WHEELING, WV – In what is arguably the best division in the ECHL with all six teams above .500 and just 12 points separating them, these “four-point games” take on extra importance for both teams. Wheeling came out of the blocks flying, firing shots early and often but in one of the most mind-boggling statistics this season, in 21-of-28 Wheeling Nailers games, it is the team that is outshot that gains the victory.
Jeremy Beirnes and Stefan Fournier decided to exchange holiday greetings. A spirited bout with no clear winner at 0:01 to get this one started. The two grappled and kept the other in close and went down in a heap allowing the linesmen to intercede and five for fighting given to both.
Feeding off the momentum, Cam Brown picked up a loose puck behind the net, fired it out front to Garrett Meurs skating down the slot and he fired it past Marcus Hogberg to put the hosts ahead 1-0. The goal was Meurs’ 13th of the season at 1:45 of the first. Ross McMullan also picked up an assist on the opening marker of the game.
However, the lead was short-lived as Brampton rushed into the zone off the ensuing faceoff. Brandon MacLean sent a pass in front of the net and Nathan Todd would tap it into the net behind Adam Morrison. Luc-Olivier Blain would get a secondary assist on Todd’s third of the season just 29 seconds after the Nailers goal.
Reggie Traccito intercepted a pass that the Nailers were attempting to try and spring an offensive rush, got the puck to Mike Folkes, who passed it out to Chris Levellie. Levellie passed to Brandon Marino in the right slot and Marino blasted it past Morrison and gave the Beast a 2-1 lead at 11:56 of the first.
Nailers would lead shots 14-7 in the first though they trailed 2-1. Both teams were 0-1 in the first period.
Jordan Henry played tough just inside his zone short-handed, got the puck ahead to Todd and as the Beast entered the zone 2-on-1 he called his own number and fired the puck past Morrison stick side and the visitors increased their lead to 3-1. Folkes also credited with an assist on the play at 2:47 of the second.
Wheeling continued to lead the shots on goal firing another 14 in the second, however, Hogberg continued to keep the puck out. The Beast were able to kill four penalties in the second including 1:15 of 5-on-3. Only one penalty called against the Nailers and the Beast were unsuccessful on that powerplay.
Neither team was able to find the twine in the third as the Nailers fired 17 and Brampton seven. The Nailers had a couple of times where if they had found the rebound to fire it in, also missed on a couple of excellent chances. Hogberg stood tall and kept Wheeling off the board after the Meurs goal early in the first. He earned the victory and improved his record to 6-5-0-1 after a 44 save performance. Morrison suffered the defeat and fell to 2-7-0-0 on the year while recording 17 saves on 20 shots. Neither team was successful on the powerplay, the visitors were 0-for-4 and Wheeling ended up 0-for-5. Todd earned the number one star of the game with two goals, Hogberg the second star, and Folkes the third as he picked up a pair of assists.
The Nailers and Beast will meet again tonight in Wheeling as the Nailers look to even the season series at two games apiece. Fans in attendance tonight will get to meet Santa as he stops by Wesbanco Arena tonight. Faceoff is set for 7:05 pm.