Mike Ratchuk spent 22 games with the Fort Wayne Komets during the 2010-11 season, and for the second Saturday in a row, he proved to be the Wheeling Nailers’ hero against one of his former clubs. Ratchuk registered two goals and two assists, including the overtime winner, as Wheeling erased two separate deficits to defeat Fort Wayne, 5-4, in front of 7,370 fans at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
The start of Saturday night’s contest was full of animosity, as Wheeling’s Patrick McGrath, Harrison Ruopp, and Ryan Flanigan dropped the gloves with Fort Wayne’s Kaleigh Schrock, William Lacasse, and Nick Tuzzolino in a span of 2:39. Late in the first period, the Komets struck for two goals in a span of 39 seconds. Nik Pokulok netted the first marker, when he jumped into the play, and received a pass in the slot from Phil Mangan, before snapping a shot into the top-right corner of the goal. Mickey Lang followed that up, cutting through the Wheeling defense onto a breakaway, where he dragged the puck past Mike Condon.
Lang and the Komets struck again at the 8:46 mark of the second period, while playing on the man advantage. Bobby Hughes found Lang at the bottom of the left circle, where he wired a one-timer into the back of the net, giving the home team a 3-0 lead. With 2:51 remaining in the frame, the Nailers began to come back, as Max MacKay banked the puck off of a Fort Wayne defender from the left face-off dot, cutting the deficit to two. 2:01 later, Wheeling lit the lamp again, as Anton Zlobin wound his way behind the goal, before hooking up with Mike Ratchuk, who buried a one-timer from the left circle.
Early in the third period, the Nailers evened the score. With the Komets running around in their own zone, Zlobin cruised into the left circle, before ripping a shot glove side on Reichard, as Fort Wayne’s inital three-goal lead was completely erased. The Komets did bounce back to regain the lead with 5:55 to go, when Nick Tuzzolino blasted home a shot from the right point. However, with 32 seconds left in regulation, Wheeling tied the game again, as Zack Torquato fed Carter Rowney, who flipped a shot into the left side of the net, earning the Nailers at least one point for the fifth straight tilt.
With 18 seconds remaining in the extra second, Wheeling locked up the second point. Ratchuk skated into the high slot, letting a wrist shot go, which flew into the right side of the net, lifting the visitors to their fifth comeback win of the year, 5-4. The goal was the former Komets’ second of the night, to go along with two assists.
Mike Condon picked up the win in goal for the Nailers, making 31 saves on 35 shots. Cody Reichard took the overtime loss for Fort Wayne, allowing five goals on 34 shots.
Wheeling will continue its five-game road trip in Cincinnati on Sunday at 3:00. The Nailers’ next home game takes place on November 30th against the Toledo Walleye.