Bobby Butler Helps Lift Railers to 5-3 Victory over Reading
Former U.S. Olympian notches goal and two assists in Worcester win
By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER, MASS. – Until the day the Railers win a Kelly Cup, their First-Ever game in 2017, a dramatic 4-3 victory over Manchester, will probably remain the most memorable one in franchise history.
Sunday afternoon’s 5-3 victory over the Reading Royals is right up there with it, though.
Down 2-0 in the second period Worcester did a complete 180 and outscored the visitors 5-1 over the game’s last 26 1/2 minutes. That of itself is plenty of excitement, but how it happened is even better.
The Railers got a pair of great performances from two former NHL players, both from Central Mass., that had the crowd in a frenzy.
Marlboro’s Bobby Butler, playing his first professional game since 2019, had a goal and two assists while Westboro’s Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman, a steady presence all season long, added a goal and an assist.
Butler, making his ECHL debut at 34, has now scored goals in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, KHL and in Sweden and played for the United States in the Olympics.
He was asked if scoring goals ever gets old.
“No,” he responded. “It was an unreal feeling.”
His goal was a game-changer. Butler took a feed from Smotherman across the top of the crease and put it in near the left post to cut the Reading lead to 2-1 at 13:31 of the second period. At that point in the game Worcester had been outshot by 24-6 and had stayed in it thanks to some terrific goaltending by rookie Brody Claeys who stopped 39 of 42 shots in a second straight good outing.
It was not the first time Butler and Smotherman teamed up for a goal.
“We grew up playing with each other,” Butler said. “I think the last time we did that was in 1999 with the Minuteman Flames.”
Butler did not know until early in the day that he would be in the lineup. The Railers are living day-to-day with roster issues and had asked Butler if he could help out in a pinch, so he was ready just in case. But he did not know for sure until just a few hours before game time.
Right after Butler scored, Ross Olsson made it 2-2 and that was the score heading into the third period. Patrick Bajkov got the lead back for the Royals at 1:26, scoring on a power play but Brett Beaudoin responded 14 seconds later with a goal that turned out to be a back-breaker.
Anthony Repaci made it 4-3 at 3:29 then Smotherman finished off a line rush with an empty netter at 19:18.
The day turned out to be a family Hat Trick for the Butlers as both of Bobby’s sons — Beckham, 5, and Vincent, 6 — scored in their youth games as well.
“It’s the first day all three Butler boys have scored,” said Bobby.
Daughter Vivienne is just 2/12 so could not make it a Texas Hat Trick. She had never seen her dad play before, however, so she did get the puck from his first ECHL goal.
“It was awesome,” Butler said of his return. “It was fun to be back,” adding that he definitely had butterflies before the game and was surprised when he was on the ice for the opening faceoff and was the first Railers player announced.”
Naturally, the question is what the future might hold considering what a rousing return it was.
“I’ve got to go ice the body,” he said, “go home and hang with my kids.”
Reading got a goal and an assist from Patrick McNally, one of the most dynamic players in Railers history, and also one from Trevor Gooch. Ex-Railer Frank DiChiara, who usually finds a way to score against Worcester, was blanked this time out.
MAKING TRACKS_The victory snapped Worcester’s six-game losing streak against Reading dating back to two years ago. … The Railers are scheduled to return to Reading for a two-game series on Friday night. Worcester’s next home game is slated for Jan. 12 versus Trois-Rivieres. … With Butler in uniform, two of the three oldest players in franchise history played for Worcester. Lavallee-Smotherman is 35. Grafton’s Ryan Lannon, who was with the Railers briefly in 2017-18, was also 34 but a couple of months older than Butler. … Lavallee-Smotherman is up to 21 points (11-10-21) in 22 games. … Worcester had Matty Gaudreau for a return engagement on Friday night in Reading. Brennan Feasey (2019-20) and Austin Block (2018-19) made their returns Sunday. … Brody Claeys recorded his first ECHL win making 39 saves…. Attendance was 2,674.