Railers can’t overcome slow start in 5-3 loss to Reading

The Worcester Railers closed out their home and home series against the Reading Royals Friday night at the DCU Center where a slow start put them in a hole too deep to climb out of as they dropped a 5-3 contest to the ECHL’s North Division leaders.

Railers head coach coach David Cunniff told Bill Ballou postgame, “We didn’t compete and I really don’t know why. I thought we had a good pre-game skate but when the puck dropped we lost every race, we lost every puck battle.” And Cunniff wasn’t exaggerating when he said “every puck battle”. It was so bad this writer quipped on Twitter that a certain Railers player may have set a Worcester pro record for most puck battles lost in a single shift.

Reading’s first goal came at 12:29 of the first period–although the scoresheet currently says 12:56–when Anthony Gagnon ripped one from the high slot right at the chest of Worcester goaltender Jimmy Poreda. Somehow the puck ended up going through Poreda’s legs, and Jackson Cressey was able to tap the puck over the goal line. Dominic Cormier made it 2-0 at 15:16 just as a Royals power play was ending when the Railers showed no defensive discipline by having all four skaters caught within ten feet of each other on the sideboards as Myler McGurty raced to try to get back into the play.

Patrick Bajkov then made it 3-0 at 17:36 when Worcester defenseman Mike Cornell fell, allowing Bajkov to skate in alone on Poreda. Bajkov’s shot was hardly a whistler, but Poreda couldn’t get his pads closed quick enough as another Reading goal got through the five-hole. The goal was reviewed as Trevor Gooch may have made contact with Poreda, but referee Casey Terreri quickly ruled it a good goal, and that was probably the correct call.

In the second period, the Railers picked up the pace a bit and started to get into the game but continued to struggle to get quality scoring chances as Reading used great team defense to clog up the middle. As has happened all season long, it was a defensive turnover that ended up with the puck in the Worcester net. This time it was Cornell misplaying the puck allowing Reading to steal it, and then with numbers, Brad Morrison lit the lamp at 14:46.

The Railers showed signs of life late in the frame when newcomer Mitchell Balmas scored his first ECHL goal on the power play.

You could then add “don’t give up a goal in the last minute of a period” to the things Worcester got wrong Friday, as any momentum the Balmas strike gained them they lost when Garret Cockerill beat Poreda from up high with 17.8 seconds left in the middle frame.

Worcester sort of made a game of it in the third frame when Blake Christensen scored twice in the middle of the period.

But that was as close as the Railers would get in the 5-3 loss.

Scratches for the Railers were Bobby Butler (IR/unknown), Will Cullen (IR/unknown), John Furgele, Grant Jozefek (IR/upper body), Connor McCarthy (IR/unknown), Chris Ordoobadi, Ethan Price, and Nolan Vesey. Colten Ellis was the backup up goaltender.

Prior to the game, the Railers added Cullen and McCarthy to the IR list. Cullen was added retroactively to February 13th, so he’s eligible to return at any time. McCarthy was added with an effective date of February 26th, so he’ll be eligible to return next Saturday. The roster spots were needed as also pregame Bridgeport loaned Mike Cornell to the Railers, and Springfield assigned forward Mitchell Balmas. Both played Friday night.

In a not-so-great record that’s been tied twice before during this season, defenseman Nick Albano went a Railers and Worcester pro-hockey worst minus-five in the contest. He’s the seventh Worcester pro player to be minus-five in a game, with Drew Callin and Jacob Hayhurst also hitting that mark on December 29th in Maine. Robert Powers was the first Railers player to do it, joining IceCats defensemen Steve Staios and Chad Dameworth and WorSharks defender Nick Petrecki in the minus-five club. If you’re wondering the best in Worcester pro hockey, it was Peter Smrek’s plus-six on October 26, 2000, vs Hartford. The Railers mark is plus-five, set by many players.

I’m sure everyone has seen this play by Railers netminder Jimmy Poreda by now, but in case you haven’t…

What I haven’t seen many saying is this is a textbook case of tripping. It’s rule 57.2, and it’s pretty clear: “A minor penalty shall be imposed on any player who shall place his stick or any portion of his body in such a manner that it shall cause his opponent to trip and fall.” Some years ago the rule stated that if a player touched the puck before tripping his opponent that it wasn’t a penalty, that was changed for the 2014-15 season to only include a player’s stick. Royals forward Anthony Gagnon tripped over Poreda’s body, so that should have been a penalty. Referee Casey Terreri didn’t call it and instead blew the whistle because Poreda lost his mask.

The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – 86 Mitchell Balmas
2. REA – 15 Patrick Bajkov
3. WOR – 24 Cole Coskey

The 210Sports Player of the Game was Blake Christensen.

Even Strength Lines
Olsson / Beaudoin / Rapaci
Newkirk / Coughlin / Smotherman
Christensen / Hayhurst / Coskey

Spetz / McGurty
Cornell / Albano
Osmanski / Sredl

In the North Division
Indy 5, Trois-Rivieres 0
Newfoundland 4, Adirondack 3

Our affiliates last night
Springfield 4, Hersehy 3 (OT)
Bridgeport 5, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4

Reading 3 2 0 – 5
Worcester 0 1 2 – 3

1st Period-1, Reading, Cressey 9 (Gagnon, Cormier), 12:56. 2, Reading, Cormier 14 (Hausinger, Ebbing), 15:16. 3, Reading, Bajkov 19 (MacKinnon, Gooch), 17:36. Penalties-McGurty Wor (holding), 13:11.

2nd Period-4, Reading, Morrison 10 (Bajkov), 14:46. 5, Worcester, Balmas 1 (Albano, Coskey), 17:36 (PP). 6, Reading, Cockerill 3 (Low, Gagnon), 19:42. Penalties-Brandt Rea (roughing), 1:41; Smotherman Wor (roughing), 1:41; Gagnon Rea (hooking), 17:22.

3rd Period-7, Worcester, Christensen 11 (Balmas, Coskey), 8:10. 8, Worcester, Christensen 12 (Balmas, Coskey), 13:38. Penalties-Hayhurst Wor (holding), 14:58.

Shots on Goal-Reading 9-9-6-24. Worcester 7-14-6-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 0 / 2; Worcester 1 / 1.
Goalies-Reading, Flodell 6-4-0-0 (27 shots-24 saves). Worcester, Poreda 2-4-0-0 (24 shots-19 saves).
Referees-Casey Terreri (14).
Linesmen-Evan Reddick (67), Shane Kanaly (74).

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