KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Former Wheeling Nailers defenseman Elgin Reid scored a goal and assisted on another while Riley Gill stopped 37 shots to help the Kalamazoo Wings to a 5-1 victory Friday night at Wings Stadium. Game 4 is at 7:30 tonight, with the Nailers hoping to stave off elimination in the Best-of-5 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
If Wheeling doesn't fight back and force a deciding Game 5 on Monday, also at Kalamazoo, it will mark the second consecutive season it has been bounced by the Wings. Kalamazoo beat Wheeling 4-2 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final.
For the third consecutive game the Wings scored first. Reid pounded a rebound of a Dwight Helminen shot past Nailers goaltender Patrick Killeen, who made 20 saves. Helminen (1g-3a) has been more than a point-a-game scorer this series.
That's the way it stayed until the 1:12 mark of the second period when Dustin Cloutier's first of the series, a deflection of a Mike Matczak point shot, gave the Wings a two-goal cushion - the first for either team in the series outside of the third period.
The Nailers appeared to quell that momentum when Chris Barton broke into the middle of the Kalamazoo zone and feathered a pass to Paul Crowder on his right. Crowder waited until the last second before sending a return pass that Barton tapped into an open net - the only one to get by Gill. It was Barton's second of the series, and Cody Chupp earned the secondary assist.
However, the Wings got that one back with less than 5 minutes remaining in the period and Wheeling's Ryan Schnell in the box on a double-minor for roughing. Nick Sirota crashed the net and deflected home 40-year-old Kory Karlander's pass for his second of the series. It's the fourth time in seven chances that Kalamazoo has cashed in on the power play.
Kalamazoo 2, Wheeling 1
Tuesday: Wheeling 4, Kalamazoo 2
Wednesday: Kalamazoo 4, Wheeling 2
Friday: Kalamazoo 5, Wheeling 1
Tonight: Wheeling at Kalamazoo, 7:30 p.m.
*Monday: Wheeling at Kalamazoo, 7 p.m. *-if necessary
Darryl Bootland added his second of the series, a wrist shot from the right circle that avoided Killeen's glove at 4:32, and Cloutier scored his second of the game with a backhander from the left side to round out the scoring, setting up tonight's do-or-die game for Wheeling.
After allowing three goals in a series-opening loss, Gill has surrendered only three in the last two. For the series, he has stopped 101 of 107. ... The Nailers faced elimination twice during last season's playoffs and were 1-1 in those situations. They won Game 7 in overtime at Greenville in the East semis, before dropping Game 6 at Kalamazoo in the conference final. ... The Barton-Crowder-Chupp line has figured in on five of Wheeling's seven goals in the series.
Wheeling0 1 0 - 1
Kalamazoo1 2 2 - 5
1st Period-1, Kalamazoo, Reid 1 (Helminen, Ftorek), 14:35. Penalties-Bootland Kal (hooking), 17:26.
2nd Period-2, Kalamazoo, Cloutier 1 (Matczak), 1:12. 3, Wheeling, Barton 2 (Crowder, Chupp), 3:40. 4, Kalamazoo, Sirota 2 (Karlander, Ftorek), 15:07 (PP). Penalties-Schnell Whl (double - roughing), 13:11; Bootland Kal (roughing), 13:11; Young Kal (boarding), 16:09; Bushee Whl (roughing), 20:00; Archibald Kal (roughing), 20:00.
3rd Period-5, Kalamazoo, Bootland 2 4:32. 6, Kalamazoo, Cloutier 2 (Reid, Taylor), 6:26. Penalties-Karlander Kal (hooking), 7:40.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 12-15-11-38. Kalamazoo 10-6-9-25.
Power-Play Opportunities-Wheeling 0-3; Kalamazoo 1-1.
Goalies-Wheeling, Killeen 1-2-0-0 (25 shots-20 saves). Kalamazoo, Gill 2-1-0-0 (38 shots-37 saves).
Referee-Nick Krebsbach (8); Linesmen-Jake Brenk (82), Mike Sheehan (90).