Friday night’s start for the Wheeling Nailers could not have gone any better, as they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and looked poised for another big win in the playoff race, but the Brampton Beast scored the next five goals and eventually ended up handing the Nailers a 6-3 defeat on home ice, knocking the Nailers, who could’ve tied Brampton for the last playoff spot with a win, back to four points outside of a post season birth.
“It’s hard to understand why you come out and start so well and then just fall apart,” a frustrated Nailers head coach Jeff Christian said. “(It’s because) we were trying to be Wayne Gretzky, thinking we could dangle through five guys.
“I’ve got my game plan right here, see where it says turn the puck over at the offensive blue line 50 times? I don’t see that one. Take stupid penalties? Don’t see that one. Don’t shoot the puck when you have an opportunity? I don’t see that one here either.
“It’s a level of buy in that some guys are just not committed to on a nightly basis, it’s not the SPHL call up guys, it’s guys that were here. Certain guys got hit early and they disappeared, that can’t happen. The attention to detail just comes and goes with this group and as a coach it’s very frustrating.
“We gotta hand it to their team team, they responded. They’re a veteran team over there and they came out and they took it from us, they had a shaky start but they settled down and made us play their game instead of us playing our game. It’s frustrating.
The Nailers had ample opportunity to get themselves back in the game, but went just 1/7 on the power play, including not registering a single shot on goal on back to back man advantage tries to start the third period.
Jordan Kwas, making his return from a four game suspension, scored two deflection goals both set up by Garrett Meurs at the 4:11 and 6:45 marks of the opening period, quickly putting the Nailers up 2-0.
Tim Billingsley scored on a one-time bomb to make it 2-1 with 7:47 remaining before the break, and then David Pacan got his first of two with just 5.1 seconds remaining in the first to even it up at 2-2, which seemed to be a turning point in the game.
The second period was all Beast, as David Vallorani netted a power play goal, Pacan put home a rebound for his second after a bad icing call went against the Nailers, and Mike Folkes blasted a shot by Nailers goalie Sean Maguire to make it 5-2 after two.
After failing on the aforementioned power plays, Meurs, who had a fight back in the first period, completed the Gordie Howe hat trick by knocking home a Kevin Schulze rebound to make it 5-3 6:01 into the third, but that was as close as the Nailers could get as Andrew D’Agostini shut the door in the Brampton net and eventually Brandon Marino buried an empty netter to cap off the 6-3 final score.
Wheeling has another important game with Brampton in Canada on Monday afternoon, but first have an also very important game with the Kalamazoo Wings tonight on home ice trying to stay in the playoff picture.