Where did the Worcester Railers we saw on opening night go? Just over three weeks ago the Railers made their 2019-2020 season debut in high flying fashion by scoring five goals against the Adirondack Thunder, winning just about every puck battle there was, and totally dominating their North Division rivals.
With Saturday night’s 2-0 home loss to those same Thunder the Railers find themselves once again with the worst offense in the ECHL, averaging just 2.25 goals per game. Two teams have scored fewer goals than Worcester’s 18, Cincinnati (16) and Orlando (17), but they both have only played six games to the Railers eight.
Evan Buitenhuis was last night’s hard-luck loser, turning aside 28 of 30 Adirondack shots. Mike Szmatula’s tip in from behind the netminder at 8:30 of the third was the first to beat him, and Robbie Payne made it 2-0 at 14:24 after a failed Railers zone entry ended up with an odd man rush the other way.
The Railers thought they’d gotten the game within one while on a four minute power play late in the third, but referee Kyle Lekun was already signalling Kyle Thomas had played the puck with a high stick before Matt Schmalz banged the puck past Thunder goaltender Michael McNiven.
The loss runs Worcester’s losing streak to four games, and they’ve been thoroughly outplayed for most of those 12 periods.
The day started off on a high note with the The Worcester Fire and Police Departments skating in their annual Guns N’ Hoses match-up before the main event, with the Worcester Fire Department winning 8-3. Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque skated a half for each team.
Worcester then took the ice in their much anticipated W6 jerseys commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage fire that took the lives of six city firefighters. Those jerseys were auctioned off during the game and raised over $12,000 for the Box 4 Special Services Canteen.
Scratches for the Railers were Railers Ivan Chukarov (day to day/lower), Ryan Hitchcock (day to day/”banged up”), Ross Olsson (suspended, game one of one), and Chris Rygus. Linus Soderstrom was the backup goaltender.
Olsson was suspended for his late game instigator penalty on Friday, so that thrust newcomer Shane Walsh into the line-up. The score sheet looks unimpressive for Walsh, who had just a single shot on goal, but on the ice he played a decent game. He had a great bid early on in the third period but his wide angle shot slid all the way through the crease and out the other side. He also played on Worcester’s second power play unit.
Usually this writer has a page full of notes by the time the game is over, and then on the ride home that will grow a bit more as things are jotted down to potentially include in the next day’s posting. Through 40 minutes there was just two words written down on the pad: “same ref”. Funny thing is that was only there because in the opening minute of the contest longtime Worcester hockey fan Ronnie Kiefer asked me if the #32 calling the game was the same as Friday night. It was, so I jotted it down. And here it is in the post.
The three stars of the game were
1. ADK – 30 Michael McNiven
2. ADK – 91 Mike Szmatula
3. WOR – 34 Evan Buitenhuis
The 210Sports Player of the Game is Justin Murray.
Even Strength Lines (as posted by Railers PR man Cam McGuire)
Almeida / Samuels-Thomas /Walsh
Thomas / Pond / Dudek
Schmalz / Payne / Callin
Those lines didn’t stay that way very long as head coach Jamie Russell moved everyone around looking for any combination that could generate some offense.
McKenzie / Florentino
Doherty / Brauer
Murray / Bolton
Adirondack 0 0 2 – 2
Worcester 0 0 0 – 0
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Dudek Wor (cross-checking), 5:38; served by Dudek Wor (bench – too many men), 13:55; Verpaelst Adk (interference), 16:24.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Nazarian Adk (hooking), 7:08; Dudek Wor (slashing), 9:50.
3rd Period-1, Adirondack, Szmatula 1 (Popugaev, Verbeek), 8:30. 2, Adirondack, Payne 3 (Nazarian, Verpaelst), 14:24. Penalties-Verpaelst Adk (high-sticking – double), 15:21.
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 15-8-7-30. Worcester 6-9-14-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 4.
Goalies-Adirondack, McNiven 3-1-0-0 (29 shots-29 saves). Worcester, Buitenhuis 0-3-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Kyle Lekun (32).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (77), Robert Griffin (53).