The Worcester Railers were hoping to get back into the win column Friday night at the DCU Center against the Maine Mariners, but when teams are in slumps it often takes a lucky bounce to break out of it. Unfortunately for the Railers they got an unlucky one and their winless streak extended to six games with a 3-2 overtime loss.
It seemed like things were about to change for the Railers, who after being dominated for most of the first two periods were really pouring it on in the third, and with a wild scrum of player in front of the Maine net Josh Holmstrom was somehow able to get the puck through all the traffic and past Mariners goaltender Brandon Halverson with 1:21 remaining in regulation.
With the red light flashing and Holmstrom celebrating in front of the net from behind the pile of players referee Sean Fernandez was seen emphatically waving “no goal”.
Fernandez then went to video replay, and then “confirmed” his call of no goal. If there was an explanation given by the public address announcer this writer missed it, but quickly word spread it was due to a Worcester high stick. The video replay from the center ice camera shown on the Daktronics didn’t show any sort of high stick from Holmstrom.
In postgame comments by Head Coach Jamie Russel to Worcester Telegram reporter Bill Doyle the goal was waved off because Fernandez ruled the puck was high-sticked by Tyler Barnes before the puck went to Holmstrom.
So back to the video this writer went, and at no point can any player be seen playing the puck from above shoulder height–the level that determines a high stick while playing the puck from player to player–before Holmstron puts the puck into the net. For a legal goal the last touch by the scoring team must be from below the height of the crossbar, which Holmstrom’s clearly was.
From there it was on to overtime, where Maine won the opening face-off and had possession for the entire 29 seconds before Shawn St-Amant skated down the left side and beat Railers goaltender Evan Buitenhuis for the 3-2 final.
Despite the ice being tilted toward the Worcester end for most of the first 40 minutes the Railers were able to take the lead twice during the game. Barry Almeida opened the scoring at 12:52 of the first period when he followed his own shot and knocked a rebound over Halverson from his knees. Woody Hudson and Nick Sorkin had the assists on the initial rush.
Maine tied it at 6:46 of the middle period when defenseman Ryan Culkin fired a shot on a screened Buitenhuis that appeared to go through the legs of Terrence Wallin and past Buitenhuis. Wallin was credited with the goal, but those on the pressbox side of the building were saying it looked like it never touched him on the way through.
The Railers retook the lead when Austin Block attempted to fire the puck toward the net. The hard shot didn’t get very far, hitting a couple of Mariners players, ending on the stick of Dylan Willick. The Worcester forward pivoted toward the net and fired a hard shot along the ice, and the puck just snuck inside the far post to make it 2-1 at 10:15.
The Mariners got tied it again for a second time with a power play goal on a play where they should have been shorthanded. In what was an obvious goaltender interference call referee Fernandez somehow decided Holmstrom slashed a Maine player and sent him to the box. Alex Kile then connected at 12:27 to tie the score and set the stage for the third period.
The two team meet again Saturday night in Portland, Maine with a 6pm puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Connor Doherty, Mitch Gillam (upper body), Tommy Kelley (14-day IR/upper body), Tommy Tsicos, Yanick Turcotte (14-day IR/lower body), and Alex Vanier. With Gillam on the shelf for at least a week the Railers brought in Jason San Antonio as an emergency back-up. No matter how the question was worded the answer to Gillam’s injury was always just “upper body”.
At some point since the Gillam injury Wednesday in Newfoundland the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Worcester’s AHL affiliate, signed goaltender Evan Buitenhuis to a contract and assigned him to Worcester. There was no hint of this from the Railers pregame Friday, although to be fair it’s a good bet no one asked. The pregame radio show was drowned out by a live band Friday so no information could be gathered from there.
This writer is often critical of officials, especially when they miss the easy stuff. Knowing which player is yelling at you would seem to be something that any professional referee should be able to determine without much effort, but referee Sean Fernandez somehow confused number-5 Kyle McKenzie for number-20 David Quenneville and assessed Quenneville a 10-minue misconduct to end the second period. It was just one of several glaring errors Fernandez made in the game.
And speaking of officials, there was a scary moment with about three minutes left when a hard clear into the Maine zone by the Railers caught linesman William Kingdon on the side of the helmet. Kingdon went down right away and play was immediately stopped, but the linesman was back on his feet before Railers trainer Rob Tagle could even get to him. After a brief conversation all seemed fine and play was started again.
Worcester Bravehearts General Manager Dave “Peterman” Peterson was in attendance Friday night with many of the staff from the city’s Future’s Collegiate Baseball League team, and as one would expect from him with the score tied late in the game Peterman was doing many of his famous rally dances. The only thing missing was the loud sport coats he usually wears in rooting on the Bravehearts. Perhaps the Railers can keep one handy for him next time.
Unlike the last time these two teams met in Worcester there was a decent amount of Mariners fans that made the trip to the DCU Center. Many were still in Portland Pirates gear, but most had something on from the Mariners too. It’s a welcome sight as our old AHL friends from The Pine Tree State were always great game companions.
The three stars of the game were
1) MNE – 26 Shawn St-Amant
2) WOR – 19 Barry Almeida
3) MNE – 23 Alex Kile
The 210Sports player of the game was Dylan Willick.
EVEN STRENGTH LINES
Almeida / Sorkin / Hudson
Kosorenkov / Holmstrom / Barnes
Bligh / Willick / Block
McKenzie / Cornell
Panico / MacKinnon
Mueller / Quenneville
Maine 0 2 0 1 – 3
Worcester 1 1 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Almeida 3 (Sorkin, Hudson), 12:52. Penalties-Hudson Wor (high-sticking), 6:13.
2nd Period-2, Maine, Wallin 3 (Culkin, Pratt), 6:46. 3, Worcester, Willick 2 (Block), 10:15. 4, Maine, Kile 7 (Leedahl, Culkin), 12:27 (PP). Penalties-Hudson Wor (slashing), 4:34; Holmstrom Wor (slashing), 11:36; MacKinnon Wor (slashing), 16:15; Quenneville Wor (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-served by Furgele Mne (bench – delay of game), 6:30; Tolkinen Mne (tripping), 8:40.
OT Period-5, Maine, St-Amant 1 (Savage, Tolkinen), 0:29. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Maine 13-17-6-1-37. Worcester 9-12-11-0-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 1 / 4; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Maine, Halverson 1-3-0-1 (32 shots-30 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 1-2-1-0 (37 shots-34 saves).
Referees-Sean Fernandez (21).
Linesmen-Sam Schildkraut (86), William Kingdon (58).