Something you will hear a lot in hockey is how important it is to win the battle of special teams, and in the Wheeling Nailers Saturday night match up with the Kalamazoo Wings, that was certainly the case as the Nailers potted three power play goals on four tries and gave up just one against on the same number of penalty kills, helping them to an important 5-4 victory.
Nick Sorkin, playing in his second game back from an injury, looked like his old self again, scoring the Nailers first two goals – both on the power play – for his 12th and 13th goals of the season, and also picking up an assist to join Garrett Meurs (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jordan Kwas (3 assists) with three point nights.
Wheeling never trailed. but they also never led by more than one as the K-Wings answered each of the Nailers first four goals, to make for an exciting, back and forth contest.
“That was a character win,” defenseman Kevin Schulze said. “It was an up and down game, we were up, we were tied, and we battled back and got the win and that’s all that matters.
“Our mentality (on the PP) was just shoot first and that kinda opened things up for us. Something we’ve been struggling with lately is not shooting as much as we can and our goal tonight was just shoot the puck and see what happens and a couple of them went in.”
Sorkin’s first power play goal came just 2:06 into the game, as he took a pass from Cody Wydo and put a wrist shot through a screen and by Kalamazoo starter veteran Joel Martin for a 1-0 lead, but 6:38 in Lane Scheidl buried a rebound from former Nailer Kyle Bushee to even things up.
Sorkin struck again 3:39 into the second, as this time Kwas found him cutting down the lane from the point and he went upstairs to make it 2-1 Nailers, but not even two minutes later Josh Pitt dangled through everyone and made it 2-2.
Tyler Currier set up Meurs for a one-time blast that powered its way home just past the midway point of the game for a 3-2 Nailers lead, but with just under three to go in the period Tyler Biggs walked to the middle of the ice and flung a shot toward the goal as he was falling that eluded Nailers netminder Doug Carr to even the score at 3-3 going to the third.
Johnny Daniels, who has been making quite the impression on the coaching staff and fan base since joining the club from the SPHL ranks, had an exceptional performance, and was rewarded with his first ECHL point when he found Kevin Schulze in close from behind the net and the ECHL All-Star defenseman sniped the water bottle for a 4-3 lead 5:36 into the third.
“This one feels really good, we battled through some adversity there at the end,” Daniels said. “For me it’s coming up here and just trying to help out in any way I can.
“I know one of my benefits or my strong factors is my feet so I’m just trying to move my feet and create some havoc out there and just try to earn every bit of leeway I get.
“(It feels) really good (to get the first ECHL point). Playing with (Wydo) and (Sorkin) tonight, they find you a lot you get the puck a lot with them so it’s finally good to pay off.”
Scheidl got his second of the game on a power play, though, converting after Martin fired a long pass ahead to him to set up his entry into the Nailers zone, making it a 4-4 game with 6:27 to go.
The Nailers power play got another shot of its own late, and Danny Fick somehow found a rebound in a mad scramble in the crease and found just enough of a path through sticks and skates and Martin to tuck home his third of the season for a 5-4 lead with 3:12 remaining, and this time the K-Wings didn’t have an answer as the Nailers hung on to take a much needed two standings points and get the win.
The Nailers head out on a vital seven game road trip that could make or break them in the playoff chase, starting with a pivotal game in Brampton on Monday afternoon, as Wheeling now sits three points behind the Beast and Adirondack Thunder for the final playoff spot.
“We’re going to take it just like any other game,” Schulze said. “Take it shift by shift.
“We’re going to look at it as a must win.”
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