Railers down Thunder 5-4 in shootout


The Worcester Railers visited the Cool Insuring Arena to take on the Adirondack Thunder in Glens Falls, New York for the third time this young season and got multiple point nights from Bo Brauer, Matt Schmalz, and Barry Almeida along with a 43 save effort from goaltender Evan Buitenhuis to defeat their ECHL North Division rivals 5-4 in a shootout.

With the Railers entering the game on a four game losing streak and having issues putting the puck into the net the last thing they wanted to do was fall behind early, and unfortunately for them that’s exactly what they did when Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored on a rebound. Buitenhuis made the original save in traffic on Gabriel Verpaelst’s bid, but despite two Worcester players standing near him neither put a body on Pierro-Zabotel. He was able to gather the puck and push it around Buitenhuis at 1:44.

The rest of the first half of the period was played almost exclusively in the Worcester end, but two quick goals turned their 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. The first came at 10:10 when Schmalz skated down the right-wing side and wheeled the net, throwing a backhander into the slot. Brauer out-muscled three Thunder players for the puck and deflected it home just inside the far post at 10:10. Cody Payne picked up a point with the secondary assist.

On Worcester’s next shot they took the lead when Bauer skated in down the right side and threw a pass from the top of the circle to Shane Walsh in the slot. Walsh had a defender on him but wasted no time firing the puck on net. It looked like Thunder netminder Evan Cormier tried to deflect the puck over the glass but misplayed it so it instead hit the goaltender’s stick and went under the crossbar at 10:45. Almeida grabbed the second helper on the play.

The suddenly rolling Worcester offense kept it up in the second frame, and Jordan Samuels-Thomas made it 3-1 at 3:50 when he took an Almeida feed and skated down the right-wing side. Samuels-Thomas wheeled the net, and with no defender challenging him skated into the slot where his backhander beat Cormier.

Mike Szmatula got the Thunder within one at 15:38 with a four on three power play goal, but Ross Olsson would make it 4-2 at 18:13 when he tipped Conner Doherty’s point shot past Cormier. After scoring Olsson turned to say something to Verpaelst, who had been crosschecking Olsson prior to the goal being scored, and then Verpaelst dropped the gloves and attacked Olsson.

Tempers would flare in the final minute of the frame when Thunder forward Conor Riley sucker punched the Railers Payne as Payne came on to the ice for a legal line change. In the following fracas referee Alex Normandin gave Riley just two minutes but threw Payne out of the game. The score sheet changed the penalty reason twice before finally settling on “Returning to ice/bench”.

You shouldn’t be surprised if the ECHL takes a look at the incident on video.

In the third period the Railers offense was back to its old ways, firing a franchise record tying three shots on net in the frame. Despite Buitenhuis making about a half dozen great saves in the frame Adirodack would get two goals in the period to send the game to overtime. The first came on a Kelly Summers blueline blast just as a Thunder power play ended. The puck hit off of Olsson and deflected high past Buitenhuis at 13:32. Pierro-Zabotel tied the game at 17:32 with his second of the contest that looked a lot like the first.

Neither team could score during the wild seven minute overtime period where four minor penalties were called, so on to the shootout the squads went. Matt Salhany gave Adirondack the lead in round two, but a third round goal from Walsh and a fourth rounder from JD Dudek gave Worcester the 5-4 win.

The two teams will play again Sunday in Glens Falls, with the Railers staying in New York for the weekend.

Scratches for the Railers were Ivan Chukarov (day to day/lower), Tanner Pond (14-day IR), Chris Rygus, and newcomer Jack Stander. Linus Soderstrom was the back-up goaltender.

It was the wildest overtime period this writer can recall. It’s rare to see a penalty in overtime called, and almost unheard of for a referee to call four non-matching minors in the extra session. Perhaps even more astonishing was Samuels-Thomas was called for two penalties. Overtime started the usual three on three. Salhany was called for tripping 45 seconds in to make it four on three. Four seconds later they were back to three on three when Samuels-Thomas got called for tripping. It stayed that way until Szmatula was called for goaltender interference, so back to four on three at 2:22. It went to four on four when Salhany left the box, and four seconds later it was five on four. The next stoppage of play, with Worcester still on the power play, each team had to remove a skater to make it four on three. At 4:22 it went to four on four until another stoppage when it reverted back to three on three. Samuels-Thomas was then called for boarding at 5:56, making it a four on three Thunder power play until the end of overtime.

Railers fans got a shock earlier this week when Ryan Hitchcock suddenly announced his retirement from pro hockey. Although he had spent the majority of his pro career with Worcester, Hitchcock was in the second of a two-year contract with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Michael Fornabaio of the Connecticut Post tweeted that Hitchcock said “Stepping away from hockey to pursue a different part of my life. … Just the right time for myself.”. Hitchcock’s retirement leaves a huge hole in the already less than stellar Railers offense.

The Railers have joined a trend that, as a long-time hockey fan, really annoys the heck out of me. My hockey watching days go back to the “Big Bad Bruins” era of the early 1970s, and while obviously many parts of the game have changed there was always one constant: “everyday” players didn’t wear high numbers. Sure you occasionally saw some guys with numbers in the 40s and 50s out on the ice, but those will the fill-ins for the usual players. The highest number worn by the IceCats was #57, by defenseman Jan Horacek. For the WorSharks it was Brandon Mashinter’s #53. But the Railers now have four players with numbers 60 or higher. Those numbers don’t belong on hockey jerseys, they belong on the back of offensive linemen. It was good to see the Railers generally bucking the trend of the high numbers, and it’s sad to see they’ve decided to allow it.

The three stars of the game were
1. ADK – 18 Casey Pierro-Zabotel
2. WOR – 15 Bo Brauer
3. WOR – 14 JD Dudek

The 210Sports Player of the Game is Evan Buitenhuis.

Even Strength Lines
Almeida/ Samuels-Thomas/ Walsh
Thomas / Callin / Dudek
Olsson / Payne / Schmalz

McKenzie / Florentino
Murray / Doherty
Bolton / Brauer

Worcester 2 2 0 0 – 5
Adirondack 1 1 2 0 – 4

1st Period-1, Adirondack, Pierro-Zabotel 3 (Verpaelst, Riley), 1:44. 2, Worcester, Brauer 1 (Schmalz, Payne), 10:10. 3, Worcester, Walsh 1 (Brauer, Almeida), 10:45. Penalties-Riley Adk (hooking), 14:03.

2nd Period-4, Worcester, Samuels-Thomas 3 (Almeida), 3:50. 5, Adirondack, Szmatula 2 (Sissons, Henry), 15:38 (PP). 6, Worcester, Olsson 1 (Doherty, Schmalz), 18:13. Penalties-Turcotte Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:26; Verpaelst Adk (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:26; Florentino Wor (slashing), 15:00; Doherty Wor (misconduct), 18:13; Olsson Wor (fighting – major), 18:13; Verpaelst Adk (instigating, fighting – major), 18:13; Payne Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct, game misconduct – returning to ice/bench), 19:05; Riley Adk (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:05.

3rd Period-7, Adirondack, Summers 2 (Pierro-Zabotel, Salhany), 13:32. 8, Adirondack, Pierro-Zabotel 4 (Sissons, Martin), 17:32. Penalties-McKenzie Wor (interference), 0:09; Nazarian Adk (tripping), 6:49; Thomas Wor (slashing), 7:59; served by Thomas Wor (bench – too many men), 11:32; Doherty Wor (fighting – major), 14:14; Payne Adk (fighting – major), 14:14.

OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Salhany Adk (tripping), 0:45; Samuels-Thomas Wor (tripping), 0:49; Szmatula Adk (interference on the goalkeeper), 2:22; Samuels-Thomas Wor (boarding), 5:56.

Shootout – Worcester 2 (Almeida NG, Thomas NG, Walsh G, Dudek G), Adirondack 1 (Pierro-Zabotel NG, Salhany G, Henry NG, Szmatula NG).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 7-11-3-2-1-24. Adirondack 12-15-14-6-0-47.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 5; Adirondack 1 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 1-3-0-0 (47 shots-43 saves). Adirondack, Cormier 0-0-0-1 (23 shots-19 saves).
Referees-Alex Normandin (26).
Linesmen-Chris Provost (50), Matt Wyld (56).


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