By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER – The Trois-Rivieres Lions of this season may be the Worcester Railers of last season, even though it’s a bit early to make any predictions.
The Lions improved their record to 3-0-0 with a 4-1 victory over the Railers Sunday afternoon. Trois-Rivieres, which had never begun a season 2-0 in franchise history, is a third of the way to Worcester’s record-setting start of 9-0-0 last year.
As they have discovered the last two years, every point counts in the playoff race and the Railers seemed well-positioned to pick up two more Sunday. The Lions were playing their third game in three days while the Railers were playing their second in two.
Beyond that, the Trois-Rivieres goaltender was Zachary Bouthillier, who had faced Worcester three times previously in his career and posted an 8.31 goals-against average and .756 saves percentage.
Sunday, Bouthillier was excellent. He stopped 30 of 31 Railers shots. He was supported by four teammates’ goals. Justin Ducharme, Matthew Boucher, Jakov Novak and Cedric Montminy had them.
Anthony Repaci scored for Worcester.
The Railers net was manned by Tristan Lennox, making his first professional start and first appearance as an adult. Lennox turned 21 Saturday. Between them, Lennox and Henrik Tikkanen are 43 years old. Two games into the season, though, Worcester’s goaltending has been very good.
Lennox stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced. Montminy’s goal was into an empty net.
“Excellent,” coach Jordan Smotherman said, “no doubt about it he was solid. He made some big saves for us.”
Three of the game’s goals came on special teams. Trois-Rivieres scored shorthanded and on the power play. Repaci’s goal was shorthanded. Two games is not a large sample size, but in those two games Worcester is 0 for 8 on the power play and has allowed two shorthanded goals. Sunday the Railers were 0 for 5 with the man advantage.
Repaci’s goal in the second period had cut the Lions’ lead to 2-1. At that point, Worcester had a chance to turn the game’s emotions around, then gave up a goal on the same power play.
“It was a momentum killer,” Smotherman said. “Unfortunately, it’s an error on our part that leads to that goal and we’ve got to stay out of the (penalty) box. It’s on us to tighten up our discipline.”
Fixing the power play will be at the top of the new To Do List.
“We’ll switch things up this week, get some diffeent looks from some different units,” Smotherman said. “We’ll build on it. We’ll be continuing to make adustments.”
A scoreless first period was followed by a scoreful second as the teams combined for four goals from 11:07 through 16:14.
Trois-Rivieres scored first, an unassisted goal by Ducharme with Worcester dealing with a delayed penalty call. The Lions outnumbered the Railers heading into the offensive zone, although that changed quickly. Ducharme was given a lot of room, however, and fired a wrist shot past Lennox from the right circle.
The next goal made it 2-0 and was shorthanded. Boucher converted his own rebound from in close after Lennox had made a fine sprawling save. The goal came at 12:45, then a little more than three minutes later the Railers found themselves killing another penalty.
This time it was Worcester’s turn to score shorthanded and Repaci did it at 15:55. The goal was set up by Blade Jenkins’ play just outside the Lions blue line. He carried the puck into the offensive zone and passed it to Repaci.
His 25-foot wrist shot went in under the crossbar.
That goal had the potential to turn things around for Worcester but did not. Novak scored for Trois-Rivieres merely 19 seconds later, a wrist shot from the left circle, and the Lions had regained their two-goal lead.
After the Railers had failed to convert a power play chance starting at 14:09 of the third period, Montminy made it a three-goal margin 16 seconds after the penalty ended.
MAKING TRACKS – Worcester’s next home game is Nov. 3 versus the Adirondack Thunder, whose players are getting near eligibility to vote in Worcester city elections. In between the Railers travel to Norfolk for three games on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Worcester is 7-1-1 against the Admirals all-time including 3-1-1 in the Commonwealth of Virginia. … Defenseman John Copeland joined Lennox in making his pro debut. Adam Goodsir, Andrei Bakanov, and Artyom Kulakov were each in the lineup, so everyone on Worcester’s active roster has appeared in a game this season. … Attendance was 2,729. … The Railers’ next goal will be the 1,000th in franchise history.