Rookie forward Shane Bakker had spent 23 games searching for his first professional goal, and on Saturday night, he gave himself a lasting memory. Bakker scored twice in the third period, and also set up Jack MacLellan’s game winning marker, as the Wheeling Nailers exploded for four goals in that frame, taking down the Reading Royals, 5-1 at Santander Arena.
The Royals wasted little time opening the scoring, as they found themselves on top at the 59-second mark of the contest. TJ Syner raced down the right side of the ice, before jamming the puck between the post and Mike Condon’s left pad. Later in the period, Wheeling drew even, with their seventh shorthanded goal of the season. Sahir Gill won a 3-on-1 puck battle against on the far side of the offensive zone, before slipping a pass through to Denver Manderson in the slot. Manderson was in alone against Riley Gill, allowing him to fake to his backhand, lifting a shot into the top of the cage.
Neither team lit the lamp in the second period, as Mike Condon stoned TJ Syner’s penalty shot attempt with 3:18 remaining. However, the third period was a different story, as the Nailers flew out of the gates with offense. Shane Bakker took a hit to move the puck in the defensive zone, leading Jack MacLellan on a 2-on-1 rush up the right side. MacLellan cut to the slot in the offensive zone, slipping a wrist shot through Gill’s legs for the go-ahead goal. A little less than six minutes later, the visitors added to the lead. Jake Areshenko received a pass from Denver Manderson in the slot, before setting up Sahir Gill on the right side of the crease. The Wheeling forward battled the puck over the line for a 3-1 advantage. 1:22 after that, the Nailers scored their second shorthanded goal of the night, as Bakker shifted to his backhand, flipping a shot over Gill’s glove. Mike Banwell brought the Royals to within two at the 13:15 mark, but that score lasted for just 56 seconds, as Bakker’s second of the evening gave the game a 5-2 final in favor of the Nailers.
Mike Condon snagged the victory for Wheeling, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced. Riley Gill was the losing goaltender for Reading, allowing five goals on 32 shots.
The Nailers and Royals will do battle again in Reading on Sunday afternoon at 4:05. Wheeling’s next home game takes place on Wednesday night at 7:00 against the Toledo Walleye.