The Worcester Railers, donned in Team USA inspired jerseys, took on one of the ECHL’s best teams in the South Carolina Stingrays Saturday night at the DCU Center but there were no miracles to be had as the Railers dropped a 3-1 contest in front of 5,140 fans.
There are no moral victories in hockey, wins and losses are all that count. But Saturday night the Worcester faithful got a glimpse of what a team fully comprised of players selected by General Manager and Head Coach Dave Cunniff might look like as his band of young players, many with less than a week of practice time with the team, skated stride for stride with the ECHL’s best for most of the contest.
The Railers actually had the lead after the first twenty minutes after Tyler Poulsen gave Worcester a 1-0 advantage just 1:48 into the contest. Poulsen began the play in the neutral zone when he hit Eddie Matsushima in stride as the speedy forward raced toward the South Carolina end. Matsushima entered the Stingrays zone and threw a backhand pass over to newcomer Brennan Feasey, who was playing his first shift in a professional game. Feasey fired it on the net, but Logan Thompson made the save. Matsushima dug the rebound free, and the puck hit Feasey and went right to Poulsen at the far post. He lifted it over the down and out Thompson to light the lamp.
The second period has been the bane of the Railers all season, where they entered play Saturday ranked 25th in the league in goal differential for the frame at a painful minus-36. It was no different against South Carolina, which held Worcester to just three official shots in the stanza. It was actually worse than that when you find out the Railers first shot on goal in the period, from Ryan MacKinnon at 11:35, shouldn’t have been counted.
But despite the 13-3 shot deficit Worcester only allowed a single goal, to defenseman Kristofers Bindulis at 1:33 of the period when he walked in alone on Railers netminder Jakub Skarek after a clean face-off win in the Worcester zone.
In the third, the Stingrays depth just overwhelmed the younger Railers squad, with Cameron Askew giving South Carolina the 2-1 lead at 3:23 of the frame after converting off a Worcester turnover in the neutral zone. Scott Davidson made it the 3-1 final at 11:58 capping off an odd man rush.
Worcester had a golden opportunity to get back into the game late in the third when they had a two man advantage with just over two minutes to play. Head Coach Cunniff pulled Skarek to make it six skaters on three, but Worcester couldn’t get another passed Thompson.
Like Friday night the Railers have a highlight that can’t be fully described without showing the video. Last night it was Barry Almeida’s shorthanded goal, for Saturday it’s a save by Skarek on a bid by Steve Whitney. For my money, the greatest save in Worcester pro hockey history is Alex Stalock robbing Trent Campbell. The Skarek save is 1A. For the video, we link to the Railers Twitter and listen to the call by Cam McGuire.
Scratches for the Railers were Evan Buitenhuis (lower), Ivan Chukarov, Arnaud Durandeau (14-day IR/upper), JD Dudek (14-day IR/upper), Lincoln Griffin, 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. Earlier in the day, the Railers signed Brennan Feasey to an Amateur Try-out agreement (ATO) but with no roster spots available to add him Bridgeport had to recall the injured Ben Thomson to make room on the roster.
Late last night Sound Tigers beat reporter Michael Fornabaio of the Connecticut Post tweeted that Bridgeport goaltender Jared Coreau left the game early, so we may see one of the Railers netminders being recalled to back up Christopher Gibson for their Sunday contest against the Binghamton Devils.
The three stars of the game were
1. SC – 19 Cameron Askew
2. SC – 38 Scott Davidson
3. WOR – 35 Jakub Skarek
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Tyler Poulsen.
Even Strength Lines
Almeida / Callin / Walsh
Olsson / Payne / Brauer
Feasey / Matsushima / Poulsen
Murray / Cornell
Doherty / MacKinnon
Stander / McGurty
South Carolina 0 1 2 – 3
Worcester 1 0 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Worcester, Poulsen 12 (Feasey, Matsushima), 1:48. Penalties-Quince Sc (roughing), 13:21; Murray Wor (roughing), 13:21; Quince Sc (roughing), 15:29.
2nd Period-2, South Carolina, Bindulis 6 (Whitney, Weis), 1:33. Penalties-Poulsen Wor (hooking), 6:27; Payne Wor (interference), 17:29.
3rd Period-3, South Carolina, Askew 11 (Novak), 3:23. 4, South Carolina, Davidson 1 (Marsh, Klimek), 11:58. Penalties-Harrison Sc (slashing, misconduct), 16:49; Rissling Sc (slashing), 17:54.
Shots on Goal-South Carolina 14-13-9-36. Worcester 13-3-14-30.
Power Play Opportunities-South Carolina 0 / 2; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-South Carolina, Thompson 22-7-1-0 (30 shots-29 saves). Worcester, Skarek 3-9-2-0 (36 shots-33 saves).
Referees-Jesse Gour (8).
Linesmen-Nathan Frechette (49), Shane Kanaly (74).