Worcester Railers get the best of tired Thunder, 4-2

Worcester Railers get the best of tired Thunder, 4-2 1

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WORCESTER— After the Worcester Railers (25-22-5-4, 59 points) finished their 7-game (3-4) road trip, dropping two games to the Maine Mariners in either a shootout or overtime, they returned home Sunday afternoon looking for a much-needed win.

The Railers with great puck-possession and superb goaltending down the stretch earned a vital two-points in the North Division ECHL standings, over the second-place Adirondack Thunder with a 4-2 victory.

“We are playing better, but we definitely let a couple of points get away from us up in Maine,” said Worcester Railers head coach and general manager Jamie Russell. “We are looking up at a lot of people, the North Division (ECHL) is really tight and there’s not a lot of margin for error.”

The Railers have 16 games remaining on their schedule with nine of them at home, while trailing the fourth-place Maine Mariners and the last available playoff spot by 5 points.

Worcester needed to come out against the Thunder and try to take advantage of an Adirondack team who was playing their third game in as many days, and the Railers did exactly that on the ice but not on the scoreboard.

“I thought we controlled the first forty minutes— territorially,” Russell said. “We had good (offensive) zone play, we were able to generate a lot of opportunities.”

The Railers outshot the Thunder 11-4 in the first period yet trailed 1-0 after Adirondack’s Peter MacArthur from behind the net found Dylan Walchuk in the crease for the game’s opening goal.

“We came out after the first, we were trailing by one goal, but we stuck with it and we played a real good second (period),” Russell said.

Worcester got on the board with 11:43 left in the second period, when defenseman Mike Cornell was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone and send a shot toward the net.

Worcester maintained the puck through the offensive zone and Yanick Turcotte, who had two vicious hits while forechecking in the Thunder zone, sent a puck toward the net that Bo Brauer was able to get a stick on, as he tipped it home to tie the score at 1-1.

Brauer, who was acquired from Atlanta on December 31st, has continued to impress Russell with his ability around the net.

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Worcester Railers goaltender Mitch Gillum

“(Brauer) is getting a lot of responsibility here,” Russell said. “Each game he seems to get better, he’s big and he consistently wins battles in the corners and he goes to the net —and the kind of goals he gets are screens, tips, and rebounds.”

Worcester went ahead with 9:48 left in the period, as Ryan Hitchcock (11 goals-21 assists-32 points) kept the puck in the offensive zone along the blueline and found Tyler Barnes (23-21-44) in the crease, as the forward calmly went to the backhand and flipped the puck over Thunder’s goalie Logan Thompson’s left pad, for the 2-1 Railers’ advantage.

“There was really good back-pressure, and (Hitchcock) created a turnover and recognized (Barnes) was all alone in front,” Russell said. “(Barnes) made no mistake and buried it and it was a big goal for us.”

Adirondack capitalized late in the second period, drawing a penalty and scoring a questionable power play goal with 18 seconds left to tie the score at 2-2.

Cornell was called for an interference (minor) penalty with less than two minutes left in the period, as the defenseman tried to squash a Thunder rush in transition.

“(Adirondack) is an offensive team, they transition really well,” Russell said. “We didn’t have a good decision to turn the puck over and take a penalty, and they converted on the power play.”

Thunder’s defenseman Colby Sissons, got credit for his first goal of the season, as the puck popped up in the air over Worcester’s goalie Mitch Gillam.

Before Gillam had a chance to make the save, he was knocked down into his own net by a slew of Thunder skaters, yet the goal counted.

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Teammates Ryan Hitchcock (L) and & Nick Sorkin (R) both added goals for the Railers on Sunday

The third period Worcester continued their pressure and was able to get the go-ahead goal for good, when the Railer’s third line and Tommy Kelley found the net with 15:40 remaining in the game.

“Our third line gets the game-winner with a lot of hard work,” Russell said. “(Dylan) Willick, Brauer, and Kelley were able to get the puck in the slot and [finish] it.”

Brauer was credited with the assist as he carried the puck through the slot looking for a shot, a poke check sent the puck backwards to Kelley, who was trailing in the lower slot, as he dropped to his knee, Kelley (2-7-9) finished with a one-timer between Thompson’s pads.

The rest of the period was left for Gillam, as the agile goalie was able to finish the game with 27 saves overall, and none bigger than with 5:35 left in regulation.

Adirondack’s Matt Salhany (13-25-38) transitioned through the heart of the neutral zone and took a breakaway pass as he skated in all alone against Gillam.

Gillam stuffed Salhany with his left pad, allowing the Railers to hold on to their 3-2 lead for the rest of the game.

“That breakaway save was huge,” Russell said. “Obviously, it’s a 3-2 game, and (Salhany) who has a ton of points in this league while (Gillam) makes that save and certainly preserves the win for us.”

The Railer’s Nick Sorkin added an empty netter goal in the final minute as Worcester improved to sixth place in the North Division just two spots behind the Mariners and the final playoff spot.

“We’re battling teams in the North Division from here on out,” Russell said,” and we have the opportunity to earn two-points but also take away two-points against teams we are competing against.”

Worcester will now travel to play Adirondack on March 6th and March 8th before returning home on March 9th to host the Norfolk Admirals at The DCU Center.


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  • Worcester Railers get the best of tired Thunder, 4-2 2

    Tim Davis is a lifelong Massachusetts resident and Westfield State graduate who has served as the sports editor at the Berkshire Record and has freelanced for MassIive, The Wellesley Townsman, and several local Greater Boston publications as well as having worked at The Register-Star in New York as a sports reporter. Tim is also an avid sports photographer and yoga practitioner.