Railers improve playoff positioning with 5-2 win over Manchester

Friday night the Worcester Railers hit the road north to The Granite State for a match-up at the SNHU Arena against the Manchester Monarchs in the first of two contests between the teams this weekend looking for a regulation win to gain some ground in the ECHL’s North Division playoff race.

The opening few minutes was all Manchester, with the Monarchs jumping out to a 10-1 shots on goal advantage in the first half of the period. Good thing for the Railers that goaltender Mitch Gillam was on his game, as he made several big saves to keep Manchester off the board. Worcester did get a good bounce off a bad bounce in the frame as a Manchester dump in play hit a stanchion with Gillam heading behind the net and the puck bounded toward the open cage. Luckily defenseman Tyler Mueller was able to get a stick on the puck to keep it out and the game scoreless.

After a mid-period power play Worcester found some offense and managed to outshoot the Monarchs in the second half of the frame to only trail 17-9 in shots after twenty minutes, but the scoring chances were still squarely in Manchester’s favor.

The middle frame started out a lot like the first period with the Monarchs taking a 5-1 shot advantage in the period, only this time it saw the Railers falling behind in the game when Kevin Dufour won a face-off in the Worcester end. Pavel Jenys controlled the bouncing puck in the circle to the left of Gillam and backhanded a soft pass behind him to Dufour. His quick shot went five hole on Gillam for the 1-0 Manchester lead at 3:30.

With the shot totals again beginning to pile up in the Monarchs favor a nice individual play by Connor Doherty got his team back to even. The second year defenseman broke into the Manchester zone down the right wing side and skated around Monarchs defenseman Stepan Falkovsky like he wasn’t even there. Doherty then cut to the net, throwing a nice centering feed to Barry Almeida. Manchester goaltender Charles Williams had no chance on Almeida’s tip in at 6:13. Ryan Hitchcock had the secondary assist on the goal.

Just like the first period eventually in the second stanza the shot totals would start to creep closer together, and in the last portion of the frame the Railers would score on consecutive shots 25 seconds apart to take a two goal lead. The first came from Bo Brauer, who intercepted an ill-advised cross zone pass by Monarchs forward Bokondji Imama and found himself all alone in the slot. His wrist shot went high over the glove of Williams and in at 15:23.

A few seconds later Worcester would once again have control of the puck in the Manchester zone. The scoring play began with Matt Schmalz flipping the puck into the right wing corner, where Dylan Willick continued it behind the net to Tommy Kelley. The Monarchs defense picked up Kelley pretty well, but he was still able to get the puck to the left wing circle where Willick had moved to. Willick skated into the corner and then made defenseman David Kolomatis look like a traffic cone. Willick then headed to the front of the net, and shot it off the near post an in at 15:48.

Manchester often has strong third periods against the Railers, but it was Worcester who continued the scoring at 3:14 when Tyler Barnes and Almeida broke out of the Railers zone on an odd man rush. Almeida was held up at the blue line on the left wing side, but he had more than enough room to send Barnes streaking into the zone on a breakaway. Worcester’s leading goal scorer had plenty of time and room, and fired one past Williams for the 4-1 lead.

With little left to lose Monarchs head coach Doug Christiansen pulled William for an extra attacker with more than six minutes remaining in the game. It did stop the bleeding as Dufour would get his second of the game with a long wrist shot that beat a screened Gillam at 14:13 of the period, but that was as close as Manchester would get. Brauer got his second unassisted goal of the game with a 100-foot empty net tally to make it 5-2 after blocking a shot by Daniil Miromanov.

It marked the first time in Railers franchise history they allowed an extra attacker goal and scored an empty net goal in the same game.

On Saturday Worcester returns to the DCU Center to take on the Maine Mariners, with a 7pm puck drop.

GAME NOTES
Scratches for the Railers were Evan Buitenhuis (Day to day/lower), Kyle McKenzie (Out for season/shoulder), Charley Michalowski, Ross Olsson, Tommy Panico (Out for season/hand), Spencer Trapp, and Alex Vainer (14-day IR/upper). Blake Wojtala was the back-up goaltender. Worcester had a bundle of transactions this week, starting with the release of Sunday’s EBUG Ryan Hubbard right after the game. On Tuesday Railers General Manager Jamie Russell signed two Holy Cross players, goaltender Tommy Nixon and defenseman Spencer Trapp, to amateur try-out contracts. When Mitch Gillam was loaned back to Worcester by Bridgeport on Thursday the need for a practice goaltender was no longer there, and Nixon was released. Also on Thursday Matt Schmalz was activated from injured reserve, and he played Friday wearing a full face shield. On Friday morning Ryan MacKinnon was returned to Worcester by Bridgeport.

In the pregame show Russell indicated that Buitenhuis is “on the mend” and “not that far away”, which really doesn’t give much information other than whatever ails the netminder doesn’t appear to be a long term thing. It was mentioned by broadcaster Eric Lindquist that Vanier skated after the Railers pregame skate at the DCU Center Friday morning, and it was the first time in a long while Vanier had taken to the ice.

With it being the first game of the week we’ll take a look at the voting for “Railers Player of the Week” over in the Railers fans Facebook group, and Ryan Hitchcock is the runaway winner with over 80% of the votes cast. The other nominees were Tyler Barnes and Barry Almeida. There were comments that Blake Wojtala should have been nominated, but he wasn’t even the best goaltender last week with Mitch Gillam having a 38 save shutout last Wednesday in Adirondack and Evan Buitenhuis making 41 saves and going 5-7 in the shootout in the Friday rematch with the Thunder.

To complete the book on Saturday’s action against Norfolk that had everyone waiting for official word of a suspension for Daniel Maggio, that word finally came down earlier this week and Maggio was suspended two games and fined an undisclosed amount. A source indicated Maggio’s fine was likely $150 plus the automatic $40 fine for a game misconduct.

On this day, March 16th, in Worcester hockey history…in 2003 Sergei Varlamov scored with 10:25 remaining in regulation to lift the IceCats to a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Barons. Marc Brown had a goal and two assists, while Curtis Sanford finished the night with 28 saves. Simon Tremblay and Jeff Panzer also scored for Worcester. In a homecoming of sorts, Cleveland’s Patrick Rissmiller had two assists. The former Holy Cross standout earned a helper on each of the Barons’ first two goals…in 2007 Mathieu Darche and Graham Mink each had two goals and an assist in the WorSharks 7-6 shootout win over the Hershey Bears. Craig Valette and Scott Ferguson had the other two goals for Worcester while Josh Prudden, Lukas Kaspar, and Mike Iggulden all had two assists. Thomas Greiss earned the win in relief, making 22 saves and going a perfect 5-5 in the shootout. Iggulden had the only shootout goal for the WorSharks…in 2012 the WorSharks got three assist from James Livingston and 21 saves by Tyson Sexsmith to defeat the Providence Bruins 5-2. Nathan Moon, Jack Combs, Brian O’Hanley, Marek Viedensky, and Tony Lucia were the goal scorers for Worecester…in 2014 the WorSharks used four second period goals to defeat the Manchester Monarchs 5-1. Travis Oleksuk, Mike Pereira, Daniil Tarasov, and Brock Higgs all scored in the middle frame to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 advantage. Tarasov also scored in the third period. Oleksuk and Konrad Abeltshauser each had two assists. Harri Sateri made 26 saves…in 2018 the Railers got two goals from Jeff Kubiak and single strikes by Chris Langkow, Barry Almeida, Woody Hudson, and Frankie DiChiara to defeat the Wheeling Nailers 6-1. Ryan MacKinnon and Kyle Schempp, who played in his only game for Worcester, each had two assists. Mitch Gillam made 28 saves for the win.

The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 35 Mitch Gillam
2. MAN – 10 Kevin Dufour
3. WOR – 19 Barry Almeida

The 210Sports Player of the Game is Bo Brauer.

Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Brauer / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Kelley / Willick / Schmalz
Turcotte

Mueller / Doherty
Powers / MacKinnon
Chukarov / Quenneville

BOX SCORE
Worcester 0 3 2 – 5
Manchester 0 1 1 – 2

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Iacopelli Man (tripping), 9:08.

2nd Period-1, Manchester, Dufour 22 (Jenys), 3:30. 2, Worcester, Almeida 20 (Doherty, Hitchcock), 6:13. 3, Worcester, Brauer 8 15:23. 4, Worcester, Willick 7 (Schmalz, Kelley), 15:48. Penalties-No Penalties

3rd Period-5, Worcester, Barnes 24 (Almeida, Quenneville), 3:14. 6, Manchester, Dufour 23 (Carlisle, Miromanov), 14:13. 7, Worcester, Brauer 9 18:24 (EN). Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Worcester 9-12-12-33. Manchester 17-14-9-40.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 1; Manchester 0 / 0.
Goalies-Worcester, Gillam 18-13-1-3 (40 shots-38 saves). Manchester, Williams 19-11-1-2 (32 shots-28 saves).
A-1,593
Referees-Jeremy Tufts (6).
Linesmen-Kyle Richetelle (73), Shane Kanaly (39).

-30-

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