The Toledo Walleye, who are the #1 team in the ECHL standings, have lost seven games in regulation all season. Including last night, the Wheeling Nailers have been the team to hand them three of those, all by a margin of victory of three or more goals. Just one game removed from blowing out their rivals from Northwest Ohio 6-0, the Nailers pulled away in the third period Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena to take a 5-2 victory, and did so this time not only without their captain Derek Army, but also without leading goal scorer Garrett Meurs who both were in AHL Milwaukee.
“We need the wins,” Nailers coach Jeff Christian said. “It’s hard to come into this building for a skilled team like that, once we get our legs going and we get on the body it kind of takes them off their rhythm.
“I don’t know what their coach would say, maybe he would say the same thing, but I thought that they kind of got into playing our game a little bit where they were dumping they were dumping the puck a lot and chasing. When you’re playing Toledo (usually it’s a different game because they’re passing that puck around and it looks like the ’72 Russians out there.
“We’ll take it, we earned it. We went into the third period at home (in a situation to) win and period and win a game and we did that.”
It was a 1-1 game going to the third, before Wheeling jumped out to a 3-1 lead in rapid fashion with a power play goal at the 7:10 mark from Tyler Currier – his first in a Nailers uniform – after good pass from ECHL All-Star Kevin Schulze set him up coming right down the middle, and then 38 seconds later it was his turn to do the setting up as he perfectly executed an odd-man-rush with a return feed to Gage Quinney for a tap in. That turned out to be all the Nailers needed, because Sean Maguire continued his run of strong play in net stopping 31/33.
“I’ve never been that cold before in my life, it’s nice to have the snake bite done,” Currier said. “They had a couple guys out of the line up, so did we, so it was a matter of keeping it simple and doing what’s working for us.
“(Maguire has been) huge, he’s unbelievable. He stands on his head and keeps us in every game, without a guy like that who knows where we’d be.”
After a scoreless first that Christian said he was not happy with, Toledo got a power play goal 2:40 into the second period to open the scoring when Evan Rankin tipped a Nolan Zajac drive to put the visitors on top 1-0.
The Nailers answered just shy of the game’s midpoint with a power play goal of their own when Jarrett Burton, one of the heroes of the run to the Finals last season playing in his first game with the Nailers this season after being sent down from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, found another of the returners from that run in Jordan Kwas with a cross-crease pass and he one timed his 11th home to even it up.
“It felt good, it was a little bit of an adjustment (from the AHL), but it was fun,” Burton said. “That’s a great team, that’s a good way to get started, Toledo has always been a tough match up ever since I (first) got here.
“It’s fun to get right into a meaningful game right early. It’s good to get back into some game situations (after sitting in the AHL recently). It was a good team effort.”
After Wheeling had jumped ahead, Toledo cut it back to 3-2 with a goal from Matthew Santos past the halfway mark of the period, but Christian Hilbrich forced a turnover and center ice and raced in on a breakaway, burying his fifth 5-hole on Walleye netminder Steve Racine (27 saves) to make it 4-2 with under five to play.
“I feel like every night now we’re having a different line step up and perform,” Hilbrich said. “It’s kind of going up and down the line up and everybody is really performing.
“They beat us big the first time they played us at home here and that’s something we’ve taken to heart, and we want to defend our home ice here, so every time were here playing against them or in their barn it’s left a sour taste in our mouth and we carry that with us.”
Ryan Segalla fired home an empty netter from his own goal line with 1:40 left to seal the deal and make it 5-2, giving the Nailers a second straight win over the top ranked Walleye headed into another showdown Friday night in Toledo.
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