The Worcester Railers were looking for consecutive wins for just the second time this season as they took on the Reading Royals in a Sunday afternoon matinee at the DCU Center, and behind a 31 save effort from Ian Milosz in his pro debut Worcester came out on the better side of a 4-1 final.
It would be very easy to say the 6’7″ Milosz was a giant in net for the Railers, but in actuality he was as the rookie netminder had made just two saves in only six minutes and seven seconds of competitive hockey since the start of the 2016-17 season when he was on the Boston College roster. But Sunday afternoon he looked like a longtime veteran in goal.
The only shot that beat him came off the stick of Marly Quince, who converted a Worcester turnover into a goal when he froze Milosz on a two on one break and beat the netminder with an absolute laser high to the glove side and just inside the far corner for an unassisted tally to cut the Railers’ lead to 2-1 at 3:14 of the third.
Playing your third game in three days is tough, and playing from behind in that situation is next to impossible. Worcester avoided the scenario when they scored their sixth shorthanded goal of the season at 16:08 of the opening period. Jordan Samuels-Thomas had the first attempt, but it was blocked by Royals’ goaltender Kirill Ustimenko. After the save the puck lay in front of the net with Ustimenko struggling to locate it. Nic Pierog knew where it was, and crashed the net knocking the loose puck in for the 1-0 lead. Justin Murray had the secondary assist on the play.
Drew Callin made it 2-0 at 13:54 of the second when he converted on a rebound of a Jack Stander shot. Once again Ustimenko made the initial save, and Callin was able to pluck the rebound out of the air and drop it to the ice so he could bang it home for his first strike of the year. Cody Payne got the second helper on the play with the clean face-off win.
The Quince goal then made it 2-1, and with 2:50 left in the contest Reading head coach Kirk MacDonald pulled Ustimenko for an extra attacker. After a long scrum for the puck in the corner to the left of Milosz it was Pierog that finally gained possession, and from over 190-feet away hit the open net to make it 3-1 with an unassisted goal at 17:59.
Once again MacDonald pulled Ustimenko for an extra attacker, and this time it was Dante Salituro hitting the yawning net with a shot from inside the Reading zone. Payne and Ryan MacKinnon assisted on the empty net goal at 18:59 that made it the 4-1 final.
The Railers will have a couple days off before facing the Allen Americans Wednesday at the DCU Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Scratches for the Railers were Barry Almeida, JD Dudek (day to day/lower), Ivan Chukarov, Anthony Florentino, and Tanner Pond (14-day IR/upper). With Ian Milosz getting his first pro start Evan Buitenhuis was the back-up goaltender. It was a scheduled night off for Almeida as the team didn’t want him playing three games in three days right after spending time on IR. He was behind the bench with head coach Dave Cunniff. Dudek took a couple low hits in Saturday’s game and was unavailable, although at least for now he isn’t thought to be anything more than “day to day”.
It was a tough Saturday night for the Royals as they had to make a mad dash from Reading to Worcester, and according to Reading Director of Media Relations/Broadcasting and Hockey Ops Coordinator David Fine arrived in the city at 4:06 Sunday morning. I can tell you that during our pregame conversation Fine looked exhausted, although was still cracking jokes and telling stories as usual. The Railers will get to make that same exact mad dash on January 4th and 5th as they play the Royals in Reading Saturday night and then host the Jacksonville Icemen the following afternoon.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 39 Ian Milosz
2. WOR – 74 Jack Stander
3. WOR – 61 Nic Pierog
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Cody Payne.
Even Strength Lines
Samuels-Thomas / Pierog / Thomas
Callin / Payne / Salituro
Olsson / Walsh / Brauer
Doherty / Quenneville
Murray / MacKinnon
Stander / Mackenzie
Reading 0 0 1 – 1
Worcester 1 1 2 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, Pierog 7 (Samuels-Thomas, Murray), 16:08 (SH). Penalties-Callin Wor (boarding), 4:50; served by DiChiara Rea (bench – too many men), 7:53; served by Olsson Wor (bench – too many men), 14:09.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, Callin 1 (Stander, Payne), 13:54. Penalties-Willman Rea (boarding), 0:54; Quenneville Wor (hooking), 1:23; Murray Wor (holding), 16:43.
3rd Period-3, Reading, Quince 2 3:14. 4, Worcester, Pierog 8 17:59 (EN). 5, Worcester, Salituro 5 (MacKinnon, Payne), 18:59 (EN). Penalties-Olsson Wor (delay of game), 12:41; Turcotte Wor (double – roughing), 19:04.
Shots on Goal-Reading 9-12-11-32. Worcester 10-14-5-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 0 / 6; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Reading, Ustimenko 9-3-4-0 (27 shots-25 saves). Worcester, Milosz 1-0-0-0 (32 shots-31 saves).
Referees-Stan Szczurek (15).
Linesmen-Nathan Frechette (49), Brent Colby (77).