On Sunday afternoon, the Wheeling Nailers defied just about every odd thrown their way. After travelling from Trenton, NJ to Kalamazoo, MI, Wheeling watched as its goaltender get 49 shots thrown his way. Scott Darling was up to the task, stopping 47, before turning away four more in a shootout, as the Nailers defeating the Kalamazoo Wings 3-2 at Wings Stadium.
The Nailers opened the scoring at the 6:09 mark of the first period. Zach Hansen started the offensive rush on the right side of his own zone, finding Paul Crowder in neutral ice. Crowder skated the puck ahead, then dished a pass over to Chris Barton in the left circle. Barton took the opportunity, and wristed in his team-leading 21st goal of the season. Barton’s 21st marker broke a deadlock with Crowder, whose 55 points are the most on the squad.
WIth a little less than five minutes remaining in the second period, the Wings pulled even, thanks to a shorthanded goal. Nick Sirota stole the puck in his own zone, dashed down the right side of the ice, and clobbered a slap shot into the left side of the cage. Sirota’s tally marked the third shorthanded goal in the three-game season series between the two clubs, with Wheeling netting two to Kalamazoo’s one.
Midway through the third period, Wheeling retook the lead. After killing off a full two-minute disadvantage, Peter Lenes, who was serving a penalty, jumped out of the box for the go-ahead goal. Lenes picked up the loose puck on the left side of the net, jamming it into the twine. Zack Torquato and Cam Fergus registered the assists on Lenes’ second tally in as many games and eleventh of the season. With 3:46 remaining in regulation, the Wings got the equalizer. Aaron Clarke was robbed on the left side of the crease on a phenomenal right pad save by Scott Darling. However, the rebound was dished out to Joe Charlebois, who stepped in with a rocket from high in the zone.
Neither team scored the rest of the way in regulation or overtime, as the contest progressed to a shootout. The Nailers got off to a fast start in the shootout, as Chris Barton snapped a shot in on the stick side, before Keven Veilleux used a library of moves to undress Ryan Daniels for Wheeling’s second marker. From there, the show belonged to Darling, who denied all four Kalamazoo shooters, giving the visitors a 3-2 win.
Scott Darling earned the win for the Nailers, blocking 47 of the 49 shots he faced during the game, before going 4-for-4 in the shootout. Ryan Daniels was the shootout loser, allowing two goals on three shootout shots, after making 35 saves on 37 shots during the game.
The Nailers will play their final three games of the season at home, beginning on Wednesday night at 7:00 against the Elmira Jackals.