The Worcester Railers played most of Friday night’s game against the Maine Mariners at the DCU Center looking a lot like last season’s team that couldn’t shoot straight, but thanks to Nic Pierog getting the only goal in the shootout the Railers earned a much different result from their 2018-2019 overtime encounters with Maine and escaped with a 3-2 victory.
The Railers lost all six games against the Mariners that went to overtime and beyond last season.
It was Kyle Thomas that got the Railers into overtime and the shootout when he tied the game at 17:51 of the third period. With Worcester netminder Jakub Skarek heading to the bench for an extra attacker as the Railers broke into the Maine zone Thomas was able to gather a feed by JD Dudek and beat Maine goaltender Connor LaCouvee to make it a 2-2 game. Ryan Hitchcock had the secondary assist. Because Skarek hadn’t made it to the bench before the goal was scored it wasn’t an extra attacker goal.
As good as Worcester looked last Saturday against Adirondack fans were expecting the Railers to come flying out of the gate against Maine the same way. Nearly the exact opposite happened, and Mariners forward Dillan Fox was able to stake his team two a two goal lead.
His first came just 56 seconds into the contest when the puck ended up behind the net just to the right of Skarek. Before the rookie netminder could get to the post to cut off a near side attempt Fox threw the puck toward the front where it hit Skarek and bounced in. The Railers complained the zone entry was offside, and from this writer’s vantage point it certainly seemed possible.
Offside is not subject to video review in the ECHL.
Fox made it 2-0 at 12:44 by beating the Railers defense down the right wing side and firing a wrist shot from the lower circle that beat Skarek clean between the blocker and body. Fox’s path down the right wing was helped by a pick of Railers defenseman Kyle McKenzie by Mariners forward Taylor Cammarata.
Tanner Pond made it 2-1 just nine seconds later at 12:53 when LaCouvee misplayed the puck behind his own net. Cody Payne pounced on the loose puck and centered it to Pond, who hit the yawning net to cut the Maine lead in half. The assist was Payne’s first pro point.
From that point the Railers fired a lot of shot attempts on goal, but a large portion of them went over the goal and hit the newly installed plexiglass behind the Mariners goal or hit LaCouvee in the chest. Worcester finished the game with 34 shots plus the bonus shot added for winning the shootout.
They’re back at it Saturday night in Adirondack with a 7pm start against the Thunder.
Scratches for the Railers were Jake Bolton, Anthony Florentino (Day to day), Ross Olsson, Chris Rygus, and Henrik Samuelsson (Day to day). Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up goaltender. Bolton, a defenseman who played four seasons at Holy Cross, was acquired from the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in exchange for the oft used “future considerations” and is expected to make his team debut Saturday against Adirondack. Once again blueliner Rygus was a healthy scratch in favor of forward Bo Brauer playing defense.
The box score currently lists Barry Almeida as having the primary assist on the game tying goal by Kyle Thomas, but the video confirms that assist belongs to JD Dudek. I would expect that to be changed at some point.
Goaltender Jakub Skarek was credited with a shot on goal in the third period, the first for a Railers netminder. According to Telegram correspondent Bill Ballou the rule was changed years ago that allowed the official scorer to determine if a goaltender firing the puck the length of the ice was simply clearing the puck or was making a legitimate attempt at scoring. With the mustard behind Skarek’s shooting of the puck awarding a shot on goal certainly fits within the spirit of the rule.
Based on conversations 210Sports has had with people throughout the New York Islanders organization it appears that the plan is for The Bridgeport Sound Tigers to have three goaltenders on the roster this season, and Jakub Skarek will be getting the lion’s share of the starts in the ECHL with Worcester. When asked if Linus Soderstrom might be assigned to the Railers to get some playing the time responses were all non-committal.
For any that may have missed it, Railers captain Barry Almeida was interviewed by Walter Bird, Jr on Friday’s “Worcester Sports Scene”. You can hear that interview here on Soundcloud.
There was a moment of silence for Worcester School Committee member Brian O’Connell, who passed away Friday morning at age 70. O’Connell served 18 terms on the School Committee and was running for a 19th at the time of his passing. He was one of those rare politicians that everyone liked, and over the last few elections won his seat on the committee with the largest vote totals. His impact on Worcester’s school system is immeasurable, and his legacy will be felt for generations.
The three stars of the game were
1. MNE – 13 Dillan Fox
2. WOR – 24 Kyle Thomas
3. WOR – 61 Nic Pierog
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Jakub Skarek.
Even Strength Lines
Hitchcock / Pierog / Thomas
Almeida / Pond / Schmalz
Dudek / Samuels-Thomas / Callin
Murray / Cornell
McKenzie / Chukarov
Doherty / Brauer
Maine 2 0 0 0 – 2
Worcester 1 0 1 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Maine, Fox 1 (Cammarata, Tolkinen), 0:56. 2, Maine, Fox 2 (Tolkinen, Savage), 12:44. 3, Worcester, Pond 1 (Payne), 12:53. Penalties-Ronning Mne (hooking), 2:06; Dmowski Mne (roughing), 4:34; Doherty Wor (roughing), 4:34; McNicholas Mne (slashing), 5:38; Savage Mne (tripping), 17:58.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Racine Mne (cross-checking), 6:46; Hitchcock Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:33; Brauer Wor (slashing), 16:58.
3rd Period-4, Worcester, Thomas 2 (Almeida, Hitchcock), 17:51. Penalties-McNicholas Mne (tripping), 1:43; Schmalz Wor (high-sticking), 8:24.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Maine 0 (Culkin NG, McNicholas NG, Kile NG), Worcester 1 (Thomas NG, Samuels-Thomas NG, Pierog G).
Shots on Goal-Maine 8-9-5-4-0-26. Worcester 8-11-12-3-1-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 5.
Goalies-Maine, LaCouvee 0-0-0-1 (34 shots-32 saves). Worcester, Skarek 2-0-0-0 (26 shots-24 saves).
Referees-Matt Menniti (10).
Linesmen-Chris Provost (50), AJ Potvin (78).