The 2013-14 Wheeling Nailers have made a habit of coming from behind to win games, and they did so again on Saturday night. Wheeling trailed 2-0 early in the third period, before rallying back and forcing overtime against the Elmira Jackals. In the extra session, Mike Ratchuk potted his fourth overtime winning goal of the season, giving the Nailers a 3-2 victory at First Arena – their sixth in eight visits this season.
Defense was the story of the game early on, as the first period whipped by without a goal, while the second period nearly did the same. Early in the middle frame, energy was injected into both squads, as Wheeling’s Patrick McGrath picked up his team-leading 17th fighting major of the season, dropping the gloves with Elmira’s Corey Bellamy. The Jackals ultimately scored the game’s first goal with 2:32 remaining in the second, when Patch Alber escaped the defense, creating a breakaway chance, which he finished off, sliding a backhander through Eric Hartzell’s legs.
Elmira needed just 16 seconds in the third period to extend its lead. Artem Demkov worked the puck across the blueline to Zach McCullough, who had his wrist shot stopped by Hartzell. However, the rebound popped out to Jordan Pietrus, who lifted it into the top-right corner of the goal. Trailing by two, the Nailers immediately started their comeback. Dustin Stevenson netted the first goal at the 2:11 mark, when his backhander from the right circle tipped off of a body in front, bouncing past Neil Conway’s glove side. Less than two minutes later, Zack Torquato tied the game, when he ripped a wrist shot into the top-left corner of the net. Christiaan Minella created the opportunity, thanks to a tape-to-tape pass through neutral ice.
The game remained tied until the 1:37 mark of overtime, when Wheeling earned the bonus point. Mike Ratchuk stole the puck on the right side of center ice, before immediately shifting from defense to offense. Ratchuk gained the blueline, then blasted a slap shot into the bottom-right corner of the goal for the 3-2 triumph.
Eric Hartzell earned the victory for the Nailers, stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced. Neil Conway suffered the overtime loss, making 28 saves on 31 shots for the Jackals.
The Nailers will return home on Wednesday for a 7:00 game against the Toledo Walleye, as they begin a three-game homestand.