For the first time since February 10th the Worcester Railers returned home to the DCU Center Sunday afternoon for a tilt against the Adirondack Thunder looking to take advantage of a few days off while the Thunder were playing their third game in three days.
Things did not start off well for the Railers in the first period despite outshooting Adirondack 11-4 as it was the Thunder that had the 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes of play when Peter MacArthur gathered a loose puck from behind the Worcester net and hit Dylan Walchuk with a centering pass. Walchuk’s shot beat Railers goaltender Mitch Gillam clean at 5:04. Jakob Reichert had the secondary assist for forcing a turnover behind the Railers’ cage.
It was Worcester’s third line that would get the equalizer at 8:17 of the second period on a nice tipped shot by Bo Brauer. The play began with a scrum of players fighting for the puck along the right wing halfwall. As the puck bounced out of the pack Tommy Kelley pushed it to Yanick Turcotte who was covering the right point. Turcotte then blasted it on net and Brauer tipped it past Thunder netminder Logan Thompson.
Under two minutes later the Railers took the lead when Ryan Hitchcock forced Connor Riley to turn the puck over high in the Adirondack zone. Hitchcock skated to the high slot and instead of shooting it on net instead threw a pass to Tyler Barnes at the top of the crease. Barnes collected the pass and backhanded the puck over Thompson for the 2-1 Worcester lead at 10:12.
With under two minutes to go in the middle period Railers captain Mike Cornell decided to interfere with a Thunder player to avoid a potential two on none break, and while on paper that was a great play Adirondack made it irrelevant when Colby Sissons scored with 18.5 seconds remaining in the period. Gillam had originally made the save on James Henry’s shot, but the rebound went high in the air and landed behind the goaltender where Sissons was there to bang it home.
Referee Jesse Gour then spent several minutes reviewing the play on video, but with no announcement as to what he was looking at fans will never know what was being questioned on the play. When the replay was finally shown on the Daktronics video board it clearly looked like a good goal.
Once again it was Worcester’s third line that made the scoresheet to give the Railers a 3-2 lead at 4:20 when Brauer collected a loose puck and skated toward the slot from the right wing boards. The puck was poked off his stick but went right to Kelley, and as Kelley was falling to a knee he fired the puck on net that went five-hole on Thompson.
We generally don’t talk much about fights during the game, especially when it’s as one-sided as Yanick Turcotte’s pounding of Andrew Tessier was, but it was actually an important moment for the team as Messier twice tried to start a fight with Bo Brauer. Turcotte was screaming at Tessier to start something with him instead, and after two icings by the Thunder Head Coach Russell let his second-year enforcer loose. The puck had barely hit the ice before both had dropped the gloves, and eventually Turcotte all but dropped Tessier. On his way to the penalty box Turcotte was celebrated by his teammates.
As the Thunder tried to pick up the play their weary legs started to take hold, and while Gillam was called on to make a couple nice saves for the most part Adirondack’s shots were high in quantity but low in quality.
Nick Sorkin would get the crowd to its feet one more time when he took a Matty Gaudreau feed and flipped the puck into a yawning net at 19:45 for the 4-2 win. Josh Holmstrom had the secondary assist on the play.
The Railers are far from done with Adirondack this week as the two teams will head to Glens Falls, New York for match-ups on Wednesday and Friday nights. Worcester returns to the DCU Center Saturday in a game against the Norfolk Admirals.
Scratches for the Railers were Connor Doherty (14-day IR/facial injury), Kyle McKenzie (Out for season/shoulder), Ivan Kosorenkov, Ross Olsson, Tommy Panico (Out for season/hand), Matt Schmalz (14-day IR/upper), and Alex Vainer (14-day IR/upper). Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up goaltender.
With the college seasons coming to an end the race is on to sign some of those players as pro teams look to improve their rosters. Following last week’s surprise signing of UMass-Amherst defenseman Ivan Chukarov Worcester General manager Jamie Russell this week signed Endicott College forward and North Billerica, MA native Ross Olsson to an ATO contract. Olsson had 59 goals and 134 points over four seasons for the Division III Gulls.
When Adirondack plays Worcester this writer enjoys tweeting out Alex Sakellaropoulos’ name for no other reason than it’s fun to say. Unfortunately Sakellaropoulos did not make the New England trip this weekend as he’s dealing with an illness. Instead the Thunder used Arthur Brey, a four year goaltender for St. Lawrence University, who was playing his first pro game on Friday in Manchester. Fellow rookie Logan Thompson, who just finished his season with Brock University, played Saturday and Sunday on an Amateur Try-out contract. Alex Fotinos backed up Brey on Friday on an ATO out of York University.
Every “Illegal Check to Head” minor is automatically reviewed by the ECHL, but based on what I saw Kelly Summers shouldn’t be receiving any supplementary discipline for his penalty for checking Tommy Kelley at 12:49 of the third period. The hit did appear a tad high but wasn’t overly hard and looked more like a standard open ice hit that got a bit higher then Summers intended. Of course the ECHL might see it differently, but at least from my perch at center ice it didn’t appear to be anything egregious.
On this day, March 4th, in Worcester hockey history…in 2007 the shorthanded WorSharks got goals from Graham Mink and Aston Rome but it wasn’t enough in a 3-2 shootout loss to Springfield. Thomas Greiss played a great game in goal, making 28 saves in regulation and overtime and stopping seven of eight Falcons shooters in the shootout…in 2011 the WorSharks got first period goals by Benn Ferriero and Andrew Desjardins, but the Manchester Monarchs scored in the second, third, and overtime to win 3-2. Tyson Sexsmith made 32 saves in the overtime loss…in 2012 Tim Kennedy scored a goal with 22 seconds remaining in second period and another with 12 seconds left in regulation to give the WorSharks a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to Portland. The game saw 48 penalty minutes called at 13:49 of the third after a wild scrum between all ten skaters.
To tell you how much times have changed you need to look no further than what hockey was like in Worcester since the debut of the IceCats. In an era where helmets are mandatory in pro hockey and visors are required for players in the AHL and ECHL, in the mid-1990s there were players that weren’t required to even wear helmets. The paper score sheets for the 1995-96 AHL season indicate that the official scorer should circle the names of any player not wearing a helmet. Craig MacTavish, who retired in 1997, was the last NHL player to not wear a helmet. Currently the search is on to find out who the last AHL player to not wear one was.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 37 Tommy Kelley
2. WOR – 15 Bo Brauer
3. WOR – 51 Yanick Turcotte
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Tyler Barnes.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Kelly / Willick / Brauer
Mueller / Cornell
Chukarov / Quenneville
Powers / MacKinnon
Adirondack 1 1 0 – 2
Worcester 0 2 2 – 4
1st Period-1, Adirondack, Walchuk 12 (MacArthur, Reichert), 5:04. Penalties-Mueller Wor (interference), 15:26.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Brauer 6 (Turcotte, Kelley), 8:17. 3, Worcester, Barnes 23 (Hitchcock), 10:12. 4, Adirondack, Sissons 1 (Henry, MacArthur), 19:41 (PP). Penalties-Almeida Wor (slashing), 5:55; Cornell Wor (interference), 18:31.
3rd Period-5, Worcester, Kelley 2 (Brauer), 4:20. 6, Worcester, Sorkin 12 (Gaudreau, Holmstrom), 19:46 (EN). Penalties-Tessier Adk (fighting – major), 5:38; Turcotte Wor (fighting – major), 5:38; Summers Adk (illegal check to head), 12:49; Cleland Adk (tripping), 17:34; served by MacArthur Adk (bench – unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:45.
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 4-10-15-29. Worcester 11-10-9-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 1 / 3; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-Adirondack, Thompson 1-1-0-0 (29 shots-26 saves). Worcester, Gillam 16-13-1-3 (29 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Jesse Gour (8).
Linesmen-Guillaume Brunelle (73), Kyle Richetelle (73).