The Worcester Railers, fresh off their 4-2 win over Maine Wednesday night, hosted the Reading Royals Friday night at the DCU Center and once again couldn’t put two wins together in a 6-3 loss to the Royals.
Early on this season Railers general manager and head coach Dave Cunniff often called the team he assembled “teachable”, and credited assistant coach Jason Franzone with finding guys that were willing to learn and would buy into the system Cunniff wanted the Railers to play. Twenty-seven games into the season it’s becoming clear that players being “teachable” isn’t enough to win hockey games.
What wins games is scoring goals and preventing your opponent from doing the same. And right now, Worcester does neither of these things consistently well.
The Railers have arguably the best goaltender in the ECHL in Ken Appleby but have put a defense in front of him that leaves him high and dry multiple times during games. Cunniff has said he put an emphasis on getting puck-moving defensemen, and that’s great on paper but in the ECHL that usually means “can’t play defense well”. Unfortunately, they haven’t played offense very well either, accounting for just 39 of Worcester’s 211 points.
To call Worcester’s special teams “terrible” is a massive understatement and might be offensive to things that are generally referred to as terrible. The Railers penalty kill is last in the ECHL at 71.4%, and amazingly enough, that percentage is an improvement in recent weeks. Their power play is a pedestrian 16.5%, which is 20th in the ECHL, but is beyond bad at home at an ECHL’s worst 10.6%. The Railers percentage is a head-scratching 22% on the road.
Looking at Friday night’s action, it wasn’t the defense’s fault on the first goal of the game for Reading when Anthony Gagnon collected an Anthony Repaci turnover in the neutral zone and played a bit of give and go with Jacob Pritchard. Gagnon then beat Appleby with a hard wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 11:50.
Charlie Spetz then knotted the game on a play that looked offside live, but the replay shows the puck was still on the blueline when he blasted it home.
In the second period, Cole Coskey gave Worcester the lead with a penalty shot goal
But the Royals would grab the next three scores, including one on a penalty shot of their own. The first came after a draw in the Reading end that ended up in a two-on-one break into the Worcester zone. Appleby made the original save but no one picked up Brad Morrison, who put it in at 6:13. Kenny Hausinger, who signed with Worcester in the opt-out season, made it 3-2 when all five Railers on the ice lost track of him and he converted from the slot on a nice pass from behind the net. We won’t bother to ask how five skaters could forget there was an opponent within 15-feet of the net. Thomas Ebbing then scored on a penalty shot at 16:09. We won’t talk about what a terrible call that was either.
Late in the third Brent Beaudoin would get Worcester back within one at 4-3.
Unfortunately, that would be all the offense Worcester would get as Reading added two more in the third period for the 6-3 final.
Scratches for the Railers were Liam Coughlin (Commissioner’s Exempt List), Brennan Feasey, John Furgele, Grant Jozefek (IR/upper body), Myles McGurty, and Jordan Smotherman (Commissioner’s Exempt List). Recently signed Luke Peressini was the backup goaltender. Austin Osmanski made his debut with the club after being assigned by Springfield and wore #4.
Anyone that listens to the stream of the games on FloHockey or WORC-FM knows there have been issues with the audio levels in Cam McGuire’s play-by-play. Generally every pregame I head up to the broadcast booth — if one can call that platform a “booth” — and Friday was no exception. Last night the issues were being discussed as I arrived, so while I have no idea how long it will take to sort things out you can rest assured that Cam and the gang are aware of the problem and are working to fix it.
Friday night was the first time in Railers franchise history both teams were awarded a penalty shot, but it wasn’t the first time in Worcester pro hockey history it happened. On Friday, March 02, 2007, the WorSharks hosted the Providence Bruins, and both teams were awarded third-period penalty shots by referee Francois St. Laurent. Grant Stevenson beat P-Bruins netminder Hannu Toivonen 11 seconds into the frame, while Dimitri Patzold saved Pascal Pelletier’s attempt at 6:11. That game is almost as notable for the usually calm and collected Craig Valette going off on future WorSharks forward T.J. Trevelyan, earning 27 minutes in penalties to Trevelyan’s two. The Bruins won the game 6-1, with none of those events playing any sort of role.
The three stars of the game were
1. REA – 28 Thomas Ebbing
2. WOR – 24 Cole Coskey
3. WOR – 12 Brent Beaudoin
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Nolan Vesey.
Even Strength Lines
Repaci / Besinger / Newkirk
Olsson / Paliani / Ordoobadi
Coskey / Beaudoin / Vesey
Spetz / Albano
Cullen / McCarthy
Boudrias / Sredl
Reading 1 3 2 – 6
Worcester 1 2 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Reading, Gagnon 7 (Pritchard), 11:50. 2, Worcester, Spetz 2 (Coskey, Beaudoin), 17:42. Penalties-Olsson Wor (cross-checking), 4:16; Osmanski Wor (slashing), 7:19.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Coskey 2 5:43 (PS). 4, Reading, Morrison 3 (Bajkov), 6:13. 5, Reading, Hausinger 3 (Cressey, Low), 9:46. 6, Reading, Ebbing 5 16:09 (PS). 7, Worcester, Beaudoin 6 (Coskey, Vesey), 18:11. Penalties-Sredl Wor (elbowing), 3:21.
3rd Period-8, Reading, Ebbing 6 (Morrison), 9:56. 9, Reading, Low 8 (Cormier), 19:51 (EN). Penalties-Cooper Rea (tripping), 1:02; Sredl Wor (delay of game), 4:02; Pritchard Rea (hooking), 15:56.
Shots on Goal-Reading 11-14-9-34. Worcester 9-12-10-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 0 / 4; Worcester 0 / 2.
Goalies-Reading, Ustimenko 3-4-2-0 (31 shots-28 saves). Worcester, Appleby 4-6-0-1 (33 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Trevor Wohlford (38).
Linesmen-Evan Reddick (67), Robert Griffin (53).