WHEELING, WV- It took 65 minutes of hockey plus 12 shooters in the shootout for the Wheeling Nailers to come away with a preseason victory at Wesbanco Arena Friday night.
Both teams came out of the gates with physicality as they tried to establish dominance early. A point of emphasis this year would be tested early, as the Wheeling man advantage would have the first special teams opportunity of the game. Rob DeFulviis would be the guilty party at 5:25 and the Nailers would head to the power play. Wheeling had excellent pressure and puck control firing multiple shots at Cyclones goalie Anthony Peters who was equal to the task and held Wheeling off the board.
It took some time for either team to dent the scoreboard, 14:38 to be exact. Wheeling got on the board first as Nick Sorkin brought the puck out from behind the goal to the left of Peters and threw the wraparound attempt to the far side of the net for the 1-0 lead. Assisting on the goal were Reid Gardiner and Daniel Leavens.
Just under three minutes later the hosts doubled the lead as again it was Sorkin from Gardiner and Leavens. Leavens would start the play with a steal at the blue line and streaked in on a partial breakaway and Peters made a leg pad save the puck then bounced around and was fired back towards the net. Sorkin picked up the rebound and slipped it between Peters and the left post for a 2-0 Nailers lead.
Cincinnati would not go quietly though as Jesse Schultz would poke the puck free at the Wheeling blue line and it was picked up by Justin Danforth who would skate in alone. Wheeling netminder Colin Stevens would drop into the butterfly and Danforth shot it around on the glove side to close the deficit to one at the 18:42 mark. The teams would head to the dressing room after the first period with Wheeling holding the 2-1 advantage. Wheeling also outshot the Cyclones 14-8 and both teams were 0-1 on the power play.
Another early penalty, this time on Wheeling, would come back to bite the Nailers. Kenny Ryan was called for slashing giving the Cyclones their second man advantage of the evening. Winston Day Chief would make the Nailers pay as he deflected a Jordan Henderson shot from the point past Stevens on the glove side to pull the visitors even at the 3:19 mark.
It would stay tied for the remainder of the middle stanza. As is usual in preseason games, Cincinnati would change goaltenders just past the midway point of the second period with Jason Kasdorf taking over at the 12:26 mark. Peters would finish the night with 14 saves on 16 shots in a no decision as the game was tied at his departure.
Riley Bourbonnais would put the Nailers back on top just over five minutes into the third as he skated in on the left side of the zone and stuffed the puck five-hole on Kasdorf to give Wheeling a 3-2 lead at the 5:26 mark. Cam Brown would pick up the lone assist on the Bourbonnais marker. Cincinnati would again draw even on yet another power play tally as Anthony Florentino would find the net with a slapshot from the top of the left faceoff dot that beat Stevens high stick side. Devante Stephens and Andrew Radjenovic picking up assists at 6:27 of the third frame.
Defulviis would get a retaliatory roughing call after a Boubonnais open ice hit at 9:54 of the third giving Wheeling their fourth man-advantage of the contest. This time they would cash in. Jake Bolton would pass the puck from the right point across to Leavens who would fire a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. Hunter Fejes, was standing in front of Kasdorf deflected the puck between Kasdorf’s legs and into the net to put Wheeling on top once again.
Once again on the power play after a Garrett Meurs tripping penalty, Cincinnati again would draw even. Radjenovic would pass the puck across the slot to Florentino, who was pinching in from the left point. Florentino would fire the puck to the top right corner of the net leveling the contest at four with just under three minutes to play. Stephens would pick up an assist on the play as well.
The two teams would skate through the rest of regulation and the 3-on-3 overtime sessions without a call or a goal. Cincinnati would get four shots off in the extra five minutes while Wheeling would fire just two in the direction of Kasdorf.
In the shootout, Wheeling choose to shoot first. Each team’s first three shooters were unsuccessful (Gardiner, Ryan, and Derek Army for Wheeling; Ray Pignozzi, Shane Walsh, and Schultz for Cincinnati). Cam Brown would beat Kasdorf to give Wheeling the advantage only to be matched by Danforth on his attempt.
After a scoreless fifth round (Leavens for Wheeling, Eric Knodel for Cincinnati) Jeff Christian sent out Meurs who fired the puck between Kasdorf’s leg pads and put the hosts up 2-1 in the shootout. Cincinnati coach Matt Macdonald would send out Radjenovic to attempt to extend the game however Stevens would make the save and give Wheeling the win.
Wheeling netminder Colin Stevens finished the night with 20 saves on 24 shots in the victory. Kasdorf would take the shootout loss finishing with 18 saves on 20 shots. Wheeling finished 1-for-5 on the man advantage while the Cyclones were 3-for-6. The two teams will meet again on Sunday at Wesbanco Arena. Faceoff is set for 5:05 in the second of the two-game preseason set before starting the regular season on Friday,October 13.