The game was over almost before it began when Albany scored first, just 36 seconds into the game. With their initial momentum broken, the IceCats struggled to bounce back, but were further discouraged when the Rats slipped another goal past Worcester net- minder Wayne Cowley 8 minutes later.
The Cats were desperate for a goal now, and it showed. They played more aggressively in the Rats' zone, determined to make up for the poor defense that had given Albany a 2-0 lead. Finally, about halfway through the period, IceCat center Mark Ouimet rippe d one past Albany goalie Corey Schwab (assisted by left wing Cal McGowan and defenseman Terry Virtue), putting the Cats within one.
There was no time for celebrating, however, when 30 seconds later Albany winger Mike Vukonich beat Cowley once again, bringing the Rats lead back to 2 goals.
Fortunately, a holding penalty on Albany at 15:24 gave Worcester a chance to get back in the game, and IceCat defenseman Roy Mitchell (1995 AHL All-Star player for the Cats) converted on the power-play with an unassisted goal that put the game at 3-2.
Once again, there was no room for congratulations, for with less than a minute left in the first period, Albany converted on a power-play of their own, reclaiming a 2 goal lead before heading to the locker rooms.
Despite a rough first period, the crowd remained faithful and excited. After all, the IceCats dug themselves out of a 3-0 hole to win in overtime against Providence less than a week before and there was no reason it couldn't be done again. With the encour agement of Scratch, the IceCats' mascot, the fans consistently booed down the "Rat's Nest," a group of River Rats fans that massed in one section and tried to distract the Cats with cowbells and jeers.
Unfortunately, the second period proved to be nearly as disastrous as the first and the only activity that Worcester could muster were some fights that resulted in the ejection of IceCat forward Sean Whyte, a valued point scorer. That, coupled with the lo ss of David Haas, who left the team to play in Europe and Shawn Heaphy (a.k.a. Theo Fleury's evil twin), who was out sick, left Worcester's front-line seriously undermanned to deal with the explosive Albany offense.
At the end of the second twenty minutes, the Rats had extended their lead to 6-2, and the Cats returned to the locker room in a pretty tough situation.
The third period started up where the second left off, and mounting frustrations quickly escalated into a slew of minor penalties on both benches and the ejection of three players: IceCats Virtue and Rob Melanson, and River Rat Scott Pellerin.
Somewhere in the middle of all the flying gloves and fists, Worcester left wing Cal McGowan scored the only goal of the period, assisted by right wing Ross Wilson. It was too little too late for the IceCats, however, and at the end of the game the score s tood 6-3, Albany.
The loss puts Worcester's overall record at 12-24-8, last in their division, but only a few points behind the 4th place Springfield Falcons. Still in all, their percentage is 0.364, not too bad for a first year team in the toughest division in the AHL.
Besides, this reporter got his hands on a game puck, so the night wasn't a total loss!