The Worcester Railers returned to the DCU Center Friday night after playing their last five on the road and used a 37 save effort by Jakub Skarek and a highlight reel shorthanded goal by captain Barry Almeida to defeat the Brampton Beast 4-2.
The win was the first in the ECHL for Skarek since opening the season with back to back victories over Adirondack and Maine in mid-October, and his 37 saves on the night was a North American pro career high for Skarek. The rookie netminder has struggled most of the season but looked sharper last night than he has for most of his rookie campaign in the ECHL.
There also wasn’t much he could do on the two goals he allowed. Brampton’s first goal cut Worcester’s lead to 2-1 at the midway point of the second period. Just as PA man Adam Webster was announcing Ryan MacKinnon’s goal the Beast broke into the Railers zone where Skarek made a good sliding save on David Pacan’s bid but the puck ended up behind the netminder in the crease. With both Mike Cornell and Justin Murray trying to corral the loose puck David Vallorani whacked at their sticks, pushing the puck into the yawning net at 10:08. Skarek also had no chance on Jackson Leef’s backdoor power play goal at 16:52 of the third that made it 3-2 Worcester.
It was Drew Callin that got Worcester on the board in the first period on a two on one play that worked just as well as anyone could draw up. Shane Walsh began the sequence by forcing a turnover at the Railers’ blue line. Callin grabbed the loose puck in front of the Worcester bench and sent a cross ice pass to Barry Almeida on the left side. The two then broke into the Brampton zone against Chris Martenet. Almeida waited for Martenet to commit, and when the defenseman did Almeida skated around him, feeding the puck to the onrushing Callin who flipped it high over Beast netminder Alex Dubeau and under the crossbar at 5:34.
MacKinnon’s goal at 8:51 of the middle frame made it 2-0 Railers when he took a drop pass from fellow blueliner Jack Stander and fired it past Dubeau. With Stander continuing to the net to set a screen MacKinnon had lots of time and open ice and fired a perfect shot low to the glove side.
Just 13 seconds after Vallorani cut the Railers lead in half Cody Payne made it 3-1 with a nice individual effort. Stander found Payne behind the Brampton defense near the Worcester bench and hit him in stride with a nice pass. Payne broke in with the Beast defense chasing him and snuck the puck under Dubeau before making contact with the goalie. The red light never came on and it took referee Steven Sailor a few moments to signal it was a goal.
Referee Sailer then reviewed the goal, and while the ECHL doesn’t announce the reason why the play is under review judging by the reaction from Dubeau the only one that makes any sense was goaltender interference. It took just a few moments for Sailer to rule the goal good and Dubeau went berserk, having to be retrained by the linesmen. Referee Sailer showed incredible patience by not penalizing Dubeau.
While it was 3-2 late in the third, and after already calling two borderline penalties on Worcester, Referee Sailer was completely fooled on a play behind the Worcester net, calling Ivan Chukarov for interference against Francois Beauchemin. The problem was Chukarov never touched Beauchemin as he crashed into the end boards. According to Telegram reporter Bill Ballou Sailer apologized to the Railers post game for the phantom call.
What followed the penalty call is one of the best goals scored in recent Worcester hockey history, and no words can accurately convey the shorthanded goal by Almeida. So we’ll post the video via Twitter and let Railers play by play man Cam Maguire call the action.
Skarek held the fort the rest of the way for the 4-2 victory. Worcester returns to the DCU Center ice Saturday night against the South Carolina Stingrays, where the Railers will be wearing Team USA inspired jerseys.
Scratches for the Railers were Evan Buitenhuis (lower), Connor Doherty, Arnaud Durandeau (14-day IR/upper), JD Dudek (14-day IR/upper), Jack Macnee (sick), Tanner Pond (14-day IR/upper), Dylan Sadowy (14-day IR/upper), Kyle Thomas (14-day/lower), Ben Thomson (upper), and Yanick Turcotte (14-day IR/upper). Ian Milosz was the backup goaltender. The injury list may grow even longer as newcomer Tyler Poulsen crashed hard into the end boards in the second period. He briefly returned during the frame but at some point afterward returned to the dressing room.
With this writer’s annual “Hockey Free Weekend” and a couple of scheduling conflicts the Railers transactions have started to pile up over the last couple weeks, so we’ll recap a few of them starting with Dante Salituro being traded to Rapid City on February 18th for defenseman Myles McGurty and forward Tyler Poulsen. Bryce Nielsen, who was pointless in four games with Worcester, was released on February 24th. That day also saw one of the few remaining original Railers still with the team, Kyle McKenzie, being traded to Wheeling for future considerations. On Thursday Worcester claimed Lincoln Griffin off waivers from Greenville but lost Nic Pierog when he was recalled by Bridgeport. And then prior to yesterday’s game the Sound Tigers assigned Mike Cornell to the Railers, and Worcester signed Griff Jeszka (Merrimack College) to an ATO.
After all that, Worcester General Manager and Head Coach Dave Cunniff appears to be far from done with his roster shuffling as the Railers have signed another former collegiate player that they’ll be announcing some time Saturday. Worcester Telegram correspondent Bill Ballou is reporting it’s Brennan Feasy from the University of Windsor (USports).
Prior to the start of the game the Worcester Railers Booster Club announced many of their “Player of the Month” awards with a pregame ceremony at center ice. Each month the awards are voted on by Booster Club members. The winners were Kyle Thomas (October), Ross Olsson (November), Shane Walsh (December), and Nic Pierog (January).
The three stars of the game were
1. WOR – 35 Jakub Skarek
2. WOR – 4 Ryan MacKinnon
3. WOR – 19 Barry Almeida
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Drew Callin
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Callin / Walsh
Olsson / Payne / Brauer
Poulsen / Matsushima / Griffin
Murray / Cornell
Chukaorv / MacKinnon
Stander / McGurty
Brampton 0 1 1 – 2
Worcester 1 2 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, Callin 13 (Almeida, Walsh), 5:34. Penalties-Leef Brm (hooking), 10:11.
2nd Period-2, Worcester, MacKinnon 3 (Stander, Brauer), 8:51. 3, Brampton, Vallorani 27 (Pacan, Sanvido), 10:08. 4, Worcester, Payne 7 (Brauer, Stander), 10:21. Penalties-Beauchemin Brm (slashing), 0:43; Matsushima Wor (hooking), 1:31; Pacan Brm (cross-checking), 7:34; Matsushima Wor (interference), 7:34; Jeszka Wor (hooking), 18:56; Melancon Brm (hooking), 19:13.
3rd Period-5, Brampton, Leef 15 (Sparks, Melancon), 16:52 (PP). 6, Worcester, Almeida 16 (Cornell, Callin), 17:39 (SH). Penalties-Stander Wor (tripping), 13:14; Brauer Wor (high-sticking), 15:33; Chukarov Wor (interference), 17:28.
Shots on Goal-Brampton 13-14-12-39. Worcester 13-13-10-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Brampton 1 / 5; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-Brampton, Dubeau 21-16-2-0 (36 shots-32 saves). Worcester, Skarek 3-8-2-0 (39 shots-37 saves).
Referees-Steven Sailor (5).
Linesmen-Shane Kanaly (74), Brent Colby (77).