Final Regular Season Records:
Florida Everblades: 46-23-1-2 (95 pts)
Wheeling Nailers: 37-26-5-4 (83 pts)
Game Schedule (Home Team in BOLD CAPS and All Times Local):
Game 1 – Fri., April 15 – Wheeling at FLORIDA 7:30 pm
Game 2 – Sat., April 16 – Reading at FLORIDA 7 pm
Game 3 – Wed., April 20 – Toledo at WHEELING 7:05 pm
Game 4 – Fri., April 22 – Toledo at WHEELING 7:35 pm
*Game 5 – Sat., April 23 – Reading at WHEELING 7:35 pm
*Game 6 – Mon., April 25 — Toledo at FLORIDA 7:30 pm
*Game 7 – Wed., April 27 — Reading at FLORIDA 7:30 pm
* => If Necessary
Season Series Recap: The Nailers won two of three games at Florida in November in the only meetings between the teams during the regular season. Riley Brace led Wheeling in the season series with three goals while Florida was paced by Brant Harris, who scored four goals.
How Florida Wins: The Everblades have two outstanding rookies on their roster who have played vital roles in the team’s success this season. Matt Willows, the ECHL Rookie of the Year, led the team with 66 points (23G, 43A) in 71 games and 17 points in the team’s final 18 games. Anthony Peters, who finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year competition, has been a steadying force in between the pipes. This season, Peters finished with 27-15-2 record, 2.20 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Against Wheeling though, Peters went 1-2-0 with a 4.42 goals against average.
Ethan Werek could be an x-factor in this series for Florida scoring five points (1G, 4A) against the Nailers during the three-game regular-season series. Despite having a power play in the top five of the ECHL this season, the Everblades only connected on two of 14 power play chances.
How Wheeling Wins: The Nailers’ season turned their below .500 season around when David Gove was named head coach, after Clark Donatelli was promoted to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, on December 22. The Nailers finished the season 23-16-6, besting Adirondack, Kalamazoo and Reading in a log-jam in the Eastern Conference.
The Nailers have threats throughout their line-up. Riley Brace finished the season fifth in the ECHL with 67 points (26G, 41A), earning him All-ECHL second team honors. ECHL Defenseman of the Year Mathew Maione led all defensemen with 43 assists – 21 coming on the power play. Rookie Cody Wydo provided the Nailers with a balanced attack this season, scoring 50 points (23G, 27A) in 59 games this season.
Goaltender Franky Palazzese will need to be better than his only start against the Everblades this season. In his lone appearance against the Everblades on November 18, Palazzese allowed five goals on 36 shots.
The Nailers have three players currently on call-up to the American Hockey League; Jarrett Burton (38 pts), rookie Adam Krause (24 pts) and Derek Army (23 pts). If any or all of them come back during this series, it could be what sways the series Wheeling’s direction.
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