For the second time in less than two weeks, Luke Pither found himself putting the punctuation mark on a victory for the Wheeling Nailers. With 1:10 left in overtime on Friday night, Pither did just that, picking up a rebound, and lifting Wheeling to a 5-4 victory over the Greenville Road Warriors at BI-LO Center. The win gives the Nailers points in eight straight games, and 13 of 16 overall.
The Nailers opened the scoring towards the end of the first period, as they netted a power play goal for the 12th game in a row. Andrew Hotham took advantage of extra time and space at the top of the right circle, before wristing a shot on goal. The initial shot was stopped, but Chris Barton was there to hammer in the rebound for his seventh goal in six games. However, the Road Warriors came back with a quick answer, knotting the score 1:17 later. Kyle Haines took a shot from the left point, which was redirected in by Jordie Johnston, sending the game to intermission tied, 1-1.
Offense continued to be the theme in the second period, as the two sides combined to turn on the red light five times. Wheeling started the scoring 1:09 in, when Cody Wild found the back of the net with a low shot from high in the slot. 1:37 later, the lead was extended, as Wild’s initial shot from the right point was stopped, but Scott Zurevinski and Paul Crowder battled for the rebound, with Crowder ultimately banging in his tenth marker of the year. Greenville battled back to tie the game with a pair of tallies by Brendan Connolly – one on a breakaway pass from Marc-Olivier Vallerand, and the other off of the rebound of Lee Baldwin’s initial chance. With 3:02 remaining in the stanza, the Nailers regained the lead. Daultan Leveille slipped past the defense, then lifted a shot up over Nathan Lieuwen’s right shoulder.
With 3:35 left in the third, the Road Warriors forced overtime. TJ Reynolds started the play in his own zone, passing the puck ahead to Marc-Olivier Vallerand, who created a 2-on-1 rush through center. Once he reached the right circle, Vallerand dished a pass through the slot to Jordie Johnston, who netted his second of the game, forcing overtime.
In the extra session, the Nailers gained the upper hand. Luke Pither slipped a pass through the crease to Chris Barton, who nearly ended the game, if not for a splendid save by Nathan Lieuwen. However, Pither was there for the rebound, as he netted his second overtime marker of the year, winning the game, 5-4. The overtime goal was Wheeling’s first on the road, since Chris Kushneriuk’s game seven winner in the 2011 Kelly Cup Playoffs in Greenville.
Scott Darling picked up the win for the Nailers, making 35 saves on 39 shots, including 18 of 19 in the third period and overtime. Nathan Lieuwen was saddled with the overtime loss for Greenville, stopping 38 of the 43 shots he faced.
The Nailers will conclude their road trip on Saturday night, when they visit the South Carolina Stingrays at 7:05. Wheeling will then return home on Monday, where they will host the Elmira Jackals at 5:00