Royals Roar Over Railers 5-3 on Friday Night
Worcester looking to bounce back Saturday night for Worcester Red Sox Night
By Bill Ballou
WORCESTER, MASS. – The Railers kicked started a home three-in-three weekend Friday night falling 5-3 to the top ranked team in the North Division the Reading Royals.
The game was the Railers’ first at home since returning from a seven-game road trip that was the second best long road trip in Worcester hockey history. The team went 4-1-2 on the journey, good for 10 points. The only better one was turned in by the Sharks, who were 5-1-1 for 11 points in seven games in February, 2011.
Worcester’s homestand continues with two critical games against the Maine Mariners, who are likely to be locked in a game-by-game battle for a playoff spot with the Railers. The teams play Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Playoff positions will be decided by percentages, not points, so these will not technically be classic four-point games. However, if the Railers win both their winning percentage would improve to .530 while Maine’s would drop to .490. If it goes the other way, the Mariners would be at .529, Worcester at .490.
Five different Royals scored while Worcester got a pair of goals from Blake Christensen and another from newcomer Mitchell Balmas. Balmas, a very highly regarded prospect, assisted on both Christensen goals for a 1-2-3 Worcester debut.
Cole Coskey assisted on all three Worcester goals.
The Royals have the second-best record in the ECHL and went into the night with a six-game unbeaten streak so the last thing Worcester wanted to do was fall behind.
That was the first thing the Railers did, though, as they went into the second period with a 3-0 deficit. The Royals put three of their nine shots past goaltender Jimmy Poreda while Worcester did virtually nothing offensively until Anthony Repaci was stopped on a breakaway with 20 seconds left in the period.
“We didn’t compete and I really don’t know why,” coach David Cunniff said. “I thought we had a good pre-game skate but when the puck dropped we lost every race, we lost every puck battle.”
The Reading goals were scored by Jackson Cressey at 12:56, Dominic Cormier at 15:16 and Patrick Bajkov at 17:36. Bajkov’s goal was his ninth in nine games versus Worcester this season.
The Railers had more energy in the second and outshot the Royals, 14-9, but were outscored by 2-1. Brad Morrison made it a 4-1 game at 14:46, then Balmas ended Logan Flodell’s shutout bid at 17:36.
So much for momentum — Garrett Cockerill scored for Reading at 19:42 and it was 5-1 after 40 minutes.
Christensen scored at 8:10 and 13:38 of the third period but the Railers ran out of time.
MAKING TRACKS_Balmas is the fifth Railer this season to score in his first game for Worcester, the 17th all-time… Worcester players have recorded hat tricks 55 times through the years and city teams are 51-2-2 in those games. Ross Olsson has two this season. He is just the fourth Worcester player ever with more than one in a year and first since Eric Boguniecki did it for the IceCats in 2001-02. Jim Campbell had two in 1990-00 and Fred Knipscheer had four in 1995-96. … Brent Beaudoin has played 40 pro games without being called for a penalty. The Railers record for longest streak without a penalty is 54, set by Dylan Willick in 2017-18 and 18-19. … Will Cullen and Connor McCarthy joined Grant Jozefek and Bobby Butler on the injured list. Nolan Vesey, Chris Oordobadi, John Furgele and Ethan Price all got the night off as the Railers’ roster is overflowing. … Wearing his familiar No. 4, Ryan MacKinnon was in the Royals’ starting lineup, playing his first game at the DCU Center in something other than a Worcester uniform. Frankie DiChiara also played for Reading but Patrick McNally was not in uniform. … Mike Cornell returned from Bridgeport and played his game for Worcester since Nov. 17. … The Railers have gone 13 games without a major penalty, setting a Worcester hockey record in the process.