The Worcester Railers took on the Maine Mariners at the DCU Center Saturday night in the back half of their home and home series looking to cap off 2018 with a win.
During Friday night’s contest between the two team there was a lot of shenanigans with Worcester tough-guy Yanick Turcotte an injury scratch, and with the second year forward in the lineup on Saturday fans knew it wouldn’t take long for Turcotte to make his presence felt.
It took just three seconds after the puck was dropped, mostly because the time keeper let a second or two run off before he stopped the clock. Turcotte took on Louie Rowe in a battle that was nothing more than Rowe swinging a couple times, Turcotte landing a glancing blow, and the two falling to the ice. But it was enough to get the 5,600 fans on their feet and into the game.
It was also the only thing those fans had to cheer about until late in the contest.
The story of the game was Maine goaltender Hannu Toivonen, who a week ago was hanging around in a cottage in Falmouth on Cape Cod. After being called upon by the Mariners earlier this week he started Saturday, stopping 41 of 42 Worcester shots in earning the 3-1 win. He also became the first player to ever play a game against all three of the Worcester IceCats, Sharks, and Railers.
While the saying goes “quantity has a quality all its own”, most of those 42 shots Worcester took wouldn’t have tested a decent high school netminder, with Toivonen only having to come up big a handful of times.
For vast portions of the game it appeared as if Worcester had never played together before, with players so far out of position it often looked like they were just randomly picking places to stand. And stand they did, especially on the power play where the Railers went 0-6, with this writer’s notes having no legitimate scoring chances listed.
Maine scored the first two goals of the contest, both in the first period. The first was at 12:43 when Derek Pratt fired a shot toward the goal from the left point that was deflected by Morgan Adams-Moisan and past Evan Buitenhuis. The second was when Ty Ronning forced a turnover and fired a hard pass to Greg Chase, who redirected it past Buitenhuis at 16:24.
The Mariners made it 3-0 after referee Andrea Barone was completely fooled by the dive of Maine forward Justin Breton and sent Matt Schmalz off for hooking. After passing the puck around the zone Michael McNicholas shot one past a screened Buitenhuis at 16:00 of the middle period.
The Railers did show some signs of life when Woody Hudson threw a nice backhand pass to Nick Sorkin in the slot, and Sorkin spoiled Toivonen’s shutout bid by beating him glove side at 18:24 of the third period.
Any hopes of a miracle comeback were dashed when just a handful of second later Mike Cornell knocked the puck over the glass from his defensive end on a play where he was hardly being pressured and had no reason to even make the kind of move that might have resulted in the puck going out of play.
Inexplicably Head Coach Jamie Russell, whose team doesn’t have a shorthanded goal this season, decided to not pull Buitenhuis for an extra attacker to keep the sides skating five on five, as if giving up a forth goal would have mattered one iota. He finally did pull his keeper with under 20 seconds left in regulations in a move that makes even less sense than not pulling him at the first opportunity.
Worcester begins 2019 on the road, with a game in North Charleston, South Carolina on Friday night against the Stingrays, and then a pair of games against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. They return home on January 12th for a match-up against the Reading Royals.
Scratches for the Railers were Alex Adams, Austin Block, Malcolm Gould (14-day IR/lower), Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper), and David Quenneville (day to day/upper). Mitch Gillam was the back-up goaltender. Matty Gaudreau was recalled to Bridgeport Saturday afternoon.
Finally had an opportunity to talk to the Railers about the immigration issues concerning Russian born forward Ivan Kosorenkov, and when you consider he played the last two seasons in Canada in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the paperwork involved to allow him to pass through the border between the US and Canada is almost comical. As of right now his paperwork sits at the Russian Consulate awaiting completion. Hopefully those guys are faster than the NHL was in approving Mitch Gillam’s new hockey pants last season.
Also had a pregame conversation with Bill Ballou, the recently retired Railers beat reporter for the Worcester Telegram. While there was some hockey discussed most of the talk was about him not voting for Mariano Rivera for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the social media uproar. Once Ballou steps back into his chair to cover the Railers again he’ll have his own words on the backlash, but suffice it to say people on social media bringing nothing to the table and just calling him every name in the book doesn’t bother him in the least.
Saturday was the 75th regular season game for Worcester in 2018, and they end the year with a respectable 38-28-5-4 mark for a .567 points percentage. That’s an amazing stat considering they also finish 2018 with the fewest goals scored in the ECHL by a significant margin.
The three stars of the game were
1) MNE – 30 Hannu Toivonen
2) MNE – 10 Greg Chase
3) MNE – 4 Scott Savage
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Nick Sorkin.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Schmalz / Kosorenkov
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Barnes
Hudson / Kelley / Willick
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Vanier
Panico / MacKinnon
Maine 2 1 0 – 3
Worcester 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, Maine, Adams-Moisan 7 (Pratt, Kile), 12:43. 2, Maine, Chase 5 (Ronning), 16:24. Penalties-Rowe Mne (fighting – major), 0:03; Turcotte Wor (fighting – major), 0:03; Breton Mne (slashing), 1:16; Hudson Wor (hooking), 8:05; Salvaggio Mne (tripping), 14:15; Schmalz Wor (hooking), 17:13; Adams-Moisan Mne (hooking), 18:22.
2nd Period-3, Maine, McNicholas 8 (Savage, Ferrill), 16:00 (PP). Penalties-Ferrill Mne (cross-checking), 6:01; Toivonen Mne (delay of game – restricted area / trapeziod), 10:29; Schmalz Wor (hooking), 15:44.
3rd Period-4, Worcester, Sorkin 7 (Hudson, MacKinnon), 18:24. Penalties-Culkin Mne (hooking), 11:54; Holmstrom Wor (slashing), 15:14; Cornell Wor (delay of game), 18:33.
Shots on Goal-Maine 9-10-6-25. Worcester 10-16-16-42.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 1 / 5; Worcester 0 / 6.
Goalies-Maine, Toivonen 1-0-0-0 (42 shots-41 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 5-6-2-1 (25 shots-22 saves).
Referees-Andrea Barone (13).
Linesmen-AJ Potvin (78), Nathan Frechette (30).