Railers bumble their way to 3-2 loss to South Carolina

The Worcester Railers hosted the South Carolina Stingrays Friday night in the first of three games in a row between the squads at the DCU Center, and once again Worcester made a ton of costly errors that they weren’t talented enough to overcome in a 3-2 loss.

It would be easy to blame referee Nolan Bloyer’s third-period blunder for the loss, but the fact is that was all just icing on the cake. The real issue is the current Railers roster simply can’t compete with the top teams of the ECHL, and unless some changes are made quickly this will be just another in a long line of Worcester teams making tee times in April.

The teams were scoreless through the opening twenty minutes, but despite the Stingrays having a 12-5 shot advantage the period looked to be pretty even in scoring chances. In the middle stanza, Collin Adams gave his team the lead 5:08 into the frame.

As has happened far too many times this season, once again the Railers gave up a goal right after scoring one when South Carolina’s Kevin O’Neil scored 58 seconds later. Worcester was running around in their own zone and the patient Stingrays were just waiting for an opening, and O’Neil found one when he skated in front along the goal line to the left of Henrik Tikkanen. Inexplicably Myles McGurty vacated the front of the net to chase Josh Wilkins, who was skating away from him, leaving the front of the net open. O’Neil skated right to the spot, and with McGurty’s stick check ignored by O’Neil, the onrushing forward flipped a backhander into the net.

With Andrei Bakanov in the penalty box for a lazy hooking penalty South Carolina made it 2-1 at 18:47.

Another thing that has happened too often is the Railers allowing goals in the final minutes of periods, although Friday night they took it to an extreme when Jonny Evans connected just as the horn sounded to end the frame. The Railers broke into the Stingrays’ zone with under ten seconds remaining in the period, with defensemen Connor McCarthy and Trevor Cosgrove joining the rush. For no reason that this writer can fathom Reece Newkirk was at the Worcester bench as opposed to taking part in the play.

What Newkirk should have been doing is either joining the rush or covering Evans in the neutral zone. He did neither, and the puck ended up behind Tikkanen with .1 seconds on the clock. It ties for the latest goal ever scored in a period at the DCU Center. Tomas Plihal also had a goal at 19:59.9, on Saturday, January 19, 2008, in the WorSharks’ 4-3 loss to the Providence Bruins. In a Railers connection, the primary assist on the goal went to Aston Rome.

After hardly being noticed for the first two periods referee Bloyer certainly made up for it in the third. The first time was just a minor thing as he overruled his two linesmen in the location of a faceoff after South Carolina was called for a hand pass. It’s rule 79.3, and even though the puck was touched in the neutral zone the hand pass originated inside the Stingray’s zone, so that’s where the faceoff should have taken place. Bloyer put it in the neutral zone.

The big issue took place at 13:36 of the frame after Newkirk got mixed up with Carter Turnbull. Anthony Del Gaizo then skated over and sucker-punched Newkirk right in front of referee Bloyer. At a very minimum it should have been a major for fighting, and by rule could have been called a match penalty. What it absolutely isn’t is a double minor for roughing, yet that is what referee Bloyer called.

Railers captain Bobby Butler rightly went to discuss the issue with referee Bloyer and was then hit with a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, “disputing decision” is the official reason, and a ten-minute minute misconduct. Readers will not be shocked to hear those penalties are incorrect too as referee Bloyer called them both at the same time, and by rule, the ten-minute misconduct can only be issued if the player continues to dispute the call. Butler was skating away from Bloyer when both calls were made.

So instead of what they should have gotten Worcester ended up with just a two-minute power play, and while they didn’t score on it Newkirk connected just moments after the teams were both at full strength.

But that was as close as the Railers would come as they were unable to get Tikkanen off for an extra attacker until very late, and they never got a shot off with their goaltender pulled.

Scratches for the Railers were Ken Appleby (IR/unknown), Phil Beaulieu (IR/unknown), Jared Brandt (lower body), Liam Coughlin, Noah Delmas, Jack Quinlivan (IR/unknown), and Nolan Vesey. Brent Moran was the backup goaltender.

As was sort of expected Bridgeport recalled defenseman Ryan MacKinnon right after Saturday’s game in Reading, and he was in the lineup for the AHL Islanders Sunday in Hershey. On Thursday Henrik Tikkanen was loaned back to Worcester by Bridgeport after a couple of games backing up Jakub Skarek. With Tikkanen back goaltender Austin Cain was no longer needed and he was released. Cain’s signing was originally listed by the ECHL as a standard contract, but at some point that was changed, and the announcement of his release indicated he was an EBUG. With the Railers needing a defenseman Railers general manager Jordan Smotherman brought back Conner Breen.

Once again Worcester State University men’s ice hockey head coach Bob Deraney was behind the bench with Smotherman and assistant coach Jimmy Sharrow.

For the first time that this writer can remember, there was an error by the handlers of mascot Trax Friday night as the Railyard Dog was wearing a blue jersey while the team on the ice was wearing their orange sweaters. There have been a few times where Trax was on the concourse pregame in the “wrong” jersey but changed into the correct one for the game, but no one could recall an instance where Trax was in the wrong color all game.

With it being the first time these two teams have met this season we’ll look at some roster and area connections. South Carolina goaltender Tyler Wall spent four seasons at UMass-Lowell, defenders Michael Kim and Connor Moore played four seasons for Boston College, and forward Anthony Del Gaizo was at UMass-Amherst for four seasons. Forward Ryan Scarfo was born in North Chelmsford, Mass. There don’t appear to be any Railers connections to the Stingrays.

Over on LFG Railers voting was held for last week’s Railers Player of the Week, and as expected Trevor Cosgrove was the runaway winner with 41 of the 47 votes cast. Collin Adams, Liam Coughlin, and Christain Evers were the other finalists.

The three stars of the game were:
1. SC – 7 Jonny Evans
2. WOR – 21 Collin Adams
3. SC – 19 Kevin O’Neil

The 210Sports Player of the Game was no one.

Even Strength Lines
Bakanov / Newkirk / Butler
Fea / Adams / Ryan
Christensen / Beaudoin / Repaci
X / Jerry / Bross

Evers / McCarthy
Terchiyev / McGurty
Cosgrove / Breen

Our affiliates last night
Hershey 4, Bridgeport 1
Springfield 4, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

In the ECHL’s North Division
Trois-Rivieres 7, Norfolk 4
Adirondack 5, Reading 3
Newfoundland 3, Maine 1

North Division Standings
Newfoundland 63 (.750)
Reading 52 (.650)
Maine 50 (.641)
Worcester 47 (.547)
Adirondack 36 (.450)
Trois-Rivieres 34 (.395)
Norfolk 19 (.221)

South Carolina 0 3 0 – 3
Worcester 0 1 1 – 2

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-O’Neil Sc (high-sticking), 18:51.

2nd Period-1, Worcester, Adams 14 (McCarthy, Ryan), 5:08. 2, South Carolina, O’Neil 14 (Evans), 6:06. 3, South Carolina, Turnbull 24 (Del Gaizo, Hughes), 18:47 (PP). 4, South Carolina, Evans 8 (Kim, Stevenson), 19:59. Penalties-Bross Wor (delay of game), 7:57; Wardley Sc (hooking), 12:03; Wardley Sc (hooking), 14:52; Bakanov Wor (hooking), 18:36.

3rd Period-5, Worcester, Newkirk 14 (Cosgrove), 15:45. Penalties-Del Gaizo Sc (double – roughing), 13:36; Butler Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct – disputing decision, misconduct), 13:36.

Shots on Goal-South Carolina 12-19-5-36. Worcester 5-8-13-26.
Power Play Opportunities-South Carolina 1 / 2; Worcester 0 / 4.
Goalies-South Carolina, Stevenson 11-3-3-1 (26 shots-24 saves). Worcester, Tikkanen 11-11-2-0 (36 shots-33 saves).
Referees-Nolan Bloyer (31).
Linesmen-Shane Kanaly (74), Patrick Philbin (88).

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