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WORCESTER — Penalty shots come few and far between in pro hockey. When two in a game — one for each team — are awarded, it's rare.
Such was the case as the Reading Royals finished with a 6-3 victory over the Worcester Railers Friday night at DCU Center. The Railers gained and successfully converted on their chance, which was the right call by the official.
However, the Royals were given a penalty shot late in the second period on a tough call. Reading capitalized and gained a 4-2 lead. It should not have been a penalty shot, and Railers coach David Cunniff did not get an explanation.
“I have no idea,” Cunniff said. “I thought the officials were terrible tonight. It was brutal. I don’t complain about the officials because it’s a development league, and I know where we’re all at, but that being said, the momentum of the game kept turning because they would call a penalty.”
Cunniff’s biggest concern was the lack of consistency from the officials. He understands it’s a tough job.
“You have coaches in this league who stand on the bench and scream the whole time at the officials, and it shouldn’t happen,” Cunniff said. “The officials are young, and they get intimidated by it.”
Cole Coskey and Brent Beaudoin each had a goal and assist, with Coskey converting Worcester's penalty shot. Charlie Spetz had the other Railers goal.
Despite the final score, this was a situation when you can’t blame the goaltending. Veteran Ken Appleby finished with 28 saves.
“He’s the best goalie in the league,” Cunniff said. “It’s not even close. The second period, we weren’t winning races. We generated all of their offense for them. We didn’t make them earn it, but thank God we have the best goalie in the league. Even in the first period, he kept us in it.”
For his efforts between the pipes this season, his first with the Railers, Appleby was recently named to the 2022 ECHL All-Star Classic. The game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The game will air live on NHL Network.
“There’s a reason he’s going to the All-Star Game, and he certainly deserves it,” said Cunniff.
Even though the Railers had momentum off the successful penalty shot to take a 2-1 lead at 5:43 of the second period, the Royals scored on the ensuing shift to thwart Worcester’s momentum and tie the game at 2-2.
“It’s very disheartening,” Cunniff said. “You put the next line out there (Anthony Repaci, Tommy Besinger and Reece Newkirk), and they have to take pride because they’re out there for a reason. When you score a goal, you have to go hard, you can’t get softer because you know the other team is going to push. I put that line out there because I expect a lot from them.”
It was a lost night of opportunity for nearly everyone on the ice.
—Contact Joe McDonald at JMcDonald2@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeyMacHockey.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Worcester Railers fall to Reading, 6-3, on unusual night at DCU Center