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Railers Fall 5-1 in St. Patrick's Day Celebration

Saturday, March 16th
Railers Fall 5-1 in St. Patrick's Day Celebration

By Bill Ballou

WORCESTER – Worcester was beaten, 5-1, by the Adirondack Thunder even though it outshot the visitors by 40-26.

The Railers have scored exactly one goal in four straight games on a total of 148 shots on goal. This is the third time in franchise history a Worcester team has scored one or fewer goals four straight times, the first time since Feb. 27 through March 3, 2022.

The Railers had two goals in that stretch.

“I’m sure that’s part of it,” coach Jordan Smotherman said of the confidence factor. “Any time you put together (148) shots over four games and score four goals, guys start gripping the sticks and there’s definitely a letdown every time you have that big chance and it doesn’t go in.”

Jake Pivonka had the Railers goal. Grant Jozefek, Andre Ghantous, Ryan Smith, Shane Harper and Mike Gillespie scored for the Thunder. Gillespie hit an empty net.

For the first time this season Smotherman changed goalies not because of injury. John Muse allowed four goals on 16 shots and was replaced by Cole Ceci at 17:09 of the second period.

“We’ve asked a lot of him,” Smotherman said of Muse. “Especially seeing that he’s 35 years old. I couldn’t imagine doing that. He wanted to play tonight. He wanted to fight to give us a chance to win. We know that the next time he’s in there he’s gonna be the giant we’ve come to know.”

With the defeat, the Railers have dropped into sixth place in the North Division, at least in terms of winning percentage. In terms of points, though, Worcester is remarkably tied with three other teams for the final playoff spot.

The Railers, Reading, Maine and Trois-Rivieres all have 57. Maine and Trois-Rivieres have winning percentages of .491. Reading is at .475.

Newfoundland is in third place with a .517 winning percentage, so the Growlers are in the playoff scrum, too.

“I told our guys — we’re in a 13-game push. There are four teams with 57 points, one with 62 that’s played a couple more games. We play all of them, so it’s up to us. The ball’s in our court.”

The winning goaltender was Vinnie Purpura. He was the last man the Railers wanted to see as they battle an offensive slump. The triumph improved his record against Worcester this season to 5-0-1 with a 1.91 goals against average and .935 saves percentage.

Worcester outshot the Thunder, 9-1, through the game’s first seven minutes and dominated play, but had nothing to show for it. Thus, Adirondack scored the first goal and took a 1-0 lead at 16:09.

Jozefek, a former Railer, snapped one home from the right circle.

Pivonka tied it late in the period as he converted a pass from Ashton Calder at 18:21. That could have translated into some momentum for Worcester heading into the second period, but did not.

Ghantous, newly signed out of Northern Michigan, got his first pro goal at 3:15. He put one under the crossbar from 20 feet. Smith scored similarly at 4:33 on a power play, then Harper beat Muse from the top of the left circle at 17:09 to end the veteran’s night.

The Railers’ next four games are on the road. They play at Adirondack Wednesday night, then do a three-in-three weekend in Reading. The next game at the DCU Center is March 27 versus Newfoundland.

MAKING TRACKS – Attendance was 5,017. It was the Railers’ seventh crowd of the year better than 5,000. They are 4-2-1 in those games. Worcester has averaged 4,561 for its last six games at the DCU Center. … Purpura is a southpaw goalie, catching with his right hand. Railers teams are 7-15-1 against southpaws through the years. … Ryan Verrier returned to the lineup after missing 12 games due to injury. He took Christian Krygier’s place on defense. … Blade Jenkins was recalled by Hartford and Jake Goldowki and Joey Cipollone did not dress for the Railers. … Adirondack also had a goal called back because the play was offside. That happened at 10:22 of the first period.


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