WHEELING, W.Va. – After another week of solid efforts, the Nailers find themselves third in the Central Division with 32 points and a three-point lead over the fourth place Kalamazoo Wings. After a 1-5-0-0 start, the boys from Nail City have gone 14-6-2-0 in the last 22, including 8-0-1-0 in the last nine and are currently on a five-game winning streak. During the current point streak, the Nailers have outscored the opposition 45-21.
For just the third time in league history, players from the same team have won player of the week honors in three consecutive weeks as Nick Saracino won player of the week for the second time in three weeks. He was co-player of the week with Cam Brown two weeks ago with Brown winning it last week.
Saracino has been called up to the AHL by former Nailer Head Coach Mark Dennehy and the Binghamton Devils. At the time of his call-up, Saracino was on a ten-game point streak and is second in the league in scoring with 37 points (17G, 20A) equaling his point total from his rookie season (12G, 25A). Brown is also riding a ten-game point streak, during which he has scored 24 points (7G, 17A) bringing his season total to 32 (8G, 24A) which is tenth in the ECHL. The 24 assists by Brown is tied for the most helpers in the league.
Defenseman Kevin Spinozzi leads all defenseman in scoring with 28 points (11G, 17A). His 11 goals tops the league amongst blueliners. The 22-year-old is currently on a seven-game point streak.
Wheeling is finding success on special teams. The Nailers killed all 12 penalties they faced in the three games in Norfolk and converted on four of 11 power play chances. The team also found two shorthanded goals on Friday night to give them nine on the season and a tie for second in the league in shorthanded goals for. When asked about what’s working on the penalty kill, head coach Mike Bavis offered the following thoughts:
“…I think we block a lot of shots, two, I think our stick skill is pretty good; we get a piece of a lot of pucks trying to go through to switch sides. We have some very good goaltending which is the first key to good penalty killing and lastly I think our d(defensemen) have become much better at finding those opportunities to pressure when the puck ends up below the hash marks, ends up along the yellow where we can jump guys and really shorten the power play,.
In goal for this team, Matt O’Connor has really come on lately winning his last five decisions and really working hard to become “the guy” in Wheeling. Last season, O’Connor bounced around through multiple teams and never really getting settled in and found a rhythm. This season, he got a chance out of camp with the Nailers and is making the most of it. The 26-year-old Toronto native has a 7-2-1-0 record with a 2.48 goals against average, a .914 save percentage and a shutout in his last outing against Norfolk this past Saturday night.
The Nailers come out of the holiday break and jump back into divisional play as they will visit the Indy Fuel tonight and then travel to Kalamazoo to play the Wings tomorrow before returning home on New Year’s Eve to face the rival Reading Royals.
This season, Wheeling is 2-1-0-0 against Indy with all three contests having been played in Wheeling’s Wesbanco Arena. However, against the Wings, the Nailers are 0-2-1-0 losing once at home and going 0-1-1-0 at Wings Events Center in Kalamazoo. The Nailers also have not fared well against the Royals sporting a 1-2-0-0 record in three contests. The win came on the road at Santander Arena and was Bavis’ first win as Nailers head coach. The Nailers have lost to the Royals once in each building.
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