GREENVILLE, SC– A road set to open the season for the Nailers turned into an offensive showcase for both teams as the Nailers & Swamp Rabbits combined for 22 goals over the two games. A 5-4 regulation win for the team from the Friendly City and a 7-6 triumph in favor of Wheeling in overtime on Saturday night. The road wasn’t particularly kind to the team last year, so picking up the four points was huge to start the season for the Nailers.
Friday night, the game started with a period that neither team could gain a clear edge over the other. The only puck to find the back of the net in the first, as a Caleb Herbert shot that beat Nailers’ netminder Sean Maguire high glove side to give the Swamp Rabbits the lead at 14:37. Each team had one powerplay opportunity, and Wheeling fired 16 shots to Greenville’s 13.
It wouldn’t take long for Wheeling to equalize the game in the second. 49intonds in to the second, Cody Wydo, found the puck to get his first of the season. Reid Gardiner picked up an assist on the Wydo tally. 100 seconds later, Garrett Meurs would pick up his first from Riley Bourbonnais. However, 37 seconds later, Adam Chapie would tie the game for the Swamp Rabbits from Herbert. Brandon Troock would beat Maguire on the powerplay to give the Swamp Rabbits a 3-2 lead at 7:35 of the middle frame. Derek Army picked up his first point of the season, assisting on Meurs’ second of the game at 19:19 to send the game to the second intermission knotted at 3-3.
The Nailers Nick Sorkin would put the visitor’s ahead for good with a goal at 2:56 of the third with help from Kevin Schulze and Wydo. Gardiner scored the first Nailers’ powerplay goal of the season from Kenny Ryan and Sorkin for the eventual game winner. Curt Gogol pulled the hosts to within one at 15:15 with a second powerplay marker, but the Swamp Rabbits could get no closer as Maguire would shut the door the rest of the way picking up his first win of the season.
For the game, Maguire stopped 42 of 47 shots. Greenville’s Brandon Halverson would also stop 42 of 47 shots in the loss. The Nailers converted one of six powerplay opportunities while surrendering 2 goals to Greenville on five Swamp Rabbit powerplays.
Saturday would find the Nailers looking to dig out of an early hole as Greenville jumped out to a 2-0 lead within the opening 2:29 of the contest. Adam McPherson found the back of the net at 1:27 from Malte Stromwall and Chapie on the powerplay. Then, Stromwall grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone and beat Colin Stevens for the second time.
Then came the Hunter Fejes show.
Fejes scored his first of four goals on the night to narrow the Greenville lead to 2-1 just over six minutes in, beating Swamp Rabbits’ goaltender Ty Rimmer on the powerplay.
Forty seconds after Meurs scored on a two-man advantage, Fejes would score his second of the night to put the visitors ahead. This goal chased Rimmer from the game after just 10:23. He finished the night making 8 saves on 11 shots. Halverson would play in relief. The teams would remain 3-2 into the first intermission.
In the second, Brenden Koryk scored his first from Chapie and Herbert at 3:41 to knot the game at 3. 2:58 later, while on the powerplay Sorkin would pick up his second of the season as the Nailers were 4-4 on the powerplay to this point. 2:19 later Greenville would pull even at 4 as Sergey Zborovsky beat Stevens. Chapie and Evan Jasper helped on the powerplay goal. The game would go to the third tied at 4.
Fejes would be the first Nailer to record a hat trick in 2017-18 at 3:35 of the third, with help from Meurs and Army. Once again for the fifth time in the game, this goal was a powerplay goal. The Nailers finished the game 5-7 with the man advantage. Troock would score his second of the season for Greenville at 7:19 to tie the game at 5. McPherson and Joe Basaraba got credited for helping. Jasper would put the hosts ahead at 11:23 from Gogol at 11:23. Fejes once again tied the game for Wheeling at 13:29. The goal was Fejes’ fourth of the night. Schulze got his second assist of the game.
Overtime would be required to decide a winner in this contest. Meurs beat Halverson to win it for Wheeling. Gardiner and Schulze helped on the winner at 2:31 of the extra session.
53 shots left Nailers sticks toward the Greenville goalies, while Greenville shot it 45 times. Halverson finished his night with 38 saves on the 42 shots he faced in the loss. Stevens finished with 39 saves on 45 shots. Greenville was 2-for-5 on the man advantage.
Wheeling’s next game is the home opener on Saturday. Pregame festivities including an inflatable for kids and cornhole games, start at 4pm. Game time against the Cincinnati Cyclones is set for 7:05pm at Wesbanco Arena
Greenville will travel to South Carolina on Friday night in their next contest.