The Worcester Railers took on the Newfoundland Growlers Friday night in the first of two games this week at the Mile One Centre in St John’s, and after forty minutes of solid hockey the Railers watched their lead disappear by allowing six goals in the final twenty minutes to lose 7-5.
It was a wild final period that saw the Railers score twice, the first on a Jordan Samuels-Thomas shorthanded breakaway when be beat Newfoundland netminder Maksim Zhukov to make it 4-2 Worcester at 9:05 of the third and the second on an unassisted tally by Matt Schmalz to make it 5-3 at 11:05 made it a 5-3 game.
From there Aaron Luchuk tied it for the Growlers with an even strength goal at 12:15 and a shorthanded goal at 14:00. On that same Newfoundland penalty kill Joseph Duszak gave the Growlers their first lead of the game with another shorthanded goal at 14:17.
The Railers protested that Newfoundland interfered with Worcester goaltender Evan Buitenhuis on the first Luchuk goal, but the video shows that it was Worcester defenseman Justin Murray that hit Giorgio Estephan into the crease and Buitenhuis. So while video replay in the ECHL doesn’t allow for review due to goaltender interference it would in all likelihood been called a good goal anyway.
Mac Hollowell added an almost 200-foot empty net goal for the 7-5 final.
The Railers were far from perfect over the opening two periods but were playing solid hockey on both ends of the ice. After a scoreless opening frame Jordan Samuels-Thomas took a long feed from Kyle Thomas and beat Zhukov at 2:24 of the second for the 1-0 lead. Bo Brauer made it 2-0 with what is listed as an unassisted goal at 12:37, but Thomas and JD Dudek should be awarded assist on the play post game.
Unlike soccer, hockey doesn’t list “own goals”, but if they did Newfoundland would be given one when Zhukov put the puck into his own net at 13:24 of the middle period to make it 3-0 Worcester. Nick Pierog was credited with the shorthanded goal, assisted by Samuels-Thomas.
Usually the goalie putting the puck into his own net is the craziest thing you’ll see in a game, but in a contest that saw four shorthanded tallies and eight total goals in the final frame, it almost doesn’t get a mention.
The two squads will pair off again Saturday, with a 5:30pm EST puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Barry Almeida (14-day IR/lower), Anthony Florentino (14 day IR/undisclosed), Ross Olsson, Tanner Pond (14-day IR/upper), Jack Stander, and Shane Walsh (14 day IR/upper). Ian Milsoz, who was signed to a standard contract to replace emergency back-up goaltender Tommy Nixon for the team’s trip to Canada, was the back-up goaltender. In a couple of transactions since our last update, Mike Cornell was recalled to Bridgeport after Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Brampton, and Zack Philips was traded to the Norfolk Admirals for cash on Monday.
While former head coach and Jamie Russell used to name a captain to replace the official one that was scratched or recalled, Dave Cunniff is “old school” and doesn’t do that. With Almeida injured and Cornell recalled, for just the third time in franchise history the Railers took to the ice with no one wearing the “C”. Connor Doherty, Kyle Thomas, and Jordan Samuels-Thomas all wore “A”s for Worcester. It was also the second time in franchise history that neither team had a captain dressed, as Newfoundland captain James Melindy was an injury scratch. April 8, 2018 at Manchester was the first time it happened.
The Growlers were supposed to be wearing Batman jerseys for the game, but the specialty sweaters were stuck in Toronto. It wasn’t announced as such but in several cases of home teams wearing the Batman jerseys the visitors would wear Joker sweaters. In any case, the Railers ended up in their white jerseys while the Growlers wore their darks.
With so many shorthanded and power play goals scored you’re bound to get some odd statistics, and that was the case Friday night as when the dust settled Kyle McKenzie ended up a franchise record tying plus-5 for the game. The Worcester pro record is plus-6, set by Peter Smrek of the IceCats on October 22, 2000 in a 8-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack.
The three stars of the game were
1. NFL – 26 Aaron Luchuk
2. NFL – 29 Giorgio Estephan
3. WOR – 37 Jordan Samuels-Thomas
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Kyle McKenzie.
Even Strength Lines
Samuels-Thomas / Pierog / Salituro
Thomas / Dudek / Schmalz
Brauer / Payne / Callin
Doherty / Quenneville
Murray / MacKinnon
Mackenzie / Chukarov
Worcester 0 3 2 – 5
Newfoundland 0 1 6 – 7
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Kapla Nfl (roughing), 9:23.
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Samuels-Thomas 8 (Thomas), 2:24. 2, Worcester, Brauer 4 12:37. 3, Worcester, Pierog 6 (Samuels-Thomas), 13:24 (SH). 4, Newfoundland, Ferguson 13 (Woods, Hollowell), 15:47 (PP). Penalties-Dudek Wor (cross-checking), 7:16; Payne Wor (roughing), 13:05; Salituro Wor (tripping), 14:49.
3rd Period-5, Newfoundland, Estephan 9 (Luchuk, Bradley), 6:57. 6, Worcester, Samuels-Thomas 9 9:05 (SH). 7, Newfoundland, Estephan 10 (Woods, Hollowell), 9:22 (PP). 8, Worcester, Schmalz 6 11:05. 9, Newfoundland, Luchuk 10 (Duszak, Bradley), 12:15. 10, Newfoundland, Luchuk 11 (Kapla, Bradley), 14:00 (SH). 11, Newfoundland, Duszak 5 (Estephan, Woods), 14:17 (SH). 12, Newfoundland, Hollowell 2 19:40 (EN). Penalties-Panico Nfl (high-sticking), 3:43; Payne Wor (slashing), 8:48; Bradley Nfl (tripping), 12:36; Schmalz Wor (roughing), 14:24; served by Payne Wor (bench – too many men), 16:01.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 16-11-8-35. Newfoundland 8-15-17-40.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 3; Newfoundland 2 / 6.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 3-6-0-0 (39 shots-33 saves). Newfoundland, Zhukov 9-7-0-0 (35 shots-30 saves).
Referees-Eric Krasnichuk (18).
Linesmen-Brian Lambert (57), Sheldon Keough (47).