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Railers Drop Series Finale vs. Newfoundland

Saturday, March 30th
Railers Drop Series Finale vs. Newfoundland

By Bill Ballou

WORCESTER – Newfoundland beat Worcester, 9-3, to pile more logs into the jam that has become the North Division playoff race. After Saturday night’s various scores there are three teams tied for third place with 66 points. They are Worcester, Trois-Rivieres and Newfoundland.

Maine has 65 points but games in hand. Reading has 61 points.

“It was the worst game we’ve played all year, by far,” coach Jordan Smotherman said.

Isaac Johnson, just down from the AHL, registered a hat trick by scoring with five seconds left in the third period. He also had an assist. Neil Shea scored two goals for the Growlers.

The Railers got single goals from Brendan Robbins, Connor Welsh and Jake Pivonka. Robbins’ was his first since Jan. 5. Pivonka’s was his 20th. He is the first rookie in Railers history with a 20-goal season.

Newfoundland’s first eight goals were scored against John Muse, who faced a relentless onslaught of breakaways and 2 on 1 rushes. After the eighth goal, which came at 4:44 of the third period, Smotherman pulled the veteran in favor of emergency backup Joe Spagnoli.

Until this season, the Railers had never used an EBUG in a game. It has happened twice this year with Joel Eisenhower taking over for Tristan Lennox in Reading on Dec. 15 after Lennox suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury.

Spagnoli has served as a Railers, and opposition, EBUG often through the years and practices with Worcester if needed. Smotherman had hoped to get him into a regulation game at some point.

“But not like that,” the coach added.

Spagnoli is a 40-year-old Rhode Islander, a professional goalie coach. He replaced the 35-year-old Muse, which might be some kind of ECHL record. Spagnoli stopped 11 of 12 shots, only allowing Johnson’s late goal.

He played sparingly in the Federal League into 2014-15, his most recent appearance a four-minute stint for the Watertown Wolves. Since then Spagnoli has served as an EBUG for, he guessed, about 40 to 45 games.

“He is the ultimate EBUG,” Smotherman said.

Spagnoli knows the job description.

“Usually something pretty bad has to happen for an EBUG to come in,” he said. He was not the EBUG for the Lennox injury, but joined the Railers in Glens Falls the next day.

Nine years after his last pro appearance, Spagnoli was in a game against a high-powered team. He did not appear to be nervous.

“Honestly, I thought I would be,” he said, “at least a little more than I was. I felt like I settled in pretty quickly. A couple touches of the puck and you’re right into it.”

The cities of St. John's and Worcester have had a lot of similarities.

Both had two different AHL franchises. Worcester had the IceCats and Sharks. St. John’s had the Maple Leafs and IceCaps. Both have an ECHL team. Worcester leads the all-time series by 45-43-12. The American Hockey League teams were 29-18-9. The Growlers prevailed in this league, 25-16-3.

MAKING TRACKS – The crowd was 5,037. That is the sixth highest of the season. … Dryden McKay made 19 saves in the Growlers net to pick up his first win ever against Worcester. … The Railers finished with a 5-5-2 record for March. … Blade Jenkins picked up an assist on Welsh’s goal to hit the 50-point plateau. He has done that in 50 games. … Ashton Calder tied a team record for most consecutive games in a season without a penalty. It was his 48th in a row. His only infraction this season has been a tripping call versus Adirondack on Nov. 4. Dylan Willick went the first 48 games of the 2017-18 season before being called for a fighting major.

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