The Worcester Railers began their three in three weekend at the DCU Center Friday night with a contest against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and after the way the two teams split their two game series in early January fans were expecting a hard hitting, physical game.
They were, however, expecting the rough and tumble play to begin after the opening puck drop and not during warmups, but with memories of the two games in Greenville still fresh in the heads of some of the players there was almost a pregame brawl as both teams came together at the center red dot after some pushing and shoving broke out. Cooler heads did eventually prevail.
Neither team seemed to gain any momentum from the incident, but the Swamp Rabbits picked up a little steam at 16:54 of the opening period when they scored the first goal of the game on a booming shot by Luke Ripley from about 40-feet out through a screen of players and past Railers goaltender Mitch Gillam.
Three minutes into the second period the hole Worcester would need to climb out of got a little bit deeper when Adam Larkin fired one from the point that Gillam looked to have a bead on until Dylan Vander Esch tipped the shot from about 20-feet in front of the netminder to redirect it past Gillam for the 2-0 Greenville lead.
With the Worcester offense hardly firing on all cylinders and the Railers coming into the game having no come from behind wins when entering the third period while trailing things didn’t look all that good, but when Larkin accidentally fired the puck out of play Worcester knew they needed to convert on the early third period power play.
Early on with the man advantage the Railers had lots of zone time and nothing to show for it, but as fans started to yell “shoot the puck” Ryan Hitchcock did just that and got Worcester on the board. Ivan Kosorenkov set the play in motion by faking a shot from the slot, and as Swamp Rabbits netminder Chris Nell readied for the blast Kosorenkov calmly passed the puck to his right to Hitchcock at the right wing board. Hitchcock’s shot fooled Nell and went five-hole at 4:55. David Quenneville had the secondary assist.
As play went on in the third period Worcester found themselves with a five on three advantage after a slashing minor and another delay of game penalty. They didn’t capitalize with the two-man advantage, but did grab their second power play marker of the period just as the first man came out of the box when Mike Cornell fired one on net that Nell made the easy save on, but an unmarked Tyler Barnes gathered the rebound and fired it over Nell to tie the game at 8:03. Barry Almeida also picked up an assist on the play.
Entering the game the Railers had never scored three power play goals in the same game before, let alone in the same period, but when former WorSharks forward Michael Pelech headed to the sin bin for tripping Matty Gaudreau Worcester had their chance, and they seized the opportunity with both hands.
Or, maybe more accurately, with Barnes’ right foot.
With the man advantage the Railers circled the puck around the Swamp Rabbits zone, where eventually Ryan MacKinnon set up Kosorenkov for a one-timer. Kosorenkov blasted it towards the net, but as it was going wide it smacked right into Barnes’ right foot and deflected into the net for the 3-2 Railers lead at 13:43.
Gillam did need to come up big a couple of times late in the contest to keep his team in the lead, but for the most part Worcester controlled the play as they skated off with the win and two points.
Saturday night the Railers host the Wheeling Nailers with a 7pm puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Bo Brauer, Malcolm Gould, Woody Hudson, Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper/out for season), Matt Schmalz (14-day IR/upper) and Alex Vanier (Suspended, game 1 of 2). Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up netminder.
The saga of Alex Vanier’s mystery “illegal check to the head” match penalty from last Saturday’s game took a turn on Monday when the ECHL changed the penalty in the box score to indicate it was a match penalty for fighting, and then suspended the defenseman for two games. Looking at the rules covering fighting in the ECHL’s rulebook, a match penalty can be assessed for fighting with tape (or other such objects) on your hand and causing injury, or by punching an unsuspecting opponent. The available video does not clearly show either of those things happened, so the ECHL must have other video unavailable to the media. The ECHL does not comment on issues of suspensions.
Friday’s game was the first of three this weekend at the DCU Center to feature play on pink ice. Saturday is “Pink in the Rink” night for the Railers, and Worcester will wear a special pink jersey that will be auctioned off during the game to benefit the Cup Crusaders. Proceeds from the sales of tickets, pink pucks, and pink t-shirts will also benefit the group.
With it being the first game of the week we’ll take our usual look at the “Railers Player of the Week” voting that takes place over on the Railers fans Facebook group, and in another runaway last week’s winner was Tyler Barnes. His winning shouldn’t be a shock considering Barnes also was a runner up for last week’s ECHL Player of the Week. The other two nominees were Ryan Hitchcock and Matty Gaudreau.
I’m making a change here on my “On this day on Worcester hockey history” part of the post. I was originally using the day the game was on and not the day the post was made, which was kind of silly because people were really finding out what happened the day before. So now the “On this day” part will be for the day the post is made. On days there is no game post the “On this day on Worcester hockey history” info will be posted on my 210Darryl Twitter account.
On this day, February 9th, in Worcester hockey history…in 2005 the IceCats and Monarchs combined for 101 penalty minutes, with Manchester’s George Parros tallying 37 of them, but it didn’t help Worcester as they dropped the contest 4-1. Aris Brimanis had the only goal for the IceCats…in 2014 Travis Oleksuk, Rob Davison, Eriah Hayes, and Dan DaSilva all scored for the WorSharks in a 4-2 win over St John’s. Troy Grosenick had 29 saves in the victory.
On Tuesday former Holy Cross College standout forward and Worcester IceCats alumnus Lance Brady passed away after a battle with cancer. Brady, who had a five year pro career that spanned the ECHL, IHL, and AHL, also spent many years in the Worcester area as a hockey coach, including the last ten as head hockey coach at Assumption College. Holy Cross will honor Brady during Saturday night’s hockey game against RIT at the Hart Center, and Assumption players will be wearing “LB Coach” stickers on their helmets for the remainder of the season. The Railers had a moment of silence for Brady before the game, which included spotlighting his #2 road IceCats jersey as it hung in the stands.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 7 Tyler Barnes
2. WOR – 10 Ivan Kosorenkov
3. GRN – 24 Luke Ripley
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Ryan Hitchcock.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Kosorenkov / Willick / Kelley
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Quenneville
Panico / MacKinnon
Greenville 1 1 0 – 2
Worcester 0 0 3 – 3
1st Period-1, Greenville, Ripley 2 (Nault), 16:54. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-2, Greenville, Vander Esch 8 (Larkin, Duchesne), 3:00. Penalties-Turcotte Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:26; Harms Grn (fighting – major), 6:30; Cornell Wor (roughing, fighting – major), 6:30; Larkin Grn (slashing), 7:38.
3rd Period-3, Worcester, Hitchcock 7 (Kosorenkov, Quenneville), 4:55 (PP). 4, Worcester, Barnes 17 (Cornell, Almeida), 8:03 (PP). 5, Worcester, Barnes 18 (Kosorenkov, MacKinnon), 13:43 (PP). Penalties-Larkin Grn (delay of game), 3:13; Nault Grn (slashing), 5:57; Merchant Grn (delay of game), 7:18; Pelech Grn (tripping), 13:00.
Shots on Goal-Greenville 8-12-7-27. Worcester 9-10-9-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Greenville 0 / 2; Worcester 3 / 5.
Goalies-Greenville, Nell 10-17-0-2 (28 shots-25 saves). Worcester, Gillam 14-11-0-2 (27 shots-25 saves).
Referees-Chris Pontes (12).
Linesmen-Matt Wyld (56), Brent Colby (38).