Railers defenseless in 9-7 loss to Maine

The Worcester Railers have had an interesting post-Christmas holiday, losing 5-0 to Adirondack Sunday using only 13 skaters and then having Monday’s tilt with Reading postponed to due “League Health and Safety Protocols”. Wednesday’s contest in Maine was also an odd one, with the Railers ending up on the wrong end of a 9-7 pond hockey-like final.

Make no mistake, the current COVID situation in hockey didn’t play as much of a role in the loss as one would think, with the rag-tag group of Railers forwards putting up seven goals. Instead, it showed a glaring weakness in the Worcester Railers, one that has been noticed all season but is now coming into full view under a glaring spotlight.

Their defense is terrible.

Goaltenders like Ken Appleby or Colten Ellis can make up for a lot of mistakes, and the Railers’ defense usually makes tons of them each game. With both Appleby and Ellis recalled to the AHL, we get the likes of Jimmy Poreda and Jason Pawloski. While those two are both decent minor league goalies and would be solid additions to many clubs, they don’t have the skills to make up for the continual miscues the Worcester defense makes. The issue was foreshadowed on opening night when Justin Kapelmaster allowed six goals, and fans blinded by the thrill of hockey returning immediately turned to the goaltending.

If general manager and head coach Dave Cunniff can’t find a way to get the team’s defensemen to stop making mistakes the Worcester hockey faithful will be in for another long, playoff-less season. And with the player pool shrinking due to COVID, it will be a long while before finding suitable replacements is an option.

Wasted by the defense’s follies Wednesday afternoon was two-goals games by captain Jordan Smotherman and Devon Paliani, and a Gordie Howe hat trick Chris Ordoobadi. Those five goals should have been more than enough by themselves, never mind two more strikes from defenseman Nick Albano. But they weren’t.

With all the interns on Christmas break, there’s no one to cut the video of Worcester goals during the game and post them on Twitter, so instead, we’ll point toward the Maine highlight package.

Scratches for the Railers were Tommy Besinger (Commissioner’s Exempt List), Brennan Feasey (Commissioner’s Exempt List), John Furgele (Commissioner’s Exempt List), Grant Jozefek (unknown injury), Reece Newkirk (Commissioner’s Exempt List), Anthony Repaci, and Nolan Vesey (Commissioner’s Exempt List). Brody Claeys was the backup netmnder. Worcester was two players short of the usual 16 skaters, so it’s safe to presume Repaci wasn’t a healthy scratch. Before Wednesday’s game against Maine, the Railers had multiple transactions, including signing brothers Brian and Ted Hart. They also traded future considerations to Maine for center Devon Paliani. All three played Wednesday.

With COVID running amok amongst pro hockey there has been a slew of transactions involving the Railers since the week before Christmas. In addition to all the recalls over the last couple of weeks, Chris Ordoobadi was claimed from Norfolk on December 20th. On the 26th John Furgele, Tommy Besinger, and Reece Newkirk were all added to the Commissioner’s Exempt List, and retired former ECHL All-Star Jason Salvaggio was signed to a contract. After the Railers game against Reading on Monday was postponed Salvaggio was released, which was the plan all along. On the 27th Worcester re-signed forward Brennan Feasey, and then he was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. With no goaltender on the roster, Worcester signed Jason Pawloski and Brody Claeys Tuesday.

Once the scoresheet was finalized, which took about a half-hour after the final horn sounded, Jacob Hayhurst and Drew Callin ended up tying for the worst plus/minus in a Worcester pro hockey game at (-5). They only avoided setting the record because Maine’s ENG came so quickly after Smotherman’s goal, and they were resting on the bench. Callin and Hayhurst ended up being on the ice for nine of the 16 goals scored. That (-5) record is held by Steve Staios, Nick Petrecki, Rob Powers, and at least one more player whose name I’ll need to dig up in my notes.

There was positive milestones set in the game. The Railers had 13 assists in the contest, giving them an even 1,000 in their regular-season franchise history. Callin and Hayhurst have the assists on the Jordan Smotherman goal that set the mark. I’ll let them fight over who officially gets credit for the 1,000th helper, although those that keep track of such things say it should belong to Hayhurst. That same Smotherman goal was on the power play, giving Worcester pro hockey 1500 combined regular season and playoff power play strikes.

The three stars of the game were
1. MNE – 23 Alex Kile
2. MNE – 11 Metis Roelens
3. MNE – 24 Marc-Olivier Duquette

The 210Sports Player of the Game was Nick Albano.

Even Strength Lines
Smotherman / Hayhurst / Callin
Christensen / Beaudoin / Ordoobadi
B. Hart / Paliani / T. Hart

Boudrias / Albano
Malatesta / McGurty

Worcester 2 3 2 – 7
Maine 1 4 4 – 9

1st Period-1, Maine, Kile 1 (Martin, Santos), 2:30. 2, Worcester, Smotherman 9 (Callin), 10:25. 3, Worcester, Ordoobadi 2 (Christensen, Beaudoin), 12:29. Penalties-Hart Wor (cross-checking), 5:39; McGurty Wor (slashing), 18:15; Santos Mne (high-sticking), 18:27.

2nd Period-4, Maine, Laberge 8 (Santos, St-Louis), 4:26. 5, Maine, Kile 2 (Greenway, Laberge), 6:06. 6, Worcester, Albano 2 (Hart, Beaudoin), 7:22. 7, Worcester, Albano 3 (Christensen, Hayhurst), 11:03 (PP). 8, Maine, Robbins 2 (Roelens), 12:03 (SH). 9, Worcester, Paliani 1 (Boudrias, Malatesta), 13:50. 10, Maine, Kile 3 (Laberge), 15:20. Penalties-Ordoobadi Wor (fighting – major), 3:13; Bricknell Mne (fighting – major), 3:13; Bricknell Mne (cross-checking), 9:15; Santos Mne (elbowing), 10:38; Albano Wor (cross-checking), 17:08; Smotherman Wor (roughing), 19:13; St-Louis Mne (roughing), 19:13.

3rd Period-11, Worcester, Paliani 2 (Ordoobadi, Albano), 1:37. 12, Maine, Duquette 3 (Roelens), 4:25. 13, Maine, Jeri-Leon 4 (Roelens), 12:01. 14, Maine, Duquette 4 (Kallen, Roelens), 17:25. 15, Worcester, Smotherman 10 (Callin, Hayhurst), 17:57 (PP). 16, Maine, Kile 4 (Duquette), 18:32 (EN). Penalties-Kallen Mne (roughing), 6:49; Duquette Mne (roughing), 9:47; Albano Wor (roughing), 13:48; Santos Mne (high-sticking), 17:44; Ordoobadi Wor (high-sticking – double), 18:32.

Shots on Goal-Worcester 15-23-13-51. Maine 19-12-12-43.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 2 / 6; Maine 0 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, Pawloski 0-1-0-0 (42 shots-34 saves). Maine, Brodeur 6-6-1-1 (51 shots-44 saves).
Referees-Logan Gruhl (29).
Linesmen-Shane Kanaly (74), Sam Schildkraut (46).

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