The Worcester Railers took on the Adirondack Thunder Friday night at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens falls, New York for the second time in three days looking for a sweep of their three consecutive games against their ECHL North Division rivals to keep themselves in the thick of the playoff race.
The opening few minutes were the definition of “keep your head up hockey” as the Thunder attempted to ramp up the physical play in hopes of getting Worcester off their game. To say it didn’t work would be an understatement. At 2:14 Connor Doherty and Alexandre Carrier were sent off for matching roughing minors, and then over the next few minutes referee Jarred Mitrano could have called a slew of minors but chose to let the teams play. That culminated in a very one-sided bout between the captains of the teams as Mike Cornell absolutely pounded James Henry.
While the game continued to be physical that pretty much ended Adirondack trying to get the Railers to fight as no one would go near Cornell with that intent the rest of the night, and they were already trying to avoid getting in another battle with Yanick Turcotte.
Nick Sorkin gave Worcester a 1-0 lead and its eighth goal in a row against the Thunder in this three game swing at 16:64 when he connected from about 15-feet in front of Adirondack netminder Logan Thompson for a power play goal. The play began with a Ryan MacKinnon blasting a shot from the right point. Thompson made the save, kicking the puck over to the left wing half boards where Barry Almeida scooped it up. His return shot from a tough angle was saved again with the rebound going right to Sorkin, and his shot lit the lamp and dumped the water bottle off the net. As of posting time MacKinnon hadn’t been credited with an assist, and Almeida’s helper on the goal was his 100th point for Worcester.
Ryan Hitchcock made it nine goals in a row by the Railers when he took a nice feed from Tyler Barnes through traffic into the slot from the right wing boards and rifled one from just inside the left wing circle over the glove of Thompson and under the crossbar at 4:26 of the second period. Almeida earned his second assist of the night on the play with a zone entry pass to Barnes.
The Thunder got their first goal in 114:19 of play between the two clubs when Peter MacArthur broke into the Worcester zone on the right side and fed the puck to Matt Salhany. With just forward Josh Holmstrom back to defend Salhany went in toward the net on a two on one rush. Holmstrom correctly chose to give the puck carrier over to Railers netminder Evan Buitenhuis while he prevented a cross slot pass to Andrew Tessier. Salhany ripped a goal scorer’s wrist shot high over the glove of Buitenhuis and just inside the corner to make it 2-1 at 14:10.
The third period was played almost exclusively in the Worcester end, with the Railers going 13:26 between shot in the middle of the stanza. Buitenhuis was up to the challenge making many nice saves in the period, but playing almost the entire period in your own end is a recipe for losing hockey, and while it took an extra attacker goal eventually Worcester lost its lead when Shane Conacher fired one from the corner to the left of Buitenhuis into a scrum of players. The puck banked off someone and into the net to make it a 2-2 game at 18:37.
Into overtime the teams went, and then to the shootout. Tommy Kelley had a first round goal, and after two in a row went in by the Thunder Almeida scored in the fourth round to keep the shootout going. Bo Brauer would win the bonus point for Worcester in the seventh round when he outwaited Thompson and slid the puck around the downed netminder for the 3-2 win and the sweep of Adirondack.
Worcester returns to the DCU Center ice Saturday night in a game against the Norfolk Admirals, with a 7pm puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Ivan Chukarov, Kyle McKenzie (Out for season/shoulder), Ross Olsson, Tommy Panico (Out for season/hand), Matt Schmalz (14-day IR/upper), Alex Vainer (14-day IR/upper). With Mitch Gillam being recalled to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Blake Wojtala was the back-up goaltender.
The ECHL’s trade deadline was Thursday and Railers General Manager Jamie Russell didn’t make any deadline deals. Some speculated that Russell would trade for a goal scorer, but without any real tradable assets to exchange it seemed very unlikely he could have pulled off a trade for one even if there was a team wiling to part with a mid-level offensive threat. A couple of former Worcester players did switch teams at the deadline, with former Railers forward Malcolm Gould going from Newfoundland to Allen, and former Worcester Sharks forward Chris Crane went from Norfolk to Toledo.
For the third time in a row Worcester didn’t have to face former Railers netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos. While on Sunday and Wednesday it was because Sakellaropoulos was ill, for Friday’s game it was because he was signed to a PTO by the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Thunder took another hit on Friday when Connor Riley was signed to a PTO by the Providence Bruins. Adirondack did have a roster addition before the game, activating forward Shane Conacher from injured reserve before the game.
It was unexpected, but Mitch Gillam made his AHL debut Friday night when Bridgeport goaltender Jeremy Smith have up four goals in 21 shots against the Rochester Americans. Gillam replaced him at 1:08 of the second period and by all accounts played very well, allowing a single goal while facing 17 shots over the final 38:52 of the game. Thankfully the AHL does the math, so this writer can confidently report that Gillam finished the game with a 1.54 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. Gillam wears #39 instead of his Railers #35 for the Sound Tigers
Like Wednesday, Worcester wore their white jerseys on the road against the Thunder. This Friday and Saturday Adirondack is wearing a purple “Stick it to Cancer” jersey so the Railers went with their usual second half home jerseys. The Thunder have a nice feature on Shane Conacher and his battle with testicular cancer. Trevor Strader, son of the late Dave Strader who passed away in 2017 from Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer), sang the Star-Spangled Banner prior to the start of Friday night’s game. After Friday’s game fans who donated $10 to the C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital were able paint a message on the ice to a loved one affected by cancer. The Thunder and Manchester Monarchs will play Saturday on the painted ice.
After their two nights in Glens Falls the Railers will spend just one more night in a hotel this regular season when they make a mad dash from Manchester, New Hampshire to Reading, Pennsylvania between games on March 23 and 24. Worcester won’t be in the hotel very long as it’s at least a six hour drive between the two cities, so if they leave New Hampshire at 11pm they’ll arrive for Sunday’s 4pm puck drop in Reading close to 5am.
On this day, March 9th, in Worcester hockey history…in 2005 the IceCats for two goals and three assist from Jay McClement in the Icecats 7-3 thrashing of the Portland Pirates. Defenseman Matt Walker had a goal and two assist, while Konstantin Zakharov chipped in a goal and an assist. Colin Hemingway, Jon DiSalvatore, and Jeff Hoggan were the other goal scorers for Worcester. Brendan Brooks added two assists. Curtis Sanford had 18 saves in the win…in 2007 the WorSharks got goals from Grant Stevenson, Patrick Traverse, Ashton Rome, and Josh Prudden in their 4-1 win over Hartford. Stevenson added two assists, as did Garrett Stafford. Thomas Greiss had 31 saves…in 2008 Tom Walsh scored a second period goal and Thomas Greiss tried to make that stand up with a stellar 38 save performance, but a late extra attacker goal by Providence tied the score and the P-Bruins would go on to win 2-1 in a shootout…in 2011 Tyson Sexsmith made 31 saves and the WorSharks got goals from Jon Landry, Brandon Mashinter, and Matt Irwin to defeat the Hershey Bears 3-2…in 2012 the WorSharks got a goal and two assist from both Tim Kennedy and John McCarthy while Nathan Moon and Brandon Mashinter each had a goal and an assist in the Sharks 6-4 win over Portland. Curt Gogol and Tony Lucia each also scored and Tyson Sexsmith kicked in an assist and kicked out 38 shots…in 2013 Worcester got an extra attacker goal by John McCarthy to earn a point in a 4-3 seven-round shootout loss to Providence. Sebastian Stalberg and Freddie Hamilton had the other two goals for the WorSharks. Harri Sateri made 39 saves…in 2010 Marek Viedensky, Rylan Schwartz, and John McCarthy all scored in regulation while Daniil Tarasov and Freddie Hamilton scored in the shootout in the WorSharks 4-3 win over the Albany Devils. Troy Grosenick made 37 saves.
The three stars of the game were
1. ADK – 19 Shane Conacher
2. WOR – 15 Bo Brauer
3. WOR – 27 Ryan Hitchcock
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Evan Buitenhuis.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Kelly / Willick / Brauer
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Quenneville
Powers / MacKinnon
Worcester 1 1 0 0 – 3
Adirondack 0 1 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Sorkin 14 (Almeida), 16:48 (PP). Penalties-Doherty Wor (roughing), 2:14; Carrier Adk (roughing), 2:14; Cornell Wor (fighting – major), 7:58; Henry Adk (fighting – major), 7:58; Bradshaw Adk (hooking), 11:25; served by Conacher Adk (bench – too many men), 15:40.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Hitchcock 13 (Barnes, Almeida), 4:26. 3, Adirondack, Salhany 14 (MacArthur), 14:10. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period-4, Adirondack, Conacher 9 (Linhart), 18:37. Penalties-MacKinnon Wor (holding), 9:13.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Worcester 3 (Kelley G, Sorkin NG, Hitchcock NG, Almeida G, Quenneville NG, Barnes NG, Brauer G), Adirondack 2 (Walchuk NG, MacArthur NG, Conacher G, Henry G, Salhany NG, Bradshaw NG, Cleland NG).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 8-12-4-3-1-28. Adirondack 9-14-17-3-0-43.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 2; Adirondack 0 / 1.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 10-9-3-1 (43 shots-41 saves). Adirondack, Thompson 1-2-0-1 (27 shots-25 saves).
Referees-Jarred Mitrano (14).
Linesmen-Mike Emanatian (96), Matt Wyld (56).