The Worcester Railers and Brampton Beast played their second game of the week Friday night at the DCU Center with the Railers hoping to improve on their 3-2 overtime loss on Wednesday and to get themselves back into the playoff mix for the ECHL’s North Division.
Despite playing each other on Wednesday the first half of the opening period had the look of two teams feeling each other out. Neither seemed to be taking any real chances and as such offensive opportunities were few and far between.
Late in the period Worcester would grab the first goal of the game when Nick Sorkin capitalized on a broken play. Sorkin skated into the Brampton zone down the left wing side and tried to throw a pass over to Josh Holmstrom that was nearly intercepted by Brampton defenseman Matt Petgrave. Holmstrom managed to knock the puck away from Petgrave and it went right back to Sorkin, who beat Brampton goaltender Jake Paterson stick side at 17:58 for the 1-0 lead. Alex Vanier was also credited with an assist on the goal, but it was Mike Cornell who threw the outlet pass to Sorkin that should get the point.
The second period was played at a much higher tempo than the first, and while the squads had fewer shots on goal each had better scoring opportunities. Both Paterson and Railers netminder Evan Buitenhuis kept their teams in the game with timely saves as the score remained 1-0 through 40 minutes of play.
To the third stanza the teams went knowing the next goal would be big, and luckily for the Worcester fans it was the Railers lighting the lamp when Matty Gaudreau beat Paterson to the stick side at 10:45. Gaudreau started the play with a rush down the left side, but his hard cross ice pass ended up in the skates of Sorkin, and bounded towards the boards. Sorkin chased down the puck and spun in place at the right wing half boards, firing a low shot on Paterson. The kick save rebound went right on to the stick of Gaudreau. Vanier was credited with the secondary assist on the play.
Erik Bradford got Brampton back within one with a laser that beat Buitenhuis high to the stick side and just under the crossbar. Petgrave and Jordan Henry had the assists on the goal at 14:20.
With time winding down the Beast pulled Paterson for an extra attacker, and Barry Almeida would seal the victory with a breakaway empty net goal at 18:57 that had him so far ahead of the pack that the Brampton defense didn’t even try to chase him down. Tyler Barnes and Vanier had the helpers on the goal.
It was the Railers first empty net goal since Matt Lane scored one against Reading on March 23rd last season.
From there Brampton didn’t have any serious threats as Worcester would enjoy the 3-1 win. They now sit tied for fourth place in the North Division and just a single point out of third place.
Scratches for the Railers were Malcolm Gould (14-day IR/upper), Tommy Kelley (14-day IR/upper), Ivan Kosorenkov, Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper), Tyler Mueller (injured), Tommy Panico, and Yanick Turcotte. With Mitch Gillam still with the Sound Tigers Ryan Hubbard was once again the emergency back-up goaltender. Railers called Mueller’s status as “injured”, but said pregame it was mostly a “maintenance day” for him, adding the old cliché “If this were the playoffs…”. Mueller is expected to play Sunday in Maine.
As they did Wednesday night the Brampton Beast used 15 skaters, one under the ECHL limit of 16. Despite a slew of transactions over the last few days they still didn’t have enough healthy skaters to field a full compliment of players. By contrast, the Railers had three healthy scratches and a fourth that could have played had they not had all the other extra skaters.
For those that doubt the speed of Ryan Hitchcock, there was one play Friday night that pretty much says it all. After some pressure by the Beast in the Worcester zone a home run pass attempt to Hitchcock missed him by a country mile. With the Beast defense skating to get to the face-off dot for the icing call Hitchcock came out of nowhere and raced past the defender to negate the icing call. The linesman was so surprised he blew the whistle for icing anyway, but then immediately indicated he’d made an error. The face-off then went to center ice.
There was an update on recently retired Worcester Telegram reporter Bill Ballou, who has covered minor league hockey in the city since 1994. In an interview on the most recent “Tuesday’s With Tom” podcast Ballou said he’ll hopefully be back covering the Railers in mid-January. Why mid-January, you ask? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.
Prior to the game Boston Bruins forward Ryan Donato signed autographs on the concourse. Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard University hockey head coach Ted Donato, had a great two tear career with Harvard before turning pro at the end of last season. He started his career with the Bruins on fire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but has had a few issues this campaign and has split time between the NHL and AHL.
The three stars of the game were
1) WOR – 8 Nick Sorkin
2) WOR – 21 Matthew Gaudreau
3) WOR – 3 Alex Vanier
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Mike Cornell.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Gaudreau / Holmstrom / Sorkin
Hudson / Willick / Block
(Head coach Jamie Russel switched up his defensive lines during the game, these are what he started with)
Doherty / Cornell
Panico / Quenneville
Vanier / MacKinnon
Brampton 0 0 1 – 1
Worcester 1 0 2 – 3
1st Period-1, Worcester, Sorkin 1 (Holmstrom, Vanier), 17:58. Penalties-Hitchcock Wor (tripping), 3:27.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Cornell Wor (cross-checking), 12:14.
3rd Period-2, Worcester, Gaudreau 5 (Sorkin, Vanier), 10:45. 3, Brampton, Bradford 6 (Petgrave, Henry), 14:20. 4, Worcester, Almeida 8 (Barnes, Vanier), 18:57 (EN). Penalties-Vallorani Brm (slashing), 0:58; Almeida Wor (tripping), 6:57.
Shots on Goal-Brampton 10-9-14-33. Worcester 12-9-12-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Brampton 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 1.
Goalies-Brampton, Paterson 3-6-1-0 (32 shots-30 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 5-4-2-0 (33 shots-32 saves).
Referees-Jeremy Tufts (6).
Linesmen-Stephen Drain (77), Guillaume Brunelle (73).