The Worcester Railers faced the Adirondack Thunder Saturday night at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, New York in game five of their best of seven series trailing three games to one hoping to keep their season alive, and in what many are calling the greatest playoff game a Worcester pro hockey team has ever played the Railers stunned the Thunder 6-5 to send the series back to Worcester for game six on Monday.
It was important for the Railers, who had only scored three goals against Adirondack goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood all series, to get off to a good start against the Thunder and they did just that 35 seconds into the contest when Nick Saracino fired a centering pass to Josh Holmstrom in the slot. Holmstrom’s shot beat Blackwood clean for the 1-0 lead. Matt Lane had the second assists on the play
Just over a minute later there was a scary moment when Railers forward Kellen Jones was tripped up on a rush on the Adirondack goal and slid into Blackwood’s left knee. The netminder went down awkwardly, and could not continue. There was no official word on his condition released, but a source close to the Thunder indicated Blackwood would undergo an MRI Monday to determine the extent of the damage. Olivier Mantha entered the game in relief.
The Thunder could have folded right there, but instead the regular season North Division winners picked up their pace. Adirondack tied the score at 6:52 after Ryan Schmelzer skated through the Worcester defense down low and flipped a high backhander over Mitch Gillam for a power play score, and then they took the lead at 7:55 when Mike Bergin was all alone in front and fired one top shelf.
It got worse for the Railers at 12:14 as the Thunder connected for their second power play marker of the stanza when a Railers defenseman accidentally kicked the puck into his own net. The goal was credited to Shane Conacher. And in what should have probably been the killing blow Tim Harrison scored an unassisted goal at 5:49 of the second period to put Worcester down 4-1.
While that would be all for Gillam that wouldn’t be all for the Railers, who began their improbable comeback at 6:58 when Saracino snatched a loose puck from a scrum in front of the Thunder net and skated a couple strides, firing one over Mantha to cut the deficit to two. Justin Hamonic’s shot into the pile of players that hit Holmstrom earned the both assists on the goal.
Matty Gaudreau got Worcester within one when he hit the top corner over Mantha for a power tally at at 11:55, with helpers from Jones and Ryan MacKinnon, and Lane would stun the Adirondack crowd to silence exactly a minute later after Woody Hudson forced a turnover at the Thunder blue line that Lane carried into the zone on an odd man rush and fired over Mantha to make it 4-4.
Unfortunately the Railers needed to make another comeback as just 19 seconds into the third period Brian Ward tipped a high shot past Eamon McAdam to give the Thunder a 5-4 lead.
It didn’t take too long for Worcester to get back to even as Saracino once again came through for his team when he skated down the left wing side and outwaited Mantha, firing the puck short side at 3:22 to make the game 5-5. Barry Almeida had the assist on the goal.
Saracino would then register the first hat trick in Railers history with a power play score at 14:02 when he fired a high shot over Mantha that lit the lamp. Tommy Panico and Holmstrom earned the assists on the goal.
McAdam stood tall the rest of the way, weathering everything the Thunder threw at him to give the Railers the unlikely 6-5 win. Game six s at the DCU Center Monday night, with a 7:05pm scheduled puck drop.
Scratches for Worcester were Mike Cornell (unknown injury), Frankie DiChiara, Chris Langkow (lower body), Jake Randolph, and T.J. Syner. Eamon McAdam began the game as the back-up goaltender.
If you consider yourself a hockey fan and you haven’t seen a game at the Cool Insuring Arena, formerly known as the Glens Falls Civic Center, you’re really missing out. Opened in 1979 in has some of the best sight lines in hockey, with it’s very step seating sections allowing for great views. It has the “old hockey barn” feel, with a lot of standing room along the promenade at the top of the seating section.
At points in the game it was hard to tell which squad was the home team. While the 75 or so Railers fans in attendance were vastly outnumbered there were times, especially after Lane’s tying goal and both of Saracino’s third period tallies, that it seemed like there was 7,500 Worcester fans in the building. And, according to many players post game, the team noticed.
With the win Saturday the record for Worcester pro hockey teams in games where they can be eliminated improved to games 4-13, and their record in game fives went to 7-4.
The three stars of the game were
1) Nick Saracino (Railers #18), hat trick, assist
2) Josh Holmstrom (Railers #11), goal, two assists
3) Brian Ward (Adirondack #22) goal
The TWIW Player of the Game was Matt Lane.
Even strength lines
Jones / Kubiak / Almeida
Saracino / Holmstrom / Lane
Gaudreau / Willick / Hudson
MacKinnon / McKenzie
Doherty / Hamonic
Masella / Panico
Worcester 1 3 2 – 6
Adirondack 3 1 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Worcester, Holmstrom 1 (Saracino, Lane), 0:35. 2, Adirondack, Schmelzer 3 (Bergin, Henry), 6:52 (PP). 3, Adirondack, Bergin 1 (Rodrigues, Riley), 7:55. 4, Adirondack, Conacher 1 (Henry, White), 12:14 (PP). Penalties-Jones Wor (delay of game), 5:41; Schmelzer Adk (holding), 8:17; Turcotte Wor (boarding), 11:04; MacKinnon Wor (slashing), 19:23.
2nd Period-5, Adirondack, Harrison 2 5:49. 6, Worcester, Saracino 1 (Hamonic, Holmstrom), 6:58. 7, Worcester, Gaudreau 1 (Jones, MacKinnon), 11:55 (PP). 8, Worcester, Lane 1 (Hudson), 12:55. Penalties-Bergin Adk (hooking), 10:31; Bergin Adk (roughing), 17:46.
3rd Period-9, Adirondack, Ward 4 (Brodeur, Wallin), 0:19. 10, Worcester, Saracino 2 (Almeida), 3:32. 11, Worcester, Saracino 3 (Panico, Holmstrom), 14:02 (PP). Penalties-Turcotte Wor (charging), 6:31; Bergin Adk (holding), 12:31.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 7-13-6-26. Adirondack 10-8-15-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 2 / 4; Adirondack 2 / 4.
Goalies-Worcester, Gillam (14 shots-10 saves); McAdam (19 shots-18 saves). Adirondack, Blackwood (1 shots-0 saves); Mantha (25 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Jesse Gour (24), Matt Menniti (10).
Linesmen-JP Waleski (51), Kyle Richtelle (73).