For most of the 2013-14 season, the third period has been friendly for the Wheeling Nailers. Unfortunately, on Saturday night, Wheeling’s friend became its foe. The Kalamazoo Wings broke a 1-1 tie at the 3:07 mark of the final score, before an empty net goal gave the visitors a 3-1 win in front of 3,532 fans at WesBanco Arena.
The Nailers played a spectacular first period, outshooting the Wings, 11-2, but Kalamazoo netminder Jordan Binnington was on his game early, as the game stayed scoreless through the opening twenty minutes.
Three minutes into the middle frame, Kalamazoo struck first. Elgin Reid connected with Chris Lawrence, who lifted a shot in from the right circle for his second tally in as many nights. Yannick Veilleux also picked up an assist on the game’s first goal. With 11 seconds to go in the period, the Nailers evened the score, burying a power play marker. Dustin Stevenson won a battle along the left wing wall, sending the puck into the corner for Mike Ratchuk. Ratchuk jammed a chance to the front of the net, before Max MacKay slammed the puck in on the left side of the crease. MacKay’s goal was his second in as many nights, giving him points in 10 of his last 13 games.
The third period featured a similar start, except this time, the Wings picked up their goal, while playing on a two-man advantage. Sam Ftorek kept the puck alive at the blueline, before the play eventually wound its way around to him for a slap shot from the top of the left circle. Ftorek’s ninth goal of the season was also his 28th point – the most among ECHL defensemen. Nick Sirota completed the 3-1 Kalamazoo win with an empty net goal at 19:10.
Jordan Binnington earned the win for the Wings, stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. Peter Mannino’s line for Wheeling was similar, as he finished with 28 saves on 30 shots, suffering his first loss.
The Nailers will play a pair of road games against the Reading Royals on February 8th and 9th, before playing three straight home games on February 12th (Toledo), 14th (Reading), and 15th (Elmira). All three home contests begin at 7:00.