The Worcester Railers, who at times during their Sunday afternoon match-up against the Kalamazoo Wings looked to be completely disinterested in playing, were less than a minute away from overtime and at least a four-point weekend when a bad bounce sent Wings forward Kyle Blaney on a three-zone breakaway. The puck broke through Ken Appleby and rolled just over the goal line to hand Worcester a 2-1 loss.
Will Cullen had the Railers goal, which gave them a 1-0 lead at 8:34 of the opening period, which we’ll show later in the post for those that didn’t see it, but from that point on Kalamazoo netminder Jason Pawloski looked like Ken Dryden out there, making incredible stop after incredible stop. Yes, the same Jason Pawloski that gave up eight goals in a game while playing for Worcester earlier this season.
As good friend John Curtin posted in a Facebook group after the game, Pawloski has now made the Railers look bad twice.
Although, to be honest, he had a lot of help Sunday. For huge swathes of the game, the Railers had the look of a group of guys that would rather be doing anything else than playing hockey. Sure, the last of a three-in-three is tough on everyone, but they came out of the gates flying and had a great first period. It was like someone flipped a switch and turned them off. This is where we’ll note that Kalamazoo was playing the same three in three Worcester was, only they were doing it on the road, and they never took their foot off the throttle.
Be that as it may, it’s probably going to shock readers when this writer points out that despite scoring just two goals over the final 124 minutes of the weekend that the biggest hole in the Railers lineup is the lack of a shutdown defenseman. All three of the Wings’ regulation goals this weekend were due to defensive failures. In general, none of them are “defense-first” style blueliners, and it shows a lot in pressure situations.
They could all learn from a Mike Cornell-like player, someone who can show them by example how to play in defensive situations and know when they should be thinking of playing just a defensive game as opposed to always thinking about offense. Dave Cunniff is a great coach, arguably the best teacher of the game in the ECHL right now, but nothing can teach a player better than actually seeing other players putting their skills to use.
Is there a player like that available? Is the cost too high to acquire one? Those are answers that we may never know for sure. But we do know you can’t win without a solid defense. And that might be the one thing holding the Worcester Railers back.
As promised, Will Cullen’s goal
Scratches for the Railers were Blake Christensen, Grant Jozefek (IR/upper body), Chris Ordoobadi, Jimmy Poreda, Austin Osmanski, Ethan Price, and Matt Sredl (IR/unknown). Colten Ellis was the backup goaltender. In the first period, Cole Coskey crashed into the Kalamazoo net and was very slow to get up. At some point after that, this writer did not notice when, Coskey left the bench area and did not return.
After the Alex Normandin fiasco of a couple of Sundays ago, we saw three really well-officiated games this weekend. Alec Rounds called Friday’s game, and Rocco Stachowiak did both weekend tilts. Neither was perfect, although to be blunt no one should ever expect that from an official at any level in any sport, but both kept their call levels very consistent during the games and spent a lot of time talking to players after the whistle. Sunday’s game was a bit more wide-open than Saturday’s, but despite being a bit looser in his calls than the previous night Stachowiak maintained the same threshold for penalties throughout the whole game Sunday. It was refreshing to see.
The three stars of the game were
1. KAL – 18 Kyle Blaney
2. KAL – 29 Jason Pawloski
3. WOR – 44 Will Cullen
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Jordan Smotherman.
Even Strength Lines
Vesey / Beaudoin / Repaci
Newkirk / Hayhurst / Coskey
Butler / Coughlin / Smotherman
Spetz / Albano
Cullen / McCarthy
Furgele / McGurty
Kalamazoo 0 1 1 – 2
Worcester 1 0 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Worcester, Cullen 6 (Newkirk, Hayhurst), 8:34. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-2, Kalamazoo, Lambdin 17 (Jordan), 13:22. Penalties-Jordan Kal (high-sticking – double), 1:44; Jordan Kal (slashing), 6:19; Hayhurst Wor (hooking), 10:37.
3rd Period-3, Kalamazoo, Blaney 7 19:08. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Kalamazoo 11-9-8-28. Worcester 7-10-8-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Kalamazoo 0 / 1; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-Kalamazoo, Pawloski 2-3-0-0 (25 shots-24 saves). Worcester, Appleby 7-9-0-1 (28 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Rocco Stachowiak (28).
Linesmen-Ryan Robinson (96), Sam Schildkraut (46).