WHEELING, WV – After a setback in Huntington Center in Toledo on Saturday, the Nailers looked to rebound against the Norfolk Admirals Sunday afternoon. The Nailers are unbeaten in regulation at home this season, sporting a 3-0-1-0 record inside Wesbanco Arena this season. On the flip side, Norfolk has a 2-4-0-0 on the road. Sunday’s contest was the first of three meetings between the two squads over the next six days.
The Nailers immediately came out and took control of the game in the first, firing nine of the first 11 shots. Just over five minutes in, 5:05 to be exact, Garrett Meurs was the first to dent the scoreboard beating Jamie Murray with a shot off a faceoff win by teammate Cam Brown. The goal was scored just nine seconds after the Nailers had killed a penalty.
Nailers goaltender Will King, who was making his first ECHL start, saw just six shots in the first, stopping all of them. The Nailers sent 17 in the direction of Murray who stopped all but one in the first 20 minutes.
To start the second, Brown got on the stat sheet again as he beat Murray. Riley Bourbonnais fired a shot that Murray kept out, as defender attempted to clear the rebound it bounced off Brown and past Murray for the 2-0 Wheeling lead at 1:52 of the second.
The Nailers extended that lead to three just over two minutes later, as Meurs would get his second of the night as he finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Freddie Tiffels With a 3-0 lead the Nailers looked to be in control, however, the Admirals weren’t going to go down quietly.
Just before the halfway point of the game, the Admirals would solve King as Trevor Mingola would fire a onetime pass from Brodie Dupont. The goal trimmed the Nailer lead to 2. But just before the period ended, 3.2 seconds before the break, Darik Angeli would fire a shot over King’s left shoulder and just under the junction of the post and crossbar to make the visitor’s deficit just one with 20 minutes to play. The Admirals fired 20 shots at King during the middle frame; the Nailers fired only seven in the other direction.
With 9:48 to play in the game, Cody Wydo finished a breakaway after a great pass from Kevin Schulze that sent him in alone. He got Murray down in the butterfly with a great head fake and fired the puck in to give the Nailers a two-goal lead.
After Norfolk was called for cross-checking at 15:11 it took the Nailers all of seven seconds to give themselves a three-goal lead for the second time in the contest. Hunter Fejes put one in the net with help from Tiffles and Brown on the powerplay as he found a rebound and fired it past Murray.
At 18:12, Brady Vail added a power-play goal to pull the Admirals to within two but could get no closer as King continued to turn away shots.
The Nailers finished the night 1-for-6 on the man advantage while allowing two goals on seven Norfolk power plays. King stopped 15 of 16 Norfolk shots in the third and ended the night having stopped 39 of 42 shots en route to the number one star of the game. Murray turned aside six of the Nailers eight attempts in the third and 27 total.
Nailers forward Reid Gardiner saw his point streak, which stood at ten games entering Sunday, snapped just one night after seeing his goal streak snapped at seven games Saturday in Toledo.
Wheeling’s next game is Tuesday when the team plays their first Education Day game at Wesbanco Arena at 10:45 am against the Adirondack Thunder.
Norfolk will also face Adirondack in their next contest on Thursday at the Norfolk Scope before the Nailers visit for a pair on Friday and Saturday.