By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER – It is not quite the NBA for the Railers this season.
Fans can’t show up for just the last two minutes of a game, or turn on the TV to see the final 120 seconds. However, if their ticket holders don’t arrive until the start of the last 20 minutes, they may not have missed much.
Take their 3-1 victory over Trois-Rivieres Friday night, for example.
Worcester started slowly and trailed, 1-0, heading into the third period. Anthony Repaci finally tied it 1:27 into those final 20 minutes but overtime loomed with less than two minutes to play.
Joey Cipollone changed all that with an unassisted goal at 18:34. Ashton Calder clinched it with an empty netter one second before the final horn.
The Railers have scored 61 goals through 24 games. Thirty of those 61 have come in either the third period or overtime, 31 in the year’s other 48 periods.
“I really can’t explain that, honestly,” coach Jordan Smotherman said, “but we seem to be a momentum team. As we build it, we start to feel what’s happening as we go. I’d rather be the team that scores more in the third period.”
Anthony Beauregard scored a power play goal at 9:08 of the the first period to give the visitors the lead. At that point in the game Trois-Rivieres had a 9-1 edge in shots on goal. Worcester outshot the Lions, 34-12, the rest of the way.
Repaci’s goal happened when he put himself in the right place at the right time, just outside the right post. The puck filtered through a tangle of skates to Repaci and Lions goalie Joe Vrbetic had no chance. Anthony Callin and John Copeland assisted on the goal with Copeland picking up his first point as a professional.
Cipollone took advantage of a turnover in the Trois-Rivieres zone and sliced through the defense into the right circle, then zipped a shot past Vrebetic into the far side.
It seemed like a bang-bang play, but really was not.
“I actually aimed it — who would have thought,” he said. “I knew the goalie was cheating one way and I tried to shoot it the other way, low.”
After going his first 18 pro games without a goal, Cipollone has scored on back to back nights. He has gotten more involved in the offense as his ice time has increased.
“He’s earning it,” Smotherman said. “That’s the reason we’re putting him out there. That was the big message this week, that we were going to start holding our bench accountable and we were gonna start playing the guys as they were going. He had a heck of a game tonight along with a number of other guys.”
Henrik Tikkanen has had busier nights in net this season but this was one of his best. It was a quality night as opposed to quantity.
“That’s what we need out of him,” Smotherman said. “We try to keep the games as low-event as possible, but when we do give up a big one we need him to make a big save and he did that tonight.”
Considering how close the outcome was, any number of saves could be considered crucial. Most crucial, though was probably Tikkanen’s stop on Jakov Novak’s 4 on 4 breakaway midway through the second period. That kept it a one-goal game and gave the Railers a chance to turn the score around.
MAKING TRACKS – Trois-Rivieres, which was red hot to start the season, is 3-11-1 in its last 15 games. … Worcester plays host to the Maine Mariners at 5:05 Saturday afternoon then go on Christmas break. Their first game back is also versus Maine at the DCU Center, next Wednesday at 5:05. … Tristan Lennox is on the injured list after getting hurt last week in Reading. His return is uncertain at this time. … Worcester has signed accomplished veteran John Muse to replace Lennox and Muse should see action perhaps as soon as next week. … Highly regarded rookie wing Daylan Kuefler made his DCU Center debut. Kuefler made his pro debut on the recent road trip and is the fifth Railer to play his first professional game this season. … Reece Newkirk, who played in both games on the road trip, has gone back to Bridgeport. … Beauregard’s goal was the 1,200th allowed by the Railers in their history. … The Three Stars were Cipollone, Repaci and Tikkanen in that order. It was just the third Three Stars sweep of the season for Worcester.