Worcester Begins Home Weekend With 5-2 Win Over Kalamazoo Wings
Railers have won five of their last six games
By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER, MASS – For a change the Railers did not play a Fourth of July game at the DCU Center.
They won Friday night with sparklers, not fireworks, a more conventional fashion than in recent matches. Worcester beat the Kalamazoo Wings, 5-2, with Blake Christensen’s two goals in the third period leading the way. His last five goals have all come in the final 20 minutes.
Ross Olsson, Jacob Hayhurst and Anthony Repaci scored Worcester’s other goals. Colten Ellis won his third straight start and improved to 7-4-0 with one of his best games of the season. Brent Beaudoin and Cole Coskey both had two assists and Hayhurst was 1-1-2.
“It’s not that we played a more conservative game,” coach David Cunniff said, “but Kalamazoo is a good team. They’re not gonna just give up. They kept coming at us.”
The Railers have gone 5-1-0 in their last six games to re-establish themselves as playoff contenders, although they are not quite at a playoff spot yet.
Christensen’s goal at 3:02 of the third period was probably the game’s biggest. The Railers led, 3-1, heading the third period but Kalamazoo defenseman Justin Murray made it 3-2 just 16 seconds into it.
Murray, who had a fine rookie season for the Railers two years ago, scored on a 55-footer that was deflected high on the way in. Murray scored two goals in his 59 Railers games that year, but Friday’s goal was his first ever at the DCU Center.
Christensen’s goal was disallowed at first by referee Alec Rounds.
Beaudoin beat Wings goalie Trevor Gorsuch with a short backhander, but the puck bounced off the post and back towards the charging Christensen. It hit him high, in the chest, and popped in. Rounds waved it off immediately, but then went to the replay.
“It just hit my chest and went in,” said Christensen, who flinched a bit in surprise. “I thought it was a goal, so I was surprised when he waved it off because he was right there.
“I’m glad they had the replay.”
Olsson’s goal made it 1-1 and came on the power play. It extended his points streak to eight in a row and was the 10th power play goal of his Railers career, breaking the record previously held by Barry Almeida.
“I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he does,” Cunniff said of Olsson. “He has great footwork and knows where to be around the net. It’s something he has really worked hard to get better at and it shows.”
Kalamazoo took an early lead when Greg Betzold, in the low slot, redirected Andrew DeBrincat’s 45-footer along the ice. That happened at 6:03 and Worcester responded a little more than two minutes later via Olsson’s goal.
Coskey took a shot from the right circle. Olsson put the rebound home from in close at 8:13.
The Railers controlled most of the second period and increased their lead to 3-1 thanks to goals by Hayhurst and Repaci. Hayhurst’s came just 12 seconds after the opening faceoff as he converted a pass by Reece Newkirk. Repaci had an open net from the right circle at 15:14, slamming home a terrific feed by Nolan Vesey.
The goal extended Repaci’s points streak to six games at 5-5-10. He has a goal in four in a row.
Murray and Christensen scored early in the third period then Christensen ended the suspense with an unassisted empty netter at 16:54.
MAKING TRACKS_Bobby Butler is off the Covid list and is expected to play Saturday night. … Connor McCarthy assisted on Christensen’s first goal, notching his first point since Nov. 16, a span of 16 games. … This was the first-ever meeting between Kalamazoo and Worcester. The Railers have now played 25 different opponents during their ECHL life. There are five active teams Worcester has not played yet — Iowa, Idaho, Kansas City, Rapid City and Wichita. The Railers will travel to Idaho later this month. … This was Rounds’ first-ever Worcester game and he seemed to handle things well. … The teams play again here Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. … Ken Appleby is up with Bridgeport. Goalie Jimmy Poreda was en route from Tulsa and was not in the building. Joe Spagnoli was the emergency backup for the team-record 11th time. … The crowd of 2,954 lifted the Railers all-time attendance to above the half-million mark. It is at 501,371. … Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman’s points streak ended at nine games. … Beaudoin has points in six in a row at 3-7-10 and is plus-12 in that span.