The Worcester Railers had their last pre-Christmas game on Saturday night at the DCU Center when they took on the Reading Royals with the Railers looking to get back in the win column after their hard luck loss to Adirondack the night before.
Worcester got on track early when Tyler Barnes lit the lamp just 1:29 into the contest. Barnes started the play by dumping the puck into the Reading zone, and then Ryan MacKinnon intercepted a Royals clearing attempt. MacKinnon took the puck deep into the offensive zone along the right wing boards and hit Barnes with a cross-slot pass all alone at the far post. Barnes badly misfired on his one-timer bid, but the puck looped in on goal and past Reading goaltender Callum Booth.
With time winding down in the opening period the Royals tied the game when the Worcester defense lost track of Josh MacDonald. Reading had a couple of long cross ice passes on the play, with the second going from Joe Houk across the slot to a wide open MacDonald in front. Railers netminder Mitch Gillam couldn’t get over to the far post fast enough and it was 1-1 with 10.1 seconds remaining in the stanza. Chris McCarthy had the secondary assist.
Those three would team up again at 8:11 of the second period to give the Royals the lead when MacDonald lit the lamp by firing a 40-foot shot past a screen Gillam. It was one of those goals that makes a goaltender look silly as Gillam had no idea the puck was even coming at him and he never moved as the shot went flying into the net.
Nick Sorkin got the Railers back to even at 13:45 of the period when he played a little pitch and catch with Matty Gaudreau. Sorkin entered the Reading zone on the right wing wide and moved toward the middle up high, throwing a pass over to Gaudreau. The return pass to Sorkin came immediately, and Sorkin blasted it on net and past Booth. Mike Cornell had the secondary assist.
In the third period the Royals would retake the lead when Adam Schmidt threw a shot on net that Gillam made the initial save on. Jack Riley was able to get to the puck and put it in the net at 11:18 for the 3-2 Reading lead.
At 15:57 Worcester got the equalizer on a play the Royals claim should have been a penalty on the Railers. The play began in the Worcester zone and it appeared that former Worcester forward Frankie DiChiara took a stick up high in front of the Railers net. As play continued Ivan Kosorenkov carried the puck into the Royals zone that looked to be well offside. With no whistle Kosorenkov fired a backhander on net that Booth made the save on, but Matt Schmalz banged home the rebound to make it 3-3. Woody Hudson had the secondary assist.
Royals head coach Kirk MacDonald erupted on the bench looking for a high sticking call that would have negated the goal. After consulting his linesmen referee Chris Pontes allowed the goal to stand. It should be noted that while DiChiara may have taken a high stick in front of the Worcester net it would have been the second time during that shift he was hit with a stick. The first came earlier and was from his own player, and it looked to this writer that his bleeding started then.
Worcester would make it 4-3 at 18:44 on a nice tip by Josh Holmstrom. Tyler Mueller fired a shot from high in the zone and Holmstrom was able to get the shaft of his stick in the way from about 20-feet out to deflect it past Booth. MacKinnon had the other assists on the goal.
At 19:04 with Booth racing off the ice for an extra attacker, Barnes intercepted a pass at center ice and threw the puck into the yawning net for the 5-3 lead. With Booth still on the ice when the puck was shot it is not considered an empty net goal.
The twenty seconds between Holmstrom’s and Barnes’ goals are a new Railers franchise mark for two quickest scores. The 3:07 between Schmalz goal and Barnes’ tally is a new franchise record for three quickest goals.
As soon as the final horn sounded MacDonald threw a water bottle on to the ice and headed right for Referee Pontes, and had to be restrained by the linesmen. It took several moments before the linesmen were able to get MacDonald off the ice and heading toward the dressing room. While well within his right, Referee Pontes did not assess any penalty to MacDonald.
Worcester returns from their holiday break with a home-and-home against the Maine Mariners starting Friday night in Portland.
Scratches for the Railers were Evan Buitenhuis (bereavement), Malcolm Gould (14-day IR/lower), Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper), David Quenneville (day to day/upper), Yanick Turcotte (day to day/lower), Alex Vanier, and Dylan Willick. Ryan Hubbard was the back-up goaltender.
For the first time in 279 days Tommy Kelley was in the line-up for Worcester. Usually it’s the starting goaltender who leads the team to the ice to start warm-ups, but Saturday night it was Kelley hitting the surface first and taking a solo lap around the zone before being joined by his teammates. Kelley missed the final ten games of last season after crashing hard into the end board against Utah on March 18th, and then suffered a euphemistic “upper body injury” during training camp that kept him out until yesterday.
With it being the last game before the Christmas break there were some new faces in some of the key off-ice spots game day, with mixed results. The DJ handling the between play music was certainly a hit with the older members of the crowd as he ran through all the big rock and pop hits of the 1980s while mixing in a good number of holiday songs. The scoreboard operator was a different story as he made several errors and didn’t turn on the shots on goal counters for the game.
The lack of in-arena shot totals did lead to a funny occurrence. With no shot totals on the scoreboard the three people covering the game were all using a different information source to get the numbers. While we all had the same numbers at the end of the first period that wasn’t the case in the second, where this writer had it 22-16, WooHockey had it 20-16, and Bill Doyle of the Telegram had it 22-17. Turns out none of us had it right, as officially it was 23-17 in favor of Reading.
Worcester wore their orange third jerseys for the game, and no one seemed to know why. Reading wore their standard white jerseys.
Earlier Saturday the ECHL announced that Adirondack’s Michael Sdao had been suspended for three games for his check to the head of Matty Gaudreau. It’s the third consecutive December that Sdao was suspended. Last season while playing for Rapid City he received a three gams suspension for checking the head of Allen’s Connor Reilly on December 2nd. While playing for Utah he was suspended three games for fighting in the penalty box in a game against Colorado on December 23th, 2016. While he Railers were still not happy Sdao wasn’t given a major and a game misconduct during Friday’s game they had no comment Sdao’s subsequent suspension.
And in other ECHL news, at 5pm Saturday the league entered its holiday roster freeze. Until Noon on December 26th players on ECHL contracts can’t be waived, traded, or otherwise released. All other transactions are still allowed. It’s humorous that some media outlets are mentioning that some of these CBA-forbidden transactions can still be planned by teams during the roster freeze as long as they aren’t implemented until after the freeze is over, as if it needs to be mentioned that hockey business doesn’t stop over Christmas.
The three stars of the game were
1) WOR – 12 Josh Holmstrom
2) WOR – 7 Tyler Barnes
3) REA – 86 Josh MacDonald
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Ryan MacKinnon.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Schmalz / Kosorenkov
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Barnes
Gaudreau / Kelley / Hudson
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Adams
Panico / Mackinnon
Reading 1 1 1 – 3
Worcester 1 1 3 – 5
1st Period-1, Worcester, Barnes 9 (MacKinnon), 1:29. 2, Reading, MacDonald 14 (Houk, McCarthy), 19:49. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-3, Reading, MacDonald 15 (Houk, McCarthy), 8:11. 4, Worcester, Sorkin 6 (Gaudreau, Cornell), 13:45. Penalties-MacKinnon Wor (tripping), 0:41; Almeida Wor (delay of game), 6:47; DiChiara Rea (slashing), 7:52; Dornbrock Rea (boarding), 11:42; Hudson Wor (slashing), 11:53; Drake Rea (hooking), 13:32.
3rd Period-5, Reading, Riley 5 (Schmidt, Goumas), 11:18. 6, Worcester, Schmalz 4 (Kosorenkov, Hudson), 15:57. 7, Worcester, Holmstrom 8 (Mueller, MacKinnon), 18:44. 8, Worcester, Barnes 10 19:04. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Reading 11-12-16-39. Worcester 7-10-11-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-Reading, Booth 4-1-0-0 (28 shots-23 saves). Worcester, Gillam 8-8-0-0 (39 shots-36 saves).
Referees-Chris Pontes (12).
Linesmen-Kyle Richetelle (73), Nathan Frechette (30).