The Worcester Railers hosted the South Carolina Stingrays Friday night at the DCU Center in their last match-up of the season against a non-divisional opponent and got multi-point nights from Blake Christensen and Reece Newkirk and Colten Ellis’ first professional shutout to keep themselves firmly in the playoff hunt after a 3-0 win.
Usually when Ellis takes the ice we expect him to make a highlight save or three to keep his team in the game, but oddly enough Ellis really only had one of those. Most of the goaltending highlights took place 190-feet away from him as Worcester peppered South Carolina netminder Hunter Shepard with high-quality bid after high-quality bid, and were it not for Shepard this game would have been all but over after twenty minutes.
The Stingrays only tweeted out one save Shepard made, and while it was a nice one it probably wouldn’t have made the top-five list in the game for him.
Worcester outshot the Stingrays 19-5 in the first twenty minutes, and were it not for Shepard it could have easily been a five or six goal lead for the Railers. Worcester did get two in the opening frame, the first from Newkirk.
The second came from Jacob Hayhurst about six minutes later, with Christensen picking up his second helper of the game.
It stayed 2-0 through the second and deep into the third frame, with the goaltenders taking center stage. Shepard was far busier, with the shots being 28-8 after 40-minutes. Bill Ballou talked to Ellis after the game and asked about not seeing a lot of shots. “I’ve been used to that,” Ellis said of the uneventful first two periods. “I’ve been on some really good teams like this one before. The boys did a great job limiting their shots, limiting their chances in the first two periods, and in the third blocking shots and just doing all the right things to let me get (the shutout).”
Worcester’s offense kept Shepard on the ice a lot longer than South Carolina head coach Ryan Blair probably wanted, and even then the Stingrays only had one legitimate scoring chance with the extra attacker. Christensen put an end to any thoughts of a comeback with an empty-net goal from just outside the Stingrays’ end with 18.7 seconds left in the game.
All that was left was to run the clock out on Ellis’ shutout bid, and the Railers did that without surrendering another shot on goal.
Scratches for the Railers were Bobby Butler, Liam Coughlin (IR/unknown), Grant Jozefek (IR/upper body), Ross Olsson, Chris Ordoobadi (IR/unknown), and Matt Sredl. Ken Appleby was the backup goaltender.
Prior to Friday’s game, Mitchell Balmas was recalled to Springfield and Felix Bibeau was reassigned from Bridgeport to Worcester by the NY Islanders. In the last minute of the game Bibeau needed to be helped from the ice when there was a collision between Bibeau, Railers defenseman Austin Osmanski, and Stingrays forward Andrew Cherniwchan. We generally don’t guess on injuries here on 210Sports, but we will say the video of the incident looks ugly.
Lots of other transactions for Worcester since our last posting, starting with the Nick Albano trade to the Allen Americans announced on the radio broadcast last Friday being made official. On Monday another defenseman, John Furgele, was traded to the Tulsa Oilers for “cash considerations”. To replace the two defenders lost, General Manager Dave Cunniff signed University of New Hampshire alternate captain Ryan Verrier Dartmouth captain Harrison Markell to contracts. Both made their pro debuts in Wednesday’s 4-3 win in Trois-Rivieres. On Thursday it was announced the Railers had released Artur Terchiyev, who didn’t play a game for Worcester after being signed last week.
Speaking of Wednesday’s win in Trois-Rivieres, it was the first time in over four years that a Worcester netminder picked up a minor penalty when Ken Appleby decided to take matters into his own hands when Lions forward Jonathan Joannette took an extra poke at the puck after a whistle. Appleby’s roughing minor was the first Railers penalty to a goaltender since March 9, 2019, when Blake Wojtala got a minor for leaving the crease as Norfolk netminder Ty Reichenbach wanted to fight him. Wojtala, in a relief appearance after an injury to Evan Buitenhuis, was more than willing to fight Reichenbach but was ordered away from the opposing netminder as Wojtala was the only goaltender available to Worcester at the time. Appleby’s minor was served by captain Jordan Smotherman.
In one more note from Wednesday’s game, picking the three stars is always subjective, with the home team almost always grabbing one of the three mentions, especially if there’s a local sponsor involved. So with that in mind, the Trois-Rivieres Lions could use some help in picking their three stars as all three were home picks in a game they lost 4-3. You’d think that somehow they’d manage to squeeze in Blake Christensen for his two goals, but alas, they couldn’t. Even though there was no post on 210Sports we still pick a player of the game, so Christensen will have to settle for that.
Usually when the red lights start flashing behind the home goaltender fans tend to not be happy about that. What you don’t typically see is mass confusion, and then some laughter. But we had that late in the third period Friday night as the lights behind Railers netminder Colten Ellis malfunctioned, with both the red and green lights flashing as play went on.
It only lasted a minute or two before the issue was able to be fixed.
With it being the first time this season Worcester and South Carolina have matched up, we’ll take a quick look at any roster or area connections. None of the Railers have played for the Stingrays, but there has been a trade between the two clubs this season, on January 29th, that sent defenseman Karl Boudrias to South Carolina. Defender Croix Evingson spent a couple seasons at UMass-Lowell, and fellow blueliner Connor Moore played for seasons at Boston College. Center Alex Brink played one season at Boston University. Yanick Turcotte, a Railers fan favorite during his stay here, is on the South Carolina roster but has been on the injured list since the preseason.
One more quick note…this weekend the Worcester Railers Booster Club is conducting a shamrock ornament raffle to benefit The Worcester Junior Railers Mike Ellsessar Scholarship Fund. You can check out the auction at their table on the concourse behind section 109. There is also a raffle for an incredible framed signed photo of Bobby Butler taken by Rich LeBlanc. You can see the photo at the Booster Club table. If you can’t make it to the game, or just wish to buy your tickets online, the club’s 50/50 raffle all weekend will also benefit the scholarship fund. If you live in Massachusetts you can purchase tickets on their webpage as each raffle goes live.
The three stars of the game were:
1. WOR – 92 Colten Ellis
2. WOR – 10 Blake Christensen
3. WOR – 18 Reece Newkirk
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Myles McGurty.
Even Strength Lines
Vesey / Beaudoin / Repaci
Smotherman / Bibeau / Coskey
Christensen / Hayhurst / Newkirk
Spetz / McGurty
Osmanski / McCarthy
Verrier / Markell
Our affiliates last night
Lehigh Vally 3, Springfield 1
1st Period-1, Worcester, Newkirk 8 (Christensen), 6:25. 2, Worcester, Hayhurst 13 (Christensen, McGurty), 12:06. Penalties-Repaci Wor (high-sticking), 0:19; Evingson Sc (cross-checking), 3:18; Moore Sc (hooking), 7:05.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Verrier Wor (tripping), 5:50; Spetz Wor (tripping), 12:44.
3rd Period-3, Worcester, Christensen 16 (Newkirk), 19:41 (EN). Penalties-served by Newkirk Wor (bench – too many men), 7:49; Moore Sc (hooking), 10:26.
Shots on Goal-South Carolina 5-3-15-23. Worcester 19-9-12-40.
Power Play Opportunities-South Carolina 0 / 4; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-South Carolina, Shepard 5-7-2-0 (39 shots-37 saves). Worcester, Ellis 14-5-4-1 (23 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Marc-Olivier Phaneuf (23).
Linesmen-Sam Schildkraut (46), Ryan Robinson (96).
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