After opening the season in Reading last weekend the Worcester Railers had their home opener Saturday night at the DCU Center against the expansion Maine Mariners, and the 8,853 in attendance went home happy as the Railers cruised to a 4-1 win.
It was a pretty even first period as the two teams felt each other out, and the scoring bid there was were stopped by Worcester goaltender Mitch Gillam and Mariners netminder Brandon Halverson. Railers defenseman Kyle McKenzie did get one past Halverson, but his shot rang hard off the post and bounced away harmlessly.
Worcester finally broke the scoreless tie at 16:21 when Nick Bligh took a David Quenneville pass into the Mariners zone. Bligh froze the defender and waited for Tyler Barnes to get clear. Barnes took the pass and flipped a nifty backhander over Halverson for the 1-0 lead.
Bligh picked up his second assist of the game with another nice pass at 8:01 of the second period. This pass hit Railers Captain Mike Cornell in stride, and Cornell’s blast broke through Halverson and in for his first goal of the season.
Jeff Kubiak made it 3-0 when he took a nice Woody Hudson feed from the left wing half-boards and fired it through a Josh Holmstrom screen and in at 15:56. McKenzie had the secondary assist on the goal.
Maine would spoil the shutout bid at 4:59 of the third when Riley Bourbonnais corralled a bouncing puck and knocked it past Gillam. Soon after the Mariners had a golden chance with a two on none break-in, but Gillam stood tall to keep the two goal lead.
Ryan MacKinnon gave Worcester a bit more breathing room with a nice goal at 9:51 when he skated the puck down the right wing side and threw it on net from a bad angle. The puck hit Mariners defenseman Scott Savage and deflected past Connor LaCouvee, who had replaced Halverson to start the third period, for the 4-1 lead. Barnes and Nick Sorkin picked up the helpers on the play.
From there it was the Worcester defense and Mitch Gillam keeping Maine at bay, and the final horn sounded with the Railers walking away with the 4-1 victory.
Scratches for the Railers were Bryan Arneson, Connor Doherty, Tommy Kelly (upper body/14-day IR), Ivan Kosorenkov, Tommy Tsicos, and Alex Vanier. Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up goaltender. Midway through the second period Yanick Turcotte left the game with what we’ll call a “lower body” injury. After the game he said it wasn’t serious and didn’t expect to be out long term.
On Friday Worcester signed Kosorenkov, who was at many of the Islander/Sound Tigers camps this summer and suffered an upper body injury in Bridgeport’s intra-squad scrimmage so he couldn’t be released from his camp try-out with the Sound Tigers. Once he was cleared to play Bridgeport released him and the Railers signed him to an ECHL deal. Kosorenkov knows how to put the puck in the net as he scored 70 goals in 131 games with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, and perhaps more importantly, his scoring did not drop in the playoffs, netting six goals and 20 points in 18 QMJHL playoff games. Kosorenkov is also the first non-North American born player to be signed by General Manager Jamie Russell. He can’t play for Worcester until his immigration is approved, which generally takes a couple weeks.
It’s not often you see the starting goaltenders involved in the ceremonial puck drop, but Mitch Gillam and Brandon Halverson took part as several Junior Railers netminders were the puck droppers. Each is raising money for “October Saves”, which has them getting donations for each save they make in October to benefit women’s and pediatric cancer research.
In another oddity, both Gillam and Halverson were wearing hockey pants that didn’t match their team’s uniform. Gillam is wearing his Bridgeport pants in games while Halverson is wearing ones from the Hartford Wolf Pack. The ECHL is pretty lenient about such things, which is the right thing to do.
Barry Almeida was the winner of the Railers “Player of the Week” fan vote held in the Worcester Railers Fan Club Facebook group. Almeida, who two goals and an assist last week, was the run away winner over fellow nominees Josh Holmstrom and David Quenneville.
The Maine Mariners have two Worcester hockey alumni in the organization, starting with their head coach Riley Armstrong. A huge fan favorite here, Armstrong had 59 goals and 112 points in 208 games with the WorSharks from 2006 thru 2009. He also was recalled to the NHL once, playing two games. The second is forward Dwyer Tschantz, who had a goal in four games with the Railers late last season. Obviously there are no former Mariner players on the Railers as Maine is an expansion team this season in the ECHL. Tschantz was a scratch Saturday night.
Worcester was in their dark jerseys for the game while Maine wore their whites. This surprised some of the Railers staff and they had to scramble to get Trax into the correct jersey for the pregame ceremonies, and then after that was over into the correct color hockey socks.
The three stars of the game were
1) WOR – 7 Tyler Barnes
2) WOR – 35 Mitch Gillam
3) WOR – 22 Nick Bligh
The 210Sports player of the game was Mike Cornell.
EVEN STRENGTH LINES
Almeida / Sorkin / Barnes
Holmstrom / Kubiak / Hudson
Bligh / Willick / Block
McKenzie / Cornell
Mueller / Quenneville
Panico / MacKinnon
Maine 0 0 1 – 1
Worcester 1 2 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, Barnes 1 (Bligh, Quenneville), 16:21. Penalties-Hudson Wor (tripping), 9:35.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Cornell 1 (Bligh), 8:01. 3, Worcester, Kubiak 1 (McKenzie, Hudson), 15:56. Penalties-Melanson Mne (holding), 5:06; Hudson Wor (interference), 8:18.
3rd Period-4, Maine, Bourbonnais 1 (Wallin, Kile), 4:59. 5, Worcester, MacKinnon 1 (Barnes, Sorkin), 9:51. Penalties-Leedahl Mne (slashing), 7:10; Almeida Wor (high-sticking), 7:25.
Shots on Goal-Maine 11-15-8-34. Worcester 11-11-11-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Maine, Halverson 0-2-0-0 (22 shots-19 saves); LaCouvee 0-0-0-0 (11 shots-10 saves). Worcester, Gillam 2-1-0-0 (34 shots-33 saves).
Referees-Jarred Mitrano (14).
Linesmen-Colin Gates (30), Kyle Richetelle (73).