WHEELING, W.V. – By withstanding 36 seconds of 5-on-3 followed by another 2:22 of penalty kill, both 5-on-4 and after a whistle 4-on-3, in overtime, the Nailers earned the 500th victory at Wesbanco Arena. This season “the Bank” has been unkind to visitors as the Nailers have earned points in all six games played here including Wednesday night. The Nailers came the contest with a sparkling 4-0-1-0 record at home, while the expansion Railers were 3-2-1-0 on the road before the contest.
As unkind as the road teams have found it, the visitors were the first to dent the scoreboard as Josh Monk fired a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that beat Nailer goalie Sean Maguire high to the glove side and inside the left post at 5:25. The shot came off a clean faceoff win by Chris Langkow, who was given the only assist on the play.
Garrett Meurs provided the response just under five minutes later, on the powerplay. At 10:22 he received a pass from Cam Brown and fired a shot from low in the left faceoff circle that squeezed between Worcester’s Eamon McAdam’s left arm and body and into the back of the net.
Four minutes later, the hosts got their first lead of the night. Cody Wydo led a 4-on-3 rush into the offensive zone and dropped the pass to Jeff Taylor, who was the trailer on the play and Taylor bean McAdam over the blocker for a 2-1 advantage.
McAdam ended up stopping 10 of 12 Wheeling shots in the first, while Maguire stopped seven of eight shots by the Railers. Wheeling converted on the only power play of the first period as the Railers first man advantage carried 38 seconds into the second period.
Worcester scored the lone goal of the middle frame as Railer captain Ashton Rome found the rebound off Wade Murphy’s shot and slid it past Maguire to tie the game at two. Patrick McNally was also credited with an assist on the powerplay goal at 14:33 of the second.
The Railers fired 14 shots at Maguire in the second while McAdam turned away seven from Wheeling. Worcester was 1-for-2 on the man advantage in the frame while the hosts came up empty on one chance.
As predicted by Nailers Coach Jeff Christian in the pregame coach’s conversation with Nailers radio voice DJ Abisilah, Riley Bourbonnais scored his first of the season in this game. Nick Sorkin passed the puck from behind the goal line to Bourbonnais who was alone in front of the net and he beat McAdam stick side to put the host back in front. Meurs would also pick up a helper on the goal at 5:29 of the third.
A slick passing play just over five minutes later knotted the game at three. Matthew Gaudreau passed the puck along the wall to Nick Saracino skating toward the right side behind the net. Saracino quickly passed the puck to Langkow in the right faceoff circle. He snapped a quick one-time wrister past Maguire stick side. The goal came at 11:04 and remained that way through the final eight-plus minutes of regulation.
In the overtime period, the Nailers backed themselves into the corner quickly by taking a bench minor for too many men on the ice just 38 seconds in. While killing this penalty, Wydo hit Rome into the board very awkwardly and got assessed five minutes for boarding, which meant the Nailers faced 5-on-3 for 36 seconds and then would remain on the kill for the last 2:22 of the overtime. Nailers defenseman Zach Tolkinen, who was in the box when Worcester scored their second period goal, more than made up for earlier by blocking multiple shot attempts on this kill. The Nailers defense only allowed TWO shots to get through to Maguire during this kill to force the shootout.
The first two shooters for Wheeling, Brown and Reid Gardiner, were denied as were TJ Syner and Gaudreau for Worcester. Meurs, Wheeling’s third shooter, beat McAdam to take a 1-0 lead in the shootout. However, Frankie DiChiara answered for the Railers and extra shooters would be necessary. Christian picked Hunter Fejes to shoot next for Wheeling and he also beat McAdam with a move very similar to Meurs. Murphy was the next shooter for Worcester and Maguire denied him with the left leg pad to give Wheeling the 4-3 decision.
Maguire made 28 saves on 31 shots in the victory while McAdam stopped 26 of 29. In the shootout Maguire stopped three of four, McAdam two of four. On the man advantage, Wheeling finished 1-for-3 while the Railers converted on one of their four chances.
Wheeling now stands at 899 all-time victories and will try for number 900 in the Queen City on Friday as they battle the Cyclones at 2:35 pm.
Worcester will travel to Toledo to face the Walleye Friday night at 7:15 before returning to Wesbanco Arena for a rematch with the Nailers Saturday night.
Saturday is Teddy Bear Toss night in Wheeling, bring a new or gently used stuffed animal to the game on Saturday and throw it onto the ice when Wheeling scores its first goal. The stuffed animals will be donated to the Salvation Army.
As noted earlier this was Wheeling’s 500th victory at Wesbanco Arena. The Nailers had already passed the 500-home victory mark due to home games having been played in Johnstown, PA and one at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. The Nailers are also just seven assists away from 10,000 assists in franchise history