The Worcester Railers headed to Greenville, South Carolina Saturday for the first of a pair of games against the Swamp Rabbits this weekend looking for some more offense and their first win of the new year.
And again, neither happened.
The Railers did get on the board first on a nice power play goal at 6:18 of the opening period when Alex Vanier blasted a one-timer from on top of the right wing circles for his first goal of the year. The play started with Barry Almeida on the left wing boards, who passed the puck to Ryan MacKinnon in the high slot. Vanier then one-timed MacKinnon’s feed past Greenville goaltender Chris Nell for the 1-0 lead.
It was Vanier’s first goal in the ECHL since February 15, 2017 while playing for the Wichita Thunder against Rapid City Rush.
But has been the case far too often both this season and last, that was the lone highlight for Worcester. The Swamp Rabbits would go on to tie the game at 2:36 of the second period when Kevin Miller collected a poorly executed Tommy Panico wraparound clearing attempt and threw a pass out to Jake Bolton. His 40-foot wrist shot beat Railers netminder Evan Buitenhuis.
The score stayed 1-1 through the remainder of the second stanza and deep into the third, and just when it started looking like Worcester would get the game into overtime the roof fell in on the Railers chances.
After a face-off in the Worcester zone because of an icing Woody Hudson got control of the puck along the boards to the right of Buitenhuis, and then inexplicably backhanded the puck toward the slot in front of his own net. It may have been the best pass Thomas Ebbing has received in his entire pro career, and he blasted it past Buitenhuis at 16:36.
Greenville would make it 3-1 just 12 seconds later when Chris Izmirlian broke in all alone on Buitenhuis and beat the goaltender with a backhander. Garrett Milan added an empty net goal at 18:16 for the 4-1 final.
With time winding Yanick Turcotte got into an altercation that eventually spilled into the Swamp Rabbits bench but it really was, just like the Railers so far this season, much ado about nothing
Scratches for the Railers were Alex Adams, Bo Brauer, 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.
The Swamp Rabbits are the first independent team the Railers have ever played. Last season Greenville was affiliated with the New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack, but that partnership ended when the Rangers affiliated with the Maine Mariners. There is a second unaffiliated ECHL team this season, the Rapid City Rush. The only way Worcester would play them is in the Kelly Cup Final, which fans in both cities would be all for happening.
Instead of leaving North Charlestown after Friday night’s game against the Stingrays the Railers stayed in town and bussed the three and a half hours to Greenville Saturday afternoon, arriving at about 4:30pm for the 7pm puck drop.
Like last night in South Carolina, this is the first time Worcester plays the Swamp Rabbits this season so we’ll take a look at Massachusetts connections on their roster. Forward Michael Pelech spent three games with the Worcester Sharks in early 2013 while some of the NHL-contracted players headed to San Jose for a post lockout training camp. Defenseman Jake Bolton spent four seasons Holy Cross, and fellow blueliner Trevor Owens was four season player for Northeastern. Another defenseman, J.C. Brassard, was born in Scituate. Travis Howe, who was recently suspended for 18 games by the ECHL and will miss all three games between Greenville and the Railers, was born in Hull. There are no Swamp Rabbit or Road Warriors, as they were previously known, connections on the Worcester roster.
Not that it was the cause of the Railers loss but on video the ice looked super choppy, and many times you’d see players falling for no apparent reason and the puck was bouncing around a bit. According to Twitter-user and fellow blogger “SinBinRabbits” the ice was so bad that a first intermission curling demonstration had to be cut short.
The three stars of the game were
1. GRN – 18 Thomas Ebbing
2. GRN – 30 Chris Nell
3. GRN – 16 Chris Izmirlian
For the first time in the Railers era there is no 210Sports Player of the Game.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Willick / Barnes
Holmstrom / Schmalz / Sorkin
Hudson / Kelley / Kosorenkov
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Vanier
Panico / MacKinnon
Worcester 1 0 0 – 1
Greenville 0 1 3 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, Vanier 1 (MacKinnon, Almeida), 6:18 (PP). Penalties-Duchesne Grn (tripping), 6:00; Vanier Wor (holding), 11:10.
2nd Period-2, Greenville, Bolton 7 (Miller), 2:36. Penalties-Pelech Grn (holding), 4:23; Mueller Wor (hooking), 9:33.
3rd Period-3, Greenville, Ebbing 9 16:36. 4, Greenville, Izmirlian 10 (Merchant), 16:48. 5, Greenville, Milan 1 (Pierog), 18:16 (EN). Penalties-Duchesne Grn (tripping), 9:13; Turcotte Wor (slashing, double – roughing, game misconduct – other infraction), 19:35; Vanier Wor (game misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:35; Duchesne Grn (roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:35.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 6-8-7-21. Greenville 9-18-10-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 3; Greenville 0 / 2.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 5-7-2-1 (36 shots-33 saves). Greenville, Nell 9-9-0-2 (21 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Alex Normandin (26).
Linesmen-Shane Gustafson (87), Julien Fournier (83).