The Worcester Railers have been struggling to find bodies to fill their lineup in recent days as players fall victim to positive COVID tests, and the players they have found haven’t exactly been lighting the lamp. The Railers solved both of those problems, at least for Sunday, when they signed former NHLer Bobby Butler to a contract, and in his first pro game since April 6, 2019, Butler scored a goal and dished out two assists in a 5-3 win over the Reading Royals at the DCU Center.
It started out like it could be another ugly one-sided loss for the Railers as they were officially outshot 16-3 in the opening period, although this writer thinks a couple Worcester shots were missed by the scorers. It was just 1-0 Reading after those opening twenty minutes thanks to Worcester netminder Brody Claeys, who continued his impressive play by making several big saves.
The second frame started out just like the first, with Claeys looking like a sheet of plywood in goal as the Royals swarmed the Railers net and outplayed Worcester by a significant margin. About halfway through the frame, former Railers defenseman Patrick McNally made it 2-0 Reading, and many of the Worcester faithful were thinking that would be it as the Railers had mounted next to no offense during the game.
But things began to change as slowly Worcester started to get some momentum, and Butler’s first shot in a Railers jersey would get them on the board. It was Butler’s first pro goal since March 16, 2019 with Hartford.
Less than three minutes later, Worcester tied the scores on a power play goal on a tipped shot by Ross Olsson.
It was 2-2 after two periods, but the Royals would capitalize on a power play that sandwiched intermission–we’ll not mention that they shouldn’t have been on the power play to begin with–but that didn’t seem to hurt Worcester’s confidence one bit, and 14 seconds later the Railers tied it on a goal by Brent Beaudoin. The assist gave Butler his first multi-point night since December 8, 2018.
The Railers continued to press Reading, and under two minutes later Anthony Repaci would give Worcester its first lead of the night. The lone assist was Butler’s, giving him his first three-point game since January 17,2017 with Milwaukee.
It was captain Jordan Smotherman who put the game out of reach for Worcester with an empty-net power play goal that made it the 5-3 final.
Scratches for the Railers were Scratches for the Railers were Jacob Hayhurst (Commissioner’s Exempt List), Grant Jozefek (upper body/Commissioner’s Exempt List), Reece Newkirk (Commissioner’s Exempt List), and Nolan Vesey (Commissioner’s Exempt List). Jason Pawloski was the backup netminder. In addition to the Bobby Butler signing, Worcester also re-signed Austin Block to a contract. Block played 25 games for the Railers in 2018-19, going 0-7-7. The 25 games without a goal are the most for a forward in Worcester pro hockey history. He played defense on Sunday, but we’ll tack another game onto that record anyway.
By playing one game in a Worcester Jersey Butler joins lots of the city’s hockey alumni lists, including becoming the 34th player to play for a city pro team and to have played in the Olympics. He played on the 2018 version of Team USA at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Gangneung, South Korea. Former WorSharks captain John McCarthy was also on that squad, which finished seventh with a 2-1-2 mark. Neither Butler nor McCarthy registered a point in the competition.
Butler jumps to the top of Worcester pro hockey’s “one and done” list with his three points in his, at least for now, single-game stint with the Railers. Kyle Schempp, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Chris Blight all had two points in their one regular-season game with Worcester. In theory, you could give Blight an asterisk as he played both a regular-season game and a playoff game with the WorSharks, but since there were four years between the two appearances I think we can say he qualifies for the list. Reece Newkirk’s three points in one game also makes the listing, but he is currently on the ECHL’s Commissioner’s Exempt List and is expected to play for the Railers once cleared.
Defenseman Nick Albano had a chance to join Jamal Mayers as the only player to score the first goal of the calendar year for Worcester twice in their career. With the Railers not playing during the 2020-21 season, Albano’s season-opening goal on October 22 was the first goal in 2021. Mayers scored the first goal of the calendar year for the IceCats in 1997 and 1999. With the win, Worcester pro teams improve to 15-10-2 in their first games of the new calendar year.
There’s still some Is to dot and Ts to cross, but the current total of money raised and toy and gift cards donated to local charities by the Worcester Railers Booster Club this past holiday season is $4,000. The primary recipient of those donations was the Friendly House.
The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – 8 Bobby Butler
2. WOR – 30 Brody Claeys
3. WOR – 81 Anthony Repaci
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Brent Beaudoin.
Even Strength Lines
Feasey / Coughlin / Olsson
Smotherman / Beaudoin / Butler
Repaci / Paliani / Besinger
Spetz / Albano
Bourdais / McGurty
Furgele / Block
Reading 1 1 1 – 3
Worcester 0 2 3 – 5
1st Period-1, Reading, Gooch 2 (McNally, Cecere), 12:32 (PP). Penalties-served by Smotherman Wor (bench – too many men), 10:33; Brandt Rea (delay of game), 13:53.
2nd Period-2, Reading, McNally 4 (Morrison, Bajkov), 8:31. 3, Worcester, Butler 1 (Smotherman, Beaudoin), 13:31. 4, Worcester, Olsson 7 (Albano, Coughlin), 16:23 (PP). Penalties-Ordoobadi Wor (high-sticking), 2:12; DiChiara Rea (holding), 15:54; Coughlin Wor (roughing), 19:37.
3rd Period-5, Reading, Bajkov 7 (Gooch, Morrison), 1:26 (PP). 6, Worcester, Beaudoin 4 (Butler), 1:40. 7, Worcester, Repaci 5 (Butler), 3:29. 8, Worcester, Smotherman 11 (Repaci, Coughlin), 19:18 (PP EN). Penalties-Crocock Rea (holding), 7:00; McNally Rea (tripping), 18:38.
Shots on Goal-Reading 16-10-16-42. Worcester 3-8-9-20.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 2 / 3; Worcester 2 / 4.
Goalies-Reading, Côté-Cazenave 1-1-0-0 (19 shots-15 saves). Worcester, Claeys 1-1-0-0 (42 shots-39 saves).
Referees-Logan Gruhl (29).
Linesmen-Shane Kanaly (74), Robert Griffin (53).
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