The Worcester Railers returned home to the DCU Center for the first time in 2019 Saturday night in a contest against the Reading Royals on “Mitch Gillam Bobblehead Night”, but the with the Man of the Hour on recall to Bridgeport it was Evan Buitenhuis getting the start in net. The backup in name only made 30 saves to help lead the Railers to a 4-1 win over their North Division rivals in front of a boisterous crowd of 4,324.
The two teams skated through a scoreless first period, but it took just 35 seconds into the middle stanza for Worcester to grab the lead. With Reading looking to break out of the zone Bo Brauer used a bit of nifty stickwork to strip defenseman Frank Hora of the puck. From deep in the left wing corner Brauer fed Matt Schmaltz all alone in front, and Schmaltz snapped off a quick shot that beat Royals netminder Callum Booth glove side.
Not too much later the Railers had a golden chance for the two goal lead as Nick Sorkin and David Quenneville broke into the Reading zone, but Booth made a highlight Alex Stalock-esque glove save to keep it a one goal game.
Old friend Frankie DiChiara made that save look huge when he got his team back to even at 13:40 of the period. DiChiara took a feed from Kevin Goumas and then headed for the Worcester net, completely undressing defenseman Tommy Panico and then double-deking Buitenhuis before tucking the puck home. Hora had the secondary assist.
The Railers retook the lead at 16:57 when Schmalz and Brauer hooked up again, only this time it was Schmaltz staring the play by taking a Quenneville feed and heading to the net. Booth made the initial save but Brauer picked the rebound out of the air and knocked it in. Booth immediately jumped up claiming it was a high stick, but the video shows it was not.
With the goal Brauer became the first Worcester pro player to score on his first two shots on goal with the team as a mid-season addition since Jack Combs. While it took Brauer two games to do it Combs did it in the same period for the WorSharks vs the Albany River Rats on December 16, 2011. No Worcester pro has ever scored on his first three shots with the team.
In the third period with Reading pressing looking to tie the game Schmaltz instead got an insurance goal for the Railers when he picked up a loose puck in the circle to the right of Buitenhuis and skated hard down the right wing. With Worcester changing lines behind him Schmaltz headed for the Royals net, deking his way around the defense and firing a backhander along the ice that just caught the inside of the far post and went in at 10:18.
Late in the period Reading pulled Booth for an extra attacker, and Connor Doherty took a 170-foot chance at the empty net. He missed a touch to the left, but Nick Sorkin raced into the zone ahead of the pack and pushed the rebounding puck into the yawning net for the 4-1 final.
Scratches for the Railers were Alex Adams, Malcolm Gould (14-day IR/lower), Ivan Kosorenkov (Day to day/lower), Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper), and Yanick Turcotte (suspended, game two of five). Earlier in the week Mitch Gillam was recalled to Bridgeport so Rob Lemelin, who usually works the penalty boxes for the Railers, was signed as an EBUG and was the back-up goaltender. In the same transaction that Gillam was recalled the Sound Tigers also summoned Mike Cornell. On Wednesday Worcester acquired forward Nick Roberto from the South Carolina Stingrays in exchange for future considerations.
With the recall of Cornell the captain’s “C” was placed on the chest of Josh Holmstrom. The alternate captain’s “A” he usually wears went to Tyler Barnes.
Word came down on Monday that Yanick Turcotte was suspended an additional four games for last Saturday’s incident in Greenville against the swamp Rabbits. When you consider he could have gotten seven or more games for “abuse of officials” he got off lightly. Turcotte’s five game suspension is the longest for a Worcester player since Jimmy Bonneau was suspended for eight games for a post game brawl April 7, 2012 in Portland. That was the game the Pirates won in a shootout using an illegal shooter. Brett Sterling was ineligible because he was serving a misconduct at the end of OT, but was allowed to shoot and got the eventual game winner. His taunting the WorSharks bench started the brawl. In addition to Bonneau’s suspension the AHL suspended Matt Pelech for four games for his actions in that game, and WorSharks assistant coach Dave Cunniff was suspended one game.
With Gillam being recalled he missed his bobblehead night Saturday, and it was far from the first time in Worcester pro hockey history a player wasn’t on the team for his bobblehead night. Two other times a player was recalled and missed his night. On November 24, 2007 the Worcester Sharks held a bobblehead night for Thomas Greiss, only he was recalled to San Jose a week earlier. He was assigned back to the WorSharks on November 26th. It happened again on October 17, 2009 for Derek Joslin bobblehead night. He was recalled by the Sharks on October 15th and sent back to Worcester on the 18th.
But nothing matches what happened to James Livingston. On March 5, 2014 Livingston was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Los Angeles Kings, so he was assigned to the WorSharks division rival Manchester Monarchs. His bobblehead day in Worcester was held as scheduled on March 8th against the Portland Pirates, and to “celebrate” he ended up scoring two goals that night for Manchester against Providence. Some odd trivia about Livingston: He scored two goals in a game twice in the AHL, his second game with the WorSharks and his second game with the Monarchs.
It’s not something this writer has ever kept track of, but it seems like every time Railers President Mike Myers joins Booster Club Rich Lundin and me at our center ice perch the team has a great period. He sat with us in the third period, and despite the shot totals heavily on the Reading side of the ledger Worcester came out ahead in the period. This isn’t just something recent either, Myers joining us and the team performing well dates back well into the WorSharks days. Just one of those odd things I guess.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 17 Matt Schmalz
2. WOR – 15 Bo Brauer
3. WOR – 34 Evan Buitenhuis
The 210Sports Player of the Game is David Quenneville.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Willick / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Hudson
Schmaltz / Kelley / Brauer
Doherty / Quenneville
Mueller / MacKinnon
Panico / Vanier
Reading 0 1 0 – 1
Worcester 0 2 2 – 4
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Schmalz 5 (Brauer), 0:35. 2, Reading, DiChiara 11 (Goumas, Hora), 13:40. 3, Worcester, Brauer 2 (Schmalz, Quenneville), 16:57. Penalties-Houk Rea (roughing), 8:04; Holmstrom Wor (roughing), 8:04.
3rd Period-4, Worcester, Schmalz 6 10:18. 5, Worcester, Sorkin 8 (Doherty), 18:54 (EN). Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Reading 9-9-13-31. Worcester 6-13-6-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 0 / 0; Worcester 0 / 0.
Goalies-Reading, Booth 7-4-0-1 (24 shots-21 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 6-7-2-1 (31 shots-30 saves).
Referees-Mike Sheehan (11).
Linesmen-Kyle Richetelle (73), Shane Kanaly (39).