The Worcester Railers headed west to the Keystone State for the first of a pair of games against the Reading Royals at Santander Arena, and on Friday night they couldn’t hold on to a third-period lead and then lost the game on the first shot of overtime to go down in defeat 3-2.
At some point Railers head coach Dave Cunniff is going to have to figure out a way for his team to allow fewer shots on goal. They currently allow just under 36 per game, which ranks them 25th of the 27 teams in the ECHL. For the most part, it’s been excellent goaltending that’s kept them in games and Colten Ellis was no exception Friday night when he made 45 saves, including a franchise-record 22 stops in the middle period.
It was a scoreless first period that saw Worcester come flying out of the gates, but as happens many times eventually the Royals weathered the storm and slowly began to win the territorial advantage. The second period was more of the same, but despite being outshot 23-11 in the period the Railers found themselves up 2-1 after forty minutes.
Reading would open the scoring at 1:55 when the Royals converted on a three on two rush, with Patrick Bajkov getting the goal by beating Ellis high to the glove side. While I’m sure Worcester keeps track of odd-man rushes for and against the ECHL doesn’t, but one should assume if the league did the Railers would be a big negative on that list.
It took a greasy goal for Worcester to tie the score, but no matter what they look like they all count the same as captain Jordan Smotherman made it a 1-1 contest.
That goal was reviewed by referee Steven Sailor, but there was no reason given. There was no doubt on Smotherman’s second of the night, as he turned a little luck into a 2-1 lead.
The Royals’ territorial dominance continued, but Ellis was up to the challenge. But no matter how good a goaltender is sometimes a shooter is better, and with 2:28 left in regulation Garrett Cecere beat Ellis clean from the left-wing dot with an absolute laser of a wrist shot to the glove side that snuck just under the crossbar to make it 2-2.
To overtime the teams went, and just 16 seconds in Trevor Gooch skated through the Railers like they were standing still and beat Ellis to end the game.
The two teams play again Saturday night, with a 7pm puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Tommy Besinger, Brennan Feasey, Grant Jozefek (IR/upper body), Chris Ordoobadi, and Matt Sredl. Jimmy Poreda was the backup goaltender.
The transaction carousel slowed down a touch this past week and it’s starting to see some familiar names returning to the Railers line-up. As expected, Bobby Butler and Austin Block were released, along with goaltenders Brody Claeys and Jason Pawloski. Claeys didn’t make it through waivers and was claimed by Wheeling. Worcester also lost two players to PTOs, with Nick Albano heading to Charlotte and Liam Coughlin going to Springfield. For the additions to the roster, Connor McCarthy, Will Cullin, and Cole Coskey were all assigned from Bridgeport, and Colten Ellis and Mathias Laferriere were loaned from Springfield. The Railers also signed defenseman Matt Sredl.
As if all the recent new faces didn’t confuse things enough, two Worcester players in Friday night’s game were wearing new numbers. Laferriere started the season wearing #20 but wore #13 against Reading. That was McCarthy’s usual number, and he ended up in Albano’s #5. The score sheet listed Albano as playing the game until late last night when the change was made. Not that it mattered much, but even backup goalie Poreda had a number change, going from #30 to #31.
Most weeks there’s a fan vote over in the Railers fan’s Facebook group, and with Butler being declared ineligible because he only played one of the three games during the week last week’s winner was Claeys in a runaway. Unfortunately, his prize was being released and being claimed by Wheeling. In his two games with Worcester Claeys had an impressive .942 save percentage, and had the #1 save in the ECHL’s Top-3 saves of the week.
According to the Western Mustangs (U Sports), Springfield signed defenseman Austin Osmanski and assigned him to Worcester. There’s been no word from the Thunderbirds or Railers on this, but presuming it’s true Worcester will need to release a player to create a space to add him to the roster.
The three stars of the game were
1. REA – 7 Trevor Gooch
2. WOR – 92 Colten Ellis
3. REA – 15 Patrick Bajkov
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Jordan Smotherman.
Even Strength Lines
Repaci / Newkirk / Smotherman
LaFerriere / Vesey / Hayhurst
Olsson / Beaudoin / Coskey
McCarthy / McGurty
Spetz / Cullin
Furgele / Boudrias
Worcester 0 2 0 0 – 2
Reading 0 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-McGurty Wor (high-sticking), 8:23; Strong Rea (slashing), 10:45; McNally Rea (holding), 19:34.
2nd Period-1, Reading, Bajkov 8 (Morrison, McFadden), 1:55. 2, Worcester, Smotherman 12 (Hayhurst, Newkirk), 11:26. 3, Worcester, Smotherman 13 13:36. Penalties-Cooper Rea (hooking), 4:51; McGurty Wor (cross-checking), 8:05; Cooper Rea (holding), 9:15; Paliani Wor (tripping), 17:22; Olsson Wor (high-sticking), 20:00.
3rd Period-4, Reading, Cecere 1 (Bajkov, Brandt), 17:32. Penalties-McGurty Wor (tripping), 3:35; Cressey Rea (high-sticking – double), 3:35; Smotherman Wor (cross-checking), 9:51.
1st OT Period-5, Reading, Gooch 3 (McNally), 0:16. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Worcester 9-11-3-0-23. Reading 13-23-11-1-48.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 5; Reading 0 / 5.
Goalies-Worcester, Ellis 4-3-1-0 (48 shots-45 saves). Reading, Ustimenko 1-4-2-0 (23 shots-21 saves).
Referees-Steven Sailor (5).
Linesmen-Judson Ritter (70), Rich Jondo (75).
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