By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER – The Railers dropped a 3-2 shootout to the Adirondack Thunder here Saturday before a loud Teddy Bear Toss crowd of 5,029. While Worcester did not dominate play in this one as much as it did in Friday’s 4-2 triumph, the Railers had more and better chances than the Thunder.
However, Adirondack was 1 for 2 on its power plays, Worcester 0 for 1. This marked the ninth time in 21 games this season the Railers were outscored by the opposition on special teams. Worcester is 2-4-3 in those games.
The Railers did not get a power play until overtime. At 3:08 of the fourth period, something happened that typified the night. A Worcester shot rang off the post, rolled into the back of Thunder goaltender Vinnie Purpura, then bounced back towards the net.
It stopped on the goal line.
Worcester outshot the visitors, 38-28. That included a 21-6 edge in the first period, which ended 1-1 but could have been 5-1.
“Stay the course,” was coach Jordan Smotherman’s advice to his team in the dressing room. “That’s two really good games out of us. We have 80 shots in two nights and we should win both those games. Obviously, we’ll take the three-point weekend but prefer the four.
“There’s a lot to build on.”
The seven-minute overtime was exactly what hockey’s honchos had in mind when they thought up the idea. It was non-stop offense with great goaltending from Worcester’s Tristan Lennox and Purpura, both of whom stopped five shots.
The shootout was the kind of thing hockey’s honchos are trying to avoid. The teams traded slow-motion approaches to the net. Adirondack’s Patrick Grasso had the only goal in eight tries, a 12-foot wrist shot along the ice.
Keeghan Howdeshell and Anthony Repaci had the Railers goals. Worcester never led. Jack Jeffers and Mike Gillespie scored for Adirondack.
Howdeshell’s goal came at 19:07 of the first period. It was set up by a physical play by Riley Piercey along the right boards. Repaci redirected a long pass from the right point by Todd Goehring at 13:33 of the second period.
In the last four games the Railers have outshot the opposition by 160-108 but have been outscored — goalie in the net — by 11-8. Worcester’s shots have not been time-to-change lines softballs, either. The Railers are pummeling opposing goalies.
“It’s the old adage in hockey,” Smotherman said. “If you keep getting the chances they’re gonna go in at some point. I’d rather be getting them than not.”
Saturday night’s game marked the 16th time the Railers and Thunder have met in the last 30 games going back to the end of last season. That ridiculous overload is almost over. The teams play just three more times this year, one of those games next week.
MAKING TRACKS – They have just two games in the next 12 days. Both are on the road. Worcester plays at Reading on Dec. 15, at Adirondack the next night. The Railers’ next game at the DCU Center is Dec. 22, the opener of a three-game homestand. … Ashton Calder leads the team in the Three Stars standings. He has 16 points including two firsts. Lennox is second with 12 points. … Repaci has, through the years, scored eight goals in the last minute of a Railers game. … The Railers have been better finishers than starters through most of the season. That’s reflected in their number of clutch goals — goals scored in the third period of a close game or in overtime. Worcester has 55 goals for the season, 26 of them clutch. Jake Pivonka has seven total goals, five clutch. Calder has five clutch goals, too and three of Andrei Bakanov’s four goals have been clutch. … The city record for earliest Teddy Bear Toss goal is held by Igor Valeev of the IceCats. He scored 35 seconds into the first period on Nov. 30, 2002. Worcester went on to win that game, 11-0, over the Providence Bruins. The Bruins goalies were Tim Thomas and Andrew Raycroft, who wound up with 327 NHL wins between them.