Railers Survive Late Surge, Beat Thunder 4-2
By Bill BallouWORCESTER – Only baseball has doubleheaders, but hockey has the virtual kind and the Railers swept one Friday night with a 4-2 victory over the Adirondack Thunder.The teams are fighting for fourth place — the final playoff spot — in the Northern Division with Worcester in fourth at present. It was a four-point swing in the race. The Railers’ magic number to clinch went from 27 to 23 in a span of 60 hockey minutes.It was a big step towards the post-season, but hardly the final one. The Railers and Thunder have eight games left to play in the regular schedule, some 480 hockey minutes at a minimum.This one certainly had a playoff feel to it.Worcester had a 3-1 lead in the third period and Adirondack coach Pete MacArthur pulled goaltender Brody Claeys with 3:26 to play. It was a good move. Thunder forward Xavier Parent scored at 17:47, his 20th of the season, and Adirondack hit a post a little while later.Things weren’t settled until Anthony Repaci slid one slowly into the vacant net at 19:09.It was Repaci’s second goal of the game. Bobby Butler and Max Johnson had the others for Worcester with Johnson setting up Butler for his. Johnson, a rookie who began the season with Wheeling, has been a welcome addition to the Railers’ lineup and coach Jordan Smotherman has been happy with the newcomer’s play.“He’s a really responsible player,” Smotherman said, “he’s been very reliable for us on the penalty kill and he’s very skilled.”Johnson’s goal came at 7:46 of the third period and made it a 3-1 game. Chris Oordobadi set things in motion with a pass from the left side to Andrei Bakanov at the top of the circle. Bakanov’s shot was deflected home by Johnson.It was Oordobadi’s first point for Worcester in seven games this season and he was a presence all night long.“That’s two games in a row he’s played very, very well for us,” Smotherman said.Repaci’s first goal came 56 seconds after the opening faceoff, then Butler converted Johnson’s pass and beat Claeys with a low shot from about 25 feet out at 11:58. The Railers had several chances to break it open early in the second period but could not convert and Kyle Hallbauer eventually scored for the Thunder at 12:24 to make it a 2-1 game.“That’s something we need to get better at,” Smotherman said. “We get up on a team by one or two goals, we’ve got a power play, we’ve got a chance to bury ‘em there. Instead, we have to grind it out to the end of the game.”The Thunder wound up with a 41-35 edge in shots but once again Ken Appleby was excellent in the Railers net, especially in the third period when he stopped 16 of 17 shots.“He’s been playing really well for us,” Smotherman. “That’s Kenny. He’s a competitor this time of year.”In his last five games Appleby has allowed only nine goals on 153 shots. That figures out to a 1.84 goals against average and .941 saves percentage.Friday night it figured out to a four-point playoff swing for the Railers.MAKING TRACKS – Worcester plays host to the Maine Mariners Sunday at 3:05 p.m. Maine lost to Norfolk Friday night so the Railers picked up some ground on that opponent. The teams play four straight games starting Sunday, so second place remains a possibility for Worcester. … Ryan Vesey and Quin Ryan both returned from the injured list. It was Vesey’s first game since Feb. 4, Ryan’s first game since Feb. 19. Ryan assisted on Repaci’s first goal. … To clear spots on the roster, Conor Breen and Jake Pappalardo were released. … Including Claeys, the Thunder has four ex-Railers on the roster. Grant Jozefek was in the Adirondack lineup but Yanick Turcotte and Ivan Chukarov were not. … Noah Delmas, Zack Bross, Jacob Hayhurst, Jack Quinlivan and Christian Evers did not dress for the Railers. Hayhurst has missed two games after getting “dinged up” but is expected back Sunday. … Claeys is the third goalie to both play for the Railers and against them. Eamon McAdam and Alex Sakellaropoulos are the others. They also played for Adirondack. … Repaci’s early goal was the second of the year for Worcester in the game’s first minute. Nick Fea has the other and the Railers won both games. … Attendance was 2,663. … The teams were a combined 0 for 10 on the power play although many of them were not a full two minutes. … The Thunder had a third-period goal waved off due to a high stick. There was not a lot of arguing about the call.#AllAboutTheW
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