The Worcester Railers were looking for a fast start to put last Sunday’s heartbreaking loss behind them, and they did just that with two opening frame goals against the Adirondack Thunder Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Thunder battled back to tie it, but two third period strikes gave Worcester the two points in a 4-2 victory.
It was the annual “Pink in the Rink” night to benefit the Cup Crusaders at the DCU Center, and the 6,958 fans in attendance saw the Railers decked out in pink jerseys displaying a new “W” logo while playing on pink ice. What they also saw was a great hockey game, and it was Worcester getting on the board first with Connor McCarthy’s first goal as a pro just 3:25 into the contest.
Jordan Smotherman made it 2-0 at 7:08, doing what a goal scorer is supposed to do.
But Adirondack has some goal scorers on their team too, and Nick Rivera potted the next two in the game to make it 2-2 after two periods. His first came at 11:26 of the opener, just eight seconds after Reece Newkirk took an ill-advised crosschecking penalty, retaliating for what looked to be a clean hit in the Thunder defensive zone. Rivera’s second came on what has been an issue all season for the Railers’ young defense: losing track of opponents behind them. Jake Ryczek’s long pass to Rivera caught Will Cullen flat-footed, and Rivera was able to fight off Cullen’s stick check to beat Colten Ellis.
It was the captain that gave his team the lead again in the middle of the third period. It was looking like it would be another failed power play, but all of the sudden Smotherman had the puck, and then the puck was in the net.
From that point on Ellis and the Railers turned away everything Adirondack threw at them, and with 1:11 left in regulation, Nolan Vesey put one into the empty net for the 4-2 final. The Thunder did pull goaltender Brandon Kasel a second time, but a long outlet pass to Smotherman was just out of his reach as he was unable to convert for the hat trick.
The two teams met again Sunday afternoon, with a rare 1:05pm puck drop to avoid the Super Bowl.
Scratches for the Railers were Nick Albano, Bobby Butler (IR/unknown), John Furgele (IR/unknown), Grant Jozefek (IR/upper body), Myles McGurty, Chris Ordoobadi, and Ethan Price. Jimmy Poreda was the backup goaltender. Worcester went with 11 forwards and five defensemen despite McGurty being listed as a healthy scratch. There was no word on fellow blueliner Albano’s status.
Earlier last week the New York Islanders reassigned goaltender Ken Appleby from Worcester to Bridgeport and assigned forward Felix Bibeau to the Railers from Bridgeport. Bibeau went 0-3-3 in his 16 games in the AHL.
Yes, that was indeed captain Jordan Smotherman wearing the #58 pink jersey Saturday night. OT Sports, the manufacturer of the jerseys and known for doing an outstanding job, had a bit of a hiccup and accidentally put Smotherman’s size on the back instead of his usual #14. Smotherman took it in stride and made fun of himself being the oldest player on the team by jokingly saying they’d put his birth year on the back. The error was noticed early enough that equipment manager Todd MacGowan could have fixed it, but Railers PR man Cam McGuire said Smotherman didn’t want to add to MacGowan’s already heavy workload. In wearing it, he became the first Worcester pro to wear #58 in a game. It wasn’t the first time in Worcester hockey history a player changed numbers for a specialty jersey but with two goals Smotherman was the most successful in doing so.
It will be interesting to see if Adirondack forward Sebastian Vidmar receives any supplementary discipline for his second period checking the head penalty against Ross Olsson. Those penalties are generally reviewed, but from this writer’s usual perch it didn’t seem intentional or avoidable with Olsson and Vidmar engaged in a puck battle all along the boards behind the Thunder net. The hit happened when Olsson slipped a little and had his head down while Vidmar was attempting to pinch Olsson off from the puck.
With it being the first game of the week we’ll take a look at who was voted as “Player of the Week” last week in the Railers fans Facebook group, and in another landslide, it was Colten Ellis for his 1-0-1 week, with a 1.98 GAA and .940 save percentage in two games. He received 41 of the 47 votes cast, with Jacob Hayhurst, Connor McCarthy, and Reece Newkirk trailing far behind.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 58 Jordan Smotherman
2. ADK – 23 Nick Rivera
3. WOR – 16 Jacob Hayhurst
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Anthony Repaci.
Even Strength Lines
Vesey / Beaudoin / Repaci
Newkirk / Bibeau / Coskey
Coughlin / Hayhurst / Smotherman
Olsson / Christensen
Osmanski / Cullen
Spetz / Sredl
Adirondack 1 1 0 – 2
Worcester 2 0 2 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, McCarthy 1 (Vesey, Repaci), 3:25. 2, Worcester, Smotherman 18 (Hayhurst, Cullen), 7:06. 3, Adirondack, Rivera 6 (Irvine, Harper), 11:26 (PP). Penalties-Newkirk Wor (cross-checking), 11:19; Spetz Wor (interference), 16:30.
2nd Period-4, Adirondack, Rivera 7 (Ryczek), 15:30. Penalties-Vidmar Adk (illegal check to the head), 7:22; Masonius Adk (high-sticking), 9:36.
3rd Period-5, Worcester, Smotherman 19 (Hayhurst, Repaci), 10:48 (PP). 6, Worcester, Vesey 7 (McCarthy, Coughlin), 18:49 (EN). Penalties-Ryczek Adk (hooking), 9:06.
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 16-10-5-31. Worcester 10-9-12-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 1 / 2; Worcester 1 / 3.
Goalies-Adirondack, Kasel 3-6-1-0 (30 shots-27 saves). Worcester, Ellis 8-3-2-0 (31 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Brett Roeland (10).
Linesmen-Robert Griffin (53), Shane Kanaly (74).