WHEELING, W.V. – As the race for the playoffs continues to intensify for the two teams battling for the fourth and final playoff spot in the ECHL’s North Division, so does the action on the ice. A very physical contest ensued as this game had a playoff feel and intensity to it. Wheeling held a three-point lead for the position but have played two more games than their guests from Massachusetts at the start of the action here on Wednesday night.
The Nailers carried the play for the majority of the first two periods firing 25 shots at Worcester goaltender Mitch Gillam. Gillam made a good number of high-quality stops. Nick Sorkin had one of the best chances of the night as he skated down the slot on Gillam. However, as he tried to go around Gillam and put the puck around him, he lost control and didn’t get the shot off. Riley Bourbonnais also had Gillam rob him getting a leg pad to the right post as Bourbonnais fired a one-timer toward the net.
In the third period, the Railers controlled the play. The biggest save of the night occurred in the third period. As Worcester drove the net, Adam Morrison made a save sliding to his left. The puck squeezed out, and Yannick Turcotte was able to backhand a pass between Morrison and the post to Connor Doherty in the slot. Doherty had the net to shot at as Morrison was out of position after making the save. Doherty shot the puck, Nailer defenseman Ayrton Valente dropped to his knees and made the save off his shoulder pad.
After the two teams skated to a scoreless tie in regulation, overtime proved more of the same. The Railers began the extra session with a minute and 52 seconds of powerplay time. The Nailers killed the penalty, and the teams remained scoreless through the overtime period and the game went to the shootout.
The regulation portion of the shootout saw Matt Lane, Frankie DiChiara, and Jake Randolph shoot for Worcester and Morrison turned them away. The Nailers countered with Reid Gardiner, Cam Brown, and Cody Wydo with Gillam denying them. In the fourth round, Worcester sent TJ Syner to shoot. Morrison made the save. Chris Francis was the fourth shooter for Wheeling. He skated in on the left side of the slot and fired the shot passed Gilliam on the blocker side to put the Nailers into the win column.
Morrison picked up his first shutout of the season for the Nailers making 28 saves. It was also the team’s first shutout of the season. Gillam suffered the shootout loss, also being credited with a shutout as he turned away all 33 Nailers shots in regulation and overtime.
The victory pushed the Nailers lead over the Railers to four points. Worcester has two games in hand on Wheeling; however, the Nailers do own the first tiebreaker.
The Railers will return to action on Friday as they visit the Royals. Faceoff is set for 7:00 pm from Santander Arena in Reading, Pa.
The Nailers will continue a four-game homestand Friday against the Brampton Beast. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:05 pm.
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