WHEELING, W.Va. – After a slow start to the season, the Wheeling Nailers have seem to found their stride. The Nailers just finished a stretch in which they faced divisional opponents in eight of their last nine contests. During that stretch, the team went 5-4 and climbed into a tie for fifth in the division with the Kalamazoo Wings (21 points each) and trail the fourth place Indy Fuel by just one point.
With a three-games in three days span last weekend and a four-games-in-five-nights stretch that started Wednesday with a win over Allen, Wheeling has rapidly caught up to the rest of the league in terms of games played.
The Nailers currently find themselves winners of three straight. In 11 periods the Nailers have outscored their opponents 17-5. Jordan Ruby, who relieved Danny Tirone after allowing four first period against the Komets, has stopped 99 of the 104 shots he has faced with Wheeling, recording a 3-1-0-0 mark during that stretch.
Also contributing to the success of the black and Vegas gold has been the special teams converting on seven of their last 18 power play opportunities, while killing 12 of the last 14 penalties against, including eight straight.
“Special teams is such a big part of the game and you know we go back to the beginning of the year where our penalty kill had a little bit of struggle in that first couple weeks and after that its been really good and the power play has really come on the last two weekends and it was solid and now its elevated; that’s a big part of why we are on a little streak here,” head coach Mike Bavis said after Wednesday’s game.
Wheeling has also been getting contributions from the ECHL Player of the Week co-recipients. Nick Saracino and Cam Brown share the honor after posting eight and nine points respectively over the past week. Saracino has collected points on eight of Wheeling’s last ten goals going back to the third period of Saturday’s game in Toledo. Wheeling has also seen Michael Phillips elevate his game, picking up two power play goals on Saturday and adding another one against Indy on Sunday afternoon.
This weekend, the schedule has the Nailers playing Kalamazoo on Friday night before returning home to face Norfolk and Fort Wayne on Saturday and Sunday. Wheeling in 0-2-0-0 against Kalamazoo this season falling once in each building. Wheeling has not fared any better against Norfolk this season, having dropped the season opener 5-3 in the Norfolk Scope. The last meeting between Wheeling and Fort Wayne at Wesbanco Arena saw the Komets jump out to a 4-0 lead before hanging on for a 5-4 win this past Friday.
For the latest news about the Nailers, follow me on twitter @SinBinWheeling!