After a self described flat performance the previous night that pushed the Wheeling Nailers farther away from a playoff spot, they wanted to respond facing off with the Idaho Steelheads for a third time in four days, but once again the Steelheads came away victorious, this time by a more decisive score of 4-1.
“It didn’t (see desperation),” Nailers coach Jeff Christian said. “I called them on it.
“I think after that four goal Adirondack (comeback loss) we’ve seen a much different team (in the third). You just stay on them and you just hope they keep working, but yeah I’m disapointed I just haven’t seen the fight, the drive.
“1-1 again in the third, we were there, right there, and I still don’t see it. We responded a little bit, I called a couple of players out between periods, but it’s very disappointing.”
Couple the second consecutive loss with wins by both Reading and Manchester, and Wheeling now falls to seven points – the equivalent of three and one half games – out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division with just five games remaining. That is a hill that is rapidly getting steeper and quite possibly already too steep to climb back up.
“It’s really frustrating,” a visibly frustrated Nailers captain Nick Sorkin said. “These are big points that we needed and for some reason it’s not going our way.
“That’s kinda just how it goes, it’s ups and downs and unfortunately it’s going the wrong way right now so that’s on us.”
Trailing 1-0 after two, Gage Quinney evened things up 8:15 into the third period sneaking a wrap around by Idaho goalie Landon Bow to energize the WesBanco crowd and pull the Nailers even, but it ended up being all the usually high powered Nailers offense could come up with and Idaho eventually pulled back away.
Not helping matters was the Nailers PP going 0/3, putting them a combined 0/11 the last two contests.
“It’s a privledge to be on the power play,” Sorkin said. “We’re going to work on it and figure it out before next week.”
Nailers goalie Doug Carr turned in one of his best performances in recent memory, making several big saves to give his team a chance, but just didn’t get any help.
Idaho’s Will Merchent opened the scoring 32 seconds into the second period after the clubs played a scoreless first, one-timing a feed from Jefferson Dahl for a 1-0 lead.
After Quinney had tied it, Idaho put the pressure on and Carr had the answers until Dahl snuck a turning shot from a sharp angle over Carr with 5:56 left in the game.
Brian Nugent netted a rebound with under three to play, and Anthony Luciani put it away once and for all with an empty netter in the final minute to give Idaho the 4-1 decision.
Wheeling is off until next Friday, when they are again home to square off with Brampton.
“Yeah (there’s a lot of frustration),” Sorkin said. “but we are all professionals and we’ll be ready to go.”
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