WHEELING, WV- Special teams can play a huge part in winning and losing hockey games. Saturday night was one of those nights for Wheeling. All three facets of the game were working; penalty kill, power-play and even strength. A pair of shorthanded goals, a pair of power-play goals and a pair of even strength goals propelled the Nailers past the Brampton Beast 6-2.
It wouldn’t take long for the Wheeling offense to get it cranked up as a misplayed puck at the top of the offensive zone for Brampton allowed Riley Bourbonnais to skate in alone from the blue line and drive home the puck for a short-handed goal. Bourbonnais’ fourth goal of the season, unassisted and short-handed at 1:40 to put the hosts up 1-0.
The Nailers continued the pressure after the goal. Bourbonnais was all over the zone. Keeping it in the zone and changing on the cycle, Ross McMullan battled in the corner. Scott Jacklin’s stick broke allowing McMullan to step out and fire the puck. Zachary Fucale made the initial save but the puck sprang free behind him in the crease and Hunter Fejes used his stick to slide the puck into the back of the net and put the Nailers up 2-0 at 7:40 in the first. Cam Brown also credited with an assist on Fejes’ team-leading 14th of the season.
With 2:48 to play in the opening frame, Brandon Marino received a one-time pass at the top of the crease and Will King turned him away with a save in the middle of the Nailers goalie mask logo to keep Brampton off the board to that point.
King stopped 13 total shots in the first and Fucale stopped eight of the 10 shots he faced. Nailers killed off three penalties and part of it was a two-man advantage for the Beast. The Nailers were also unsuccessful on the power-play in the first.
Midway through the second on a power-play, Wheeling had excellent pressure and play behind the net. Brown received a pass behind the net and started toward the goal line. He saw Jaynen Rissling in the slot. Rissling stepped into a one-timer from Brown and blew it by Fucale to put the hosts ahead 3-0. Fejes got the secondary assist on the second of the season for Rissling at 11:05 of the second.
In the spirit of Festivus, Stefan Fournier and Jeremy Beirnes decided at 16:31 of the second it was a good time for the ‘feats of strength’ and dropped the gloves for the second straight night. This time as the two combatants were a bit further apart and landed a few more punches. Beirnes ended up on top as they fell to the ice.
King continued to impress and stopped 11 more Brampton shots in the second. Fucale turned aside eight Nailers shots in the second as the Nailers scored on one of two power-plays to improve to 1-of-3 on the man advantage in the game. Brampton did not have a power-play in the frame.
In the third, the Nailers brought the puck in on the right side. Bourbonnais fired a shot that beat Fucale five-hole for his second of the contest, fifth of the year. Garrett Meurs would get the only assist on the play at 3:46.
With Danny Fick in the box for a cross-check, Luc-Olivier Blain ended the shutout bid for King. After getting the pass from Nathan Todd, Blain stepped out from Gretzky’s office and snap a shot on goal. King made the save and the rebound went straight to Blain crashing the net. A pile-up ensued and the puck ended up behind King and the Beast were on the board with a powerplay goal at 11:38. Reggie Traccitto credited with an assist as well.
The Nailers would answer though as just under two minutes later, on a power play of their own, Kevin Schulze got a pass from King, sent a stretch pass to Fejes. In alone from just inside the blue line, Fejes beat Fucale high glove side and the Nailers regained the four-goal cushion at 13:20 of the third.
The special teams weren’t done yet as the Nailers saw Beirnes get called for tripping at 15:16 of the third. Brampton pulled Fucale in favor of the extra attacker to give them a 6-on-4 man power advantage. However, it was the hosts that capitalized on the opportunity as Reid Gardiner would send the puck into the empty net for his 13th goal of the season, short-handed at 16:00. Nailers’ captain Nick Sorkin picked up the only helper on the goal.
Jacklin would end the scoring with a goal that beat King along the ice with just under a minute to play. Founier and Matt Petgrave would pick up the assists at 19:07. The goal was Jacklin’s fifth of the year.
In all King saw 39 shots and stopped 37 of them en route to the victory and number one star of the game honors. His record stands at 4-1-1-0. Fucale stopped 21 of the 26 he faced. His record is now 1-2-0-0. The Nailers had 27 shots in the game. The empty net goal accounted for the other shot. Nailers finished the game 2-for-5 on the power play, and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill while picking up two short-handed goals. Fejes and McMullan would pick up the second and third stars of the game, respectively. McMullan is also on a four game point streak.
The teams are now off for the holiday break. Wheeling will return to action Friday, December 29 when they take on the Komets. Faceoff is set for 8 pm ET.
Brampton will return to action a day sooner as they open a set with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in Greenville, SC. Faceoff set for 7 pm ET.