The Worcester Railers took on the Maine Mariners Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center hoping to take advantage of the Mariners playing their fourth game in five days and extend their modest winning streak to three games.
It was a wide open first period with the teams combining for 27 shots in the frame. Both Railers goaltender Mitch Gillam and Maine netminder Brandon Halverson were up to the task as each made some big saves to keep the game scoreless early on. The frame would eventually end with the teams knotted 1-1, and neither goaltender had a chance on the one that beat them.
The Mariners goal came at 15:42 off a draw in the circle to the left of Gillam. Riley Bourbonnais won the face-off clean, but the puck only moved about four feet. That was enough for Ty Ronning to get a stick on it, and his laser beat a screened Gillam for the 1-0 lead.
Worcester got that goal back at 17:03 when they broke into the Maine zone on a three on one rush. Ryan Hitchcock had the puck on entry on the right side, and he threw a pass to Tyler Barnes in the middle. With Barry Almeida streaking down the left Barnes threw a pass right back to Hitchcock, who one-timed it past Halverson. Fans were joking that the shot was so hard if it had missed the net it likely would have bounced all the way out of the zone.
The Railers grabbed a 2-1 lead at 9:11 of the second period on a play that looked to be harmless when it started but showed that speed on the ice can make things happen. Austin Block skated into the Mariners zone to grab a loose puck just inside the blue line, and as he gained possession threw a nice diagonal pass into the slot to a streaking Matty Gaudreau. He took one stride with the puck and fired a hard shot that beat Halverson stick side.
Special teams have been a thorn in Worcester’s side for a very long time, and it was a flub on the power play that got Maine back to even when Ryan Ferrill, who graduated from Holy Cross last May, picked up a loose puck on a bad pass between Hitchcock and Ryan MacKinnon and skated on a three zone breakaway and beat Gillam at 10:43 for the unassisted shorthanded goal.
In the third period the Railers came out on fire, throwing a period record 20 shots on goal in the frame. Halverson was up to the test, but even he couldn’t foresee the odd bounce that would happen to the Mariners as time was winding down.
After a faceoff deep in the Maine zone defenseman Zach Tolkinen collected the puck and fired it along the glass to the left of Halverson to clear it out of the zone. The puck caromed off a stanchion and took a weird bounce right to Barnes in the slot. He was all alone in front, and with the extra time he had Barnes steadied the puck and wristed a hard shot glove side that beat Halverson just inside the far post with 34.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Maine’s last ditch effort didn’t significantly threaten, and Worcester would have no attempts on the empty net as the final horn sounded with the Railers 3-2 winners.
Scratches for the Railers were Nick Bligh, Malcolm Gould (14-day IR/upper), Tommy Kelley (14-day IR/upper), Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper), and Tommy Panico. Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up goaltender. The Railers went out of their way to note that McKenzie’s injury was not a concussion. As McKenzie was part of the Worcester County Sheriff’s toy drive Saturday night at Worcester Ice a concussion seemed unlikely anyway.
Railers play by play man Eric Lindquist noted this on Twitter post game: “Dating back to March 2 goaltender Mitch Gillam has, including playoffs, won 12 straight starts at the DCU Center and has allowed just 15 goals.” That’s an incredible stat.
With it being Sunday the Railers wore their orange third jerseys, and have now garnered three of a possible four points while wearing them. They’ll next wear them at the DCU Center on January 13th against Manchester.
Upon further review…with his overtime goal Friday night Dylan Willick became the second Railers player this season to score goals in all four periods, joining Josh Holmstrom on the short list. Last season just three Worcester players accomplished that feat: Barry Almeida, Matt Lane, and Chris Langkow.
This writer also spent a few minutes Saturday morning looking into the Railers surrendering penalty shots in consecutive games. There are a couple seasons where the records released by the American Hockey League are incomplete, but it’s a safe assumption that a Worcester pro team had never faced penalty shots against in consecutive games prior to this week. In one of those odd coincidence last night in Bridgeport the Sound Tigers, the Railers AHL affiliate, lost a game in overtime on a penalty shot. No Worcester pro team has ever won or lost a game in overtime on a penalty shot.
In our final look at the remaining scoring errors in last Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime win over Brampton, the Railers don’t expect any more changes to be made for that game. The overtime game winning goal will now forever read Willick from Quenneville despite the video clearly showing the rookie defenseman wasn’t on the ice at all during that play. So Nick Bligh will lose a “plus” on the tally.
The three stars of the game were
1) WOR – 7 Tyler Barnes
2) WOR – 27 Ryan Hitchcock
3) MNE – 18 Ryan Ferrill
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Austin Block.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Gaudreau / Sorkin / Holmstrom
Hudson / Willick / Turcotte
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Quenneville
Vanier / MacKinnon
Maine 1 1 0 – 2
Worcester 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Maine, Ronning 4 (Bourbonnais), 15:42. 2, Worcester, Hitchcock 1 (Barnes), 17:03. Penalties-Martin Mne (tripping), 4:13; Ronning Mne (tripping), 11:12.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Gaudreau 4 (Block), 9:11. 4, Maine, Ferrill 2 10:43 (SH). Penalties-Block Wor (slashing), 3:40; Melanson Mne (slashing), 9:50; Ferrill Mne (fighting – major), 13:57; Vanier Wor (interference, fighting – major), 13:57.
3rd Period-5, Worcester, Barnes 5 19:25. Penalties-Quenneville Wor (hooking), 4:32; Pratt Mne (tripping), 7:59.
Shots on Goal-Maine 14-12-7-33. Worcester 13-12-20-45.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 4.
Goalies-Maine, Halverson 6-5-0-1 (45 shots-42 saves). Worcester, Gillam 5-6-0-0 (33 shots-31 saves).
Referees-Jesse Gour (8).
Linesmen-Kyle Richetelle (73), Shane Kanaly (39).