A look at the Worcester Railers inaugural schedule

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This afternoon the ECHL announced their schedule for the 2017-18 regular season, and for the Worcester Railers it would be tough to envision it being any better. The schedule features 13 different opponents and 30 of 36 home games on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

RailersHC will start all home games from Tuesday through Saturday at 7:05pm, with Sunday home games starting at 3:05pm.

Some notable things with the schedule include an 11-game home stand that runs from January 19th to February 10th. Bookending that stretch is two long road trips, with RailersHC hitting the road for six games in early January and then a seven game trip to close out February.

Also notable is Worcester’s first long distance trip takes place right out of the gate. After the season opener at home on Saturday, October 14th against Manchester, RailersHC visits the Monarchs the next Saturday and then heads to the Mountain Time Zone for a game against the Colorado Eagles and a pair at Utah.

That’s a trip Worcester Railers head coach Jamie Russell was looking forward to, calling it a great opportunity for the guys to get to know each other. Russell noted that as a new franchise the team will be playing together for the first time, and a road trip like this one can go a long way in cementing relationships between the players.

The trip out west will not be the only time Worcester takes to the air to get to an opponent as RailersHC will also visit Orlando for three games in mid-February. As Orlando is a location serviced out of Worcester airport the Railers might see a handful of familiar faces in the crowd for those games.

Taking a closer look at the schedule Worcester really lucked out with the timing and locations of many of their road games as only three times will they have extended bus rides between road games on consecutive nights.

In what I dubbed “mad dashes” in the Worcester Sharks era, in late November RailersHC plays Friday night in Toledo and then busses to Wheeling, WV. It’s a trip just under five hours, but with an evening start against the Nailers Worcester should still get enough rest before the game.

The second mad dash is in early January with a Friday night game in Glens Falls, NY against Adirondack followed by a Saturday night game in Reading, PA. Once again, an under five hour trip and an evening game the next night. The third is between the same cities again in late February.

Breaking down the schedule, Worcester plays Manchester 15 times (7 home/8 away), Reading 14 times (6/8), Adirondack 12 times (5/7), Wheeling nine times (5/4), and Brampton seven times (5/2). They play Utah three times (1/2) and Toledo twice (1/1). The remaining home games are against Quad City (twice), South Carolina, Jacksonville, Florida, and Fort Wayne. The rest of the road games are Orlando (3) and Colorado.

In what became a tradition in the WorSharks era, I try to determine the number of nights the team will spend in hotel rooms. Unlike the WorSharks days Worcester has a lot of extended trips so the number is a lot higher than in years past. Right now my guess is 20. That could change as Orlando shares its arena with an NBA franchise and their schedule can’t be finalized until the NBA announces their dates.

The Worcester Railers 2017-18 schedule is…

OCTOBER
SAT 14 MANCHESTER 7:05 p.m.
Sat 21 @ Manchester 6:00 p.m.
Wed 25 @ Colorado 9:05 p.m.
Fri 27 @ Utah 9:05 p.m.
Sat 28 @ Utah 9:05 p.m.
TUE 31 TOLEDO 7:05 p.m.

NOVEMBER
FRI 3 READING 7:05 p.m.
SAT 4 READING 7:05 p.m.
SUN 5 READING 3:05 p.m.
SAT 11 MANCHESTER 7:05 p.m.
Sun 12 @ Manchester 3:00 p.m.
TUE 14 BRAMPTON 7:05 p.m.
Fri 17 @ Manchester 7:00 p.m.
SUN 19 MANCHESTER 3:05 p.m.
Wed 22 @ Wheeling 7:05 p.m.
Fri 24 @ Toledo 7:15 p.m.
Sat 25 @ Wheeling 7:05 p.m.

DECEMBER
Fri 1 @ Adirondack 7:00 p.m.
SAT 2 MANCHESTER 7:05 p.m.
Sun 10 @ Brampton 2:00 p.m.
Wed 13 @ Adirondack 7:00 p.m.
Fri 15 @ Adirondack 7:00 p.m.
SAT 16 ADIRONDACK 7:05 p.m.
WED 20 READING 7:05 p.m.
FRI 22 ADIRONDACK 3:05 p.m.
Sat 23 @ Adirondack 7:00 p.m.
Thu 28 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
SAT 30 MANCHESTER 7:05 p.m.
Sun 31 @ Manchester 6:00 p.m.

JANUARY
WED 3 READING 7:05 p.m.
Fri 5 @ Adirondack 7:00 p.m.
Sat 6 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
Sun 7 @ Reading 4:00 p.m.
Wed 10 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
Fri 12 @ Manchester 7:00 p.m.
Sat 13 @ Manchester 6:00 p.m.
FRI 19 JACKSONVILLE 7:05 p.m.
SAT 20 WHEELING 7:05 p.m.
SUN 21 WHEELING 3:05 p.m.
FRI 26 QUAD CITY 7:05 p.m.
SAT 27 QUAD CITY 7:05 p.m.
SUN 28 FLORIDA 3:05 p.m.

FEBRUARY
FRI 2 ADIRONDACK 7:05 p.m.
SAT 3 BRAMPTON 7:05 p.m.
WED 7 READING 7:05 p.m.
FRI 9 SOUTH CAROLINA 7:05 p.m.
SAT 10 BRAMPTON 7:05 p.m.
Thu 15 @ Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Fri 16 @ Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Sat 17 @ Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Wed 21 @ Adirondack 7:00 p.m.
Thu 22 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
Sat 24 @ Manchester 6:00 p.m.
Tue 27 @ Brampton 11:00 a.m.

MARCH
FRI 2 WHEELING 7:05 p.m.
SAT 3 WHEELING 7:05 p.m.
SUN 4 MANCHESTER 3:05 p.m.
Wed 7 @ Wheeling 10:45 a.m.
SUN 11 ADIRONDACK 3:05 p.m.
FRI 16 WHEELING 7:05 p.m.
SAT 17 FORT WAYNE 7:05 p.m.
SUN 18 UTAH 3:05 p.m.
Wed 21 @ Wheeling 7:05 p.m.
Fri 23 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
Sat 24 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
WED 28 ADIRONDACK 7:05 p.m.
FRI 30 BRAMPTON 7:05 p.m.
SAT 31 BRAMPTON 7:05 p.m.

APRIL
Sun 1 @ Adirondack 4:00 p.m.
Wed 4 @ Reading 7:00 p.m.
Sat 7 @ Manchester 6:00 p.m.
SUN 8 MANCHESTER 3:05 p.m.
Home games in CAPS

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Worcester Railers announce home opponents for 2017-2018 season

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Earlier today the Worcester Railers announced their home opponents for their inaugural 2017-2018 season. No dates were announced. The full ECHL schedule will be released in the next few weeks.

The Railers home opener was previously announced, and will be on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

The list of RailersHC home opponents are:
Adirondack Thunder
Brampton Beast
Fort Wayne Komets
Florida Everblades
Jacksonville IceMen
Manchester Monarchs
Quad City Mallards
Reading Royals
South Carolina Stingrays
Toledo Walleye
Utah Grizzlies
Wheeling Nailers

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There’s a long hockey history between Worcester and the New York Islanders

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With the official announcement of the Worcester Railers affiliating with the New York Islanders and Bridgeport Sound Tigers happening Thursday evening, a quick look back at the pro hockey history in Worcester shows the city and the Islanders are not strangers to each other.

In Worcester’s twenty year AHL history they had two longtime NHL affiliates, the St Louis Blues with the IceCats and the San Jose Sharks with the WorSharks. But in the early days of the IceCats the Blues split their affiliation with a couple different teams. Officially the Ottawa Senators joined the Blues in Worcester from 1996 to 1998, but prior to that in 1995-96 the Blues split the IceCats with another team…

The New York Islanders.

In that one season eight IceCats would go on to play for the Islanders, making it what might be the best single year affiliation in recent AHL history. But that’s not the end of the connection. In the summer of 1994 Roy Boe purchased the Springfield Indians and moved them to Worcester to become the IceCats. In 2001 Boe sold the IceCats to the Blues and founded another AHL team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Since the fall of 1994, the beginning of AHL hockey in Worcester, 60 different players have connections between the city and the Islanders and/or Sound Tigers.

Below is a list of all those players, and starting in October this list will hopefully get a lot longer.

Islanders property playing for Worcester
Derek Armstrong
Craig Darby
Jarrett Deuling
Eric Fichaud
Andreas Johansson
Jamie McLennan
Jason Strudwick
Jason Widmer

Worcester players who went on to play for Islanders
Steve Bernier
Eric Boguniecki (also BRI asst coach)
Kevin Colley
J.J. Daigneault
Dallas Eakins
Mitch Fritz
Trevor Gillies
Thomas Greiss
Sean Haggerty
Mike Iggulden
Bracken Kearns
Mike Mottau
Justin Papineau
Marty Reasoner
Jamie Rivers
Dwayne Roloson
Steve Staios
Ty Wishart

Played for Islanders, then played for Worcester
Aris Brimanis
Marc Bergevin
Joe Callahan
Vladimir Chebaturkin
Rob Davison
Jason Dawe
Micheal Haley
Steve Martins

Worcester players who also played for Bridgeport
Mike Banwell
Chris Blight
Ed Campbell
Trent Campbell
Jack Combs
Chad Costello
Riley Gill
Ben Guite
Bob Lachance
Jon Landry
Jeremy Langlois
Jay Leach
Brady Leisenring
Louis Liotti
Dennis Packard
Jason Pitton
Tyler Rennette
Cody Rudkowsky
Peter Sivak
Scott Stirling
Ken Sutton
Daniel Tkaczuk
Brett Westgarth
Jeremy Yablonski

Worcester players who coached in NYI organization
Dave Baseggio (BRI asst & head coach)
Scott Pellerin (BRI head coach)

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Several former Worcester AHLers finish regular season near the top of their leagues

With the three major pro leagues in North America reaching their playoffs it’s time to take a final look at how some former Worcester AHL players did among their respective pro leagues for the 2016-2017 season.

For the NHL, AHL, and ECHL any player in the league’s top-20 gets listed, along with players who lead their NHL teams. For the European leagues it’s just those in the top-five for the league. Goaltenders only get a mention if they meet their league’s qualifying minimums. All stats are as of the end of each league’s regular season.

In the NHL it’s all San Jose Sharks in the top-20 for skaters, with Joe Pavelski‘s seven game winning goals tying him for tenth in the league. His 29 goals ties him for the lead on the Sharks. Logan Couture makes the list as his 11 power play goals ties him for twelfth.

Rounding out the skaters are Melker Karlsson with two shorthanded goals tying him for 14th, and Micheal Haley‘s 128 penalty minutes earning him a 4th place spot.

For goaltenders Thomas Greiss of the New York Islanders ties for 15th with 26 wins, and his three shutouts ties him for 16th. St Louis Blues netminder Carter Hutton tied for twelfth with a 2.39 goals against average, and his four shutouts tied him for tenth.

Taylor Fedun becomes the first player to make this listing in two different leagues as his +3 led the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL, and his two overtime goals for the Rochester Americans tied for third in the AHL.

Continuing with the AHL, San Jose Barracuda defenseman Joakim Ryan gets three mentions, with his 39 assists tying him for 14th, his 18 power play assists tying him for 17th, and a +27 rating tying him for fourth. His teammate Barclay Goodrow also hits the list three times, with 25 goals tying him for 14th, his 5 game winners tying for 15th, and tying for the league lead with four shorthanded goals.

Syracuse Crunch defender Matt Taormina gets three mentions of his own as his 45 assists tied him for fifth, 24 power play assists tied him for fourth, and 60 points tied him for eighth. Crunch teammate Yanni Gourde hits the list twice, with his six game winners tying him for fourth and his four shorthanded goals tying for the league lead. Bridgeport Sound Tigers forward Bracken Kearns also had four game winning goals (tied 4th)

It’s not a shock to WorSharks fans that a couple former members make the listing for penalty minutes. Springfield Thunderbirds defenseman Sena Acolatse, who led the AHL in penalty minutes for a short while, finished tied for fourth at 147. St John’s forward Bobby Farnham held the sixth place spot with 137 minutes.

For goaltenders it’s Barracuda netminder Troy Grosenick hitting the list four times as he led the AHL in shutouts with ten, was second in wins with 30, tied for second in save percentage at .926, and finished third in goals against average at 2.04.

Also making the list four times is Iowa Wild goaltender Alex Stalock, whose 23 wins put him in eleventh place, his .926 save percentage tied him for second, 4 shutouts tied him for seventh, and a 2.29 goals against average tied him for ninth.

In the ECHL it’s Chad Costello showing why he’s a three-time league MVP as the Allen Americans forward makes the list eight times. Costello led the league in power play assists (40), assists (89), and points (122). His 33 goals tied him for eighth, his nine power play goals tied him for eleventh, and his +24 rating tied him for 19th. His six game winners (tied for ninth) and two overtime goals (tied for fourth) round out his season.

Two more Allen forwards make the list, with Gregor Hanson‘s 35 goals tying him for fourth in the league, his 14 power play goals tying him for second, and his 76 points tying him for 11th. Spencer Asuchak gets a mention for his 13 power play goals, good enough for fourth.

The Alaska Aces, playing in their final ECHL season, have two former Worcester AHLers on the list, with Peter Sivak‘s 35 goals tying him for fourth, his three shorthanded goals tying him for second, and his seven game winners tying him for fifth. The other Aces player to make the listing is Garet Hunt who finished second in the league in penalty minutes with 243.

Joining Hunt on the penalty minute leader list were Florida’s Curt Gogol with 167 (15th) and Utah’s Michael Pelech with 143 (20th).

Rounding out the ECHL skaters is Wichita’s Vincent Arseneau, who tied for the league lead with four shorthanded goals. Kalamazoo forward Lane Scheidl also made the shorthanded goal list, notching three to tie for fifth. Finally, Toledo’s Dane Walters +28 rating was good enough for 12th.

For ECHL goaltenders it’s Allen’s Riley Gill out in front as he led the league with a .935 save percentage and tied for the league lead in shutouts (7). His 32 wins and 2.22 goals against average were both good enough for second.

Adirondack’s J.P. Anderson also makes the listing in those categories, with his .918 save percentage tying him for fourth, his 2.47 goals against average placing him fourth, his two shutouts tying him for eleventh, and his 19 wins tying him for 14th.

For the former Worcester AHLers overseas, Dan DaSilva starts the listing off with three mentions as his 31 goals and 39 assists were both good enough for third in the EBEL, and his 70 points placed him second. In France it was Scott Flemming with three entries of his own with his 26 goals and 58 points ranking him second. His 32 assists were good enough for fourth.

In the DEL Jack Combs led the league in goals with 27 goals, and Mike Connelly was the league leader with 39 assists. Connelly’s 48 points tied him for fourth.

Nick Schaus‘ 29 assists was good enough for third in the Czech league, and Bryan Lerg had 20 goals to place fourth in the SHL to round out the former WorSharks skaters.

Two former Worcester IceCats skaters make the listing with Ladislav Nagy continuing to rule over the Slovakia league with his 29 goals and 61 points leading the league. His 32 assists earned him a third place spot. Over in Belarus Dan Corso‘s 49 points was second in that league, and his 33 assists was fourth.

For goaltenders, former IceCats netminder Jason Bacashihua led the Slovakia league with a 2.05 goals against average, and his .929 save percentage was good enough for second. Over in Norway Jeff Jakaitis finished third in goals against average (1.98) and fourth in save percentage (.920).

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Railers trip to Manchester was a preview of things to come

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Last Sunday saw the Worcester Railers holding another members event, this time it was taking in a game in Manchester as the Monarchs faced the Elmira Jackals. I really had no intent of making a posting about it, but so many people that couldn’t make it because of the date switch have asked me questions that I figure making one was in order.

The one thing that those that have never seen an ECHL game wanted to know was how good was the hockey. To answer that with any certainty after just one game would be silly, but I can say I was thoroughly entertained despite the obvious disparity in talent between Manchester and the Jackals.

Casual hockey fans won’t notice a significant difference between the AHL and ECHL. The game is fast paced, although plays do take a little longer to develop. The passing isn’t as crisp as the AHL, but that led to defenders being able to grab loose pucks and send their own forwards off racing towards the offensive end.

One thing I was concerned about was the shorter game roster in the ECHL, where they dress 16 skaters instead of the 18 AHL fans are used to. It really didn’t seem to be an issue, even for Elmira who was playing their third game in as many nights.

Hockey at every level eventually comes down to goaltending, and after just watching that single game I can tell it’s very important in the ECHL. The teams combined for 65 shots, and a lot of them were pretty decent attempts. To say the goalies were busy would be an understatement. Looking at the ECHL listing of team shots per game it looks like goalies are busy every game.

Another difference fans might notice is the ECHL is a single referee league. Unlike the AHL which uses two referees in about half its games, the ECHL only uses two refs in the playoffs. There’s also no video review in the ECHL, although considering the number of times AHL referees still got it wrong looking at the video it’s not like it’s that much of a difference.

The game presentation in Manchester was the same style as they had when they were in the AHL, and while the Railers obviously haven’t finalized anything in that area fans should expect it too look a lot like it did under the WorSharks.

All in all it was a great event (I promised not to mention it was the third Railers event to be impacted by the weather…ooops, oh well), and now with that fresh taste of pro hockey it really makes October seem a long way away.

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