The Worcester Railers hoped to begin their second game of three in a row against the Orlando Solar Bears Friday night at the Amway Center with a little more intensity than their lackluster early play Thursday night, but once again they had a little trouble getting their wheels going right at the opening puck drop and netminder Mitch Gillam had to make a couple tough saves to keep his team even.
Luckily the Railers did get everything going the right way pretty quickly and were rewarded with the first goal of the game when Yanick Turcotte outworked the Solar Bear defense behind the Orlando goal line, stealing the puck and firing a centering feed to Tommy Kelley. The Natick, Massachusetts native fired a hard shot top shelf over Solar Bear goaltender Cal Heeter at 5:53 for the 1-0 lead.
The Railers would make it 2-0 with a goal on their first power play opportunity. Defenseman Ben Masella launched a rocket from the blue line that was tipped in front by Matt Lane at 8:58 of the first. Frankie DiChiara had the secondary assist on the goal. To the amusement of many, the Orlando public address announcer called him “Franklin”.
It was more of the same in the second period, and Worcester would make it a three goal lead at 6:11 when Masella once again fired a hard shot on net. Heeter made the initial save but Barry Almeida was there to tuck the puck home just inches over the goal line. Chris Langkow’s pass to Masella earned him an assist on the goal.
Worcester would make it 4-0 on an odd goal when Heeter left his goal to go after the puck and fell down. The puck eventually ended up on Kyle McKenzie’s stick and his shot into what was essentially an empty net at 7:58 chased Heeter from the game. Masella and T.J. Syner had the assists on the play.
Solar Bears alternate captain Sean Zimmerman decided to try to fire up his teammates by picking a fight, and after all ten players scrummed together Zimmerman pulled defenseman Connor Doherty out of the pack. That turned out to be a bad choice as the rookie Doherty pounded his veteran counterpart.
After that all that was left was to see if Gillam could record the shutout, but Max Novak spoiled the show with a goal at 11:04 of the third for what would eventually be the 4-1 final. For the second game in a row the Railers would allow a franchise high in shots on goal in being outshot by the Solar Bears 43-35.
The same two teams play again Saturday at 7pm.
Scratches for Worcester were Brian Bowen, Josh Monk (21-day IR/upper body), Eamon McAdam (suspended, game one of two), Vinny Muto, and Ashton Rome (21-day IR/upper body). Chris Habazin, who was signed as an EBUG early Friday when the ECHL suspended goaltender Eamon McAdam two games for an undisclosed incident after being replaced by Mitch Gillam during the second period on Thursday night, was the back-up goaltender.
McAdam’s game misconduct penalty Thursday was just the fourth time a Worcester pro goaltender was ejected from a game, and in an oddity occurred exactly ten years after the previous time it happened. In that case WorSharks goalie Thomas Greiss was ejected for fighting Norfolk netminder Jonathan Boutin on February 15, 2008. Jamie McLennan was the first Worcester pro goalie to earn a game misconduct, which happened during the second season of the IceCats in 1995-96. Another IceCats netminder, Brent Johnson, rounds out the list with a game misconduct during the 1999-2000 campaign. The ten penalty minutes McAdam received for his game misconduct launches him into ninth place in all-time goalie penalty minutes in Worcester pro hockey history.
Chris Saracino, older brother of Nick, returned to the team after being re-signed by the Railers earlier this week. The elder Saracino is a lawyer in St. Louis, and returned to Missouri after playing a couple of games for Worcester earlier this season. With the #37 he wore earlier currently being used by Tommy Kelley Saracino wore #15, the number Willie Raskob had for his one game with Worcester.
With the three game series in Florida we can add another state the Worcester pro hockey has played in. Earlier this season Colorado was added to the list when the Railers played the Eagles in Loveland, and then West Virginia when Worcester took on the Wheeling Nailers.
Friday night saw the first time that acting captain Chris Langkow and Jeff Kubiak were both held without a shot on goal. The two rank second and third in shots on goal for currently active Railers players, with Kubiak having 117 and Langkow at 101.
The three stars of the game were
1) Mitch Gillam (Railers #35), win, 42 saves
2) Ben Masella (Railers #3), 3 assists
3) Barry Almeida (Railers #19), goal
The TWIW Player of the Game was Kyle McKenzie.
Worcester 2 2 0 – 4
Orlando 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, Worcester, Kelley 3 (Turcotte), 5:53. 2, Worcester, Lane 8 (Masella, DiChiara), 8:58 (PP). Penalties-Almeida Wor (holding), 3:15; Jardine Orl (high-sticking), 7:49; Thompson Orl (high-sticking), 10:19.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Almeida 16 (Masella, Langkow), 6:11. 4, Worcester, McKenzie 3 (Masella, Syner), 7:58. Penalties-Doherty Wor (fighting – major), 8:52; Zimmerman Orl (fighting – major), 8:52; Pospisil Orl (tripping), 9:12; Saracino Wor (slashing), 15:02; McKenzie Wor (delay of game), 18:22.
3rd Period-5, Orlando, Novak 15 (Fejes, Dzierkals), 11:04. Penalties-Turcotte Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:11; Monfredo Orl (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:11; Masella Wor (holding), 7:02; Monfredo Orl (holding), 13:54; Masella Wor (double – roughing), 19:26; Rankin Orl (double – roughing), 19:26.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 12-11-12-35. Orlando 11-16-16-43.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 4; Orlando 0 / 4.
Goalies-Worcester, Gillam 9-10-0-0 (43 shots-42 saves). Orlando, Heeter 13-13-3-1 (17 shots-13 saves); Skapski 7-10-2-0 (18 shots-18 saves).
Referees-Tyler Puddifant (28).
Linesmen-Logan Bellgraph (52), Christopher Williams (62).