Railers two third-period goals sink Admirals 4-2

The Worcester Railers hosted the Norfolk Admirals Saturday night at the DCU Center in the first of three contests in a row between the two clubs, and wearing their white and lavender “Hockey Fights Cancer” jerseys the Railers needed to mount a mini-comeback to defeat the Admirals 4-2 and extend their season-opening winning streak to seven games.

As they’ve done in six of their first seven games this season, it was Worcester getting the opening goal of the game when a nice keep-in play from Myles McGurty resulted in the red light going on. He doesn’t currently figure in the scoring, but that should change.

The second period has seemed to be the weakest for the Railers so far this season, and it was the case again on Saturday as Worcester sleepwalked through the first half of the stanza and allowed the Admirals to not only tie it but to take a 2-1 lead. Rookie defenseman Luke Prokop picked up his first career goal at 1:42 with a blast from the top of the left circle through some traffic and past Railers netminder Henrik Tikkanen. Joe Widmar made it 2-1 at 5:37 when he followed up on an Aidan Brown bid after some end-to-end action.

Worcester had gotten many power play chances in the first half of the game, and none looked especially good. But their sixth attempt resulted in a nice goal on an NHL-level combo from Noah Delmas and Liam Coughlin.

To the third period the teams went, with the shot totals heavily favoring the Railers. Their tenacious offense lead to a nice go-ahead by Jared Brandt, his first in a Worcester uniform.

Norfolk did not have many great chances to tie it, but the game was still in doubt until very late when the Admirals pulled their netminder. The Railers were finally able to put the game in the win column when Nolan Vesey got his skate on an attempted home-run pass at the Norfolk goal line, and the puck bounced right to Anthony Repaci for the empty net goal with 15.3 seconds remaining.

The win gave the Railers seven in a row, the longest winning streak in their franchise history. The seven-game points streak to open the season is a new Worcester pro city record.

Scratches for the Railers were Connor Breen (IR/undisclosed), Zack Bross (IR/undisclosed), Blake Christensen (lower body), Trevor Cosgrove, Christian Evers, Jack Quinlivan (IR/undisclosed), and Quinn Ryan. Ken Appleby was the backup goaltender.

Both Blade Jenkins and Brent Beaudoin saw their six-game point-scoring streaks snapped Saturday night, and Collin Adams’ three-game goal-scoring streak also ended. Jacob Hayhurst and Anthony Repaci each have a three-game points streak active. Ryan Mackinnon has been “even” or better in all seven games this season, as has Adams. Phil Beaulieu claims the same in all six games he’s played, and Christain Evers has five in a row.

Worcester Railers head coach Jordan Smotherman told Bill Ballou last night “I will say it tonight and this is not an excuse, but our ice was terrible. A couple of our turnovers the puck just died on us. There was something about the humidity in the building. But that’s not an excuse. We still have to bear down.” From our usual perch, last night Booster Club President Rich Lundin and I noted how bad the ice was right from the opening puck drop, with multiple players falling around the same spots on the ice. It could be an issue Sunday too as temperatures and humidity inch a bit higher than Saturday.

As we do when teams meet for the first time in a season, we’ll take a look at some of the connections between the two clubs. Norfolk defenseman Nick Schaus spent four seasons at UMass-Lowell and played for the WorSharks. In 81 games with Worcester, he went 4-18-22 with a minus-two rating and 48 penalty minutes. Fellow blueliner Eric Williams spent four seasons at Northeastern. Forward Kenny Hausinger played four seasons with UMass-Lowell and was signed by the Railers for the 2021-22 season before Worcester opted out due to COVID, and Joe Widmar spent two seasons at Umass-Amherst. There don’t appear to be any Norfolk connections on the Railers’ roster.

There’s a pretty long history between Norfolk and Worcester regarding hockey, with both of the city’s AHL teams having winning records against the Admirals. The IceCats were 4-2-0-0 against Norfolk, and the WorSharks went an impressive 16-10-2-2 against the AHL Admirals. One of Worcester’s two goaltender fights was against Norfolk when Thomas Greiss battled Jonathan Boutin. The less said about that fight, the better. Before last night’s match-up the Railers and ECHL Norfolk had met just once, and the legend of Blake Wojtala was born.

It’s a shame that Eric Lindquist was in the middle of his usual winter voice difficulties because this would have been an even more glorious highlight. There are three videos, so click on ‘Read the full conversation” to see them all…

In a pregame matchup, the Boston Bruins Alumni defeated the “Why Me All Stars” 8-5. Former Worcester IceCats Terry Virtue and Mike Mottau took part wearing the Bruins black and gold, with Mottau picking up a couple of assists from the blue line while Virtue was pointless as a forward. Virtue had a couple of great looks but couldn’t convert on either of them, shooting the puck over the net each time. This writer took the easy cheap shot on Twitter saying it looked like Virtue hadn’t lost a step, and you could make of that what you will. During an intermission autograph session Virtue laughed at the joke, laughingly saying it was really his hands that were the problem. Considering the number of fights Virtue has in his career it’s a wonder he has hands that work at all.

The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – 26 Jared Brandt
2. WOR – 7 Liam Coughlin
3. WOR – 16 Jacob Hayhurst

The 210Sports Player of the Game was Myles McGurty.

Even Strength Lines
Vesey / Beaudoin / Repaci
Jandric / Coughlin / Butler
Adams / Jenkins / Newkirk
Lambert / x / Hayhurst

Delmas / McCarthy
McGurty / Brandt
Beaulieu / MacKinnon

Our affiliates last night (Tuesday)
Detroit 3, NY Islanders 0
Bridgeport 5, Hartford 3
Providence 3, Springfield 2

In the ECHL’s North Divison
Reading 4, Wheeling 3
Newfoundland 5, Maine 2
Adirondack 6, Trois-Rivieres 1

Norfolk 0 2 0 – 2
Worcester 1 1 2 – 4

1st Period-1, Worcester, Hayhurst 1 (Lambert), 9:19. Penalties-Vilio Nor (holding), 11:01; Burgess Nor (high-sticking – double), 12:48; Kaplan Nor (delay of game), 16:21.

2nd Period-2, Norfolk, Prokop 1 (MacDougall, Van Os), 1:42. 3, Norfolk, Widmar 3 (Brown, Bertuzzi), 5:37. 4, Worcester, Coughlin 1 (Beaulieu, Delmas), 11:48 (PP). Penalties-Adams Wor (tripping), 9:01; Schaus Nor (hooking), 10:14; Vilio Nor (tripping), 14:52.

3rd Period-5, Worcester, Brandt 1 (McGurty, Jandric), 2:07. 6, Worcester, Repaci 2 (Vesey), 20:00 (EN). Penalties-Williams Nor (cross-checking), 10:41; Vesey Wor (slashing), 16:04.

Shots on Goal-Norfolk 9-6-2-17. Worcester 13-16-10-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Norfolk 0 / 2; Worcester 1 / 7.
Goalies-Norfolk, Morris 1-4-0-0 (38 shots-35 saves). Worcester, Tikkanen 3-0-0-0 (17 shots-15 saves).
Referees-Michael Zyla (34).
Linesmen-Matthew Hallock (85), Noah Merrow (57).

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