ECHL

LEAVENS MAKES IMPACT IN DEBUT: Nailers Win 4-1, Stay in Playoff Race

Photo by Zack Rawson

With time running out in the regular season, and sitting on the outside looking in, the every game is practically a must win at this point for the Wheeling Nailers.  Win is exactly what they did Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena, starting a three game set with the Idaho Steelheads with a 4-1 victory.

“We bought in,” Nailers coach Jeff Christian said.  “We bought into the cycle game, we bought into the D-side more as the game went on.

“Tonight was great, we took care of business and everybody battled.  We got it done.”

As he has been doing for the last couple of weeks, Christian added another impactful piece to his club with Robert Morris Colonial Daniel Leavens, who did just like fellow Colonial alumnus Cody Wydo did in his debut about two years ago now and scored a huge goal in the third period of his debut when Nick Sorkin (3 assists) fed him backdoor to make it a 3-1 game with less than five minutes to go.  Also just like Wydo, Leavens was the game’s #1 star.

“I felt more and more comfortable as the game went on,” Leavens, who was admittedly nervous beforehand, said.  “I missed a chance right before that I should’ve scored on.

“I got another great pass and it was easy for me just to tap it in, when you get great passes like that it makes it easier.”

The Nailers have that special night Wydo first made his impact felt in part to thank for Leavens being a Nailer.

“When Cody had his first game here I was at Robert Morris and we all drove down for Cody’s first game,” Leavens said.  “I came down, watched the game and it was awesome.

“I loved the atmosphere.”

Speaking of Wydo, he had a goal and an assist, while Tyler Currier netted a pair of goals, and Garrett Meurs added a pair of assists to help Wheeling get the win.

“We’ve got to start on a roll at some point, tonight was the night to do it,” Currier said.  “It’s on us to keep producing.

“We’ve got to win every game.  We know it in the locker room, even with the situation we’re in, when we get rolling we’re a tough team to beat.”

Sean Maguire bounced back from a rough third period/OT last Saturday stopping 20 of 21 in goal for his 12th win of his rookie campaign.

“I thought defensively we played really well, we were getting pucks out we weren’t turning them over at the blue line and that’s what usually kills us,” Wydo said.  “Mags came up huge.

“I feel like if we play the way we should play, we should be able to get into the playoffs.”

The win moves the Nailers within four points of a playoff spot heading into the weekend, as Manchester beat Reading 5-1 on the Royals home ice, moving the Royals down to fourth.  Reading has a game in hand on the Nailers, but the two teams do have a head to head match up at WesBanco Arena left to go as well.

“It doesn’t matter (who we’re chasing), we need to win games,” Christian said.  “Seven games left, we just need to take care of our own business.

“Everyone, every shift – shift by shift is the motto – take care of business has been the motto all year.  They’re realizing that that one mistake that they make could cost us and they’re bought in.”

Wheeling got on the board first 9:58 into the contest when Meurs fed Currier with a centering feed for his 17th goal of the season, extending a team best eight game point streak to make it 1-0 Nailers.  Kale Kerbashian also picked up an assist, giving him points, nine of them to be exact, in all five of his games with the team since being acquired at the trade deadline.

Idaho converted on the first part of a double minor under two minutes later to even the score at 1-1 with a goal from Will Merchent.

Wydo buried a Sorkin rebound on his backhand for a power play goal of his own and his 29th goal of the season to put the Nailers right back on top with just over four to play in the first, and that was all the Nailers ended up needing.

After no one tickled the twin in the second, Leavens goal gave the Nailers some late insurance before Currier took a pass from Sorkin and sealed the deal with an empty netter in the final minute to give the Nailers the 4-1 win.

Idaho is in town again Friday and Saturday nights, and the Nailers expect them to push back hard.

“They’ll analyze their game out come out with some more jump (Friday) but we’ve got to do the same thing,” Currier said.  “Every point is huge right now and we just have to keep winning.”

Follow me on Twitter @AndrewGrimm_

 

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