The Worcester Railers visited West Virginia for the last time this regular season Wednesday night to take on the Wheeling Nailers at the WesBanco Arena in a game that had huge playoff implications for the ECHL’s North Division.
With the Railers trailing Wheeling in the standings by three points entering the contest it was important for them to get off to strong start, and despite being outshot 9-5 in the scoreless opening period Worcester had the two best opportunities in the first period.
The first came with the Railers shorthanded when Frankie DiChiara broke in to the Nailers zone all alone. He was slashed by Wheeling forward Riley Bourbonnais. Referee Sean Fernandez could have called a penalty shot, but chose to just call a minor penalty. The second was Mike Cornell’s bid late in the second period that forced Wheeling goaltender Adam Morrison to flash out the right pad quickly.
The middle period also ended scoreless, but that was entirely because of the play of Worcester netminder Mitch Gillam. He made multiple high quality saves, including making several in rapid succession. Gillam’s 16 saves in the period ties the Railers record for saves in the second period.
Worcester really picked up their play in the third period but neither squad could put the puck in the net. The Railers best bid was by Yanick Turcotte, who skated through the Wheeling defense only to hit the post and have the puck bounce away harmlessly.
To overtime the teams went, with the Railers having a brief power play to start the extra session. Neither team could score in overtime so on to the shootout the squads went. Wheeling forward Chris Francis was the only one to score to hand the Railers a 1-0 loss
The Railers continue their three game road trip with games in Friday and Saturday in Reading against the Royals.
Scratches for Worcester were Tommy Kelley (upper body), Chris Langkow (lower body), Josh Monk (21-day IR/Upper body). Will King was the back-up goaltender. After Sunday’s game Bridgeport recalled defenseman Ryan MacKinnon, and they then officially announced his signing to an AHL contract thru next season. According to the Railers pregame radio show Langkow’s injury will be reevaluated next week.
There last official update by the Railers on Tommy Kelley’s condition came yesterday, saying that Kelley was home, a little sore, and doing well. Kelley tweeted Sunday evening that he was walking around and feeling well, and thanked everyone for their concerns. For those that missed the news, Kelley was knocked unconscious Sunday in a collision with the end boards behind the Utah net and was taken off the ice on a stretcher to an awaiting ambulance. After some tests he was released Sunday night from UMass-Memorial.
With the shootout loss the Railers “tragic number”, the combination of points Wheeling earns and Worcester fails to gain, falls to 15. If that number hits zero, Worcester is officially eliminated from the playoff hunt. If the number ends at one it would go to a tiebreaker between the Nailers and Railers. The tie-breakers is regulation/overtime wins, and Wheeling has the edge over Worcester. Worcester has two games in hand over the Wheeling. According to Sports Club Stats, the chance the Railers make the ECHL playoffs is now approximately 22.5%.
The three stars of the game were
1) Adam Morrison (Wheeling #29) win, 28 saves
2) Chris Francis (Wheeling #15) shootout game winner
3) Mitch Gillam (Railers #35) 33 saves
The TWIW Player of the Game is Mitch Gillam.
Even Strength Lines
Saracino / Kubiak / Almeida
Randolph / Lane / Gaudreau
DiChiara / Syner/ Hudson
Masella / Cornell
Doherty / Hamonic
McKenzie / McArdle
Worcester 0 0 0 0 – 0
Wheeling 0 0 0 0 – 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Cornell Wor (boarding), 9:22; Bourbonnais Whl (slashing), 10:39; Saracino Wor (delay of game), 12:56.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Doherty Wor (roughing), 7:27.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Gardiner Whl (tripping), 11:51; Abt Whl (delay of game), 19:08.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Worcester 0 (Lane NG, DiChiara NG, Randolph NG, Syner NG), Wheeling 1 (Gardiner NG, Brown NG, Wydo NG, Francis G).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 5-7-12-4-0-28. Wheeling 9-16-4-4-1-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 3; Wheeling 0 / 3.
Goalies-Worcester, Gillam 17-13-0-2 (33 shots-33 saves). Wheeling, Morrison 15-12-2-0 (28 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Sean Fernandez (21).
Linesmen-Jake Davis (91), Zach Roberts (84).