With the bad taste of Wednesday’s overtime loss to Maine still fresh in their mouths the Worcester Railers set out for the Midwest for three games this weekend, starting with a tilt against the four time champion Allen Americans Friday night.
Despite the Railers setting a franchise mark with 19 shots in the opening period and having four power play opportunities it was the Americans that had the 1-0 lead after the first twenty minutes. The scoring play started with a Gary Steffes shot from the high slot. Worcester netminder Evan Buitenhuis made the save, but Braylon Shmyr swooped in to grab the rebound. Buitenhuis made the save on Shmyr’s backhander, but with no Railers defender able to get a body on Shmyr he was able to gather another rebound and flip it over Buitenhuis at 16:58.
The early part of the second period was all Allen, but slowly Worcester’s better speed started to swing play back in their favor. They had a great chance to get the equalizer when Matty Gaudreau and Nick Sorkin broke into the Americans zone one a two-on-none breakaway. After some back and fourth passing the puck ended up on Sorkin’s stick with Allen goaltender Kyle Hayton down and out, but Sorkin missed the yawning net.
The Railers would finally light the lamp on their fifth power play chance when Bo Brauer, who was once again playing defense, took a cross ice feed from Gaudreau and fired a hard wrist shot from the top of the right wing circle and beat Hayton top shelf and just under the crossbar. Newcomer Rob Powers had the secondary assist on the goal at 15:53.
The game didn’t stay tied very long as 58 seconds later the Americans retook the lead when Dante Salituro fired a shot that Buitenhuis made the glove save on but couldn’t hold on to the puck. Salituro retrieved his own rebound and scored on the put back at 16:51 to make it 2-1 Allen. Emerson Clark and Stepan Falkovsky had the assists.
Heading into the third period down a goal was not where Worcester wanted to be against the worst team in the ECHL, but just 3:45 into the final period Ivan Kosorenkov got his team back to even when he played give and go with Yanick Turcotte. The return pass sent the Russian rookie across the slot, and he fired one just inside the glove side post on Hayton. Josh Holmstrom had the assist on the break-in play.
The Railers would take their first lead of the game at 5:23 when Mike Cornell intercepted a clearing pass at the blue line and fired the puck on net, beating a surprised Hayton blocker side for an unassisted goal.
Holmstrom got Worcester an insurance goal at 9:38 when he stole the puck from Clark at the right wing half-boards and fed the puck to Sorkin. After drawing the defense to him Sorkin backhanded the puck to Holmstrom, and his first bid was saved by Hayton. The rebound came right back to Holmstrom, who beat Hayton with the second attempt to make it 4-2.
The rout was on when Tyler Barnes sent an entry pass over to Barry Almeida on the left wing side. Almeida saw Ryan Hitchcock streaking up the slot toward the net and sent a nifty pass to his linemate. Hitchcock continued to the net and flipped a backhander over Hayton at 15:18.
A franchise record fifth goal of the period came when Hitchcock won a faceoff cleanly and Almeida ripped one past Hayton at 16:56 for what would be the eventual 6-2 final. Their five goals in 13:11 is a new franchise mark for the Railers, as is their six goals in 21:03. The six goals in the game ties a franchise high.
They wouldn’t get a ton of time to celebrate the win as Worcester had to make a mad dash from Allen, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma for Saturday night’s contest against the Oilers. Once again puck drop is 8pm EST.
Scratches for the Railers were Connor Doherty (week to week/facial injury), Malcolm Gould, Kyle McKenzie (Out for season/shoulder), Tommy Panico (Out for season/hand), David Quenneville (ill), and Matt Schmalz (14-day IR/upper). Mitch Gillam, who had a tough game Wednesday, was the back-up netminder.
The Allen Events Center was a little crowded Friday with three ECHL franchises all skating in the building. After Allen’s morning skate it was the Railers turn to loosen up, and when they were done the Reading Royals, who are in town to play the Americans on Saturday and Sunday, held a practice. Reading broadcaster David Fine joined Eric Lindquist and Tom “Tuesday” Matthews in the radio booth for the broadcast for the first two period, with Lindquist doing the second stanza from ice level.
With injuries piling up on the Americans roster the twice-retired Gary Steffes was signed by Allen before the game. Steffes, whose jersey number #12 has been retired by the Americans, wore #14. The first time Steffes came out of retirement last season he played six games and had four goals and two assists. Steffes originally retired from hockey to purse a career with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This time he was in town for an alumni game on Saturday and was pressed into service. He had an assist and three high quality looks at the net Friday night.
With this being the first time this season Worcester plays the Americans, as we usually do we’ll take a look at any Massachusetts connections with the team. We’ll start with Curt Gogol, who by now everyone knows played for the Worcester Sharks for two and a half season before being traded to the Iowa Wild. Gogol was almost on the Railers too but a failed physical blocked a trade from Greenville last season. Forward Spencer Asuchak also played for the WorSharks, going pointless in three games during the 2014-15 season.
There’s another hockey connection between Worcester and Allen as the Americans were the ECHL affiliate of the WorSharks for the 2014-15 season. Allen won the Kelly Cup that season, becoming just the second affiliate of a Worcester pro team to win a league championship during their affiliation. The Peoria Rivermen were the first, winning the Kelly Cup while being the ECHL affiliate of the Worcester IceCats in 1999-2000.
On this day, February 16th, in Worcester hockey history…in 2003 Jeff Panzer had two goals and Curtis Sanford made 28 saves in Worcester’s 4-1 win over Providence. Christian Backman and Ernie Hartlieb had the other two goals for the IceCats. Hartlieb assisted on Panzer’s first goal, giving the forward three points in his first two AHL games…in 2010 Alex Stalock had a 21 save shutout in the WorSharks 6-0 thrashing of the Springfield Falcons. Steven Zalewski had two goals, while T.J. Trevelyan, Dwight Helminen, and Brandon Mashinter all scored once. Benn Ferriero and Dan DaSilva both had two assists…in 2013 Freddie Hamilton had the game winner with less than four minutes left in regulation in the WorSharks 3-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms. Jon Matsumoto and John McCarthy both had first period goals in the win…in 2018 Mitch Gillam made 42 saves in the Railers 4-1 win in Orlando. Tommy Kelley and Matt Lane both scored in the first period, while Barry Almeida and Kyle McKenzie added second period tallies.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 6 Mike Cornell
2. WOR – 34 Evan Buitenhuis
3. ALN – 14 Gary Steffes
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Ryan MacKinnon.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Hitchcock / Barnes
Sorkin / Holmstrom / Gaudreau
Kosorenkov / Willick / Kelley
Mueller / Cornell
Powers / MacKinnon
Vanier / Brauer
Worcester 0 1 5 – 6
Allen 1 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Allen, Shmyr 14 (Steffes, Atkinson), 16:58. Penalties-Miller Aln (tripping), 0:29; Pochiro Aln (cross-checking), 5:09; Turcotte Wor (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 8:14; Clark Aln (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 8:14; Gogol Aln (charging goaltender in crease), 8:14; Boutet Aln (slashing), 19:05.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Brauer 3 (Gaudreau, Powers), 15:53 (PP). 3, Allen, Salituro 11 (Clark, Falkovsky), 16:51. Penalties-Almeida Wor (tripping), 2:39; Cornell Wor (instigating, fighting – major), 9:48; Shmyr Aln (fighting – major), 9:48; Turcotte Wor (fighting – major), 11:55; Doty Aln (fighting – major), 11:55; Atkinson Aln (holding), 14:05; Gogol Aln (kneeing), 18:01.
3rd Period-4, Worcester, Kosorenkov 8 (Turcotte, Holmstrom), 3:45. 5, Worcester, Cornell 4 5:23. 6, Worcester, Holmstrom 12 (Sorkin), 9:38. 7, Worcester, Hitchcock 10 (Almeida, Barnes), 15:18. 8, Worcester, Almeida 14 (Hitchcock), 16:56. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Worcester 19-8-14-41. Allen 13-13-8-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 6; Allen 0 / 2.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 8-8-3-1 (34 shots-32 saves). Allen, Hayton 3-10-0-0 (41 shots-35 saves).
Referees-Andrew Bruggeman (25).
Linesmen-Jordan Solomon (78), Michael Miggans (47).