The Worcester Railers visited St John’s, Newfoundland Friday night for the first of a pair against the Growlers at Mile One Centre knowing it would be a tough contest against the ECHL North Division leaders even in the best of situations. It’s a safe bet the Railers didn’t know at the start of the game they’d also have to play against the game officials.
In hockey, as it is in every sport, bad calls can swing a game to one team’s favor. One needs to look no further than the New Orleans Saints, who aren’t playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl in part to a horrendous non-call. ECHL referee Jason Faist blunders didn’t come close to that level, but they most certainly cost the Railers a chance for at least one point in the standings.
A preview of what was going to happen came early when Faist called Alex Vanier for cross-checking on a play that was essentially just Vanier being larger than his opponent. Luckily for Worcester the Growlers couldn’t convert on that power play.
That did start the ice being tipped toward the Worcester end, with Newfoundland jumping out to an 11-2 shot advantage early. Eventually the Growlers would capitalize when Derian Plouffe beat Railers goaltender Evan Buitenhuis to light the lamp at 12:39 of the opening period. James Melindy and Scott Pooley had the assists on the goal.
Referee Faist struck again with 59 seconds remaining in the period when he only penalized Yanick Turcotte for an unsportsmanlike conduct minor after Turcotte and Melindy got together at the benches. It’s possible that Faist didn’t notice all the punches Melindy threw at Turcotte over the linesmen, although that does seem a bit far fetched. The obvious “make up” call at 19:32 on Hudson Elynuik was hardly a slash at all.
With the teams skating four on four to start the period Nick Sorkin took advantage of the bit of extra space when he broke into the Newfoundland zone on an odd man rush and beat former Worcester netminder and now current Newfoundland goalie Eamon McAdam one minute unto the middle period. Matty Gaudreau and Mike Cornell had the helpers.
A phantom slashing minor on David Quenneville in the period at 15:47 would usually not get a mention were it not for the fact referee Faist didn’t put his arm up until the hometown Growlers fans started booing. It also foreshadows what was to come later.
The Railers took a 2-1 lead at 1:29 of the third period on a nice shot by Tyler Barnes. McAdam lost control of the puck behind his own net, and the lost control of his stick when he collided with one of his defensemen. Ryan Hitchcock managed to corral the loose puck and got it over to Barry Almeida, who in turn found Barnes in the left circle.
And then referee Faist made an incredibly bad call, and followed it up with an even worse one.
At 3:24 Hitchcock was interfered with in the neutral zone and knocked to the ice. Now it would have been bad enough had Faist made no call, but he made it worse by somehow penalizing Hitchcock for holding despite the only thing Hitchcock holding was his own stick.
Almeida, with the alternate captain’s “A” emblazoned on his jersey, disputed the call. Apparently referee Faist didn’t understand that Almeida has the right to speak to the officials while wearing the “A” as Almeida was immediately given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor to give Newfoundland a five on three advantage. At that point Almeida lost it on Faist and received a ten-minute misconduct.
Faist, once again realizing his error, assessed another phantom make-up call to Elynuik for slashing, making it a four on three power play. The Growlers tied the game 2-2 at 4:09 on a goal by Zach O’Brien. From that point on there was almost no reason for referee Faist to even be on the ice as he ignored several high sticks that sent Railers players to the bench at various states of injury. Luckily none was serious enough to warrant a trip t the dressing room.
The Growlers would take a 3-2 lead at 11:54 when Melindy beat Buitenhuis top shelf after Newfoundland gained entry into the Worcester zone when referee Faist ignored an interference penalty on the Growlers.
A couple of Newfoundland empty net goals made the 5-2 final look far more lopsided than it actually was. After the second one Railers captain Cornell voiced his displeasure at Faist and was assessed a ten-minute misconduct.
The two teams play again Saturday night, and once again Jason Faist will be the referee.
Scratches for the Railers were Bo Brauer, Malcolm Gould, Tommy Kelley, Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper/out for season), Tyler Mueller (14-day IR/upper), Matt Schmalz (14-day IR/upper). Mitch Gillam was the back-up goaltender.
Newfoundland was without one of their top scorers Friday night as Brady Ferguson is still serving the four game suspension he received for an illegal check to the head of Worcester defenseman Tyler Mueller on January 19th. Ferguson will also miss Saturday’s contest. Word from the Railers is that Mueller will hopefully be ready to play next weekend.
Upon further review…there was lots of issues with the official scorers in Brampton on Wednesday, with some of the goals taking more than ten minutes to be added to the scoresheet. You’d think taking all that time would result in all the entries being correct, but as it turns out some were not even close. Once all the changes were made no Worcester player lost any points, and Ryan Hitchcock and Barry Almeida each picked up two assists. David Quenneville picked up an assist too.
St. John’s, Newfoundland has usually shown to be a very hospitable place for teams from Worcester to play in, with teams from the city going 16-10-3 with two ties in 31 contests on The Rock. The Worcester IceCats went 6-4-1 and had two ties with the Maple Leafs, and the WorSharks were an amazing 10-3-2 in 15 games against the IceCaps. So far it hasn’t been a great spot for the Railers though, as counting Friday they are winless in three attempts at the Mile One Centre.
On February 1st in Worcester hockey history…in 2003 Worcester IceCats captain Eric Nickulas scored late in the second period to tie the game and Blake Evans notched the game-winner with only four seconds remaining in regulation for the 2-1 win over the expansion Binghamton Senators. Cody Rudkowsky earned the victory in net…in 2013 Daniil Tarasov had a late third period goal against Portland to send the game into overtime, but the Pirates would prevail 3-2 as the WorSharks went 0-5 in the shootout. Tim Kennedy had the first goal for Worcester…in 2014 Brodie Reid scored two third period goals to lift the WorSharks to a 3-2 win over Providence. Freddie Hamilton had a goal and assisted on both of Reid’s third period tallies.
The three stars of the game were
1. NFL – 43 James Melindy
2. NFL – 11 Derian Plouffe
3. NFL – 10 Zach O’Brien
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Evan Buitenhuis.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Kosorenkov / Willick / Hudson
Doherty / Cornell
Panico / MacKinnon
Vanier / Quenneville
Worcester 0 1 1 – 2
Newfoundland 1 0 4 – 5
1st Period-1, Newfoundland, Plouffe 7 (Melindy, Pooley), 12:39. Penalties-Vanier Wor (cross-checking), 2:33; Doherty Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:43; Melindy Nfl (roughing), 15:43; Turcotte Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:01; Elynuik Nfl (slashing), 19:32.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Sorkin 10 (Gaudreau, Cornell), 1:00. Penalties-Kestner Nfl (tripping), 14:05; Quenneville Wor (slashing), 15:47.
3rd Period-3, Worcester, Barnes 15 (Almeida, Hitchcock), 1:29. 4, Newfoundland, O’Brien 17 (Power, Johnston), 4:09 (PP). 5, Newfoundland, Melindy 1 (Estephan), 11:54. 6, Newfoundland, Elynuik 7 17:24 (EN). 7, Newfoundland, Pooley 19 18:17 (EN). Penalties-Almeida Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct, misconduct), 3:24; Hitchcock Wor (holding), 3:24; Elynuik Nfl (slashing), 3:49; Cornell Wor (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:17.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 7-14-8-29. Newfoundland 15-8-10-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 3; Newfoundland 1 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 7-8-2-1 (31 shots-28 saves). Newfoundland, McAdam 2-2-1-0 (29 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Jason Faist (18).
Linesmen-Joe Maynard (92), Justin Day (52).