The Worcester Railers returned to the DCU Center Friday after a season-long seven-game road trip, and the fans in attendance saw the familiar sight of a team playing with tons of speed, making sharp passes and smart plays, taking advantage of mistakes, and getting great goaltending. Unfortunately, it was the Idaho Steelheads doing all those things as they defeated the Railers 5-1.
Over their last three games, Worcester has been outscored 12-4 and outshot 132-71.
Granted it would be easy to blame some of those offensive woes on the schedule, playing five games in eight days. Except we’ve seen spurts where this team suddenly gets on track, as we did late in the second period last night. It also wouldn’t take much to say it’s because they’re missing guys like Collin Adams, Steve Jandric, and Jimmy Lambert. Except they beat one of the top teams in the ECHL twice in as many days without those guys.
What made the Railers successful early on was the constant pressure going north toward the opponent’s end. Lately, all they’ve been doing is chasing the play south toward their own. Jordan Smotherman has his first big issue in his rookie season as head coach: getting his team turned around, both literally and figuratively.
For the second game in a row, Worcester failed to strike in the first period and found themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes. They were outshot 19-5 in the frame in a stanza that was nowhere near as evenly played as the score and shot totals would make it seem. Yes, it was that bad.
Reece Newkirk got his team and the fans back into the game with a second-period goal to make it 2-1.
But despite a handful of great chances at the end of the second period and early in the third the Railers couldn’t light the lamp again, and the Steelheads tacked on three more goals for the 5-1 final. Former Worcester forward Wade Murphy, who scored the first-ever franchise goal for the Railers, was on the ice for every Idaho goal, finishing the contest plus-5.
The two teams meet again Saturday night, with a 7pm puck drop.
Scratches for the Railers were Zack Bross, Derek Osik, and Jeff Solow. Henrik Tikkanen was the backup goaltender. Prior to the game, the Bridgeport Islanders loaned Blade Jankins back to the Railers.
With it being the first time the two teams have met this season will take a look at some roster and area connections between the clubs. For Idaho, forwards
Ryan Dmowski and A.J. White played four seasons for UMass-Lowell, Ty Pelton-Byce spent two seasons at Harvard, and Zach Walker was at BC for four seasons. Lastly, Wade Murphy scored the first goal in franchise history for the Railers, going 3-9-12 over 17 games in 2017-18. There don’t seem to be any connections in the opposite direction, with no Worcester player connecting to the Steelheads or the Gem State in any way.
One connection that deserves its own section was the return of former Railers broadcaster Cam McGuire, now the voice of the Idaho Steelheads. As one might expect Cam drew quite the crowd pregame as fans wanted to catch up with him. When asked what spots he’d hit since he got into town Wednesday Cam rattled off his usual haunts, and despite him saying he was good now and wouldn’t be going back to them he did give that little wry smile he has, so we’ll refrain from mentioning those spots just in case he wants to return to them over the weekend.
The three stars of the game were:
1. IDH – 18 A.J. White
2. IDH – 77 Jordan Kawaguchi
3. IDH – 6 Wade Murphy
The 210Sports Player of the Game was Reece Newkirk.
Even Strength Lines
Newkirk / Jenkins / Ryan
Vesey / Beaudoin / Repaci
Christensen / Coughlin / Butler
X / Quinlivan / Jerry
Brandt / McGurty
Beaulieu / Delmas
Evers / McCarthy
Idaho 2 0 3 – 5
Worcester 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Idaho, White 3 1:28. 2, Idaho, White 4 (Murphy, Kudla), 7:02. Penalties-Vesey Wor (tripping), 17:58; Brandt Wor (high-sticking), 20:00.
2nd Period-3, Worcester, Newkirk 9 (Ryan, Evers), 11:20. Penalties-Pelton-Byce Idh (hooking), 19:34.
3rd Period-4, Idaho, Murphy 2 (White, Kawaguchi), 3:19. 5, Idaho, Headrick 5 (Murphy, Kawaguchi), 15:00. 6, Idaho, Kehler 10 (Pelton-Byce, Dmowski), 18:05. Penalties-Svanenbergs Idh (high-sticking), 5:06; Svanenbergs Idh (holding), 18:46.
Shots on Goal-Idaho 19-12-17-48. Worcester 5-7-11-23.
Power Play Opportunities-Idaho 0 / 2; Worcester 0 / 3.
Goalies-Idaho, Scheel 5-1-0-0 (23 shots-22 saves). Worcester, Appleby 8-2-1-0 (48 shots-43 saves).
Referees-Michael Zyla (34).
Linesmen-Sam Schildkraut (46), Noah Merrow (57).
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