By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER – It wasn’t that the Railers ran out gas Sunday afternoon so much as they never had any in their 3-0 loss to the Norfolk Admirals.
Both teams were on the last leg of one of those dreaded 3 in 3 weekends, but the Admirals played it smarter than Worcester. Norfolk followed the script by jumping out to an early lead and keeping things under control the rest of the way.
It helped that the Admirals got admirable goaltending from Kristian Stead. He made 25 saves to record his first career ECHL shutout in his 11th ECHL game. It was Norfolk’s second shutout of the season over Worcester. Thomas Milic beat the Railers, 4-0, on October 29. The game marked the third time this season Worcester has been whitewashed.
Brandon Osmundson, Denis Smirnov and Andrew McLean scored the game’s goals. McLean’s went into an empty net at 19:15 of the third period.
It was a very good goaltending game overall as Josh Boyko was excellent in the Railers net. He stopped 32 of 34 shots and kept it winnable.
“I thought he played really well,” coach Jordan Smotherman said. “He made some great saves…I was really happy with his game.”
“Playing from behind three nights in a row; you just can’t do that to yourself,” Smotherman said.
Although Norfolk had 34-25 edge in shots, the teams had about the same number of great chances. Worcester had two breakaways in the first period. Railers players hit iron twice later on. John Copeland hit a post, Anthony Callin a crossbar.
The breakaways were by Worcester’s two top scorers, Ashton Calder and Anthony Repaci. Both players made good moves. Stead made two good saves.
In contrast, when Norfolk scored at 4:57 of the first period to go ahead, 1-0, Osmundson’s shot went post to post and in, hitting the right one first.
“Over the course of a three-game weekend,” Smotherman said, “you’re not always gonna get the bounces and you can’t rely on them.”
The Admirals finished that period with a 14-4 edge in shots on goal. For the weekend, Worcester was outshot by 38-17 in the three first periods.
Smirnov doubled his team’s lead early in the second period, scoring at 2:29. Danny Katic set up his teammate with a great pass from the right boards. Smirnov was just outside left post and had an easy re-direct from there.
The Railers lineup included familiar face Blake Jenkins, back from his brief time on the Hartford roster, and unfamiliar face Ryan Dickinson. The rookie defenseman made his professional debut as Zsombar Garat got a break. He had played in 32 of the season’s first 34 games.
MAKING TRACKS – The Railers will spend next weekend in Fort Wayne, one of the great cities in minor league hockey history. They play a 3 in 3 versus the Komets in their first visit there ever. The teams have met three times before, all at the DCU Center. Worcester leads the series, 2-1-0. The Railers’ next home game is Jan. 26, once again versus Norfolk, and once again part of a 3 in 3 weekend. … The league employed tandem referees. Jack Young made his first-ever appearance at the DCU Center and did his second Railers game ever. Veteran Casey Terreri did his 21st Railers game overall, 17th in Worcester.