The Worcester Railers faced the Wheeling Nailers Saturday night at the DCU Center in a contest against former North Division rivals and once again Worcester’s lack of goal scoring turned a very winnable game into an embarrassing loss.
Turnovers plagued the Railers all night, and even when they made decent plays with the puck it seemed like the Nailers knew what Worcester players were going to do with the puck even before the Railers players had possession of it.
It was one of those turnovers that gave Wheeling the lead when Ryan MacKinnon coughed up the puck while skating backwards in his own end trying to set up a power play breakout. The puck went right to the stick of Michael Phillips, who whistled a shot past Worcester goaltender Mitch Gillam at 17:24 of the opening period for a 1-0 Wheeling lead.
The second period was all Railers as they outshot the Nailers 15-1, but the three times they beat Wheeling netminder Jordan Ruby didn’t result in goals. The first was a Ryan Hitchcock blast that rang off the crossbar and bounced high into the crowd, and then in quick succession referee Steven Rouillard waved off a goal for what appears to be a Railers player pushing Ruby’s pad into the net and another for a Tyler Barnes high stick. Video shows both calls were likely correct.
The Railers finally did break through with a power play goal at 1:54 of the third that absolutely shouldn’t have counted. Worcester was passing the puck around the perimeter where Nick Sorkin eventually had possession at the right wing point. He found Barry Almeida in the left wing circle, and then Almeida fired the puck wide of the net toward Barnes near the far post.
Barnes wasn’t able to get his stick free so he intentionally redirected the puck into the net with his skate and referee Rouillard, who had already correctly waved off two Railers goals, signaled it was good. Rouillard then went to video review, watched it a single time, and then pointed toward the center ice dot indicating the score counted.
While the video referee Rouillard watched isn’t currently available the game highlight shows a pretty clear view of the intentional kick-in.
But any momentum that goal created was lost almost instantly when Cedric Lacroix gave the Nailers the lead back just 51 seconds later, and then the roof caved in on Worcester as Yushiroh Hirano, Phillips, and Alec Butcher would all score to give Wheeling the eventual 5-1 win.
Worcester did have a chance late to make a game of it when Lacroix was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for charging Dylan Willick, but the power play that scored three third period goals Friday night was nowhere to be found Saturday.
Scratches for the Railers were Malcolm Gould, Woody Hudson, Ivan Kosorenkov (day to day, “banged up”), Kyle McKenzie (14-day IR/upper/out for season), Matt Schmalz (14-day IR/upper) and Alex Vanier (Suspended, game 2 of 2). Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up netminder.
With this being the first and only time Worcester and Wheeling meet this regular season we’ll take a look at some Nailers connections to Massachusetts. Defenseman Josh Couturier was born in Newbury, MA and spent a year at Boson College before transferring for another year at UMass-Amherst. Fellow blueliner Brien Diffley was born in Burlington, MA and spent four seasons at Boston University. Danny Fick spent four years at Harvard University, and Aaron Titcomb was born in Charlestown, MA. Forward Nick Saracino, who was traded from to Wheeling from the Railers for Nick Sorkin last summer, is currently on a PTO with the Binghamton Devils (AHL).
There was an odd stoppage of play early in the second period when Wheeling attempted to clear the puck into the Railers zone over on the bench side of the ice and suddenly no one knew where the puck was. The whistle was eventually blown as all the skaters and officials looked around, but it was eventually determined the puck somehow went down the pants of linesman Brent Colby. After a couple of attempts to get the puck out of his pants Colby gave up and a new pick was used.
While it didn’t matter in the long run Wheeling fell prey to an uncommonly seen rule that was their own fault for being in that position. Cedric Lacroix was given a major and a game misconduct at 14:39 of the third period, but the Nailers did not put a player into the penalty box to replace him. When the major penalty expired play continued and by rule Wheeling had to play with just the four skaters until the next whistle but because they are not considered shorthanded they can’t freely ice the puck. It’s actually happened in the NHL recently. Turns out it didn’t matter in the long run for the Nailers.
On this day, February 10th, in Worcester hockey history…in 2018 Barry Almeida had two goals and two assist in the Railers 5-3 win over Brampton. Chris Langkow added two goals and an assist and Matt Lane had the remaining Worcester goal. Eamon McAdam made 23 saves in the win.
The three stars of the game were
1. WHL – 23 Michael Phillips
2. WHL – 31 Jordan Ruby
3. WHL – 11 Alec Butcher
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Tyler Barnes.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Brauer / Willick / Kelley
Mueller / Cornell
Doherty / Quenneville
Panico / MacKinnon
Wheeling 1 0 4 – 5
Worcester 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Phillips 13 17:24 (SH). Penalties-Schultz Whl (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 5:41; Turcotte Wor (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 5:41; Hitchcock Wor (slashing), 8:26; Diffley Whl (tripping), 16:21; Almeida Wor (tripping), 19:51.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Hirano Whl (cross-checking, roughing), 6:08; Doherty Wor (cross-checking), 6:08; Rauter Whl (interference), 15:12.
3rd Period-2, Worcester, Barnes 19 (Almeida, Sorkin), 1:54 (PP). 3, Wheeling, Lacroix 13 (Day Chief), 2:45. 4, Wheeling, Hirano 14 (Lynch), 9:57. 5, Wheeling, Phillips 14 (Josephs), 11:23. 6, Wheeling, Butcher 5 (Phillips, Fick), 14:15 (PP). Penalties-Hirano Whl (tripping), 1:41; MacKinnon Wor (slashing), 13:53; Lacroix Whl (charging major, game misconduct – charging), 14:39.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 11-1-10-22. Worcester 4-15-15-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Wheeling 1 / 3; Worcester 1 / 5.
Goalies-Wheeling, Ruby 5-2-1-1 (34 shots-33 saves). Worcester, Gillam 14-12-0-2 (22 shots-17 saves).
Referees-Steven Rouillard (3).
Linesmen-Kyle Richetelle (73), Brent Colby (38).