Saturday night the Worcester Railers played the first of a pair of games this weekend against the Orlando Solar Bears at the DCU Center looking to extend their winning streak to three games.
The Railers jumped out to an early lead, something that hasn’t happened much so far this season, when Worcester Captain Mike Cornell blasted a shot from the right point through traffic and past screened Orlando goaltender Corbin Boes just 1:28 into the stanza. Ivan Kosorenkov and Tyler Mueller had the assists on the goal.
Just handful of seconds after the goal Solar Bears forward Stefan Fournier crosschecked a Railers player from behind into the boards. Cornell jumped to defend his teammate and went at it with Fournier, but the much larger Fournier won the battle with ease. In the penalty boxes after the fight fans could hear Fournier yelling over to Cornell to apologize for hitting him after he’d fallen to the ice.
The Solar Bears came back to tie it at 6:59 on what might have been the only mistake the Railers made all night. While shorthanded Worcester collected an Orlando turnover and raced up ice on an odd man rush. But when they didn’t convert on the play all three Worcester players got caught deep in the Solar Bears zone. Matthew Spencer ended Orlando’s three on one rush back the other direction with a shot that beat Railers netminder Evan Buitenhuis.
Tempers were starting to flare on the ice, and after a whistle ended play to send Barry Almeida to the box for slashing former Worcester Sharks pest Curt Gogol was up to his old tricks and the linesmen had to separate the players. As soon as the puck was dropped to begin play Woody Hudson took on Gogol, and pounded him as the DCU Center fans erupted. Gogol’s antics didn’t reappear the rest of the game.
Nick Bligh gave the Railers a two goal lead at 16:27 with a wicked wrist shot from the right win circle that beat Boes clean. The teams had the puck in a scrum along the half boards, and with not much room Matty Gaudreau was able to get the puck over to Bligh for the shot. Josh Holmstrom had the secondary assist.
Bligh would strike again early in the second period when Gaudreau threw a nice pass from behind the net to his wide open teammate. Bligh one-times the pass past Boes, who had absolutely no chance on the play, at 2:48. Nick Bligh added an assist on the goal. It’s currently the two fastest goals by a single player in Railers franchise history.
Just a couple minutes later Worcester grabbed their second power play goal of the night when Kosorenkov made the entire Orlando penalty kill look foolish as he stickhandled through all four of them and beat Boes low stick side for the 4-1 lead. Tyler Barnes and Holmstrom had the assists, but the actual goal was all Kosorenkov’s doing.
That would be all for Boes as Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky pulled his goalie and sent Hayden Stewart in to man the pipes.
Gaudreau made it 5-1 at 15:41 of the third period when he followed Austin Block’s rush into the Orlando zone. Block had the puck pushed off his stick as he went to the net, but the puck went right to the uncovered Gaudreau for his first of the season. Mueller had the secondary assist.
All that was left was to see if Orlando would try to send a message for Sunday’s rematch, but things were generally quiet until Vincent Dunn tried to start some trouble. Referee Steven Rouillard was having none of that, and sent Dunn off for a misconduct.
The 5-1 final extended the Railers season long winning streak to three games.
Scratches for the Railers were Mitch Gillam (14-day IR/upper), Malcolm Gould, Ryan Hitchcock (Flu), Tommy Kelley (14-day IR/upper), Ryan MacKinnon, Yanick Turcotte (14-day IR/lower), and Alex Vanier. Charlie Millen was once again the back-up goaltender.
Orlando has one former Worcester Sharks player on their roster, Curt Gogol. He played exclusively forward for the WorSharks in his stint with them, but is playing defense for the Solar bears. Gogol was almost with the Railers last season as part of the Wade Murphy trade, but he failed his physical and the trade was voided. Murphy ended up still going to Greenville and Worcester got Brock Beukeboom instead. The Solar Bears are already the third team Gogol has played for this season. He started the campaign over in Europe, playing four games for Kalmar HC in Hockeyettan, the third tier of ice hockey in Sweden. He then played six games for Manglerud on Norway.
Austin Block is the only Worcester player with a connection with Orlando, playing 74 games for the Solar Bears over a season and a half. He had 14 goals and 42 points with Orlando. The only other Massachusetts connection between the teams is forward Chris LeBlanc, who was born in Winthrop and was a 6th round pick (#161) of the Ottawa Senators in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft out of Merrimack College. This is his second season with the Solar Bears.
The three stars of the game were
1) WOR – 22 Nick Bligh
2) WOR – 10 Ivan Kosorenkov
3) WOR – 21 Matthew Gaudreau
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Mike Cornell.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Holmstrom / Barnes
Gaudreau / Sorkin / Bligh
Hudson / Willick / Kosorenkov
McKenzie / Cornell
Panico / Doherty
Mueller / Quenneville
Orlando 1 0 0 – 1
Worcester 2 2 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Worcester, Cornell 2 (Kosorenkov, Mueller), 1:28 (PP). 2, Orlando, Spencer 1 (Dunn, Foget), 6:59. 3, Worcester, Bligh 4 (Gaudreau, Holmstrom), 16:27. Penalties-Shaw Orl (tripping), 0:34; Fournier Orl (cross-checking, fighting – major), 1:49; Cornell Wor (fighting – major), 1:49; Block Wor (high-sticking), 4:57; Bourke Orl (interference on the goalkeeper), 13:31; Olson Orl (tripping), 14:40; Almeida Wor (slashing), 14:40; Gogol Orl (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 14:42; Hudson Wor (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 14:42; Fournier Orl (boarding), 17:25.
2nd Period-4, Worcester, Bligh 5 (Gaudreau, Sorkin), 2:48. 5, Worcester, Kosorenkov 3 (Barnes, Holmstrom), 4:33 (PP). Penalties-Fournier Orl (charging), 3:17; Almeida Wor (slashing), 6:05; Thompson Orl (slashing), 13:56.
3rd Period-6, Worcester, Gaudreau 1 (Block, Mueller), 15:41. Penalties-Bourke Orl (cross-checking), 6:47; Almeida Wor (cross-checking), 10:30; Dunn Orl (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:38.
Shots on Goal-Orlando 12-10-12-34. Worcester 11-15-6-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Orlando 0 / 3; Worcester 2 / 7.
Goalies-Orlando, Boes 1-2-1-0 (20 shots-16 saves); Stewart 0-0-0-0 (12 shots-11 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 4-3-1-0 (34 shots-33 saves).
Referees-Steven Rouillard (3).
Linesmen-Sam Schildkraut (86), Stephen Drain (77).