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Worcester Stuns Growlers 3-2 on Friday Night

Friday, March 29th
Worcester Stuns Growlers 3-2 on Friday Night

By Bill Ballou

WORCESTER – For much of the season they have been the late Worcester Railers, and because of that their playoff hopes are alive and well.

Down by 2-0 early in the third period, Worcester exploded for three goals in a span of 8:47 to post a critical 3-2 victory over the Newfoundland Growlers Friday night.

It was, quite simply, one of the best games of this season and one of the best at the DCU Center since the team came to town in 2017.

The Railers have beaten the Growlers twice in a row by scores of 5-2 and 3-2. They have outscored Newfoundland in the two third periods by 7-0.

“We’ve asked these guys a number of times going into the third period to dig a little deeper and find something, and tonight they did it again. We have an extra gear. It (ticks) me off that we continually reserve it to the end of the game, but we use it as we use it.”

The goal scorers were Anthony Callin at 4:57, Blade Jenkins at 11:45 and Reece Newkirk at 13:44. Callin cut the Growlers lead to 2-1 as he slam-dunked a pass from Jenkins.

The other two goals might not have happened after that if not for one of the season’s most crucial saves by John Muse. It was a 2-1 score with Worcester on a power play that started at 10:13. A minute into it the Growlers broke free with a 2 on 1. Muse calmly stood his ground and made a blocker save to keep it a one-goal game.

Jenkins then popped home a rebound after the Railers took the puck down ice on the power play and tied the game at 11:45. Newkirk snapped a 15-footer past Newfoundland goalie Dryden McKay at 13:44 and that was the final score, although there was a lot of anxiety involved to get to the final buzzer.

Muse, the oldest goaltender in the ECHL at 35 and the oldest ever to play for the Railers, has made it possible for Worcester to stay in playoff contention. 

“He is a difference maker,” Smotherman said.

Newfoundland built its early lead on the strength of goals by Grant Cruikshank, his 20th, and Zach O’Brien, his 21st. Cruikshank scored at 1:17 of the first period, O’Brien at 9:20 of the second.

Norfolk and Adirondack both won Friday night. The Thunder beat Reading, which helps the Railers. Trois-Rivieres beat Maine, so the Lions and Railers are tied for third and fourth places with 66 points.

TR has a game in hand, so a better winning percentage. Worcester has a five-game points streak going, earning nine of a possible 10 along the way.

Bridgeport sent Newkirk down before the game as a reinforcement and, as always, he was a factor. He was 1-1-2 and plus-2. In five games this month Newkirk is 4-2-6. A third-year pro, Newkirk skates with the same bounce in his step as he did as a rookie.

“He just loves to play,” Smotherman said.

And the Railers love having him on the roster.

MAKING TRACKS – Jenkins’ goal was the 30th of his Railers career. He is tied with Smotherman for sixth on the all-time list. Thirteen of Jenkins’ 30 goals have come against Canadian teams. … The teams close out their season series with a game at 7:05 Saturday night. … Henrik Tikkanen was out sick so Joe Spagnoli served as the Railers emergency backup goaltender. Zach White, very hot of late, was also too sick to suit up. … Attendance was 3,052. … O’Brien’s goal was the 141st of his ECHL career, his 180th including AHL games. … The night had a hint of nostalgia to it. Mason Klee’s father, Ken, played against the IceCats when he was with the Portland Pirates. Ken Klee scored one goal against Worcester. It was part of a 7-0 Portland triumph on Oct. 22, 1994. That game marked Terry Virtue’s debut for the IceCats. Growlers defenseman Nathan Staios is the son of IceCats defenseman Steve Staios, current president of the Ottawa Senators. The Sharks were representedy by Brad Staubitz, taking things in from the stands. … McKay’s all-time record versus Worcester fell to 1-4-0 in six appearances.


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