WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers have started off the home season unbeaten in regulation and looked to continue to gain points as they defended “The Bank.” On Tuesday for Education Game one the opponent was North Division rival Adirondack Thunder. In one previous meeting inside Wesbanco Arena, it was the Thunder victorious in the 2015-16 campaign.
A Cam Brown shot that had found its way through Adirondack goalie Drew Fielding was disallowed due to the whistle blowing before the puck crossed the line, giving the first break of the game to the visitors. To that point, the teams were evenly matched and played a back and forth period. Shortly after the no-goal, Wheeling found the twine again and this time it counted. Wheeling forward Garrett Meurs came in on the left side and passed in front to Freddie Tiffels who tipped the puck behind Fielding to put the hosts up 1-0 at the 12:43 mark of the first period. The goal was Tiffels’ second since being assigned to the Nailers before the game last Friday against Toledo.
Adirondack was unable to solve Sean Maguire on 13 first period shots. Wheeling was given the only powerplay opportunity in the first and was unsuccessful on it. Fielding stopped the other 12 shots he saw in the first.
In the second period Jeff Taylor, another of three that had been assigned to Wheeling prior to last weekend, took a slashing penalty at 4:02 and allowed Adirondack to have their first man-advantage of the contest. Kevin Lough sent a perfect pass from center point to the left faceoff dot and Dylan Olsen drilled home a one-timer that beat Maguire five hole and tied the game at one. Shane Conacher would also be credited with a helper at 5:16.
42 seconds later Adirondack took the lead. Lough would fire a shot towards the net and Eric Neiley alertly redirected it past Maguire. James Henry would also get an assist on the goal.
A major turning point in this one would come next as the momentum would quickly turn in favor of the guests. Adirondack notched two goals in less than a minute and the Thunder had swung the game. At 15:05, Conacher skated in on a partial breakaway and Wheeling stopped him from getting a shot off, however in the eyes of the referee Jonathan Sitarski it was illegal, and a penalty shot was awarded. Conacher skated towards Maguire slowly tried a head fake, Maguire didn’t bite and made the save as Conacher tried to open the five hole.
It would take all of 50 seconds for the Nailers to seize the momentum swing and tie the game. Nick Sorkin won the faceoff cleanly, Cody Wydo picked up the puck and walked around Fielding and put the puck in high stick side at 15:55. The Nailers would then get a good possession play that ended with Dan Milan firing a snap shot off a Riley Bourbonnais pass to beat Fielding low and to the glove side to give the Nailers a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish. Time of the goal was 17:13 of the second and Hunter Fejes was given a secondary assist on the play.
In the third, Wydo snapped home a pass, from Reid Gardiner at 1:59 to go ahead 4-2. Following a Ty Loney charging call, the Nailers power play would cash in. The Nailers controlled the play and had sharp passing in the zone that culminated in a Derek Army shot high over a sprawling Fielding and under the crossbar to give the hosts a three-goal lead at 7:13 of the third. Brown and Tiffels assisted on the marker.
Adirondack though still had some fight left and when Milan took a roughing minor at 10:26 the visitors’ powerplay would strike again. This time Conacher picked up his third of the season as he beat Maguire with a one-timer in the right faceoff circle and pulled the visitors to within two with 7:11 to play. Henry and Olsen got assists on the 6-on-4 powerplay goal as the Thunder had pulled Fielding for the extra man on the play.
Tiffels put this game away for the hosts with his second of the contest, as Brown beat the Adirondack defense to cancel an icing call, pass the puck to Meurs who fired a shot that Fielding turned aside. Tiffels reached out with one hand on his stick to flick the puck into the goal around the flailing Thunder goalie.
Adirondack added a shorthanded goal at 18:25 finishing a play that started 4-on-4 but the Meurs penalty ended just before the puck beat Maguire so it was the first shorthanded goal Wheeling allowed this season. Terrence Wallin from Conacher and Conor Riley was the scoring and time of the goal was 18:25 of the third.
For the game, Wheeling was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Thunder converted on two of five chances. Sean Maguire earned the victory turning aside 34 of 38 shots faced. Fielding took the loss stopping 22 of 28 Nailer shots.
The Adirondack Thunder return to action on Thursday night at the Norfolk Scope to face off against the Norfolk Admirals at 7:00 pm
The Wheeling Nailers next game is the following night (Friday) at the Norfolk Scope for a 7:00pm contest with the Admirals. Wheeling will also play the Admirals on Saturday at 7:00pm