WHEELING - The life of a rookie professional hockey player can be a trying one, especially if they happen to be on a team stocked with talent. In that case, you may go weeks at a time without playing in a game.
Such has been the situation for Wheeling's Ben Farrer, who played just his third game with the club Tuesday morning. But he made the best of the opportunity, scoring his first pro goal as part of the Nailers' 5-3 victory against Elmira at WesBanco Arena.
''Well we have a really good team so it's something that's going to happen throughout the year,'' said Farrer, a product of Providence College. ''I'm a first-year guy so I have to earn my spot.
Wheeling’s Christiaan Minella (11) tangles in front of the net with Elmira’s Mike Devin (3) and goalie Timo Pielmeier on Tuesday at WesBanco Arena.
''All you have to do is stay in shape and be ready when it's your turn.''
Speaking of staying ready, Wheeling (8-3-0 - 16) certainly was, despite the unusual 11 a.m. opening faceoff. After spotting the Jackals (6-7-0 - 12) a 1-0 lead, the Nailers tied it with less than 40 seconds remaining in the first period, on Farrer's tally.
''I actually didn't see it go in,'' Farrer said. ''It was a good pass from (Zack) Torquato coming around the net and I just skated right off the bench and the goalie was a little bit out of position.
''I lucked out. Didn't even have to get it off the ice.''
Wheeling, which dominated for the better part of the game, took control by scoring a pair of goals 21 seconds apart less than halfway through the second period, to gain a 3-1 advantage.
First it was the Nailers' leading scorer, Chris Barton, netting his team-leading eighth on assists by Cody Chupp and Andrew Hotham. Immediately after, Christiaan Minella, who got the youth-heavy crowd on its feet by dropping Elmira's Jordan Lane early with a hard right hand, notched his second of the season.
Barton, who added another goal - the clincher into an empty net with 32 seconds remaining - is third in the league in goals (nine) and fourth in points (17).
''The first one was a really good forecheck by (Paul Crowder) there and Chupper (Chupp) got it in the corner,'' Barton said. ''I screamed at him and he found me and I just sent it into the back of the net.
''This is one of our division rivals and we're going to see them quite a bit in the next few months, so it's good to get this one out of the way.''
The Jackals made it 3-2 as Maxime Gratchev started the third with a bang, setting an ECHL record by scoring his fifth of the season just 4 seconds into the period.
Wheeling responded 2:14 later when Chupp took a feed from Crowder, who was behind the goal, and stuffed home his third in four games since being sent down from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
''It's a pretty good line,'' Coach Stan Drulia said. ''I think all three of those guys can play in the American Hockey League - Barton, Paul and Chupper.
''They complement each other real well.''
Elmira again cut the lead to one with a goal by Kyle Reeds, who snuck one past Wheeling goaltender Patrick Killeen (32 saves on 35 shots) who juggled a point-shot. But the Nailers never wavered, and Barton put home his second to finish with a three-point night.
All in a morning's work.
''I thought we played really well,'' Drulia said. ''I really liked our detail.
''It got a little sloppy at the beginning of the third and we missed a couple of coverages. But overall really, really happy.''
Before the game, defenseman Olivier Dame-Malka was recalled by Hamilton, and forwards Ryan Schnell and Matt Rust were sent to Wilkes-Barre. ... Scooter Vaughn, a rookie out of Michigan playing his first game, replaced Malka and record an assist for his first pro point. ... The 35 shots by the Jackals were 11 more than the previous season high against the Nailers, which came in a 5-1 Wheeling victory against Trenton on Nov. 5. ... Former Wheeling player Mario Larocque scored Elmira's first goal during a 5-on-3 advantage.
Elmira1 0 2 - 3
Wheeling1 2 2 - 5
1st Period-1, Elmira, Larocque 2 (Rivet, Armstrong), 9:19 (PP). 2, Wheeling, Farrer 1 (Torquato, Lombardi), 19:23. Penalties-Lane Elm (fighting - major), 1:40; Minella Whl (fighting - major), 1:40; Merth Whl (slashing ), 7:31; Crowder Whl (hooking), 8:37; Gazley Elm (interference), 13:16; Dieude-Fauvel Elm (slashing ), 15:26.
2nd Period-3, Wheeling, Barton 8 (Chupp, Hotham), 5:45. 4, Wheeling, Minella 2 (Vaughan, Manderson), 6:06. Penalties-Tolles Whl (slashing ), 12:30; Merth Whl (cross-checking), 13:25; Hansen Whl (delay of game), 18:01.
3rd Period-5, Elmira, Gratchev 5 (Armstrong), 0:04. 6, Wheeling, Chupp 3 (Crowder, Barton), 2:18. 7, Elmira, Reeds 2 (Bourbeau, Stoflet), 8:02. 8, Wheeling, Barton 9 19:28 (EN). Penalties-Barlow Elm (holding), 13:23.
Shots on Goal-Elmira 8-16-11-35. Wheeling 18-8-10-36.
Power-Play Opportunities-Elmira 1-5; Wheeling 0-3.
Goalies-Elmira, Pielmeier 3-4-0-0 (35 shots-31 saves). Wheeling, Killeen 5-2-0-0 (35 shots-32 saves).
Referee-Tom Chmielewski (27); Linesmen-Zach Roberts (84), Jim Scarpace (50).