The Worcester Railers once again took on the Maine Mariners Saturday night at the DCU Center and Worcester came out flying on Teddy Bear Toss Night putting up three goals in the opening twenty minutes and then held on for dear life until captain Jordan Smotherman completed his hat trick in the third period to put the 4-2 contest in the win column.
To say the Railers, who were wearing red New England Patriots-themed jerseys, owned the first period would be a massive understatement. They had a franchise home first-period record 20 shots on goal while holding the Mariners to just one shot, that one coming with 12.5 seconds left in the frame. There were parts of the ice in the Railers’ end that still looked shiny after the frame was over.
It’s a longrunning fear in Worcester hockey that the team won’t score on Teddy Bear Toss Night, mostly because over the years it’s happened twice, but Brent Beaudoin put those fears to rest early with his third of the season.
While the scoring doesn’t list an assist for Smotherman, he was the one who knocked the puck behind the net so he probably should have been given one.
Seventy-three seconds later Smotherman absolutely made the scoresheet with his first goal of the night.
With 2:22 left in the frame, it was Smotherman again to make it 3-0.
The second period started off just like the first with Worcester maintaining control over the game, but slowly the Mariners picked up the pace as the momentum meter started to swing in Maine’s favor. After Mariners netminder, Callum Booth left the game with what looked to be a right leg issue Maine really started digging in, and they finally got on the board thanks to referee Sam Heidemann not calling an obvious match penalty that occurred right in his line of view and ignoring linesman Evan Reddick when he reported the same penalty to Heidemann.
It was former Railers defenseman Connor Doherty involved with the play as he slew-footed Worcester newcomer Reece Newkirk in the neutral zone. You could hear the Railers bench going nuts that no penalty was called, and following that you could hear them yelling to Ross Olsson it was Doherty who committed the infraction. Once the dust settled Heidemann gave Maine a power play, and Jake Bricknell scored less than 30 seconds later to make it a 3-1 game.
Exactly one minute later Andrew Romano deflected a long shot past Worcester netminder Jimmy Poreda and it was 3-2.
The Railers, along with just about everyone on that end of the building, thought they’d scored with about 90 seconds left in the period when Maine goaltender Jeremy Brodeur and defenseman Marc-Olivier Duquette dove toward the goal line to knock away a loose puck. Referee Heidemann signaled no goal as play continued, with the next whistle coming as the period ended. Worcester wanted it reviewed, but Heidemann refused. Inexplicably he refused a second time after Railers head coach Dave Cunniff returned to the bench from the tunnel and was animated in demanding a video review.
The video shown from the usual broadcast camera angle is blocked by the players, but the team has access to the overhead view used in official reviews. One would presume Cunniff saw that video, which is why he returned to the bench area and demanded a review.
Luckily it turns out that potential goal didn’t mean anything to the final score as Maine couldn’t light the lamp again, and Smotherman completed his hat trick late with a currently scored unassisted goal that should gain a point for defenseman John Furgele.
Scratches for the Railers were Ken Appleby (on Commissioner’s Exempt List), Grant Jozefek (unknown injury), Myles McGurty (upper body), and Robbie Roche. Corbin Kaczperski was the backup netminder.
Defenseman Roche was dressed for the game and sat on the bench but did not take a shift during the contest, which officially makes him a scratch. That’s a first for the Railers, but not a first for a Worcester pro team. It happened at least twice in the first two seasons of the IceCats, although that information doesn’t appear on the game sheets and is only mentioned by Bill Ballou in Worcester Telegram articles of the time. Looks like some more digging into the archives will need to be done.
There were a handful of transactions pregame Saturday, beginning with the New York Islanders assigning Reece Newkirk from Bridgeport to Worcester. Bridgeport also sent veteran Paul Thompson to Worcester. Thompson played four games for Bridgeport during his recall, so he still needs one more game in the AHL to qualify for the ECHL playoffs. The goaltender carousel continued, with Corbin Kaczperski heading back from his one-game Utica stint and Worcester releasing EBUG Brian Wilson. Defenseman Charlie Spetz was loaned to Springfield, and forward Ryan Cloonan was released by the Railers.
Saturday’s tilt was a first for a Worcester pro hockey men’s team and the ECHL when Laura Schmidlein worked the game as a linesperson. At puck drop, she became the first female on-ice official to work a game in the league. Her accomplishment was recognized during the first media timeout of the second period, and she received a loud ovation from the fans and many stick taps from the players. After some prompting from the Railers bench, she waved to the crowd. After the game, many of the Railers players went over to the referee’s crease and shook her hand. To be honest, with the exception of the small ponytail hanging out the back of her helmet she looked and acted like any other linesman who worked a hockey game, even jumping into a Ross Olsson/Connor Doherty mix-up late in the second period.
The Worcester Railers Booster Club held their annual Christmas ornament raffle during the game, with the proceeds benefiting the Nick Pennucci Scholarship Fund. As is almost always the case, the Booster Club’s 50/50 raffle also benefitted the same cause. Once all the figures are tabulated the donation amount will be at least $1000.
We can now call it official, Olsson’s combo hat trick and Gordie Howe hat trick in the same game is a first for a Worcester pro team. While this writer was certain it hadn’t happened since the 2003-04 IceCats season future Worcester Hockey Hall of Fame member Bill Ballou was needed to fill in the previous seasons. He’s done that, and we have a city hockey first. Congratulations to Olsson on the feat.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 14 Jordan Smotherman
2. WOR – 12 Brent Beaudoin
3. WOR – 18 Reece Newkirk
The 210Sports Player of the Game was John Furgele.
Even Strength Lines
Vesey / Hayhurst / Thompson
Repaci / Coughlin / Olsson
Newkirk / Beaudoin / Smotherman
Besinger/ Fornaris / x
Malatesta / Furgele
Boudrais / Cullin
Maine 0 2 0 – 2
Worcester 3 0 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, Beaudoin 3 (Newkirk), 8:17. 2, Worcester, Smotherman 6 (Newkirk, Beaudoin), 9:30. 3, Worcester, Smotherman 7 (Repaci, Furgele), 17:38. Penalties-Robbins Mne (slashing), 5:36.
2nd Period-4, Maine, Bricknell 2 (Michaud, Horvath), 15:32 (PP). 5, Maine, Romano 3 (Duquette, Paliani), 16:32. Penalties-Doherty Mne (roughing), 15:18; Olsson Wor (double – roughing), 15:18.
3rd Period-6, Worcester, Smotherman 8 18:44 (EN). Penalties-Askew Mne (slashing), 1:07; Malatesta Wor (misconduct), 1:07; St-Louis Mne (slashing), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Maine 1-9-7-17. Worcester 20-7-10-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 1 / 1; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Maine, Booth 1-2-1-0 (23 shots-20 saves); Brodeur 5-4-1-1 (13 shots-13 saves). Worcester, Poreda 1-1-0-0 (17 shots-15 saves).
Referees-Sam Heidemann (22).
Linesmen-Laura Schmidlein (82), Evan Reddick (67).