WORCESTER — The Railers have brought something new to pro hockey here since their debut in the ECHL three seasons ago.
The Garden State has suddenly, and unexpectedly, added hockey players to soybeans, strawberries and corn to the list of what it grows and exports to the rest of the world.
The Railers roster that faced off against South Carolina at the DCU Center on Saturday night included a pair of New Jersey natives, both defensemen — Jack Macnee and Myles McGurty.
South Carolina owns the best record in the ECHL and it won again, 3-1. The Stingrays are 22-2-4 on the road this season. The Railers took an early lead on a first-period goal by Tyler Poulsen.
Kristofer Bindulis made it 1-1 for South Carolina in the second period and Cameron Askew and Scott Davidson scored for the Stingrays in the third.
Worcester picked up Macnee, who missed the game due to illness, recently in one of those Railers-Nailers deals that have been fairly common through the years. He is a rookie out of Ridgewood, New Jersey, but has spent a lot of time up north.
Macnee played prep hockey for Avon Old Farms in Connecticut then spent four seasons at Hobart College in Geneva, New York.
Or — and perhaps you can win a couple of bar bets with this — at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. That’s the official name, but try fitting it on the front of a hockey jersey.
Macnee comes by his hockey passion genetically more than geographically. His father, Pete Macnee, is Canadian.
“He grew up in Toronto playing the game, loves the game and still plays the game,” Jack Macnee said. “I think he put me on skates when I was two. I have a brother Brad, he’s an athlete, too who played hockey growing up and lacrosse in college.”
Ridgewood is in northern New Jersey, Bergen County, hard by the Garden State Parkway, and Jack Macnee spent a year in high school there then moved on to Avon Old Farms for four seasons. He subsequently headed to Hobart.
“When I was a senior in high school I really wanted to avoid playing juniors,” Macnee said. “I had repeated a year in prep school, so I was already — in my thinking — a year behind my fellow classmates from back home. I saw them having great experiences in college, so I just wanted to get to college.
“Coming out of Avon Old Farms, I had been talking to a few Division 3 schools like Trinity, Connecticut College and Hobart, and then I narrowed it down to Hobart and Trinity. I had some opportunities to go play juniors and maybe pursue a Division 1 route but I really liked what was going on at Hobart and the coaching staff there. It was a team that was really growing and it worked out.”
Macnee’s degree from Hobart is in economics and he has already done of couple of internships in finance doing equity research and sees that as a career route when hockey ends.
Hobart’s men’s teams were originally called the Deacons because the school is named after a bishop, but they are now the Statesmen and have done pretty well in the Division 3 hockey world.
“Definitely underrated,” Macnee said. “Our record in past few years speaks for itself. In my four years there we made the NCAA tournament every year, won our conference championship three out of four years, and always come to the end of year in the Top 5 in the nation.
“Last year there we made a pretty big run and lost in the Frozen Four at Stevens Point. I hope Hobart is not under the radar, but if it is, maybe because it’s a small town, Geneva. That doesn’t help but it’s starting to get on the map more. Win games, win championships and that’ll happen.”
While Macnee grew up in New Jersey, his hockey heart remains up north.
“I’m a proud Leafs fan,” he said, “now that they’re good. I think it will happen, winning the Stanley Cup, but I don’t know if will.”
What about the teams closer to home in Ridgewood?
“I can’t stand them,” Macnee said. “I took a lot of heat from Rangers and Devils fans growing up.”
Worcester teams have, through the years, had more players from New York than New Jersey, but more from New Jersey than New Hampshire, New Brunswick, New Mexico or New Guinea.
It’s a trend now and Macnee is part of the wave.
Worcester’s “Miracle on Ice” jerseys were extremely well done and well received. … The weekend home set finishes at 3:05 Sunday afternoon here with a game against the Reading Royals. … Leftover from Saturday night — the Railers were 49-39-12 for 110 points in their first 100 games, 39-50-11 (89) in their second hundred. Both games No. 100 and 200 were against Brampton and both were victories. … A belated happy birthday to Myles McGurty, who turned 26 Friday. … Worcester had a brutal February — it was 2-7-2 heading into Saturday night. … Amateur signee Brennan Feasey out of the U. of Windsor made his pro debut, and is believed to be the first Worcester pro player to arrive in town via Worcester Airport.
—Contact Bill Ballou at [email protected]