PORTLAND, ME — The Worcester Railers made the trip north to Portland, Maine Sunday afternoon for a New Year’s Day contest against the Mariners at Cross Insurance Arena, and after taking a 2-0 lead saw things slowly fall apart, finally ending up down a goal. Nolan’s Vesey second of the game tied it and Henrik Tikkanen’s highlight saves kept it that way until Worcester would finally prevail 4-3 in a shootout.
With many of the Railers faithful making the trip, with the fans looking on Blake Christensen would give Worcester an early lead when his one-timer off a Quin Ryan pass beat Maine netminder Trevor Gorsuch at 2:38 of the opening period.
Later in the frame, Worcester would get a full two minute five on three power play after Nick Master was called for tripping Brent Beaudoin, a penalty that only referee Sam Heidemann saw, and then in a scrum in front of the Railers net when Maine shot the puck well after the whistle Connor Doherty got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for challenging Tikkanen, a penalty everyone saw. Despite some great looks Worcester couldn’t convert, and that did eventually come back to haunt them.
It was 1-0 into the second period when Anthony Repaci was called for a holding minor by referee Heidemann after being tackled by Maine defender Gabriel Chicoine, so to the penalty kill Worcester would go. It took just eight seconds for the Railers to grab their third shorthanded goal of the season when Vesey tipped Beaudoin’s shot past Gorsuch.
They say a 2-0 lead is the worst in hockey, although being down a couple goals seems worse to this writer, and the Railers showed the former is true when they eventually ended up on the wrong end of a 3-2 score. Maine got their first at 16:21 of the middle stanza when Tim Doherty converted on the power play with Reece Newkirk in the box. The Mariners tied it on the power play early in the third period when Christain Evers took back-to-back minors and Worcester’s tired penalty killers couldn’t stop Alex Kile at 3:02 of the third.
With momentum on their side, Maine took their first lead of the game at 5:22 when Evers inexplicably followed Master toward the side wall, leaving the slot completely wide open. Alex-Olivier Voyer took the pass and skated in, flipping one over Tikkanen to the stick side.
Worcester head coach Jordan Smotherman called his timeout to rally his troops, a move that seldom works in hockey. But it did this time, and soon Vesey’s second of the game knotted the score 3-3.
The rest of the way looked like wide-open pond hockey with both sides getting their chances, and both getting some bad breaks that turned what looked to be sure goals into pucks harmlessly bouncing away from the net. The game would go into overtime and then on to a shootout, where Blade Jenkins would end it.
Scratches for the Railers were Phil Beaulieu (IR/unknown), Myles McGurty (upper body), and Jack Quinlivan (IR/unknown). Brent Moran was the backup goaltender. Technically Andrei Bakanov was a scratch for Worcester, but that’s only because his recall to Springfield wasn’t official until after the game started. Bakanov was a warm body when the Railers needed one, and he was literally just a “warm body” as he didn’t dent the scoresheet in three games and was a minus-5. In 21 North American pro games, Bakanov is pointless with a minus-9 rating. And as we suspected, Beaulieu has been unavailable with an unknown injury. He was added to the injured reserve list Sunday, retroactive to December 24th.
Sitting in the party zone at the Cross Insurance Arena this writer didn’t have his usual straight-on look at the benches, so I was a little surprised when I was asked by some Maine friends during the first intermission why Railers COO Mike Myers was behind the bench with Jordan Smotherman and Jimmy Sharrow. I knew Myers was in the building because I had spoken to him earlier, but I didn’t get the vibe he was planning on being in the bench area. Turns out it was Worcester State University Men’s hockey head coach Bob Deraney behind the bench again, just as he was Saturday at the DCU Center. I guess all of us bald guys look the same to some people.
For the first time since December 10, 2021, the Railers had two fights in a game. Blake Christensen and former Railers defenseman Connor Doherty dropped the gloves at 4:38 of the third period, and Brent Beaudoin and Alex-Olivier Voyer went at it as the horn to end overtime sounded. Worcester was the ultimate winner in that second battle as Voyer also picked up a misconduct penalty, meaning he could not participate in the shootout. Beaudoin was still eligible but left the ice holding a towel to his chin and did not return to the bench.
Speaking of the shootout, referees Sam Heidemann and Michael Zyla are probably hoping the ECHL doesn’t go back and review what happened. First off, the teams were shooting at the wrong goals. The goalies switch ends for overtime, creating the long change, but for the shootout, they’re supposed to change ends again to the goals they defended in the first and third periods. And they didn’t. And on Worcester’s first attempt, Christensen was clearly tripped by Maine goaltender Trevor Gorsuch. It’s very obvious in the video. Because a goal wasn’t scored Christensen should have been granted another attempt under rule 24.4, which says in part, “When an infraction worthy of a minor penalty is committed by the goalkeeper during the shot causing it to fail, no penalty is assessed but the Referee shall permit the shot to be taken over again.”
And more on the shootout, while they don’t count shots on goal the first four shooters, Cameron Askew, Christensen, Alex Kile, and Bobby Butler all failed to meet the criteria for counting one anyway. Askew hit the post, and the other three failed to get a shot off for various reasons. The eventual winner, Blade Jenkins, lost control of the puck and had it roll a good distance in front of him before he could corral it again. That seemed to confuse Gorsuch, and Jenkins beat him for the walk-off win.
The Railers were in their orange fifth-anniversary jerseys, while Maine was in white. Once again we were denied an awesome color vs color match-up.
And not only were the Railers wearing orange but so were many of the 53 Booster Club members who made the trip up to Portland to sit in the lower-level party zone. There was also a large contingent that ventured up on their own, and they were spread widely through the arena. While those fans couldn’t hear Tim Foley’s play-by-play, we could see him calling the game in the pressbox, standing next to the great Bill Ballou, who was doing a little color commentary. There was no press meal at the Cross Insurance Arena, so the Booster Club may have snuck Ballou down for a pulled pork sandwich or two, although that cannot be confirmed.
The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – 11 Nolan Vesey
2. WOR – 17 Blade Jenkins
3. MNE – 11 Mitchell Fossier
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Brent Beaudoin.
Even Strength Lines
Repaci / Coughlin / Vesey
Newkirk / Jenkins / Butler
Christensen / Beeadoin / Ryan
X / Jerry / Bross
Cosgrove / Delmas
Solow / Terchiyev
Our affiliates last night
Seattle 5, NY Islanders 1
In the ECHL’s North Divison
No other games scheduled
Worcester 1 1 1 0 – 4
Maine 0 1 2 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Worcester, Christensen 6 (Ryan, Beaudoin), 2:38. Penalties-Brandt Wor (tripping), 4:13; Master Mne (hooking), 6:32; Shea Mne (kneeing), 11:42; Doherty Mne (unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:21; Master Mne (tripping), 17:21.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Vesey 8 (Beaudoin), 6:33 (SH). 3, Maine, Doherty 13 (Chicoine, Fossier), 16:21 (PP). Penalties-Repaci Wor (holding), 6:25; Hinam Mne (cross-checking), 9:15; Newkirk Wor (tripping), 15:44.
3rd Period-4, Maine, Kile 2 (Santos, Master), 3:02 (PP). 5, Maine, Voyer 10 (Fossier, Duquette), 5:22. 6, Worcester, Vesey 9 (Jenkins, Repaci), 8:04. Penalties-Evers Wor (tripping), 0:29; Evers Wor (slashing), 2:43; Christensen Wor (fighting – major), 4:38; Doherty Mne (fighting – major), 4:38.
1st OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Beaudoin Wor (fighting – major), 7:00; Voyer Mne (fighting – major, misconduct), 7:00.
Shootout – Worcester 1 (Christensen NG, Butler NG, Newkirk NG, Jenkins G), Maine 0 (Askew NG, Kile NG, Fossier NG, Doherty NG).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 14-15-8-5-1-43. Maine 10-9-11-6-0-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 5; Maine 2 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, Tikkanen 10-8-0-0 (36 shots-33 saves). Maine, Gorsuch 0-1-0-1 (42 shots-39 saves).
Referees-Sam Heidemann (22), Michael Zyla (34).
Linesmen-Ryan Bradshaw (76), Laura Schmidlein (82).
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