The Worcester Railers regular season doesn’t start until October 12th, but many fans got their first glimpse at the group of players competing for spots on the 2019-2020 roster at the team’s second annual intrasquad scrimmage held Friday night at Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, and it was a fifth-round shootout goal by Matt Schmalz that gave Team Lindy a 4-3 win over Team Pablo.
“It was all the players. There isn’t much to do when you’ve got such great guys playing for you,” Team Lindy headman Eric Lindquist said of his now personal two-game winning streak.
That streak was in jeopardy when his squad, wearing the Railers orange jerseys, squandered their 1-0 second-half lead after allowing quick goals from Team Pablo forwards Drew Callin and Kyle Thomas in the four on four portion of the contest. Callin’s tally came when he flipped the puck over Team Lindy netminder Evan Buitenhuis from in close, while Thomas scored on a nice give and go with Nic Pierog to make it 2-1 Team Pablo.
Rookie defenseman Justin Murray tied it 2-2 late in the five-minute frame with a nice individual goal that beat Team Pablo netminder Jakub Skarek.
The teams stayed tied through the rest of the four on four and into the five minute three on three, and with time running down before the scheduled shootout referee Cam McGuire called a penalty on Team Pablo, awarding Ivan Chukarov a penalty shot. Skarek came up big with 9.1 seconds remaining in the game to keep it tied.
It was Barry Almeida that gave Team Lindy the 1-0 lead with a booming power-play one-timer from the top of the right circle that flat out beat Skarek. Chukarov took a nice feed from fellow blueliner Kyle McKenzie and slid a perfectly placed pass over to Almeida.
Team Pablo was coached by Paul Harris, who last year was assistant to Tom Matthews in the event but this time was joined behind the bench by reporter Bill Ballou. “It was 50/50,” Harris said when asked how the coaching duties were split, and quickly added, “and I’m proud of the way my guys got the game into a shootout.”
While Harris and Lindquist were dressed casually for their coaching duties Ballou stood behind the white jersey clad players wearing a suit, which included a Three Stooges tie. Harris originally declined to answer when asked if the rather sharp looking tie was a distraction for his players, but soon conceded that it might have played a role in his team’s loss.
“I think it’s possible that on the Schmalz game-winner that Skarek was so overwhelmed by the tie that it cost him some reaction time,” Harris said.
After the teams went scoreless through the first three shootout rounds Callin connected for Team Pablo, and then McKenzie scored for Team Lindy, setting up Schmalz’s eventual game-winner.
Like last season Railers Head Coach Jamie Russell and assistant Derek Army watched the game from the stands, and while they absolutely had to like the compete level the players showed the lack of offensive chances from either team in the fifteen-minute five on five first half has to be worrisome. My very unofficial tally had shots on goal right around eight for each squad, but each team only had two legitimate scoring chances in the period.
The best chance for Team Pablo was a Ryan Hitchcock penalty shot, which Buitenhuis turned away with relative ease. Skarek had a much tougher test in Cody Payne’s breakaway bid but still made the save. Skarek also made an incredible glove save in the three on three portion on a hard shot by Tanner Pond that was headed into the top corner.
For those interested in the rosters and lines, the Railers tweeted them out before the game. For the most part they stayed that way throughout the five on five first half.
Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator turned referee Cam McGuire deserves a quick mention. It was the first time McGuire had ever officiated a game at any level, and as funny as it sounds did a really good job and staying out of the way. People who watch games from the stands don’t really get a good idea of how fast the game actually is on the ice. If you get to watch from the bench you get a better idea, and McGuire found out being on the ice with the players is a whole different story. He was still a bit awestruck after the contest, but I’m sure once he gets some time to look back on it will have enjoyed the experience.
Doing a tad of business here, for anyone interested in discounted opening night tickets for October 12th vs Adirondack you can head on over to this link to get a decent deal. That link was passed along to me by team staff.
The Railers will head to Exeter, New Hampshire Saturday (10/5) to take on the Maine Mariners in the only exhibition tilt for both squads. As I mash the post button for this it’s still undecided if I’ll be heading up there or not, but in any case I’m sure the Railers will have an update on their site.