Worcester Telegram/Bill Ballou
WORCESTER — The Worcester Railers are taking the family entertainment aspect of the ECHL seriously.
The city’s new ECHL team announced two more signings on Monday, and they are cousins — forwards T.J. Syner and Barry Almeida, both from nearby Springfield.
“They’ve played together at lot of stops over the years,” Railers general manager-coach Jamie Russell said, “and it’s more than likely they will play together on the same line here. They have a ton of chemistry with each other, and that’s the kind of thing that can help us get out of the gates fast.”
Both players are 28, and Syner, a forward, is five weeks older than Almeida, who’s a center.
Syner played four years at UMass, Almeida four years at Boston College. As professionals, they have played together at Hershey in the AHL, Reading and Utah in the ECHL, and at Val Gardena and Coventry in Europe last season.
While experienced players, they are not veterans under ECHL rules. Both will cross the 260-game threshold this season, but their status will not change until 2018-19. Their signings give the Railers three players on ECHL contracts, all experienced pros, but not ECHL veterans. Teams are allowed four ECHL veterans.
The fact that they spent last winter in Europe means that Russell did not get a chance to see them in action.
“I have not seen them recently,” Russell said, “but did coach against both of them in the college ranks when I was an assistant at Providence College, so I’m definitely familiar with them.”
Almeida is 5-foot-8, 180 pounds. He played for the 2013 Kelly Cup champion Reading Royals and was 4-2-6 in 15 playoff games.
He has a career total of 186 games played in the ECHL (67-71-138, 123 PIM), with a career-high 29 goals with the Utah Grizzlies in 2015-16.
Syner is 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. He also played for Reading’s Kelly Cup champs and was 9-12-21 in 22 postseason games. For his pro career, Syner has skated in 48 AHL games (3-5-8, 22 PIM) with Hershey, and 172 ECHL games (57-83-140, 163 PIM) with Reading and Utah.
Russell said that the Railers’ location just down the turnpike from Springfield absolutely was a factor in Syner and Almeida signing with them. With goalie Joe Fallon, who lives in Vermont, already in the fold, all three contracted Worcester players are New England residents.
Russell and assistant coach Terry Bangen are spending the week on Long Island where their NHL partner, the New York Islanders, are conducting a development camp. Russell will get an idea of what affiliated players might be coming this way and expects to make more progress on signing players to Worcester contracts, and some of them may not even be related.