The Worcester Railers took on the Manchester Monarchs in a Black Friday match-up between the ECHL North Division rivals at the DCU Center looking to extend their points streak to five games and end their home stand on an up note.
It took just 78 seconds for Worcester to find themselves on the wrong end of the score when Nic Pierog jumped on a loose puck and surprised Railers goaltender Evan Buitenhuis with a low shot that beat him five-hole for the unassisted goal.
During the rest of the opening period and for the first half of the second Worcester peppered Monarchs netminder Cole Kehler with decent chances but the pro rookie with an NHL contract to his credit stood tall and kept the Railers off the board until Barry Almeida fired a one-timer from the slot that beat Kehler clean at 9:18 of the second.
Tyler Barnes was set up behind the net and threw a nice pass right on the stick of Almeida, who ripped it past Kehler before the goaltender could react. Ryan Hitchcock had the secondary assist on the play.
The score didn’t stay knotted long as at 16:10 of the frame Pierog grabbed his second of the contest with a rush down the left wing side. His shot appeared to hit the stick of Worcester defenseman Mike Cornell and deflect over the shoulder of Buitenhuis on the stick side. Chris Carlisle was credited with the assist.
To the third period the teams went, and once again it was Almeida getting the Railers back to even when he attempted to throw a pass across the Manchester goalmouth. His teammates in front couldn’t get a stick on it, which proved to be a good thing as the puck slid across the ice and just inside the far post at 4:03. Hitchcock and Barnes had the helpers on that goal too.
The Monarchs retook the lead at 6:47 on a goal where Worcester got lucky twice, but as they say three strikes and you’re out. While on an odd man rush Manchester winger Joe Sullivan rang one off the post to the left of Buitenhuis. The puck caromed to the left wing side, where Jack Nevins fired it back on net only to hit the iron to the right of Buitenhuis.
The puck the bounded right to Cory Ward, who buried it into the yawning net for the go ahead goal. Zeb Knutson then put the game out of reach at 10:34 with a rocket from the left wing circle that made it the 4-2 final.
Worcester will use Saturday, their first off of three in a row for the team, to travel to Brampton, Ontario for a pair with the Beast. Sunday’s contest is at 2pm and Tuesday the two squads will meet for a morning game with puck drop scheduled for 11am.
Scratches for the Railers were Malcolm Gould (14-day IR/upper), Tommy Kelley (14-day IR/upper), Ryan MacKinnon, Yanick Turcotte (14-day IR/lower), and Alex Vanier. Mitch Gillam was the back-up goaltender. Earlier this week goaltender Charlie Millen was released, which all but confirmed that Gillam would be activated from injured reserve. Gillam was then activated on Thursday. After Friday night’s game Ryan Hitchcock was recalled to Bridgeport.
Tuesday morning Ivan Kosorenkov was recalled to the San Jose Barracuda. Kosorenkov is still not eligible to go to Canada because of immigration issues, but according to the Railers this should be the last trip up north that he’ll miss with the team. He did not play in the Barracuda’s 4-3 OT loss to the Colorado Eagles.
Despite playing home games just an hour away from Worcester the Monarchs have no central Massachusetts connections to their team, although you could stretch that meaning and say David Kolomatis was a thorn in the side of the WorSharks for many years. They do have two players with hometowns in the Bay State, with winger Michael Doherty being from Reading and center Joe Pendenza hailing from Wilmington. For the Railers Austin Block spent a half-season with Manchester in 2015-16, going 3-9-12 in 40 games, and Tommy Kelley had a brief stint with the Monarchs last season.
It was a tough night for Railers broadcaster Eric Lundquist as Worcester was wearing Black Panther specialty jerseys as part of the ECHL’s agreement with Marvel Comics. While the jerseys were sharp looking the arm numbers were tough to spot from a distance. It wasn’t an issue for Monarchs play by play man Parker Wheeler, who for some reason did not broadcast the game. Lundquist is going to have another difficult game Sunday in Brampton as the Beast will be wearing Harry Potter themed jerseys, and the pictures make it seem the shoulder numbers on those sweaters will be hard to read also.
In all the years that the Railers and Monarchs have played in the same league this is the second latest into a campaign that Manchester has visited the DCU Center. The latest was year two of the Worcester Sharks when their first meeting in the city was on December 7th, 2007.
There was an interesting incident in the third period when one of the Worcester defensemen flipped the puck high out of the zone, where it struck the Daktronics board. While referee Jeff Parker did not call a penalty by the rules he could have. ECHL Rule 63.2 says, in part, “The determining factor shall be the position of the puck when it was shot or batted by the offending player. If contact with the puck occurs while the puck is inside the defending zone and subsequently goes out of play, the minor penalty shall be assessed.” The Daktronics board is out of play, so a penalty could have been assessed. In fact, years ago when the WorSharks played in Springfield they were called for that exact infraction. So it’s rare that it’s called, but it’s within the referees discretion to call it.
It was Friday morning when this writer realized he didn’t add the “Railers Player of the Week” poll to the Railers Fan Club Facebook group, so we’ll pretend that it was there and name Ivan Kosorenkov the winner with three goals and an assist in the four game in five day stretch. Mike Cornell (goal, three assists) and Matty Gaudreau (two goals, three assists) would have been the other two finalists.
The three stars of the game were
1) MAN – 31 Cole Kehler
2) WOR – 19 Barry Almeida
3) MAN – 61 Nic Pierog
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Ryan Hitchcock.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Gaudreau / Sorkin / Bligh
Holmstrom / Willick / Hudson
McKenzie / Cornell
Mueller / Quenneville
Doherty / Panico
Manchester 1 1 2 – 4
Worcester 0 1 1 – 2
1st Period-1, Manchester, Pierog 7 1:18. Penalties-Hudson Wor (interference), 3:22; served by Barnes Wor (bench – too many men), 5:11; served by Knutson Man (bench – too many men), 8:15; Schurhamer Man (fighting – major), 10:32; Doherty Wor (fighting – major), 10:32; Quenneville Wor (interference on the goalkeeper), 10:32; Doherty Man (high-sticking), 15:22.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Almeida 5 (Barnes, Hitchcock), 9:18. 3, Manchester, Pierog 8 (Carlisle), 16:10. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period-4, Worcester, Almeida 6 (Hitchcock, Barnes), 4:03. 5, Manchester, Ward 2 (Nevins, Sullivan), 6:47. 6, Manchester, Knutson 3 (Walsh), 10:34. Penalties-Marcinew Man (slashing), 10:51; Walsh Man (cross-checking), 16:22; Cornell Wor (slashing), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Manchester 6-9-9-24. Worcester 11-15-11-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Manchester 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 4.
Goalies-Manchester, Kehler 1-1-0-0 (37 shots-35 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 4-4-1-0 (24 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Jeff Parker (22).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (38), Sam Schildkraut (86).