The Worcester Railers began their three in three home weekend with a contest against the Adirondack Thunder Friday night at the DCU Center and needed every one of Evan Buitenhuis’ 46 saves to defeat their North Division rivals 3-2.
It’s been a long time since a Railers netminder stole a game for his team, and Friday night Buitenhuis was guilty of grand theft. Although he did make a few highlight worthy saves it was just the sheer volume of stops he had to made as Worcester allowed a franchise worst 48 shots by the Thunder, and nearly all of them were legitimate scoring chances.
Despite the ice being tilted towards the Railers goal it was Worcester that grabbed the first goal of the game when Ross Olsson continued his hot streak by beating former Railers netminder Eamon McAdam at 4:44 of the opening period. Dante Salituro sent Drew Callin into the Thunder zone on the right side, and Callin found Olsson at the top of the left wing circle for the shot that beat McAdam low stick side. As soon as the puck went by him McAdam knew he should have had that shot, tapping himself on his chest with his glove hand.
With Worcester standing around in their own end Nikita Popugaev tied it for Adirondack at 14:18, but it still took three shots in quick succession to beat Buitenhuis. First Buitenhuis made a blocker save in traffic on Casey Pierro-Zabotel’s bid, and followed that with another blocker save on Charlie Curti. Buitenhuis has no chance on the third shot as it sailed over him and just under the crossbar.
James Phelan then gave the Thunder the lead at 5:58 of the second period when he converted a Ryan MacKinnon turnover into an unassisted shorthanded breakaway goal.
The majority of the play continued to take place in the Railers end, but once again Worcester took advantage of a small opening to get back to even. It started with Callin streaking down the left wing side, throwing a decent bid at McAdam. The save was made with the rebound going behind the net. Before Callin could grab the puck Yanick Turcotte swooped in to gain possession and wheeled the net. Turcotte misfired on his bid but the puck went right to Olsson, who gained control and fired a hard shot over McAdam from about 15-feet to make it 2-2 at 18:44.
At the beginning of the third period the play was nearly even, and it was the Railers top line that gave them the eventual game winning goal. A Nic Pierog steal turned a Thunder zone entry into a Railers odd man rush. Barry Almeida went down the left side, and when both defensemen committed to the Worcester captain Almeida threw a nice pass towards the slot to an onrushing Kyle Thomas. After an NHL-quality deke Thomas had all 24 square feet to shoot at to make it 3-2 Railers at 6:02.
Buitenhuis and Worcester then had to kill off multiple borderline penalty calls late in the frame but were able to hold off a final Thunder push to win.
Next, the Railers take on the Newfoundland Growlers Saturday night, with a 7pm puck drop. Fans are encouraged to bring a canned food item to benefit local community organizations and win prizes courtesy of Price Chopper and Market 32.
Scratches for the Railers were Bo Brauer, JD Dudek (14-day IR/upper), Cody Payne, Tanner Pond (14-day IR/upper), Kyle McKenzie (day to day/upper), and Jordan Samuels-Thomas (day to day/lower). Ian Milosz was the back-up goaltender. On Wednesday the New York Islanders reassigned Arnaud Durandeau, who was the team’s 6th round pick in the 2017 NHL entry draft, from the Sound Tigers to Worcester. To make room for him on the roster the Railers released Alec Marsh, who was pointless in three games with Worcester. On Thursday Worcester claimed defenseman Phil Johansson off waivers from Newfoundland.
Friday marked the return of Yanick Turcotte to the line-up when his “indefinite suspension” was revoked after a phone hearing between the ECHL. The particulars of his suspension are well known so we won’t rehash them again, and the Railers were pretty much mum when asked for information about the hearing with the league. As has been the case since last weekend the fans were hardly quiet in their support for Turcotte and had t-shirts printed up that were worn by many fans at the game Friday.
If you follow this writer on Twitter you already know how terrible ECHL referee Brett Roeland was during the game, so I won’t bother to sully this post with how bad he actually was. His third period imitation of longtime AHL referee Terry Koharski led to an odd occurrence in the Worcester penalty box worth mentioning. With the Thunder’s Alex Tonge on the Adirondack penalty bench referee Roeland called quick consecutive minors on Kyle Thomas and Nic Pierog, turning Worcester’s 5v4 power play into a 4v3 advantage for Adirondack. As all three of those minors neared ending Roeland then called Connor Doherty for roughing. That’s where the issues began. Tonge’s minor expired, making it 5v3 for the Thunder. Once Thomas’ penalty expired the Railers penalty box attendant opened the door for Thomas to leave, but Doherty knew the rules and prevented Thomas from taking the ice as that could have led to another penalty on Worcester, and then had to do the same as Pierog thought he should leave. Once Pierog’s penalty expired he was allowed to leave the box to make it 5v4. Thomas had to wait until a stoppage of play, which happened seconds after the Pierog penalty expired, to leave the box.
In another note, one that can be checked off in the “humorous” column, there was an assistant coach behind the bench with Head Coach Dave Cunniff last night. Not recognizing who it was, and after getting a handful of inquiries, I asked the Railers who the Barry Trotz lookalike was with Cunniff. With a shrug, the reply was “it’s some guy named Bob who is a friend of Cunniff”. In my 24 years of covering Worcester hockey that is by far the funniest “serious” answer I have ever gotten. A few minutes later a more official response was made, and it was longtime Providence College Women’s hockey coach and Shrewsbury, Mass resident Bob Deraney. A goaltender by trade Deraney spent four seasons at Boston University and then played for the Johnstown Chiefs of the All-American Hockey League. Deraney appeared in 13 regular season games, splitting time with former Railers President and General Manager Toby O’Brien.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 34 Evan Buitenhuis
2. WOR – 9 Ross Olsson
3. WOR – 51 Yanick Turcotte
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Kyle Thomas.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Pierog / Thomas
Thomson / Walsh / Durandeau
Olsson / Callin / Salituro
Stander / Doherty
Murray / MacKinnon
Chukarov / Johansson
Adirondack 1 1 0 – 2
Worcester 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Worcester, Olsson 7 (Callin, Salituro), 4:44. 2, Adirondack, Popugaev 5 (Curti, Pierro-Zabotel), 14:18. Penalties-Thomas Wor (hooking), 15:53.
2nd Period-3, Adirondack, Phelan 2 5:58 (SH). 4, Worcester, Olsson 8 (Turcotte, Callin), 18:44. Penalties-Callin Wor (high-sticking), 1:46; Carrier Adk (delay of game), 4:02; Sissons Adk (holding), 7:15; Turcotte Wor (roughing), 7:15.
3rd Period-5, Worcester, Thomas 8 (Almeida, Pierog), 6:02. Penalties-Walsh Wor (slashing), 8:13; Tonge Adk (slashing), 15:48; Thomas Wor (interference), 15:56; Pierog Wor (holding), 16:05; Doherty Wor (roughing), 17:42.
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 18-14-16-48. Worcester 6-11-7-24.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 0 / 6; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Adirondack, McAdam 7-11-1-2 (24 shots-21 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 9-10-1-0 (48 shots-46 saves).
Referees-Brett Roeland (10).
Linesmen-Nathan Frechette (49), Sam Schildkraut (46).