The Worcester Railers began an 11 game home stand Friday night at the DCU Center against the Jacksonville Icemen, and with their opponent languishing at the bottom of the standings it looked like a great opportunity for the Railers to kick off the home stand on the right foot.
Unfortunately for Worcester the Icemen had other ideas as Jacksonville jumped out to an early lead. The play began with the Railers on a four on two rush, but the Icemen broke up the play and headed into the Worcester end. Eventually Kyle Shapiro hit Josh Erickson with a pass to the top of the crease where Erickson blasted it past Railers goaltender Mitch Gillam at 5:06.
Worcester would answer at 13:47 when Matt Gaudreau flipped a shot on net that was deflected by Woody Hudson. Brock Beukebeem had the secondary assist. It was the Railers first power play goal in their last 22 attempts. It was also their first power play goal this calendar year.
Jacksonville would regain their lead at 15:30 on the power play when Yanick Turcotte’s clearing attempt was blocked by defenseman Scott Savage at the blue line. Gillam made the save on Savage’s shot but the rebound went right to Everett Clark for the score at 15:30.
Once again Worcester would answer when Hudson outwaited Icemen defender Christopher Dienes on an odd man rush and threw a nice pass to Barry Almeida at the top of the crease for the one-timer goal 59 seconds into the second period to make it 2-2. It was Hudson’s first assist on the season.
And again Jacksonville would regain the lead on a breakaway goal by Tanner Eberle at 3:50. Eberle was so far behind the play that when the Railers rush toward the Jacksonville zone stalled Tyson Fawcett had no issue flipping the puck down ice for Eberle to gather behind the Worcester defense.
The Railers would make it 3-3 at 5:35 on an odd man rush. Iceman goaltender Austin Lotz made the save on Barry Almeida’s bid, but the rebound went right on the tape of Matt Lane who buried to knot the score 3-3. Nick Saracino had the secondary assist on the goal.
The Icemen took the lead yet again on what looked like a nothing play, but Gillam misplayed an easy shot by Elgin Pierce at 10:04. Jacksonville made it 5-3 on a tough luck goal when Shapiro’s shot went high over the net, only to rebound off the glass and hit Gillam in the back, with the puck rolling over the goal line at 18:38.
Newcomer Alex Sakellaropoulos took over in net for Gillam in the third period, but the Railers couldn’t muster any offense in the last 20 minutes, losing 5-3 to the 25th ranked team in the ECHL.
Scratches for the Railers were Connor Doherty, Josh Monk (21-day IR/upper body), and Ashton Rome (upper body). Newly signed Alex Sakellaropoulos was the back-up goaltender to begin the game, playing the final 20 minutes in relief of starter Mitch Gillam.
There has been a lot of transactions for Worcester since last Saturday’s loss to Manchester. It started on Sunday with Kellen Jones and Mike Cornell taking the Magic Bus to Bridgeport before the Sound Tigers flew south to take on Charlotte. Bridgeport forward Steve Bernier, who played a handful of game with the Worcester Sharks in the 2006-07 season, took ill before the flight so the Sound Tigers recalled Jeff Kubiak to take his place. To replace those forwards Worcester signed Tommy Kelley from the SPHL’s Knoxville Ice Bears.
While in Charlotte Bridgeport goaltender Christopher Gibson got a little banged up, so Railers netminder Eamon McAdam was summoned to Bridgeport in case he was needed. That put the Railers down a goaltender, so they traded future considerations to Cincinnati to acquire Alex Sakellaropoulos. While Sakellaropoulos hasn’t had much of an opportunity at the pro level he excelled in college, going 40-22-13 for Union. Last season he was a finalist for the ECAC’s Ken Dryden Award, given to the conference’s best goaltender.
In an oddity, Friday marked the first game all season that goaltender Mitch Gillam was completely decked out in Railers gear. The issue with his blue pants was well known, but earlier this season Gillam was forced to switch back to his Cornell mask when the Railers mask he was using, originally created for Joe Fallon, didn’t fit properly. While it was being repaired for him the paint job was changed from Fallon’s #29 to Gillam’s #35. In kind of an odd twist, when Sakellaropoulos took over for Gillam Friday night all the equipment Sakellaropoulos was wearing had Union College’s colors.
With Jacksonville in town it marked the first time in Worcester pro hockey history they played a team from Florida. The Railers won’t play in Jacksonville this season, but they do trek to The Sunshine State for three games against Orlando in February.
Friday marked the start of an 11 game home stand for the Railers, by the far longest one ever in Worcester pro hockey history. The previous longest was the eight home games the IceCats played in a row at the then named Worcester’s Centrum Centre during the 2003-04 season. The Sharks had two home stands of seven games, one in the 2008-09 season, and one to end the 2013-14 season.
The three stars of the game were
1) Tanner Elerbe (Jacksonville #29) goal, assist
2) Woody Hudson (Railers #23) goal, assist
3) Shapiro (Jacksonville #73) goal, assist
The TWIW Player of the Game was Barry Almeida.
Even Strength Lines
Jacksonville 2 3 0 – 5
Worcester 1 2 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Jacksonville, Erickson 5 (Shapiro, Harkins), 5:06. 2, Worcester, Hudson 13 (Gaudreau, Beukeboom), 13:47 (PP). 3, Jacksonville, Clark 7 (Savage), 15:30 (PP). Penalties-Critchlow Jax (boarding), 6:20; DiChiara Wor (tripping), 8:52; Jeke Jax (tripping), 13:40; Saracino Wor (high-sticking), 13:55; Savage Jax (hooking), 18:44.
2nd Period-4, Worcester, Almeida 11 (Hudson), 0:59. 5, Jacksonville, Eberle 12 (Fawcett), 3:50. 6, Worcester, Lane 4 (Saracino, Almeida), 5:35. 7, Jacksonville, Pearce 13 (Eberle, Harkins), 10:04. 8, Jacksonville, Shapiro 1 18:38. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Erickson Jax (roughing), 17:13.
Shots on Goal-Jacksonville 11-16-8-35. Worcester 6-10-9-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Jacksonville 1 / 2; Worcester 1 / 4.
Goalies-Jacksonville, Lotz 6-5-1-1 (25 shots-22 saves). Worcester, Gillam 7-9-0-0 (27 shots-22 saves); Sakellaropoulos 0-0-0-0 (8 shots-8 saves).
Referees-Sean MacFarlane (4).
Linesmen-Kyle Richtelle (73), Brent Colby (38).P