Saturday night’s Pittsburgh Penguins night match up with Brampton had some extra importance for the Wheeling Nailers, as they came in tied with their division rival for third place (top 4 make the playoffs) in the the thick of a logjam of a battle with division match ups being somewhat rare, and they responded, turning in one of their best performances of the season by dominating the Beast en route to a 4-0 victory, their sixth in a row.
“They looked good, everybody was firing on all cylinders,” Nailers coach Jeff Christian said. “It’s an inner-divisional game, we don’t get to play in our division a lot.
“We obviously have a lot of respect for them, we really had a good game plan coming in. We respect their offense and their veteran guys, but at the same time we took it to them and played our game.”
Nick Sorkin stayed red hot for the Nailers (23-14-3), netting a pair of assists to extend his point streak to six games, the last five of which he has tallied multiple points in for a whopping 15 points in that span, and Jarrett Burton connected for a pair of goals, giving him points in four out of his last five games.
Sean Maguire turned aside all 25 shots he faced for his second shutout and fourth straight win, improving to 7-1-1 in his last nine starts, a stretch on which he has a .931 SV%.
“They had their chances, I thought Maguire stood tall,” Christian said. “That was a big game and he really stepped up and played well.
“As the game went on the guys were like ‘lets play for Mags.'”
Wheeling failed to convert on a pair of early power plays during a tightly contested first period, but they would break through for a 1-0 late in the frame as Sorkin found Burton cutting in on the back door and he fired a laser beam of a shot past a sliding Brampton (21-15-5) starter Zachary Fucale (29 saves) with just under two minutes before the first intermission.
“That was a big one for us,” Burton said. “Being really close with Brampton in the standings right now, every game is important.
“It did (feel like a playoff type game) and we expected that knowing how good Brampton is as a team and we’re right in the thick of things with them and Reading and all the other teams in our division.”
Working on a penalty kill late in the second, Darryl Lloyd forced a turnover and found Tyler Currier coming right down the middle of the ice, and he made no mistake zipping his eighth of the campaign home to make it a 2-0 Nailers lead after two.
“Lloyder chipped the puck out and made a good play on the D-man,” Currier said. “He found me wide open.
“It was easy for me to finish that, it should be Lloyder’s goal.”
Knowing Brampton has a high powered offense that can put up goals in a hurry, it was important for Wheeling to get some insurance in the third period, and Burton provided that with just over 10 to go in the contest, burying his second of the night and third of the season on a back door pass from Gage Quinney to make it 3-0.
Christian Hilbrich netted his 13th of the season a few minutes later for good measure and a 4-0 lead, and the Nailers shut it down defensively from the there to make sure Maguire got to finish with the goose egg.
“I don’t really have words for that,” Maguire said of his teammates efforts. “They’re fighting for one guy.
“That’s pretty special, it’s nice to know the guys have my back like that.”
Wheeling takes there six game streak into Kalamazoo Sunday afternoon, looking for a clean sweep of their four games in five days weekend.
Follow me on Twitter @AndrewGrimm_