WHEELING, W.V. – The Brampton Beast began Friday Night’s contest with a tragic number of two, meaning any gain of two points by the Wheeling Nailers and they would be eliminated from the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs. However, it would be a tall task for the visitors from Canada to win in Wesbanco Arena, where the Nailers own a 19-11-2-0 record entering the game. The Beast jumped out to an early two-goal lead, but a goal from the Nailers leading point getter, a goal from a veteran scorer, and a pair of first-ever professional goals proved too much for the Beast to overcome. Wheeling came away with a 4-3 victory and eliminated Brampton from the postseason picture.
After a quick start, a fight off the opening faceoff as Jeremy Biernes and Vincent Dunn dropped the gloves at two seconds. Wheeling defenseman Danny Fick took a slashing penalty, and Brampton took advantage of the powerplay opportunity. Reggie Traccitto took a slap shot from the point, and Brandon Marino tipped it into the low stick side of the net behind Adam Morrison. Alex Foster also picked up an assist on the play at 7:12 of the first
Just under two minutes later the Beast doubled the lead as Foster tipped another shot past Morrison. The original shot came from the faceoff circle to Morrison’s right by Willie Corrin. Chris Leveille picked up assist 31 on the goal at 9:03.
As the first period wound down, the Nailers were able to trim the lead to one. Matt Abt took the first shot that was saved by Chris Driedger, rebound came out in front, and Reid Gardiner also stopped by Driedger. Gardiner got his own rebound and tapped it over to Cody Wydo who fired the puck top shelf past a sprawling Driedger at 18:07.
With just 15 seconds left in the period, Wheeling found the equalizer. Nick Sorkin lost the puck under his left leg as he went down entering the zone. Sorkin finds the biscuit as he got back to his skates and passed over to Ayrton Valente. Valente skated toward the net, looked to pass, and decided to flip the puck over Driedger’s leg pad inside the left post to pull the game even. On the play, Valente picked up his first professional goal.
In the middle of the second period, Wheeling saw Brampton called for four straight penalties. Two different 5-on-3 sequences happened. Wheeling cashed in on the fifth powerplay of the game as Chris Francis dug the puck out of the pile crashing after a Kevin Spinozzi shot. Troy Josephs got a stick on it as it was in the scrum before Francis found it and flipped into the top of the net at the 11:01 mark.
In the final three minutes of the middle frame, Brampton tied the game. Jordan Henry slapped the puck into the top left corner of the net behind Morrison. The shot was from the right point. Luc-Olivier Blain and Jeff King picking up the help on the play at 17:43
Early in the third, Traccitto lost the puck in his skates. Spinozzi passed the puck off the boards to Gardiner. The Nailers rushed into the zone, Gardiner fired a shot that was denied by Driedger, and the rebound flew out into the slot where Spinozzi was crashing, and he put the rebound into the net to put the hosts back in front. Spinozzi’ s first professional goal was scored 29 seconds into the third act.
With the season hanging in the balance, the Beast desperately fired 19 shots on goal during the third period. There were a few close calls with rebounds flopping down in the crease and one-time passes that didn’t connect or were heeled wide of the net. Morrison stood tall and turned aside all 19 to preserve the 4-3 victory for the team from the Friendly City.
Morrison saved 37 of the 40 shots he faced picking up the victory. Driedger turned aside 38 shots in the loss. Wheeling converted on one of six powerplay opportunities while the Beast also converted once on their four trips to the man advantage.
The Nailers will play game three of this four-game homestand tonight as the Cincinnati Cyclones visit Wesbanco Arena for a 7:05 pm faceoff.
The Beast will also play tonight as they travel to Huntington Center in Toledo, OH. Faceoff with the Walleye is at 7:15 pm.