ALLEN, TX – It started to look like so many games have for the Wheeling Nailers on this run, as they netted a couple of quick goals get back within a goal in the third after trailing the Allen Americans 4-1 after two periods in game one of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Final, but that was as close as the comeback attempt could get as the Americans eventually went on to take game one of the best-of-7 by a 5-3 score at the Allen Event Center.
Wheeling knew they had to stay out of the box, and they didn’t – though a few of the calls against could easily have been called dives – and Allen’s #1 ranked power play made the Nailers pay with a couple of timely goals in the second period – during which the Americans put up a total of four goals – to pull ahead after a pretty evenly played first 20 minutes.
Working on a carry over power play 1:15 into the second period, Tristan King netted his fifth of the playoffs by firing a shot through a screen that Nailers netminder Brian Foster (27 saves) never saw to open the scoring.
King struck again at the 12:10 mark to make it 2-0, firing his sixth by Foster.
The Nailers got on the board with a shorthanded goal from team captain Shane Bakker with 4:49 left in the second, his fifth of the post season, after a great play by Jordan Kwas to get him the puck coming down the right side of the ice.
Before the power play expired, Allen was able to capitalize to regain a two goal advantage as Greger Hansen netted his 12th of the playoffs to make it 3-1.
Spencer Asuchak got the eventual game winner in the final minute of the second, getting his stick on a Dyson Stevenson point try to make it 4-1 at the second intermission.
Anton Zlobin started the comeback bid with his third goal in as many games and fourth of the playoffs at the 9:06 mark, blasting a one-time feed from Clark Seymour on the power play by Allen goalie Jake Hildebrand (25 saves) to make it a two goal game. All four of Zlobin’s goals in the post season have come on the man advantage.
Again on the power play, John McCarron‘s team-leading ninth made the deficit just one 1:23 after Zlobin’s goal, as he backhanded one top shelf from the slot to make it 4-3 with about half a period to go.
Wheeling had some chances to get the equalizer, but McCarron’s goal was as close as they got as Gary Steffes scored on a late 2-on-1 to make it 5-3 and seal Allen’s game one win.
Outside the second period, Wheeling looked pretty good and showed they can play with the defending champs, and they probably feel like they let one get away. If they can avoid taking as many penalties, this series is a winnable one for the Nailers.
As the case has been for the Nailers throughout these playoffs, it’s going to be about what they do. Nothing about Allen outside their power play struck me as unbeatable.
Game two is once again in Allen, TX Sunday at 5:05 Wheeling time and 4:05 Allen time.
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