On Wednesday, the Worcester Railers made their first visit to Wheeling, West Virginia to take on the Nailers at the WesBanco Arena.
The Railers showed no sign of their 11 and a half hour bus ride down to Wheeling on Tuesday and came out on fire. They would strike first when Chris Langkow won a face-off clean back to defenseman Josh Monk at the top of the right circle, and Monk blasted one past Wheeling goaltender Sean Maguire at 5:25 of the opening period. It was Monk’s first goal as a professional.
The Nailers showed Worcester why they have one of the best power plays in the ECHL when after the Railers failed to clear the puck Garrett Muers took a feed from Cam Brown and fired it over the shoulder of Worcester netminder Eamon McAdam at 10:22. Wheeling would take a 2-1 lead when the Nailers took advantage of a Railers turnover and converted on an odd man rush. Jeff Taylor was the one credited with the goal at 14:30.
In the early parts of the second period it was Wheeling controlling the play, and were it not for a few key saves by McAdam the game could have easily gotten out of reach. Slowly Worcester began to reassert themselves, and as the shot totals began to close it was Railers captain Ashton Rome that got the score back to even.
With Worcester on the power play the Railers caught a lucky break when the puck struck referee Stephen Thomson and remained in control of Worcester as opposed to being cleared out of the zone. Wade Murphy fired a pass from Patrick McNally on goal, and Rome was there to fire home the rebound at 14:43.
Wheeling would regain their lead in the third period at 5:29 when the Railers lost track of Riley Bourbonnais in front of the net, and he slammed home a pass from Nick Sorkin from behind the net.
Once again Worcester would tie the game on a nice play. With the puck in the Nailers zone Matt Gaudreau fed the puck over to Nick Saracino. The second year forward then found Langkow in front, and Langkow’s shot rocketed to the back of the net to make it 3-3 at 11:04.
It stayed that way through the end of regulation, and for just the second time in their franchise history the Railers headed to overtime. Despite spending almost the entire five minutes of the extra period on the power play Worcester couldn’t convert, so to the shootout the teams went where the Nailers would prevail to take the game 4-3.
Scratches for the Railers were Connor Doherty (21-day IR), Woody Hudson, Kellen Jones (injured, lower body), and Matt Lane. Mitch Gillam was the back-up goaltender.
While Worcester didn’t have any significant roster moves since last Saturday’s win over Manchester, a former Railers player has found a new home. Defenseman Ryan Lannon, released by Worcester last week, was signed by the Atlanta Gladiators, the ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins. Despite playing just four games for the Railers Lannon will forever be a part of Worcester hockey lore having played for both the Sharks and Railers.
The WesBanco Arena, home of the Nailers, is one of the few ice rinks that host pro teams in North America that has a non-regulation sized ice surface. The size of an NHL rink is 200’ by 85’, but at the WesBanco Arena the ice surface is 185’ x 85’. That’s the same size as the old Boston Garden, and it’s one of the reasons the Nailers are so hard to beat at home.
The games this week in Wheeling are the first time a Worcester pro team has played in West Virginia, and is the second of three new states for a Worcester pro team to play in. They’ve already visited Colorado, and have a visit to Orlando, Florida coming up in February.
Standing behind the Wheeling bench tonight was a familiar face for Worcester hockey fans as fan favorite Riley Armstrong is the assistant coach for the Nailers. Armstrong played 208 games for the WorSharks, and ranks ninth all-time in goals scored (59) and nineteenth in points (112). He also had 300 penalty minutes with the Sharks.
There is another bit of hockey history that connects Worcester and Wheeling as “Mr IceCats” Terry Virtue had two stints in each of the cities. Before playing for the IceCats in their 1994-95 inaugural season Virtue played parts of the previous two seasons with the then-named Thunderbirds. Soon after his second stint with the IceCats Virtue played a season with the Nailers in 2005-06.
The Railers will be enjoying a Thanksgiving meal in Wheeling before busing later Thursday afternoon to Toledo for Friday night’s game against the Walleye. They’ll make the four hour trip back to Wheeling after that game to take on the Nailers again on Saturday.
The three stars of the game were
1) Hunter Fejes (Wheeling #18) shootout game winner
2) Zach Tolkinen (Wheeling #27)
3) Garrett Meurs (Wheeling #23) goal, assist
The TWIW Player of the Game was Chris Langkow
Even Strength Lines
Worcester 1 1 1 0 – 3
Wheeling 2 0 1 0 – 4
1st Period-1, Worcester, Monk 1 (Langkow), 5:25. 2, Wheeling, Meurs 10 (Brown), 10:22 (PP). 3, Wheeling, Taylor 2 (Wydo), 14:30. Penalties-Masella Wor (roughing), 8:46; Tolkinen Whl (interference), 18:38.
2nd Period-4, Worcester, Rome 6 (Murphy, McNally), 14:43 (PP). Penalties-Murphy Wor (high-sticking), 8:53; Tolkinen Whl (tripping), 13:04.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Bourbonnais 1 (Sorkin, Meurs), 5:29. 6, Worcester, Langkow 3 (Saracino, Gaudreau), 11:04. Penalties-Cornell Wor (slashing), 6:50.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-served by Gardiner Whl (bench – too many men), 0:38; Wydo Whl (boarding – major, game misconduct – boarding), 2:02.
Shootout – Worcester 1 (Syner NG, Gaudreau NG, DiChiara G, Murphy NG), Wheeling 2 (Brown NG, Gardiner NG, Meurs G, Fejes G).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 8-14-7-2-0-31. Wheeling 13-7-8-1-1-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 1 / 4; Wheeling 1 / 3.
Goalies-Worcester, McAdam 4-3-1-1 (29 shots-26 saves). Wheeling, Maguire 7-2-0-0 (31 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Stephen Thomson (27).
Linesmen-Michael Fusani (41), Zach Roberts (84).