Offense has been a strong point for the Wheeling Nailers as of late, and on Friday night, Wheeling’s ability to put the puck in the net helped it gain two valuable points in the standings. Five different players scored goals for the Nailers, who netted two in the second and three of the third, defeating the Toledo Walleye, 5-3 at WesBanco Arena.
Late in the first period, the Walleye broke through for the game’s opening goal, utilizing their second ranked power play in the ECHL. Kyle Bodie and JP Burkemper banged away at a loose puck, which ultimately got tipped out to Ryan Flanigan at the bottom of the right circle. Flanigan used the extra space to loft the puck over Eric Hartzell’s glove for a 1-0 Toledo lead.
The Nailers netted their first goal of the evening at the 11:06 mark of the second period. Paul Cianfrini carried the puck into the left corner of the offensive zone, before feeding Chaz Johnson, who connected for the goal on the left side of the slot. 2:01 later, Wheeling took its first lead of the game, as Max MacKay slipped a pass through the slot to Christiaan Minella, who drilled in a shot from the bottom of the right circle.
Just 24 seconds into the third period, the Walleye pulled even. Jake Chelios stole the puck high in the offensive zone, before setting up Travis Novak, who squeezed a backhander through Eric Hartzell. The Nailers regained their advantage at the 8:43 mark, when Tyler Fernandez followed up his initial shot by dragging the puck on his backhand to the right side of the slot, before putting it into the net. Patrick McGrath registered his first professional point with an assist on the tally. 3:02 after that, Wheeling grabbed a crucial insurance marker, as Max MacKay ripped a wrist shot from the left circle, which flew into the top-right corner of the cage. The importance of the goal was highlighted just 33 seconds later, when Toledo’s Matt Abercrombie scored with a backhander from the right side of the slot. With 4:51 to go, the Nailers tacked on one more goal for good measure, as Peter Merth rocketed a slap shot from the right point, which clanged in off of the left post, as Wheeling was victorious, 5-3.
Eric Hartzell picked up his fourth win in a row for the Nailers, making 31 saves on 34 shots. Hannu Toivonen took the loss for the Walleye, surrendering five goals on 33 shots.
The Nailers will continue their six-game homestand on Sunday, when they face the Elmira Jackals at 3:00.