The Wheeling Nailers played a pair of preseason contests against the Cincinnati Cyclones for a second straight year, and this time it was the Cyclones skating away with both victories in the home-and-home set, pulling away to hand the Nailers a 6-1 loss in the Queen City on Wednesday night before once again taking the victory Friday night in the Friendly City, spoiling the unofficial debut of WesBanco Arena’s recent upgrades by handing Wheeling a 4-2 loss to conclude both teams preseason schedules.
The Nailers scored first in both contest, but Cincinnati put up six and four consecutive goals to come from behind in both games. Wheeling utilized similar lineups in both contests, with a total of 12 players appearing in both games, with the focus being put on the young players, rookies, and guys fighting for one of the last few roster spots as returning players like last season’s team captain Shane Bakker and leading goal scorer from a year ago Derek Army did not play in either game.
Having only mustered a total of three combined goals in the preseason, none of the Nailers skaters found their way onto the score sheet more than once. Returning forward Tyler Fernandez, who was cut from the team before Friday’s game, as well as rookies Connor Leen and Christophe Lalancette were the Nailers goal scorers.
Wheeling used all three goaltenders on the training camp roster over the course of both games, with rookie Casey DeSmith out of the University of New Hampshire being the only to appear in both. Last year’s workhorse Franky Palazzese got the staring nod on Wednesday, stopping 13 of 14 shots before DeSmith took over past the game’s midway point and took the loss, giving up five goals on 21 shots faced.
Veteran Brain Foster, on contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, took the loss Friday surrendering three goals on 15 shots before DeSmith once again took over and rebounded from Wednesday’s tough outing by stopping nine of 10 shots.
The goalie situation is by far the most intriguing development from training camp, and it will be interesting to see what decision Head Coach Clark Donatelli comes to. Palazzese was a go to guy much of last season, and a difference maker in getting Wheeling to the post season, and was easily the most impressive of the three in preseason action. He is on an ECHL deal and not affiliated with Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre, however, while Foster is an AHL contract and DeSmith attended camp with the Baby Penguins.
Donatelli has elected to carry three goaltenders at times during his four year tenure in Wheeling, but with a roster currently featuring a slew of affiliated skaters already making for limited spots, it’s probably not very likely he can do so to start the regular season.
Donatelli and new assistant David Gove will have to make that decision, as well as many other tough ones by Monday when the season opening roster is due to league.
Wheeling opens the regular season next Friday night in Norfolk, Virginia where they will take on the Admirals, one of the teams that came to the ECHL with the AHL’s shift west.
Stay tuned for a preview of the Nailers season this week after the roster is set, and follow me on Twitter @AndrewGrimm_ for continued updates.
You can also check out the SinBin Cyclones recaps of both games here:
And the SinBin preview of the North Division here: