WHEELING, WV — After trading leading scorer Hunter Fejes to Orlando earlier in the week, the Nailers brought a four-game winless streak into Friday’s home game against Manchester. The Nailers had outshot their opponents in each of the four losses. Manchester leads the Northern Division with a record of 21-20-2-1 45 coming into Friday night. Wheeling is fourth in the division 16-14-3-0 35. The Nailers played the first of three games in three days on the weekend with a chance to close the gap to 8 points.
However, the game didn’t get off to the start Wheeling would have wanted. On an offensive rush, Zac Lynch skated down the offensive left side. As a 2-on-2 rush Keegan Iverson was in the slot a step ahead of defender Dylan Zink and was able to redirect a pass from Lynch into the net ahead of a sliding Adam Morrison trying to go post-to-post to make the save. Goal scored at 5:40 with Colton Saucerman also helping on the goal.
The Nailers Colin Murray tipped the puck into the neutral zone, and Riley Bourbonnais grabbed the biscuit and sped past the Monarch defense. Bourbonnais fired the puck five-hole and pulled the Nailers even at 16:44. Zach Tolkinen was also in the scrum that allowed Murray to push the puck into center was got an assist on the play as well.
With just under a minute to play in the first and on their second power play of the night, the puck was overskated in the left circle by Garrett Meurs which allowed Bourbonnais to snap a wrist shot that beat Charles Williams to the glove side and put the hosts up 2-1. Bourbonnais’ power play marker was his second of the night and ninth of the season at 19:13. Jaynen Rissling also picked up an assist on the goal.
The Nailers finished the period 1-for-2 on the man advantage and didn’t take a penalty. Morrison stopped five of the six shots he faced, Williams eight saves on ten shots.
As the second period started Rissling took a shot, Chris Francis tipped it in front of Williams, and the puck beat the Monarchs’ goalie top shelf and the hosts made the lead 3-1 only 17 seconds into the middle frame. Kevin Schulze also with help on Francis’ fourth and first as a Nailer.
Before the halfway point of the game, Bourbonnais completed the hat trick as he skated in on the offensive right. Picked his spot and fired home his tenth of the season stick side. Troy Josephs got the only assist at the 7:35 mark.
Bourbonnais picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, dropped a pass to Francis, and he passed across to Zink who snapped it home passed Williams at 10:23. That would be all for Williams as he allowed his fifth goal of the evening.
Williams’ night would end with 14 saves on 19 shots in 30:23 of game time. Brandon Komm would come on in relief.
Racine got called for a high sticking double minor at 15:52 and the Nailers quickly set up shop in the offensive zone. Cam Brown took a shot the rebound found its way to Nick Sorkin, who shoveled the puck up over Komm’s left leg pad and gave the hosts a 6-1 lead.
Matt Schmalz tossed the puck towards the net, and it ricocheted into the net under the crossbar and pulled Manchester one closer to 6-2. Jordan LaVellee-Smotherman and Jordan Agosta with the assists at 19:01.
Williams started the second and made six saves on the nine he faced. Komm finished the period making five saves on the six shots he faced. Morrison stopped 12 of 13 in the second. Manchester was 0-3 on the man advantage, while Wheeling was 1-2 on the powerplay.
Six minutes into the third and Acosta threw the puck to the front of the net and deflected off Michael Doherty. The puck gets around Morrison, and the Nailers lead was cut to 6-3. Mikkel Aagaard also assisted on the goal.
With just under 5 minutes to play in the game, the Monarchs drew to within two. An offensive faceoff win led to the goal. Martin Nemcik won it back to Aagaard who fired a shot that was deflected by Matt Buckles and past Morrison on the stick side.
Manchester would pull Komm for the extra skater to push to get to within one. However, Josephs got the puck to Francis who fired it the length of the ice into the empty net for his fifth of the season and second of the night and as a Nailer. Zink received the second assist at 18:40 to put the game out of reach.
Komm finished the night with 12 saves on 13 shots in relief of Williams. Komm would get a no-decision in 29:35 of game time. Adam Morrison made 33 stops on 37 shots improving his record to 3-7-0-0. Williams record falls to 13-6-0-2. The Nailers finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play and perfect (5/5) on the penalty kill. Of course, Bourbonnais with his second career hat trick was awarded the game’s number one star, Francis in his first game as a Nailer recorded two goals and two assists for the second star and Morrison’s 33 saves earned him the third star of the game.
Wheeling will be back in action tonight in Cincinnati taking on the Cyclones at 7:35 pm.
Manchester will be at Huntington Center tonight to take on the Toledo Walleye, puck drop at 7:15 pm