By Bill BallouGLENS FALLS, N.Y. – Somewhere in the weeks following their torrid start this season the Railers developed a couple of bad habits, both of which worked against them in a 4-1 loss to the Adirondack Thunder here Friday night.Worcester always seems to be playing the hottest team in the ECHL, and seems to have a discouraging tendency to give up a goal right after it scores one.In any case, Friday night’s defeat cut the Railers’ lead over the Thunder to five points in the North Division playoff race. Adirondack has two games in hand, so the battle is close to being a tie.With the clock winding down rapidly in the regular season, Adirondack is playing its best hockey of the year. The Thunder is 5-0-2 in its last seven games, earning 12 of a possible 14 points.Adirondack was led offensively by Patrick Grasso. He registered a hat trick with a trio of goals, the last into an empty net, the last one his 30th of the season. Grant Jozefek had the other Thunder goal. He has 17 in 58 games for the Thunder this season after scoring one in 14 games for the Railers last season.Brent Beaudoin had the Worcester goal.Despite the fact that Worcester has gotten some offensive reinforcements in recent days including Steve Jandric Friday night, the Railers are not finding the net. This was not like Wednesday night, though, when coach Jordan Smotherman called his team’s play uninspired.“We played inspired but not smart,” he said. “The guys worked hard but not smart. Ultimately it came down to that we are playing a team that is now playing structured, playing simple and playing hard.”Wednesday night’s meeting between the two teams never really got going, but this one got going instantly and the first period was great hockey. The Railers and Thunder played most of it evenly but Worcester sagged a bit halfway through and Adirondack took advantage to gain the lead.Grasso made it 1-0 with a sniper shot at 12:01. He took a pass from Shane Harper near the top of the right circle and snapped a wrist shot past Henrik Tikkanen just inside the far post.Worcester was outshot, 17-10, but had some good chances that did not result in a shot on goal. One of the Railers’ most active offensive players in that period was defenseman Conor Breen, who went into the night with no points in 15 games.The second period had to be one of the team’s most frustrating 20 minutes of the season. Worcester owned the ice for most the period and skated in the second 10 minutes the way it did during the season’s early weeks when the Railers were the best team in the ECHL.The Thunder had a 12-6 edge in shots on goal and that was probably accurate since the majority of Worcester’s best scoring chances either did not get to the net or went wide. Goalie Jake Theut made two terrific saves to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead. Both were on rookie Anthony Callin.Callin was set up by Anthony Repaci for a clear 20-footer at the bottom of the right circle and went high, but Theut got a shoulder on it. Then, with eight seconds left in the period the Railers worked a classic tic-tac-toe finish to an odd-man rush and Theut smothered Callin’s bid from in close.Beaudoin finally tied the game 4:12 of the third period, set up by Nolan Vesey. It was the redoubtable Beaudoin’s 19th of the year. So much for momentum, though, as Jozefek scored from in close at 4:50 to turn the tide back in Adirondack’s favorGrasso made it 3-1 at 8:03 and got the empty netter at 17:22.Even with what seems like more firepower in uniform, Worcester has scored just five goals in the last nine periods.“We’ve got to learn that we can’t do it by ourselves,” Smotherman said. “Talent doesn’t do it unless you put it together with the other four guys on the ice.”The teams are at again here Saturday night in this pre-playoff series with the Railers needing to turn the race around somehow.MAKING TRACKS – With Jandric and Newkirk on the roster, both Nick Fea and Zack Bross have been released. … Jandric got back his Number 44, so Victor has Number 22. … Worcester’s injured list includes Max Johnson, Jack Quinlivan, Quin Ryan and Christian Evers. … The Railers next game at the DCU Center is Wednesday night versus the Trois-Rivieres Lions. It is the opener of a five-game homestand. … There was a noticeable Worcester presence in the stands with a contingent of Booster Club members making the trip.
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