For the second time in four days the Worcester Railers visited the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia to take on the Nailers, looking for a little revenge for their 4-3 shootout loss Wednesday.
With the boarding of Railers captain Ashton Rome during the overtime period against Wheeling during their last game, and the fracas that almost erupted at the end of the shootout, fans knew that Worcester had to answer. Just as soon as the puck hit the ice to start Saturday’s game the gloves of Yanick Turcotte and Jeremy Beirnes also hit the ice. The Railers rookie forward handled Beirnes easily to set the tone.
At 5:17 it was rookie defenseman Kyle McKenzie’s turn to stand up for his teammates as he dropped the mitts against Dylan Zink. It was McKenzie’s first fight as a pro, and he handled himself quite well in what was at worse a draw.
Later referee Stephen Thomson missed Kellen Jones being boarded, and Worcester head coach Jamie Russell let him hear about it. Unfortunately for the Railers, Thomson started calling every ticky-tack penalty he saw against the Railers. That led to a five on three power play for Wheeling, and they converted on the two-man advantage at 13:52. Garrett Muers was credited with the goal.
The first period would end with the Nailers leading, but it took just 44 seconds into the middle period for Worcester to tie the game when Jeff Kubiak grabbed a loose puck from in front of Wheeling goaltender Adam Morrison and flipped a backhander into the net. Barry Almeida and T.J. Syner had the assists of the goal.
Railers goaltender Eamon McAdam nearly single-handedly kept the score tied for the next few minutes as he made incredible save after incredible save. His teammates would reward his great play with a goal to give Worcester the lead at 10:45 when Nick Saracino made a great individual play to beat Morrison. Turcotte and Justin Hamonic were credited with the assists on what was just the third shot for the Railers in the period.
Just when it looked like Worcester would escape the period with the lead Hunter Fejes knocked home a rebound with 31 seconds remaining in the stanza to knot the game 2-2. It would get even uglier for the Railers when Wheeling connected again at 2:57 of the third period to take a 3-2 lead off a rebound by Dan Milan.
For a short while after the Nailers goal Worcester couldn’t get anything going offensively, but on a play that looked essentially harmless the Railers would get the tying goal. Mike Cornell fired the puck on net toward some traffic, where Woody Hudson was able to get a piece of it to deflect it past Morrison at 9:53. Ben Masella picked up the secondary assist.
Both squads picked up the pressure after the goal, and after another couple nice saves by McAdam kept the score even Saracino picked up his second of the game at 11:57 with a hard shot that went five-hole on Morrison to light the lamp. Rome and Cornell had the helpers on the game winning goal.
As the final horn sounded both benches emptied and all 36 players gathered, with several altercations breaking out. It took a couple minutes for cooler heads to prevail, but not before Rome and Milan dropped the gloves in an all-out fight. Both Rome and Milan received majors for fighting and game misconducts for “Fighting Other Than During Periods Of The Game”. Both Wheeling and Worcester will be fines $2,500 for those penalties, and the players are subject to additional discipline.
The win was the 750th in modern Worcester pro hockey history.
Scratches for the Railers were Frankie DiChiara, Connor Doherty (21-day IR), Matt Lane, and Wade Murphy. Mitch Gillam was the back-up goaltender. Kellen Jones returned to action after missing two games with the dreaded “lower body injury”.
In what appears to be a first in Worcester pro hockey history, Yanick Turcotte changed from his usual #20 jersey to #42 after his fight with Jeremy Beirnes. According to the rules the only reason that he would be allowed to change numbers was if the jersey was damaged and could not be worn or if it was blood covered. After what was apparently a quick repair Turcotte was back in his usual #20 for the second period.
Saturday’s game was the first of three of what this writer calls “mad dashes” for the Railers, where the team has to travel more than four hours by bus to get to the next game on the next night. It was over four hours from Friday’s game in Toledo, Ohio to Saturday’s game in Wheeling, West Virginia. The next two are the same trip, from Glens Falls, NY where they take on the Adirondack Thunder to Reading, PA to play the Royals. Those trips take place on January 5th and February 21st.
In looking up some information yesterday another connection, albeit tenuous, between Worcester pro hockey and the Wheeling Nailers was discovered. Railers head coach Jamie Russell was a defenseman in his playing days, and he spent parts of 1989-90 and ‘90-’91 seasons with the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds. In 1992 that franchise moved to Wheeling, and in 1996 was renamed the Nailers.
Upon further review, last night the Railers set two franchise marks and tied a third in their game against Toledo. Worcester held the Walleye to 20 shots, the fewest number they’ve allowed all season. Toledo’s three first period shots are also a Railers franchise low. The seven shots the Walleye had in the second period ties the road low allowed by the Railers.
Through 17 games this season for Worcester only three players have played in all of them. Defensemen Mike Cornell, Kyle McKenzie, and Patrick McNally are the only players still with a chance to win the “Iron Man” award for the season.
The three stars of the game were
1) Nick Saracino (Railers #18) two goals
2) Eamon McAdam (Railers #39) win, 34 saves
3) Nick Sorkin (Wheeling #8) assist
The TWIW Player of the Game was Eamon McAdam.
Even Strength Lines
Worcester 0 2 2 – 4
Wheeling 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Meurs 11 (Gardiner, Sorkin), 13:52 (PP). Penalties-Turcotte Wor (fighting – major), 0:01; Beirnes Whl (fighting – major), 0:01; McKenzie Wor (fighting – major), 5:17; Zink Whl (fighting – major), 5:17; McNally Wor (roughing), 5:41; Taylor Whl (slashing), 9:30; Hamonic Wor (interference), 12:28; Almeida Wor (slashing), 12:58; Gaudreau Wor (slashing), 18:12.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Kubiak 2 (Almeida, Syner), 0:44. 3, Worcester, Saracino 1 (Turcotte, Hamonic), 10:45. 4, Wheeling, Fejes 7 (Army, Fick), 19:28. Penalties-Hamonic Wor (tripping), 6:36; Fick Whl (boarding), 12:57.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Milan 2 (Wydo, Gardiner), 2:57. 6, Worcester, Hudson 4 (Cornell, Masella), 9:53. 7, Worcester, Saracino 2 (Rome, Cornell), 11:57. Penalties-Rome Wor (fighting – major, game misconduct – fighting other than during periods of the game), 20:00; Milan Whl (fighting – major, game misconduct – fighting other than during periods of the game), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 8-5-11-24. Wheeling 11-15-11-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 2; Wheeling 1 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, McAdam 5-3-1-1 (37 shots-34 saves). Wheeling, Morrison 0-1-0-0 (24 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Stephen Thomson (27).
Linesmen-Michael Fusani (41), Zach Roberts (84).