The Worcester Railers used a hat trick from Nic Pierog and a three point night from Mike Cornell to defeat the Reading Royals 5-2. The weekend sweep by the Railers was just the third and fourth regulation loses this season for the Royals at the Santander Arena.
It was longer than the 32 seconds it took the Railers to get on the board Friday night, but Worcester still scored first and ended the opening frame up 2-0. While he didn’t get an assist on Saturday’s first goal the play really began with a crunching open ice hit on Reading forward Marly Quince by Railers defenseman Jack Stander. That allowed Kyle Thomas to gain entry into the Royals zone.
Thomas then passed the puck to Cornell at the right wing point. Cornell had no shooting lane, so he intentionally fired the puck wide to the left of Reading netminder Kirill Ustimenko. Pierog was standing outside the near post and reached wide with the backhand to deflect the puck on net and over the shoulder of Ustimenko at 7:20.
Pierog would make it 2-0 at 17:35 on the power play when he once again deflected a Cornell feed into the net. Pierog won the initial face-off to the left of Ustimenko back to Barry Almeida at the near point. While Almeida passed the puck to Cornell Pierog glided into the slot about 15-feet in front of the net. Again with no shooting lane, Cornell fired a hard pass to Pierog all alone in front and Pierog redirected it into the net before Ustimenko could react.
With two primary assists to his credit in the game it was Cornell’s turn to light the lamp. Thomas was the one with the zone entry and hit Stander with a nice pass as he rushed into the zone on the left side. Stander then threw a half-spinorama pass that surprised teammate Alec March a bit. March was only able to get a brief touch of the puck before it slid by, but that touch was enough to tee it up for Cornell, who blasted it high stick side at 6:29 of the second.
That turned out to be a big goal as Reading grabbed the next two, the first by Matthew Strome on the power play when he was all alone in the slot at 11:09 and the second on an NHL quality 45-foot wrist shot by Steven Swavely that beat Worcester netminder Evan Buitenhuis high glove and just inside the corner at 14:52.
Several times in his stint coach the Railers Dave Cunniff has mentioned that the team needs to learn how to win, and to put teams away when Worcester has the lead late in games. Just like they did Friday the Railers showed they’ve learned that lesson and got their two goal lead back at 12:53 of the third. With Worcester crashing the net Ben Thomson fired a hard shot on net that Ustimenko looked to make the easy save on. But somehow the puck squirted behind him where Shane Walsh pushed it into the yawning net. Ivan Chukarov had the secondary helper.
Worcester pretty much controlled the play from that point, and as time was winding down and with Ustimenko pulled for an extra attacker the only question was would Pierog grab an empty netter for the hat trick. He answered that with an unassisted tally from the blue paint at 19:16 for the 5-2 final.
After the contest the Railers had to make a mad dash back to Worcester to face the Jacksonville Icemen, with puck drop at the DCU Center scheduled for 3pm.
Scratches for the Railers were Bo Brauer, JD Dudek (14-day IR/upper), Kyle McKenzie (unknown injury), Tanner Pond (14-day IR/upper), Jordan Samuels-Thomas (unknown injury), and Yanick Turcotte (suspended indefinitely). Ian Milosz was the back-up goaltender.
In an act that makes no sense to most people who have seen the video, the ECHL has suspended Turcotte indefinitely for his check on Reading’s Corey Mackin Friday night. Turcotte was given a charging major and a game misconduct for the hit. Bryan Kurzman, who used to run “Drop the Gloves”, posted a video of the play in the Railers fans Facebook group. To repost one of my comments from that thread, “if you look at the first video (Kurzman) posted you can see Turcotte does not stride into the check. His last stride is before he crosses the goal line. Now watch the contact. Mackin’s head doesn’t snap back, his whole upper body is driven backward. That means the head wasn’t the primary point of contact. If Dante Salituro throws that hit it’s not even a minor penalty. It’s a major and suspension because it was Turcotte.”
As he did on Friday, New York Islanders Director of Player Development Eric Cairns joined Coach Cunniff behind the bench. That makes the Railers undefeated with him working with Cunniff, so with hockey superstitions being what they are hopefully Cairns has canceled any plans he had for the foreseeable future so he can help keep this winning streak going.
It was an odd opening to the game as during his play by play longtime Worcester hockey voice Eric Lindquist thought he saw the puck go in under the crossbar and quickly back out on a shot by Dante Salituro about 55 seconds into the contest. The Railers seemed not to notice–which may be a sign that it didn’t go in–but Lindquist announced after a few more seconds of play by play that he was going to head down to the bench to let the team know there may have been a goal scored. He didn’t make it before the next face-off so no review could be made, although he did crash through a beer tasting event much to the chagrin of the participants. The broadcast feed didn’t have the Reading net in frame enough to tell one way or the other if it was a goal, but maybe the coach’s video will. So maybe more on this later.
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 61 Nic Pierog
2. WOR – 6 Mike Cornell
3. REA – 11 Matthew Gaudreau
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Kyle Thomas.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Pierog / Thomas
Thomson / Walsh / Salituro
Olsson / Callin / Payne
Stander / Cornell
Murray / MacKinnon
Chukarov / Doherty
Worcester 2 1 2 – 5
Reading 0 2 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Pierog 11 (Cornell, Thomas), 7:20. 2, Worcester, Pierog 12 (Almeida, Cornell), 17:35 (PP). Penalties-Olsson Wor (slashing), 13:20; Swavely Rea (hooking), 17:30.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Cornell 1 (Marsh, Stander), 6:29. 4, Reading, Strome 2 (Gaudreau, de Haas), 11:09 (PP). 5, Reading, Swavely 5 (Beaudry, Gaudreau), 14:52. Penalties-Walsh Wor (hooking), 10:19; Murray Wor (roughing), 13:35; Gooch Rea (roughing), 13:35; Murray Wor (fighting – major), 15:41; Gooch Rea (fighting – major), 15:41; Doherty Wor (roughing), 17:35; DiChiara Rea (instigating, fighting – major, game misconduct – aggressor), 17:35.
3rd Period-6, Worcester, Walsh 10 (Thomson, Chukarov), 12:53. 7, Worcester, Pierog 13 19:16 (EN). Penalties-Pierog Wor (slashing), 0:38; Olsson Wor (tripping), 15:06.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 12-7-10-29. Reading 3-9-9-21.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 2; Reading 1 / 4.
Goalies-Worcester, Buitenhuis 8-10-1-0 (21 shots-19 saves). Reading, Ustimenko 11-4-4-0 (28 shots-24 saves).
Referees-Andrew Bruggeman (25).
Linesmen-Tyler Loftus (72), Andrew Bell (73).