WORCESTER – The Worcester Railers began their final home three-in-three weekend Friday night at the DCU Center with a game against the Wheeling Nailers that had huge playoff implications in the ECHL’s North Division, with Worcester needing to earn the win in regulation to keep within striking distance of the Nailers.
The opening 20 minutes was scoreless, mostly due to the efforts of Railers goaltender Mitch Gillam, who made several great saves in the stanza. His stellar play in the period was extra important as Worcester had to spend most of the period down a defenseman.
It happened when Mike Cornell took exception to a hit by Wheeling forward Troy Josephs on new Railers forward Kyle Schempp. Both received majors and an additional minor, but Cornell was also assessed a ten minute misconduct for continuing the altercation once both men were down on the ice. Cornell returned to the Worcester bench with nine seconds remaining in the period.
For as solid as Gillam was in the first period the Worcester offense was just as good in the second, scoring four times in the middle stanza. The first came at 2:02 when Jeff Kubiak tipped Matty Gaudreau’s shot past Wheeling goaltender Adam Morrison. Woody Hudson had the secondary assist.
Chris Langkow made it 2-0 just 23 seconds later when he tipped Ryan MacKinnon’s shot past Morrison. The assist extended MacKinnon’s points streak to six games, a Railers team record. Barry Almeida also had an assist on the play. It set the mark for the two quickest goals in Worcester Railers history.
Worcester took a three goal lead when Langkow’s shot was blocked by the Wheeling defense and the puck went right on the stick of Nick Saracino. His quick fake froze Morrison, and Saracino threw an easy backhand pass to Barry Almeida, who roofed it over the sprawling Morrison at 8:38.
Kubiak picked up his second of the game at 10:34 when Morrison kicked MacKinnon’s shot right on the tape of Kubiak’s stick. After what was essentially an open net goal Wheeling head coach Jeff Christian pulled Morrison for Matt O’Connor. Kyle McKenzie had the second assist on the pay
The four Railers goals in 8:32 set a new Railers franchise mark.
In the third period the Railers did everything they could to get Gillam the shutout, but his bid was spoiled by Danny Fick at 9:58. The Railers answered back quickly with a Hudson tally, assisted by Yanick Turcotte and Schempp, at 12:15. Frankie DiChaiara would cap the scoring with a garbage time power play goal at 19:32, with assists going to Josh McArdle and Schempp, for the 6-1 final.
Worcester welcomes the Fort Wayne Komets to the DCU Center on Saturday.
Scratches for Worcester were Connor Doherty, Tommy Kelley, Ben Masella (day to day, lower body), Josh Monk (21-day IR/Upper body), and T.J. Syner. Will King was the back-up goaltender. On Thursday Bridgeport assigned center Kyle Schempp, who hasn’t played for the Sound Tigers since February 13th, to the Railers. He will wear #15, previously worn by Willie Raskob and during Chris Saracino’s second stint with the team.
After the game Worcester telegram reporter Bill Ballou tweeted that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers had signed Ryan MacKinnon to a two-year deal, presumably for the remainder of this season and for next season.
With the win the Railers “tragic number”, the combination of points Wheeling earns and Worcester fails to gain, remains at 19. If that number hits zero, Worcester is eliminated from the playoff hunt. The Railers have three games in hand over the Nailers and play them once more this season. According to Sports Club Stats, the chance the Railers make the ECHL playoffs is now approximately 18%.
There was a brief delay in the beginning of Ashley Jordan’s performing the national anthem when the microphone failed to work. Linesman Michael Fusani skated a new microphone over to the player entrance from the public address booth and Jordan went on to sing the anthem with no issue. Turns out she accidentally clicked the original microphone to the “mute” setting.
So far this season Worcester has dressed 42 players in games, and if you think that’s a lot you need to look no further than the Wheeling roster to see it can get much worse. Last Saturday against Reading the Nailers set a franchise mark by dressing their 54th player when goaltender Danny Tirone took to the ice against the Royals. Looking at the stats for the game we’ll simply mention Tirone played and will leave it at that.
Local fans may see a familiar name start to appear in the ECHL as former Holy Cross netminder Paul Berrafato signed a deal with the Cincinnati Cyclones Friday morning. Berrafato finished his career at Holy Cross with a record of 46-45-19, and his 2.27 career goals against average ranks him first in program history. His six shutouts place him second all-time at Holy Cross, and he is tied for second all-time a the school with a .915 save percentage.
The three stars of the game were
1) Jeff Kubiak (Railers #16), 2 goals
2) Mitch Gillam (Railers #35), win, 28 saves
3) Yanick Turcotte (Railers #20), assist
The TWIW Player of the Game was Chris Langkow
Even Strength Lines
Saracino / Langkow / Almeida
Gaudreau / Kubiak / Hudson
DiChiara / Schempp / Lane
McKenzie / MacKinnon
Hamonic / McArdle
Panico / Cornell
Wheeling 0 0 1 – 1
Worcester 0 4 2 – 6
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Josephs Whl (boarding, fighting – major), 2:51; Cornell Wor (roughing, fighting – major, misconduct – continuing altercation), 2:51; Kubiak Wor (cross-checking), 8:00; Fick Whl (cross-checking), 17:39.
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Kubiak 12 (Gaudreau, Hudson), 2:02. 2, Worcester, Langkow 18 (MacKinnon, Almeida), 2:25. 3, Worcester, Almeida 19 (Saracino, Langkow), 8:38. 4, Worcester, Kubiak 13 (MacKinnon, McKenzie), 10:34. Penalties-Almeida Wor (high-sticking), 11:23; Beirnes Whl (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 13:35; Turcotte Wor (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 13:35.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Fick 4 (Spinozzi, Tiffels), 9:58. 6, Worcester, Hudson 18 (Turcotte, Schempp), 12:15. 7, Worcester, DiChiara 6 (McArdle, Schempp), 19:32 (PP). Penalties-Tiffels Whl (high-sticking – double), 13:50; Milan Whl (roughing), 19:09.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 9-9-11-29. Worcester 12-16-11-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Wheeling 0 / 2; Worcester 1 / 4.
Goalies-Wheeling, Morrison 14-12-1-0 (21 shots-17 saves); O’Connor 2-9-1-2 (18 shots-16 saves). Worcester, Gillam 15-13-0-1 (29 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Tyler Puddifant (28).
Linesmen-Michael Fusani (41), Nathan Frechette (30).