Saturday night was the 2022-23 season opener for the Worcester Railers, and if their matchup against the Adirondack Thunder at the DCU Center is any indication of what this campaign is going to look like Railers fans are going to go through many roller coaster emotional nights as Worcester lost a three-goal lead and then nearly lost another two-goal advantage before finally coming out on top of a 5-4 score in front of 7,116 fans.
It was all Worcester early, and it took just 84 seconds for the Railers to grab their first goal of the season when Brett Beaudoin banged home a rebound of Nolan Vesey’s shot. Anthony Repaci fed Vesey out front, with Thunder netminder Mareks Mitens making the save. The puck went high in the air and was heading to the ice about 10 feet out when Beaudoin batted it out of the air and into the net.
Blade Jenkins made it a 2-0 game at 6:19 when once again the team was able to control a high-bouncing buck. Colin Adams was the one who corraled the puck in the slot, and while facing away from the net found Recee Newkirk all alone at the bottom of the left-wing circle. Newkirk was so by himself that when Thunder goaltender Mitens moved into position to make the save Newkirk just held on to the puck. With Adirondack players diving across the slot to prevent a pass they left Jenkins wide open and his one-timer from 12 feet lit the lamp.
It looked like a blowout was in the works when Worcester broke into the Thunder zone four on two, with Jacob Hayhurst controlling on the left wing side. He fed the puck to Noah Delmas, who took a couple of strides toward the slot and unleashed a wicked wrist shot that beat Mitens low stick side at 11:58.
But of course, it wouldn’t be that easy as Adirondack mounted a comeback and managed to trail 3-2 after twenty minutes after two quick goals by Xavier Parent (14:00) and Noah Corson (14:49/PP). Vladislav Mikhalchuk would complete the comeback with a goal at 3:51 of the second to make it 3-3.
While the Worcester faithful were getting restless over the situation Railers new head coach Jordan Smotherman regrouped his troops and they soon began to pressure the Thunder again, which eventually lead to another Worcester lead. Newkirk made it 4-3 at 8:15 after Steve Jandric fed Hayhurst from the right-wing corner to the slot. With the Adirondack defense flatfooted Hayhurst continued the puck to Newkirk on the left, and his wrist shot was unstoppable.
Jenkins would grab his second of the season to make it a 5-3 lead when the Thunder defense turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Adams sent Jenkins and Newkirk in on a two-on-none breakaway. Jenkins skated the puck into the zone and down between the circles, firing a wrist shot glove side just inside the post at 7:30 of the third.
Worcester’s power play, which has never been very good in the Railers era, had an opportunity in the middle of the frame to put the game away, but instead turned it into a one-goal contest when veteran Sebastian Vidmar scored shorthanded at 10:34. But that was as close as the Thunder would get, and due to Worcester’s continued offensive pressure Adirondack couldn’t get Mitens off for an extra attacker until just 17.6 seconds remained on the clock.
After the final horn the two teams got together for some pushing and shoving, with many Thunder players going after Vesey. Yanick Turcotte, a longtime Railers fan favorite who now plays for Adirondack, jumped off the bench to go after Vesey. Referee Alex Normandin was all over it, grabbing Turcotte and with the help of Thunder captain Shane Harper skated Turcotte away from the pile of players. Turcotte was given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a game misconduct for leaving the player’s bench, and we’ve probably not heard the last of that incident.
The two teams play again Sunday with a 3pm puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Jared Brandt, Connor Breen (IR/undisclosed), Zack Bross (IR/undisclosed), Liam Coughlin, Connor McCarthy, Jack Quinlivan (IR/undisclosed), and Quinn Ryan. Henrik Tikkanen was the backup goaltender. It looked like there was going to be some breaking news as the Railers were introduced by number and Anthony Repachi’s #81 was never announced, nor was he announced as being in the starting line-up. No worries though as Repaci skated onto the ice last with no introduction before PA announcer Adam Webster quickly announced him as Repaci bowed to the crowd.
Prior to the start of the game, the Railers held a moment of silence for longtime hockey broadcaster Eric Lindquist, who passed away at the far too-young age of 43 in May. Lindquist, who was the radio play-by-play voice for both the WorSharks and Railers, was so important to Worcester hockey that even after he left the Railers he was still involved in one way or another in many of the teams on- and off-ice activities. It seems only fitting that after a video of Lindquist was shown that the crowd cheered loudly, and the arena never got completely quiet for his moment of silence. Eric would have found that funny. The Railers will wear “EL” stickers on their helmets this season in his honor.
The Railers have a few number changes from last season. Connor McCarthy went from #13 to #2; Ryan MacKinnon wore #4 in his first stint with the team and is now wearing #10; Blake Christensen went from #10 to #18; Collin Adams lost his #8 to Bobby Butler, and is now wearing #21; Jared Brandt wore #5 and #25 last season and is now in #26, and Reece Newkirk went from #18 to #37.
One other big change is in the radio booth at the DCU Center, and not just Tim Foley taking over for the departed Cam McGuire. Both the radio booth and press row have been moved out of section 108 and now sit in the first few rows of section 211. Scuttlebut says it’s for ADA compliance, although with it being so busy getting to a DCU Center official that could comment was just about impossible. So perhaps more on this later.
With it being the first time Worcester played Adirondack we’ll take a look at some roster connections between the team, starting with Yanick Turcotte, still a favorite for Railers fans. One of the inaugural Worcester Railers players, Turcotte amassed 527 penalty minutes in 125 games over three seasons. UMass-Amherst alumni Ivan Chukarov played 53 games over two seasons with the Railers, and netminder Jake Theut played eight games for Northeastern from 2016 to 2018. For the Railers, netminder Ken Appleby played 37 games for Adirondack early in his career.
Justin Papineau’s Worcester pro hockey record of being the only player to score the team’s first goal of the season twice stands for another season, although in all fairness there was no chance it could have been broken Saturday night as none of the Railers who have scored season-opening goals for the team are currently on the roster. Papineau scored the season-opening goal for the IceCats in both the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. Bobby Butler will have an opportunity to tie a similar mark come January 1st as he scored the first goal of the 2022 calendar year last season. The IceCats Jamal Mayers is the only Worcester pro to do that twice, scoring first in 1997 and 1999. Brent Beaudoin got the opener for the Railers, so maybe he’ll get a shot to tie the record next season.
The ECHL season opened Friday night for some clubs, and while the Railers didn’t play Worcester hockey did have a connection to a historical moment as former WorSharks forward Riley Brace was one of the two referees working the Maine/Trois-Rivieres tilt. It marked the first time in ECHL history two referees were used in a regular season game. The ECHL will be using the two-ref system for about a quarter of their games this season, with each team having two referees at home games nine times over the campaign. A question to the league about the number of times a team might see the two-ref system in road games went unanswered.
Gone are the blue-posted nets the ECHL has used since 2015. The insurance company that was a league sponsor–and won’t get a mention here–no longer is affiliated with the league, so it’s back to the usual red posts for ECHL teams. It was former Railers Booster Club vice-president Ernie Racine who first noticed and after a quick consultation with the Railers, mostly to make sure the DCU Center was using the correct nets, word came of the sponsorship change.
The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – 17 Blade Jenkins
2. WOR – 37 Reece Newkirk
3. WOR – 21 Collin Adams
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Ryan MacKinnon
Even Strength Lines
Butler / Lambert / Christensen
Adams / Jenkins / Newkirk
Vesey / Beaudoin / Repaci
Hayhurst / x / Jandric
MacKinnon / Delmas
Evers / McGurty
Cosgrove / Beaulieu
Adirondack 2 1 1 – 4
Worcester 3 1 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Worcester, Beaudoin 1 (Repaci, Vesey), 1:24. 2, Worcester, Jenkins 1 (Newkirk, Adams), 6:19. 3, Worcester, Delmas 1 (Hayhurst), 11:58. 4, Adirondack, Parent 1 (Corson, Taylor), 14:00. 5, Adirondack, Corson 1 (Harper, Parent), 14:49 (PP). Penalties-Adams Wor (tripping), 14:34; Corson Adk (slashing), 17:58; Jenkins Wor (slashing), 18:53.
2nd Period-6, Adirondack, Mikhalchuk 1 (Chukarov, Harper), 3:51. 7, Worcester, Newkirk 1 (Hayhurst, Jandric), 8:15. Penalties-Maggio Adk (tripping), 4:32; Beaulieu Wor (interference), 6:03; Chukarov Adk (interference), 15:02.
3rd Period-8, Worcester, Jenkins 2 (Adams), 7:30. 9, Adirondack, Vidmar 1 10:34 (SH). Penalties-Vesey Wor (hooking), 1:04; Corson Adk (roughing), 9:21; Da Silva Adk (holding), 9:21; Hayhurst Wor (roughing), 9:21; Turcotte Adk (unsportsmanlike conduct, game misconduct – leaving the players bench), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 8-8-7-23. Worcester 16-12-7-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 1 / 4; Worcester 0 / 4.
Goalies-Adirondack, Mitens 0-1-0-0 (35 shots-30 saves). Worcester, Appleby 1-0-0-0 (23 shots-19 saves).
Referees-Alex Normandin (26).
Linesmen-Sam Schildkraut (46), Shane Kanaly (74).
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