By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER – For the average hockey coach this was one of those firing squad games.
“Yes, I’d like a blindfold, please.”
The Railers won it, 6-3. They beat the Norfolk Admirals on a night where they were outshot by 36-21, a margin that was a good barometer of who outplayed whom. Much of the time, especially in the first 30 minutes, things were completely out of control and it looked like the teams might finish with an NBA score.
“We didn’t play well,” coach Jordan Smotherman said. “We were soft on pucks and at times it looked like boys against men. That’s not a sustainable way to play hockey games. That’s for sure.”
Simply put, Worcester out-goaltended Norfolk.
Ken Appleby, playing for his third team in his third league this season, stopped 33 shots to get the win. Appleby looked a trifle rusty at first but did not allow a goal for essentially the game’s final 37 minutes with Norfolk applying pressure much of the time.
“Once he settled in he played very well, he was fantastic,” Smotherman said. “It’s obviously a very interesting situation for him. He spent some time in the NHL, he’s had some good games in the American League, so this is a weird assignment for him, I’m sure.
“I think he’s the reason we won that game.”
The Admirals used two goaltenders, Yaniv Perets and Kristian Stead. Perets started and allowed three goals on seven shots. Stead took over after 1:20 of the second period and stopped 11 of 13 shots.
The six goals tied Worcester’s season high. The Railers got two goals from Anthony Repaci and one each from Andrei Bakanov, Zach White, Daylan Kueffler and Trevor Cosgrove. Appleby, Kueffler and Cosgrove were all loaned back here by Bridgeport during the week and had major roles in the victory.
Mark Liwiski, Brandon Osmundson and Danny Katic scored for Norfolk.
Anthony Callin led the Railers’ point scorers with three assists. White and Cosgrove were both 1-1-2, and Jason Cipollone had a pair of assists.
Bakanov converted a splendid pass from Brian Bowen to give Worcester the lead at 2:16 of the first period then Liwiski tied it on a wraparound at 4:45. Repaci got the lead back from his team at 9:46 and it was 2-1 after 20 minutes.
It could easily have been tied but Appleby made a double save on Stepan Timofeyev’s breakaway at 17:49.
Repaci’s goal from a bad angle at 1:20 of the second period made it 3-1 and brought Stead into the game, but Norfolk scored at 3:05 and 6:41 to tie it up. White deflected Keeghan Howdeshell’s shot for a power play goal at 8:19 then Kuefler scored on a power play rebound at 9:01.
That was almost it. Cosgrove hit an empty net with two seconds left in the third period.
Repaci’s two goals lifted his career total to 64, moving him ahead of the Sharks’ John McCarthy and the IceCats’ Jame Pollock into fourth place on the all-time Worcester pro list. Next up is Justin Papineau of the IceCats with 66 goals.
Callin has been piling up points, especially assists, in recent games. He is 3-9-12 in the last nine. Cosgrove’s goal was the second-latest regulation goal in franchise history; he assisted on the latest one, scored by Ashton Calder at 19:59 of the third period last Dec. 22.
With Friday night’s appearance, Appleby became the first Railer to play in the NHL both before and after he was with Worcester, the first one to play for all three Islanders affiliates in the same season and the first goaltender to play for the Railers in three different seasons.
MAKING TRACKS – The teams play again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. It will be Star Wars Night and include a visit from former WooSox fan favorite Ryan Fitzgerald. He will drop the first puck and sign autographs after the first period. … Bowen’s assist set a Railers record for longest time between points. His last previous point for Worcester was an assist on March 2, 2018. That was a span of 2,130 days. Bowen had played for nine different teams between then and now. … The Railers had six players sitting out, four on injured reserve. Those not in uniform included Christian Krygier, Jake Pivonka, Todd Goehring, Ryan Dickinson, Tristan Lennox and John Copeland. … Worcester traded goalie Josh Boyko to Atlanta for cash considerations, opening a roster spot for Appleby. … The referee was Hunter Mottinger, working a Railers game for the first time ever. … Attendance was 2,934. … Worcester’s all-time record when one of its players has a multi-goal game is 74-16-8.