 'fate'

SANTA CLARA Well, this sure beats selling sneakers.

Linebacker Michael Wilhoites long journey to the NFL has culminated in a spot on the 49ers active roster for Sundays game in St. Louis. The 25-year-old out of Division II Washburn University, who was signed to the practice squad late last season, confirmed that he expects to serve on special teams when the 49ers battle the Rams.

Wilhoite got word on Monday that it was a possibility he would suit up, but it wasnt made official until just before Fridays damp practice in Santa Clara.

It was a great feeling. Its an honor to get on the field with these guys and have fun and help the team any way I can, Wilhoite said.

Prior to joining the Niners practice squad last December, Wilhoite had just completed his first year playing for the UFLs Omaha Nighthawks. After the season ended in November, he returned to his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, where his title changed from linebacker to shoe salesman at the retail store Finish Line, among other things.

Wilhoite, who graduated with a degree in mass media from Washburn, remembers that time in his life as a low point in his professional career. Fortunately, it didnt last very long.

Thats tough. Thats the toughest part. When youre home doing nothing, every day goes by so slow and youre thinking, whats next? What do I do? Do I pick up another career?

The good thing was, I had a degree in mass media, so I could find a job. So, I was just at home working at Finish Line, working as a personal trainer, working at the radio station (WIBW 580 in Topeka). I got the call to come out here, and it was a blessing then and still a blessing now. Im just going with the flow, and enjoying it and loving it, and taking it one day at a time.

Wilhoite was able to take advantage of several vacancies in the roster since the 49ers' win in New Orleans last weekend. Wide receiver Kyle Williams and running back Kendall Hunter suffered season-ending injuries, while versatile special teamer Demarcus Dobbs was arrested following a single-car accident early Friday morning and wont be making the trip to St. Louis, as originally reported by CSNBayArea.coms Matt Maiocco.

Wilhoite doesnt think its a coincidence that his first game will be in St. Louis. His friend Joe Hastings, a former 49ers wide receiver whom he played with at Washburn, also made his debut against the Rams late last season at the Edward Jones Dome.

I was at home and brushing my teeth and something just hit me like, Joes first game was at St. Louis. What if I got pulled up and my first game was in St. Louis? That would be pretty awesome, Wilhoite said.

It just shows to me that this stuff doesnt just happen. Its not by coincidence, its by fate. Its pretty special and pretty powerful, really, if you think about it.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh, who gave credit to the teams scouting department for unearthing Wilhoite, had nothing but good things to say about the 6-0, 240-pound linebacker who played safety in college and even lined up as a fullback for some snaps in the preseason.

Michael has shown to be a real professional. Hes showed its really important to him. Hes chomping at the bit to get on the field, and well see if thats a possibility in this game, Harbaugh said, minutes before Wilhoite confirmed hed be playing.

Special teamer Tavares Gooden was also very complimentary of Wilhoite, saying: Hes a hard worker. Strong guy. Hes a 49er, thats why hes activated. Everybody who gets an opportunity, Im excited for. I cant wait to see him play. Hes a real humble guy, and hes ready.

What can he bring to the field on Sunday?

Were going to find out, Gooden said.

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."

Instant Replay: Sharks' comeback thwarted by Lindholm goal

Instant Replay: Sharks' comeback thwarted by Lindholm goal

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM – For the second straight game, the Sharks fell into an early 2-0 hole.

And for the second straight game they erased that deficit, only to lose on a late third period marker. Hampus Lindholm scored with 5:38 to go in regulation, pushing the Ducks to a 3-2 win over the Sharks at Honda Center on Friday night.

Lindholm snapped a 2-2 tie when he found open ice at the top of the circle and buzzed a wrist shot past Martin Jones, for the defenseman’s first of the season.

Anaheim improved to 5-0-1 in the last six head-to-head matchups between the Pacific Division rivals, and moved ahead of the Sharks by two points in the standings.

The Sharks lost their second straight game, including a 4-2 defeat to Ottawa on Wednesday night at SAP Center. They have scored two or fewer goals in nine of their last 12 games, going 6-5-1 over that span.

Rickard Rakell opened the scoring at 4:44. The forward found the rebound of a Shea Theodore shot after Marc-Edouard Vlasic failed to clear the zone for his 11th goal.

Antonie Vermette increased the lead to 2-0, finishing off a rush at 15:06 when he slid the puck past Jones’ far side.

San Jose got one back just before the intermission, though. One second after a power play had expired, Brent Burns hammered home a one-timer from the circle on a pass from Patrick Marleau with just six seconds left in the period, after Vlasic nicely kept the puck in at the offensive blue line.

Burns has now scored one goal in each of the past three games, and has six in the last nine games overall.

The Sharks pushed the pace early in the second period, but Jonathan Bernier made stops on Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi, Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson to keep the Ducks lead intact. That is, until Kevin Labanc knotted it at 2-2, finishing off a cross-ice pass by Logan Couture at 8:40 for the rookie’s third of the season.

The Sharks had a great chance to take their first lead of the night early in the third period, but Joe Pavelski missed a wide open net less than three minutes into the final frame.

The Sharks and Ducks split the first two meetings of the season series. San Jose returns to Honda Center later this month on Dec. 27.

Special teams

The Sharks were officially 0-for-1 on the power play. They killed off all three Anaheim advantages, ending a three-game streak of one power play goal against.

In goal

Starting for the 10th time in the last 11 games, Jones allowed three goals on 32 shots. He fell to 3-7-0 in his career against Anaheim.

Bernier was playing for the first time since giving up eight goals to Calgary on Dec. 4. He made 22 saves to pick up the win.

Lineup

Defenseman David Schlemko missed his second straight game with a right ankle injury. Mirco Mueller was recalled on Friday morning, but did not play.

Rakell returned from being out for the last two games with an upper body injury.

Up next

The Sharks return home for the second of a back-to-back on Saturday against the Hurricanes, who claimed a 1-0 win in Carolina on Nov. 15.

A four-game road trip begins in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 13.