The Worcester Railers took to the ice Saturday against the Maine Mariners for the second time in as many nights looking to put their embarrassing Friday night loss behind them, and it took some big saves from netminder Evan Buitenhuis and a late goal by Ross Olsson but Worcester managed to earn a split of the mini-series with a 2-1 win over Maine at the DCU Center in front of a very boisterous crowd of 4,078.
With the Railers decked out in Iron Man jerseys, it was the just the goaltenders looking like superheroes for the first two periods, with Buitenhuis and Maine netminder Adam Huska stopping everything fired at them. While each made a handful of great saves it was Buitenhuis that had to deal with multiple breakaway bids, making two incredible saves against Greg Chase including a right pad masterpiece that sent Chase crashing into the end boards.
Fans at the DCU Center have seen plenty of these kinds of games where both teams play well only to see Worcester, regardless of the nickname, lose on a bad bounce or because luck didn’t swing their way. But this time it was neither a bounce nor luck that put the Railers in the lead at 6:14 of the third. It was just good, old fashion hard work.
The Railers were getting a lot of zone time early in that third frame but not a ton of great looks at the net. That changed pretty quickly after Huska made the save on a decent bid by Cody Payne. The Railers dug at the rebound and kept the play alive, with the puck going to Yanick Turcotte near the top of the right wing circle. Turcotte passed to the left point where Kyle McKenzie would have normally been had the defender not left the zone to protect against another possible breakaway. McKenzie raced back into the zone to keep the puck in and fired a hard low laser on net. Barry Almeida was there to get a piece of it and redirect it under Huska to make it 1-0 Worcester.
Maine then tied the game at 14:07 on a play that probably should never have happened as referee Cameron Fleming ignored Mariners forward Dillan Fox interfering with Buitenhuis when Fox crashed into the Worcester netminder. Referee Fleming allowed play to continue and Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin eventually beat Buitenhuis high glove to make it 1-1.
It was more hard work that got Olsson the game winner with just 1:38 left to play in regulation. He started the play with a zone entry, and after a nice drop pass to Shane Walsh Olsson headed for the net. Walsh tipped the puck over to Drew Callin, and then also skated to the net. Callin returned the puck to Walsh, but Huska made the save on Walsh’s shot. But the goaltender couldn’t control the rebound, and Olsson was there to bang the loose puck home for the 2-1 final.
Worcester doesn’t have much time to savor the win as they take to the ice Sunday afternoon against the Adirondack Thunder at the DCU Center, with puck drop scheduled for 3pm.
Scratches for the Railers were Connor Doherty, JD Dudek (14-day IR/upper), Tanner Pond (14-day IR/upper), Jordan Samuels-Thomas (injured), Dante Salituro, and Kyle Thomas (day to day/upper). Ian Milosz was the back-up goaltender. In the pregame meeting the Railers indicated Samuels-Thomas was injured, but in their post game press release he’s just listed as a scratch.
After taking a couple games off and then not having a real notes section yesterday some things have started to pile up. The first being the ECHL’s jersey switch took place Friday, so now the home team will usually wear white and the road team will be in the dark jerseys. The Railers will still wear their orange thirds on Sunday and, as they were Saturday, will be in some dark specialty jerseys over the rest of the season.
Had my first conversation with Vice President of Marketing and Communications and road play by play man Eric Lindquist pregame Saturday, and he confirmed his three game “vacation” was indeed a suspension handed down by the ECHL for his on-air comments about the officiating of referee Jeremy Tufts. It was head coach Dave Cunniff’s outburst in that same game that caused him to be suspended by the ECHL for both games against Reading this past weekend. So for those keeping track, the ECHL disciplined a head coach and broadcaster who were angry over a referee who failed to correctly follow the rule book and twice issue a major penalty and game misconduct to Mikael Robidoux, whose actions could have caused serious injury, but the ECHL didn’t suspend Robidoux for either of those two illegal hits. By the way, Robidoux was penalized and subsequently suspended the next night for the exact same conduct. It also didn’t discipline the opposing team that showed the injury several times on the video board, nor apparently was the referee who has, amazingly enough, been working AHL games recently. Not that any of us are keeping track, of course…
As we continue discussing officiating in the ECHL, Friday night in Maine Yanick Turcotte was assessed a match penalty for fighting by referee Cameron Fleming for allegedly sucker punching Robidoux at center ice after the game was over. A match penalty carries with it an automatic suspension until the incident is viewed by the league. You’ll note the use of the word “allegedly” because the video of the incident is crystal clear, and while there was some contact between Turcotte and Robidoux it was a dive that would have made Greg Louganis jealous that fooled referee Fleming into issuing the penalty. The ECHL decided to not suspend Turcotte, which deprived Railers fans a chance to break out their “Free Turcotte” t-shirts once again.
In the ECHL the awarding of assists is a tad arbitrary, so while I pay attention every game to changes in goal scorers I tend to only look once a month to see if any assists have changed unless a particular player is chasing a milestone and that assist might help him reach it. It being late January, those changes are starting to pile up, but this writer was still a tad surprised to see that Evan Buitenhuis’ assist Friday night was his third of the season considering my spreadsheet had him at none. Turns out he had an assist added for him in both early January games in Reading, one on Nic Pierog’s empty net goal on the fourth and on Ryan MacKinnon’s shortie on the fifth. Buitenhuis’ three assists are a new Railers single season mark and ties Mitch Gillam for the franchise’s career mark. The Worcester pro record for goalie points in a season is four, set by Brent Johnson in the 1998-99 season with the IceCats.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 9 Ross Olsson
2. WOR – 34 Evan Buitenhuis
3. WOR – 19 Barry Almeida
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Justin Murray.
Even Strength Lines
Thomson / Pierog / Durandeau
Olsson / Callin / Walsh
Almeida / Payne / Brauer
Murray / MacKinnon
Johansson / Stander
Chukarov / McKenzie
Maine 0 0 1 – 1
Worcester 0 0 2 – 2
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Savage Mne (roughing), 6:43; Stander Wor (interference), 6:43; Walsh Wor (roughing), 6:43; Almeida Wor (hooking), 12:23; Crawley Mne (holding), 19:09.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-served by Chase Mne (bench – too many men), 7:10; Fox Mne (holding), 11:15; Robidoux Mne (roughing), 13:57; Murray Wor (holding the stick), 13:57; Robidoux Mne (double – roughing), 16:05; Murray Wor (double – roughing), 16:05; Elmer Mne (roughing), 19:42; Olsson Wor (roughing), 19:42.
3rd Period-1, Worcester, Almeida 11 (McKenzie, Turcotte), 6:14. 2, Maine, Crevier-Morin 3 (Fox, Elmer), 14:07. 3, Worcester, Olsson 10 (Callin, Walsh), 18:22. Penalties-Adams-Moisan Mne (cross-checking), 14:48.
Shots on Goal-Maine 9-11-10-30. Worcester 12-9-6-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 0 / 2; Worcester 0 / 4.
Goalies-Maine, Huska 1-1-0-0 (27 shots-25 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 11-14-1-0 (30 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Cameron Fleming (27).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (77), Sam Schildkraut (46).