With the leaves beginning to change color another hockey season is upon us, the 25th for Worcester pro hockey and the fifth for the ECHL’s Worcester Railers. After a strong inaugural campaign, the Railers have never really ever been able to get on track, more times finishing closer to the bottom of the standings than the playoffs. Notwithstanding, expectations are high in the city with a new man at the controls.
Jordan Smotherman starts the season as the franchise’s third head coach and general manager, and despite being new to pro coaching Smotherman brings something his two more tenured predecessors lacked: first-hand knowledge of what it takes to compete for a championship.
Smotherman has won league titles in the CHL, EIHL, and AHL, which is a championship pedigree that hasn’t been seen behind a Worcester bench since Greg Gilbert helmed the IceCats in the 1999-2000 season.
The biggest problem facing Smotherman this summer was replacing himself in the lineup. Smotherman’s 30 goals last season were a franchise record and tied for the seventh most in Worcester hockey history, and his 52 points were tied for third-best in franchise history.
Luckily he had a former Olympian he could call on, with former NHLer Bobby Butler signing on for a full season after playing last campaign with essentially no training. The 35-year-old Marlborough, Mass native went 6-10-16 in 20 games and was third on the team with a plus-eight rating.
It looked for a while as if Smotherman would also need to replace the team’s second leading scorer Anthony Repaci as there were no announced transactions featuring the St. Mary’s University alumni, but Repaci’s name popped up on the Springfield Thunderbirds training camp roster, and he was soon assigned to the Railers. His 22-28-51 would have been hard to replace.
Other returning players that Smotherman will be looking to improve on their 2021-22 seasons are Brent Beaudoin (14-26-40 in 60 games), Blake Christensen (18-10-28 in 36 games), Nolan Vesey (12-28-40 in 62 games), and Jacob Hayhurst (15-33-48 in 65 games).
The defense was an issue with the Railers last season, with their blue liners all being offensive specialists and none having a more traditional defensive background. While some of that came because of personnel decisions in Springfield and Bridgeport, Smotherman took no chances this season, bringing in some defensive experience in Philip Beaulieu and Noah Delmas.
Jared Brandt, who was acquired at the tail end of last season for the ubiquitous “future considerations”, was also brought back. Myles McGurty, who started the season as essentially a forward playing on the back end and improved to one of the team’s most solid defenders, is also back for a second campaign.
In a mild surprise Bridgeport assigned former Railers defenseman Ryan MacKinnon to the team. MacKinnon spend most of last season with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms and was thought to be penciled into Bridgeport’s line-up. His two-way skill set is a great addition to Worcester’s line-up.
Rookies Connor Breen and Trevor Cosgrove will also see some ice time, with Breen turning a training camp invite into a full-time contract. Breen spent the summer training with former Railers forward and fan favorite Ross Olsson, and made the team not only because of his physical play but also with his hockey smarts.
Goaltending was a strength for Worcester last season, at least when regulars Colten Ellis and Ken Appleby manned the crease. While Ellis is likely to be loaned by the St Louis Blues to another ECHL team Appleby is back this season, where he will be joined by Islanders draft pick Henrik Tikkanen, who played for MoDo Hockey in Sweden’s second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan last season.
Tikkanen is one of four players drafted by the New York Islanders on Worcester’s roster, joining Collin Adams, Blade Jenkins, and Reece Newkirk. Both Adams and Newkirk spent time on the Railers roster last season, while Jenkins played 50 games in the AHL with Bridgeport.
With the Railers not having made the postseason since 2017-18 hopes are high that Smotherman and new assistant coach Jimmy Sharrow will be finally able to deliver a winning team to the city. The Worcester faithful are primed for a deep playoff run, and now they’re hoping that the Smo’ Train can run late into the spring.
|Sat, Oct 22||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Oct 23||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Oct 26||@ Trois-Rivieres||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Oct 29||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Oct 30||@ Adirondack||3:00 PM|
|Wed, Nov 2||Newfoundland||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Nov 5||Norfolk||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Nov 6||Norfolk||3:00 PM|
|Tue, Nov 8||Norfolk||10:00 AM|
|Fri, Nov 11||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Nov 12||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Nov 16||Reading||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Nov 18||Greenville||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Nov 19||Greenville||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Nov 23||@ Norfolk||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Nov 25||@ Norfolk||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Nov 26||@ Norfolk||6:00 PM|
|Fri, Dec 2||@ Newfoundland||5:30 PM|
|Sat, Dec 3||@ Newfoundland||5:30 PM|
|Sun, Dec 4||@ Newfoundland||2:30 PM|
|Wed, Dec 7||@ Trois Rivieres||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Dec 9||Idaho||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Dec 10||Idaho||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Dec 11||Idaho||3:00 PM|
|Sat, Dec 17||Newfoundland||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Dec 18||Newfoundland||3:00 PM|
|Wed, Dec 21||@ Trois Rivieres||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Dec 23||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Dec 28||@ Maine||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Dec 30||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Dec 31||Maine||5:00 PM|
|Sun, Jan 1||@ Maine||3:00 PM|
|Fri, Jan 6||Reading||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Jan 7||@ Reading||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Jan 11||@ Newfoundland||5:30 PM|
|Fri, Jan 13||@ Newfoundland||5:30 PM|
|Sat, Jan 14||@ Newfoundland||5:30 PM|
|Fri, Jan 20||Newfoundland||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Jan 21||Maine||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Jan 22||Trois-Rivieres||3:00 PM|
|Fri, Jan 27||Reading||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Jan 28||@ Reading||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Feb 3||South Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Feb 4||South Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Feb 5||South Carolina||3:00 PM|
|Tue, Feb 7||@ Reading||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Feb 10||Reading||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Feb 11||Reading||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Feb 17||@ Norfolk||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Feb 18||@ Norfolk||6:00 PM|
|Fri, Feb 24||@ South Carolina||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Feb 25||@ Jacksonville||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Feb 26||@ Savannah||3:00 PM|
|Fri, Mar 3||Newfoundland||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Mar 4||Newfoundland||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Mar 5||@ Maine||3:00 PM|
|Fri, Mar 10||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Mar 12||Maine||3:00 PM|
|Fri, Mar 17||@ Maine||7:15 PM|
|Sat, Mar 18||Maine||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Mar 19||@ Maine||3:00 PM|
|Wed, Mar 22||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Mar 24||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Mar 25||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Mar 29||Trois-Rivieres||7:00 PM|
|Fri, Mar 31||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Apr 1||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Apr 5||Maine||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Apr 8||Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Wed, Apr 12||@ Maine||7:00 PM|
|Sat, Apr 15||@ Adirondack||7:00 PM|
|Sun, Apr 16||@ Adirondack||3:00 PM|
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