By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER – The Railers missed the playoffs by a point in each of the last two seasons, so every point counts.
They earned one here Friday night but it did not feel like anything positive. Worcester blew a three-goal lead in the third period and lost in overtime to the Maine Mariners, 5-4.
The result marked merely the fourth time in team history the Railers had a three-goal lead and lost. Two of those games have come against the Mariners.
Riley Piercey’s goal 59 seconds into the third period gave Worcester a 4-1 lead. It was still 4-1 with only 13 minutes to play. Maine scored at 7:06, 15:39 and 18:41 to tie it. Ryan Mast got the winner at 3:08 of overtime.
The questions coach Jordan Smotherman faced included — How could a game change so drastically? Can you put a finger on it?
“Not that I’m allowed to say without getting fined,” was his response.
Smotherman was probably referring to two non-calls by referee Yannick Jobin-Manseau in that third period.
Maine’s William Provost scored into a wide-open net to make it 4-2 at 7:06. The net was wide open because goalie John Muse had been knocked down by a Mariner at the top of the crease. Jobin-Manseau reviewed the play and told Smotherman that Muse was out of the crease when contact was made.
After that, Wyllum Deveaux scored twice. He made it 4-3 on a breakaway at 15:39, then tied it at 18:41 on a goal that Worcester officials believed was scored with seven men on the ice. A look at the replay confirmed that. The Mariners player in question was in front of the Railers bench.
Jobin-Manseau told the team that player was close to the Maine bench.
Worcester built its lead on goals by Jake Pivonka, Ashton Calder, Anthony Callin and Piercey. They were sandwiched around Kile’s shortie, which was the result of a breakaway. He put in the rebound of Austin Albrecht’s shot.
Deveaux’ first goal came via a clean breakaway. Mast put in the rebound of his breakaway.
That meant three Maine goal were the result of breakaways.
“Any time you give up a breakaway, it’s a breakdown,” Smotherman said. “It means they got a guy behind you and it’s something we stressed in the third period, that they were gonna have to try to stretch guys behind us. Unfortunately, we lost count and that seems to be a common theme.”
Pivonka and Calder paced Worcester offfensively with a goal and two assists apiece. Piercey had one of each and Anthony Callin had the other Railers goal.
Maine goaltender Kyle Keyser had a very busy night. He stopped 34 of 38 Railers shots. Muse made 19 saves.
The Railers remain in fourth place in the North Division with 46 points. They are four behind Newfoundland, which won Friday night and three ahead of the fifth-place Mariners, who have 43 points.
Worcester has earned five of a possible six points in its last three games, a good percentage, but not as good as it should be. In the tight North Division race, every point counts. The Railers hope the point they got Friday night helps them into the post-season, as opposed to what the one they didn’t get might do.
MAKING TRACKS – The teams play again at 7:05 Saturday night. It will be Worcester’s last home game of the month. … Blade Jenkins did not score but picked up an assist to extend his points streak to eight games. He is 11-5-16 during the streak. Jenkins’ 20th goal, scored Saturday in Trois-Rivieres, made him the ninth 20-goal man in Railers history. Jenkins got there in 43 games, tied with Nic Pierog for second-quickest ever. Smotherman holds the team mark with 20 goals in 37 games. … Zsombar Garat, Andrei Bakanov, John Copeland, Zach White and Tristan Lennox all were not in uniform. New goalie Cole Ceci dressed as Muse’s backup. … Attendance was 3,121.