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Railers School Mariners in School Day Game

Tuesday, March 5th
Railers School Mariners in School Day Game

By Bill Ballou

PORTLAND, Maine – Here’s the thing about great goaltending.

Having it doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, but not having it guarantees you won’t.

Another terrific performance by veteran John Muse led the Railers to one of their most compelling, and timely, victories of the season here Tuesday. Worcester beat Maine, 2-1, with Muse stopping 29 shots. He was particularly good in the third period when the Mariners pressed, and pulled goaltender Brad Arvanitis while having a power play.

With Muse in net, the Railers have a chance to win virtually every game. “He played really well,” coach Jordan Smotherman said of Muse. “He’s so quiet and calm.”

With the Worcester roster essentially being half rookies, the veteran presence coming down the stretch will be big.

“They didn’t play like rookies this morning,” Smotherman said of his roster.

The Railers got goals from Zach White and Jake Pivonka. Owen Pederson scored for Maine.

The triumph allowed Worcester to increase its points total to 54, fourth in the North Division. The Railers lead Reading by three points, Maine by four. All three teams have played 54 games.

This one had a definite playoff feel to it.

“I think the rest of the way, it’s going to be like that,” Smotherman said.

Worcester played extremely well from start to finish, but the finish was an artery-clogger, at least from the Railers standpoint.

Maine pulled Arvanitis with more than two minutes to go and Worcester did a good job limiting the Mariners’ chances. Then, at 19:04, Trevor Cosgrove was called for delay of the game, which provided Maine with a two-man advantage.

That was, by the way, the second DOG penalty of the game on the Railers and their fifth in the last two games.

Worcester did a good job killing the penalty until Maine’s Jimmy Lambert was called for hooking at 19:54, ending any hope the Mariners had of tying it up.

Worcester opened the game strongly and successfully as White put his team ahead only 35 seconds after the opening faceoff. He scored from the top of the crease after Andrei Bakanov shoveled the puck out from behind the net.

The goal was the earliest to start a Railers game this season and the second in two games for White, who has eight. That was the first shot of the period for Worcester. Arvanitis stopped the next 16 in a row as the Railers outshot Maine, 17-11.

The Mariners tied it at 10:49 on Pederson’s goal. He controlled the puck at the bottom of the right circle and slid it behind Muse after two nifty stickhandling moves.

Worcester could easily have had a 3-0 lead before that, though.

At 2:55, Jack Quinlivan and Keeghan Howdeshell broke free for a 2-on-0 break that began in the neutral zone. They traded passes and Quinlivan got off a wrist shot from the right circle that Arvanitis blocked.

At 8:40, Bakanov had a solo breakaway and zipped down the slot. He unloaded a hard wrist shot from between the circles that creamed the left post. It was one of those Liberty Bell shots — Let Freedom Ring — but it detoured away from the goal, not in.

The Railers capitalized on an odd-man rush in the second period to take a 2-1 lead at 7:28. Reece Newkirk carried the puck down the left wing and hit Pivonka with a perfect pass as he came down the middle. Pivonka’s snap shot from about 18 feet gave Arvanitis no chance.

Newkirk’s presence has helped Worcester compensate for the absence of its three top goal scorers — Blade Jenkins, Anthony Repaci and Ashton Calder. He has six points in seven games for the Railers this season.

“It’s huge,” Smotherman said of Newkirk’s presence. “He’s so fast, he brings that element to the game, he’s so skilled with the puck, he’s brings something to the game that we haven’t had, and there are new things to his game that he’s showed us this year.

“He also brings an energy to us. He’s happy to be here. He really wants to play.”

Fresh from one of their best road performances of the season, the Railers will head to Quebec for two games at Trois-Rivieres this weekend. It has been a good destination for them through the years. Worcester’s record at T-R is 6-3-1.

MAKING TRACKS – Five of White’s eight goals have come in the first period. … With the game being a breakfast buffet, the Railers got into town Monday night, not Tuesday morning, and it showed in their effort level. … It was a noisy morning with school kids in for the game. Attendance was 5,451. … Newkirk’s assist gave him 70 career points for Worcester. He is tied with Jacob Hayhurst for fifth all-time in that department. … The season is three-quarters over. The Railers were 8-9-1 in the third quarter. … Worcester teams have historically struggled at Cross Arena but the Railers are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games here. … Unofficially, the Railers have lost 161 games to injury so far this season.


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