Railers cough up two goal lead, lose 6-4 to Maine

The Worcester Railers are in the middle of a playoff chase, although you’d hardly know that from watching the last two periods of their contest Saturday night at the DCU Center against the Maine Mariners as they did virtually nothing right in final 40 minutes of the game and threw away a golden chance to put some more distance between themselves and the fifth-place Adirondack Thunder with a 6-4 loss to the Mariners.

Things started off well for the Railers, who were wearing “Boston basketball” green jerseys that looked sharp but invoked comments of appearing to be more like New York Jets jerseys than those of the Celtics. Judging by how poorly they played for most of the game perhaps they were Jets jerseys after all. Be that as it may, it was Jacob Hayhurst who gave Worcester an early 1-0 lead.

At 9:15 of the opener, Max Johnson headed to the box for high-sticking. His two previous trips to the sin bin had resulted in a Worcester shorthanded goal, but the third time wasn’t so lucky and it took Maine just five seconds of power play time to even the score when neither Connor McCarthy nor Josh Victor decided to cover Austin Albrecht, who calmly flipped a rebound past Railers goaltender Ken Appleby.

Worcester was back on their heel’s just a touch after the goal, perhaps foreshadowing what was to come later, but a strong shift from the team’s top line led to an Andrei Bakanov goal and a 2-1 lead.

Twenty-two seconds later, Liam Coughlin made it a 3-1 lead.

That should have been it. All the Railers needed to do was play competitive hockey and do everything that had gotten them that 3-1 lead. But, they didn’t. Instead, they took the rest of the game off.

“We didn’t manage the puck,” coach Jordan Smotherman said to Bill Ballou postgame. “We just decided we weren’t going to play the game….We did all the things we talked about not wanting to do before the game. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

The Railers were trailing 5-3 deep in the third by the time they managed to wake up and sort of play hockey, and Coughlin scored his fifth goal in two games to make it 5-4.

Maine added a late power play goal for the 6-4 final.

Presuming the Railers decide to show up, the two teams will meet for the fourth consecutive game Sunday afternoon in Portland.

Scratches for the Railers were Phil Beaulieu, Zack Bross, Christain Evers (IR/unknown), Nick Fea, Jack Quinlivan (IR/unknown), Anthony Repaci (bereavement), and Quin Ryan (IR/unknown). Henrik Tikkanen was the backup goaltender. Bob Deraney was behind the bench with head coach Jordan Smotherman and assistant Jimmy Sharrow.

Suspended Railers forward Blake Christensen was at the DCU Center last night after returning from his stint with HC Thurgau in the Swiss Super League. He was 1-2-3 in four playoff games, with HC Thurgau losing to top-seed HC La Chaux-de-Fonds. Christensen played in only four of his team’s 11 playoff games.

Defenseman Noah Delmas is heading toward a Railers and Worcester pro hockey record no one wants: the worst plus/minus in a season. Currently, Delmas sits at minus-30, with only former Railers captain Barry Almeida’s minus-34 in front of him. No other players in Worcester pro hockey history have ever been minus-30 or lower at any point in a season.

Currently, Railers captain Bobby Butler ranks third on the team in goals (16), tied for fourth in assists (17), and fourth in points (33). These are all facts. While there’s no way to track it, he likely leads Worcester in causing quality scoring chances to fail for the team because his linemates try to force the puck to him instead of taking advantage of the situation in front of them. Defenses have long since picked up that passing to Butler is the primary option. Of all the things wrong with the Railers, and trust me, there’s a lot of them, this is the easiest to fix. The players just need to stop looking to pass to Butler and take care of business themselves.

Saturday was the fifth anniversary of, in this writer’s opinion, the scariest moment in Worcester pro hockey history when forward Tommy Kelley crashed into the end boards in a game against Utah. It was early in the third period as Kelley and a Grizzley’s defenseman raced into the Utah zone for the puck. Kelley caught an edge and fell, crashing into the boards with an ugly sound, and then lay on the ice motionless. With Utah defenseman James Melindy motioning and screaming back to the benches for help a paramedic, who happened to be watching the game at the visitor’s entrance, came onto the ice. The 4,000 or so people in attendance sat in stunned silence as the medical team stabilized Kelley. In the end, Kelley didn’t suffer any major long-term injuries and was actually released from the hospital that evening. Kelley came back and played 31 games in 2018-19, finishing with a flurry by scoring three goals in his final two games. Looking back on the incident and knowing Kelley was fine, the two things I remember most are the terrible sound of the collision with the boards, and the eerie silence of the DCU Center crowd. I hope to hear neither ever again.

Holy Cross hockey’s Cinderella story came to a crashing halt Saturday night with their 3-0 loss at Canisius in Buffalo, NY, with the Golden Griffins earning the Atlantic Hockey Association’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Canisius’ Nick Bowman opened the scoring with what proved to be the game-winning goal with just over two minutes remaining in the second period. The Crusaders pulled netminder Jason Grande with three minutes remaining in the third period, and Canisius scored two empty net goals for the 3-0 final. Holy Cross junior defenseman Jack Robilotti and sophomore forward Liam McLinskey were named to the Atlantic Hockey All-Tournament Team for their efforts over the playoffs. Robilotti finished the playoffs with 14 blocked shots, while McLinskey scored an AHA-record nine goals over the first two series.

The three stars of the game were
1. MNE – 29 Chase Zieky
2. WOR – 7 Liam Coughlin
3. MNE – 4 Austin Albrecht

The 210Sports Player of the Game was Nolan Vesey.

Even Strength Lines
Goodsir / Beaudoin / Bakanov
Hayhurst / Johnson / Butler
Vesey / Coughlin / Callin
Jerry / X / Ordoobadi

Brandt / McGurty
Cosgrove / Delmas
Victor / McCarthy

Our affiliates last night
NY Islanders 4, San Jose 1
Hartford 3, Bridgeport 2
Providence 4, Springfield 1

In the ECHL’s North Division
Reading 3, Atlanta 2
Norfolk 4, Wheeling 2
Trois-Rivieres 2, Florida 1
Newfoundland 5, Adirondack 4 (SO)

North Division Standings
Team points (points percentage) games in hand vs Worcester
Newfoundland 84 (.690) 0
Reading 74 (.627) 2
Maine 65 (.595) 3
Worcester 65 (.533)
Adirondack 58 (.483) 1
Trois-Rivieres 48 (.400) 1
Norfolk 37 (.303) 0

Maine 1 3 2 – 6
Worcester 3 0 1 – 4

1st Period-1, Worcester, Hayhurst 7 (Butler), 4:37 (PP). 2, Maine, Albrecht 4 (Duquette, Zieky), 9:20 (PP). 3, Worcester, Bakanov 3 (McGurty, Goodsir), 13:47. 4, Worcester, Coughlin 9 (Vesey, Callin), 14:09. Penalties-Stefanson Mne (slashing), 3:22; Johnson Wor (high-sticking), 9:15.

2nd Period-5, Maine, Kile 12 (Albrecht, Doherty), 7:02. 6, Maine, Zieky 14 (Chicoine), 13:45. 7, Maine, Johnson 12 (Shea, Wilson), 18:46. Penalties-Gordeev Mne (cross-checking), 3:32; Cosgrove Wor (tripping), 10:34; McGurty Wor (tripping), 11:01; Gordeev Mne (holding), 15:32.

3rd Period-8, Maine, Hinam 6 (Gordeev, Zieky), 8:11. 9, Worcester, Coughlin 10 (Butler, Vesey), 16:36. 10, Maine, Master 10 (Chicoine, Doherty), 18:19 (PP). Penalties-Askew Mne (roughing), 10:11; Johnson Wor (roughing), 10:11; Victor Wor (roughing), 10:11; Hayhurst Wor (roughing), 12:11; Coughlin Wor (elbowing), 17:09.

Shots on Goal-Maine 10-18-13-41. Worcester 17-7-10-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Maine 2 / 6; Worcester 1 / 3.
Goalies-Maine, DiPietro 14-7-0-0 (34 shots-30 saves). Worcester, Appleby 12-9-1-0 (41 shots-35 saves).
Referees-Tyler Hascall (8), Rocco Stachowiak (28).
Linesmen-Sam Schildkraut (46), Davids Rozitis (90).

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