Darling Stops 28, Improving to 6-0-1 in Last Seven Starts
For the first and only time this season, the Wheeling Nailers welcomed a Western Conference club to WesBanco Arena, as they played host to the Bakersfield Condors on Friday night. As they have done so frequently this season, the Nailers got the upper hand on their home ice. Zach Hansen picked up a goal and an assist, and Scott Darling made 28 saves, leading Wheeling to a 3-2 victory – their 17th of the season at home.
The Nailers came out strong in the first period, opening the scoring at the 4:52 mark. Zack Torquato won an offensive zone face-off back to Zach Hansen, who immediately stepped in and blasted a one-timer past Scott Greenham. The goal was Hansen’s fifth in six games. Unfortunately, Torquato’s evening ended less than four minutes later, when he received a major penalty and game misconduct for cross checking. However, Wheeling’s penalty kill was on the top of its game, keeping the Condors off of the scoreboard. With 3:44 left in the frame, the home team added to the lead, as Matt Germain split the defense, before slipping a shot into the back of the cage. Chris Barton and Reid McNeill assisted on Germain’s second of the year, as the Nailers carried a 2-0 lead into the locker rooms.
Bakersfield recorded the lone marker of the second period, and it came midway through, while the visitors had a man advantage. Francis Verreault carried the puck in on the right side, before sending a pass into the slot, where a shot was lifted in by Peter Boyd. The goal marked the first time in nine games that Wheeling surrendered a power play goal to the opposition, ending a streak of 26 straight successful kills.
Midway through the third period, the Nailers added a large insurance goal. Zach Hansen rushed the puck down the left side of the ice, before feeding a pass to Paul Crowder. Crowder skated low in the zone, while spotting Christiaan Minella open on the right side of the crease. Minella buried the pass for his third goal in the last two home games. The Condors climbed to within one with 3:25 remaining, when Nicholas Tremblay dribbled a shot through Scott Darling, but Wheeling held on from there, winning, 3-2.
Scott Darling improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts for the Nailers, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced in the win. Scott Greenham took the loss for Bakersfield, making 32 saves on 35 shots.
The Nailers visit the Trenton Titans on Saturday at 7:05, before returning home on Sunday to battle the Cincinnati Cyclones at 4:00.