Wheeling Nailers Coverage Sponsored by The Station Grille. For the best Burgers in the Ohio Valley. This weeks Bar specials include $13 Buckets of Beer (6 pack) and Bogo Shots during the Steelers Playoff Game.
Wheeling Nailers head coach Jeff Christian has often said all season that if his club plays the right way, they can beat anyone. Friday night at WesBanco Arena his theory looked pretty accurate, as the Nailers thoroughly dominated the #1 team in the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye, from start to finish, blasting the fish 6-0.
“That’s what it takes to beat those guys (a 60 minute effort),” Christian said. “It was a huge team effort.
“They’re first overall for a reason, there’s a lot of skill, a lot of firepower, and we jumped on them early.”
Making it even more impressive, Wheeling was able to turn in such an impressive performance without captain and leading goal scorer Derek Army, who was called up to AHL Milwaukee for a second time this season earlier in the day, and are also still without key pieces in Adam Krause and Mike Webster who are both out with injuries.
“Whenever Derek is gone, Adam out, it’s tough but the guys stepped up. Look at (Andrew) Miller, (Andrew) Ammon, (Milos) Bubela, a lot of guys got an opportunity tonight. Ross (McMullan) with Webby being out.
“It’s buying into the structure of the system and keeping it simple and playing for the team. I thought they did a great job.”
There’s winning the special teams battle, and then there’s dominating it, and just like pretty much every other aspect of the game, the Nailers dominated special teams. Wheeling has struggled all year with a lackluster penalty kill. but turned in a 5/5 performance against the #1 ranked Toledo power play, including a 4:00 kill in the third period. In case that wasn’t enough, they went 2/2 with their own power play as well.
“It’s fun to play when the boys are clicking like that,” Jordan Kwas, who continued his breakout season with a three point night, said. “All it is is doing the little things.
“We’ve been working on (the PK) for a couple games now. We’ve only started this new one for a couple weeks, and guys are still figuring out what their jobs are.
“It’s one thing to be taught something but it’s another to understand why you’re doing it. You get beat a couple of times and you can see. Guys are still figuring it out but you can tell when things are clicking (the opposition) doesn’t have too much.”
Nick Sorkin, who has been an absolute beast since returning from a recent AHL stint, opened the scoring 5:06 into the contest deking his way through everyone on the ice and sticking his first of two on the night upstairs for a 1-0 Nailers lead with assists from Andrew Miller and Brett Stern.
Just under three minutes later Gage Quinney found Ryan Segalla cheating in from his point with a long cross-ice pass, and he wasted no time picking his spot upstairs on the blocker side for a 2-0 Nailers lead. A second assist went to Christian Hilbrich.
Then just over four minutes later at the 12:06 mark of the first, Garrett Meurs took a pass from Tyler Currier and visited snipe city, ripping his first of two off the crossbar and in for a power play goal to make it 3-0 Nailers with a second assist from Jordan Kwas, a lead which Wheeling would carry to the middle frame with a 12-5 advantage in shots on goal.
Stern, who was on his way off for a line change but had to hurry up and change directions, raced back to break up a breakaway then wound up with the puck on his stick coming the other way, and he let a shot go that hit Kwas and went in to make it 4-0 9:13 into the second. Tyler Currier picked up another assist, and before that goal had even been announced, nine seconds later Sorkin made it 5-0 with his second of the game and ninth of the year unassisted.
That would end the night for reigning ECHL goalie of the week, Toledo starter Jake Patterson, who ended up with just 11 saves on 16 shots before being relieved by Steve Racine, who fared better stopping 12 of 13 the rest of the way.
That lone blemish came in the third period from Meurs, again on the power play, as he fired his second power play goal of the night and team lead tying 12th of the season home with assists from Kwas and Hilbrich to cap the scoring with just under eight minutes to play.
It’s easy to overlook the winning goalie in a blowout, but not to be overlooked is Nailers rookie netminder Sean Maguire, who turned in a 25 save performance – 14 of which came in the third period – to pick up his first professional shutout and earn the #1 star honors.
“It’s really nice to get the shutout but the most important thing is the win,” Maguire said. “It was a team effort tonight, no doubt.
“Guys were blocking shots, our penalty kill which hasn’t been that great all year just was on fire.”
Wheeling is home again Sunday afternoon after the Steelers game, taking on Cincinnati at 5:05pm.