WORCESTER – The Worcester Railers took on one of the best teams in the ECHL Saturday night when the Fort Wayne Komets visited the DCU Center, and with Wheeling gaining a point in an afternoon overtime loss against Adirondack the Railers needed to earn the victory to improve their playoff chances.
Things didn’t start out so well for Worcester when Fort Wayne converted at 7:44 of the opening period when Shawn Szydlowski rifled one over the glove of Railers goaltender Mitch Gillam after a nice backhand pass by Mason Baptista.
The Railers had a few decent chances in the frame and finally lit the lamp when Nick Saracino broke in down the left wing side and fired a hard wrist shot. Komets netminder Garrett Bartus had a bead on it, but just slightly misplayed the shot as the puck deflected off his glove and in at 17:41. Defensemen Ben Masella and Mike Cornell had secondary assists on the goal.
Worcester took the lead at 1:40 of the second period when Matt Lane ripped a shot from the top of the left wing circle and over the glove of Bartus. Cornell had the assist on the power play goal.
Fort Wayne tied it 2-2 just after the Railers failed to convert on an odd man rush. The Komets broke back the other way and scored when Marcus Basara tipped Curtis Leonard’s shot at 14:10. Louick Marcotte had the second helper.
Fans in attendance knew the next goal would be big, and luckily for Railers fans it belonged to them when Matt Lane scored on a nice bid just 30 seconds into the third period. Nick Saracino and Kyle McKenzie had the assists on the play.
From that point on Worcester went into a shell trying to protect the one goal lead and only rushing the Fort Wayne zone when they had numbers in their favor. Gillam made the saves he needed to as the Railers would hold on for the 3-2 win.
The victory may prove costly for Worcester as late in the second period Railers captain Chris Langkow went down with a leg injury after being checked into the board right at center ice. Langkow had to be helped from the ice by teammates and did not return to action. There was no official word on Langkow’s injury, but Worcester Telegram reporter Bill Ballou tweeted post game that head coach Jamie Russell said “it doesn’t look good”.
Scratches for Worcester were Connor Doherty, Tommy Kelley, and Josh Monk (21-day IR/Upper body). Will King was the back-up goaltender. After Friday’s game Worcester signed forward Jake Randolph from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Randolph had 27 goals and 90 points in 140 NCAA games. Because the Railers were at the roster maximum another transaction was needed to add Randolph to the roster, but no hard choice had to be made as Kyle Schempp was recalled back to Bridgeport Saturday morning. Additionally, defenseman Tommy Panico signed a PTO with the Iowa Wild (AHL). Randolph was listed as a healthy scratch for Saturday.
Sometimes it’s the small things that don’t appear in the box score that turn out to be big plays in the long run. Very early in the first period Mitch Gillam lost his stick and in the ensuing play refused to take defenseman Ben Masella’s stick when offered. Turns out it was Masella, with his stick, that saved the day when he dove and cleared the puck out of the zone.
With it being St Patrick’s Day the Railers wore green commemorative jerseys instead of their usual blue home sweaters. Many of the jerseys were auctioned off during the game to benefit “Be Like Brit”, whose mission is to continue the compassion of Britney Gengel by serving the children of Haiti through sustaining a safe, nurturing home rooted in the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love while developing a sense of social responsibility, community involvement and unconditional love.
In some local news involving Fort Wayne, before Saturday’s game the Komets signed Millbury, Massachusetts native Kevin McKernan to a contract. McKernan, a four year defenseman out of Quinnipiac University, also played for the Boston Jr Bruins in his youth.
With the Wheeling overtime loss and the Worcester win the Railers “tragic number”, the combination of points Wheeling earns and Worcester fails to gain, drops to 18. 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 three games in hand over the Wheeling and plays them once more this season. According to Sports Club Stats, the chance the Railers make the ECHL playoffs is now approximately 25%.
The three stars of the game were
1) Matt Lane (Railers #10), two goals
2) Nick Saracino (Railers #18) goal, assist
3) Mike Cornell (Railers #6) two assists
The TWIW Player of the Game was Ben Masella
Even Strength Lines (before injures)
Saracino / Langkow / Almeida
Gaudreau / Kubiak / Hudson
DiChiara / Lane / Syner
MacKinnon / McKenzie
Masella / Cornell
McArdle / Hamonic
Fort Wayne 1 1 0 – 2
Worcester 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Fort Wayne, Szydlowski 28 (Baptista), 7:44. 2, Worcester, Saracino 10 (Masella, Cornell), 17:41. Penalties-Hudson Wor (tripping), 4:01.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Lane 11 (Cornell), 1:40 (PP). 4, Fort Wayne, Basara 5 (Leonard, Marcotte), 14:10. Penalties-Basara Fw (slashing), 1:12; Maggio Fw (slashing), 4:41; Maggio Fw (fighting – major), 9:47; Turcotte Wor (fighting – major), 9:47; Cortese Fw (slashing), 15:27; Leonard Fw (holding), 18:53; Cornell Wor (boarding), 20:00.
3rd Period-5, Worcester, Lane 12 (Saracino, McKenzie), 0:30. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Fort Wayne 9-9-8-26. Worcester 10-8-5-23.
Power Play Opportunities-Fort Wayne 0 / 2; Worcester 1 / 4.
Goalies-Fort Wayne, Bartus 16-5-0-1 (23 shots-20 saves). Worcester, Gillam 16-13-0-1 (26 shots-24 saves).
Referees-Jesse Gour (24).
Linesmen-Chris Provost (50), Kyle Richtelle (73).