WHEELING - For the better part of the last week the Wheeling Nailers had to listen to just how badly they were underachieving. Icing a roster plentiful with American Hockey League talent though, most figured it was a matter of time before the club broke through.
Paul Crowder had a four-point night including the game's first two goals, Cody Wild added three points and Patrick Killeen stopped 28 shots as the Nailers (1-3-1 - 4) buried the Reading Royals in an avalanche of goals on their way to a 7-3 victory in the home opener Friday night at WesBanco Arena.
''It was kinda of a (ticked) off team,'' Crowder said. ''We knew what we could do and I think we finally showed what we were capable of.
Brandon Anderson searches for the puck as Wheeling’s Paul
Crowder (22) tries to make a play Friday at WesBanco Arena.
''Guys were in areas where we needed to be and we just worked hard and won battles down low.''
Wheeling was coming off consecutive shutout losses, including 3-0 on Sunday to the Royals (1-4-0 - 2) and goaltender Brandon Anderson. It took Crowder 7:44 to stop both of those streaks as Phillipe Lefebvre fed him from behind the net.
Less than four minutes later Crowder made it 2-0 with his third of the season. Crowder muscled his way down the left side and squirted a backhander past Anderson, who was charted with 30 stops.
''Pauly had some chances earlier this season also and it's just a matter of time,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ''What I liked about Pauly Crowder, is first two periods he had four, five, six hits. So he's playing really hard and setting himself up.''
A Nailers power play that ranked next-to-last got going in big way with a 4-for-10 effort. It got started when Wild stepped around a defender in the left circle and rang a shot off the post. Stefan Chaput was there to bang in the rebound for his first at 4:54 of the second period, making it 3-1.
Almost exactly six minutes later, Wild was on the board with his first of the season by virtue of a one-timer from the point on a 5-on-3 Wheeling advantage. Chaput and Crowder assisted.
''That's a big part of my game, is jumping into the play and making their forwards play defense,'' Wild said. ''You don't want to say it's a must-win, but we're coming off three losses and hadn't scored in the last two games.
''We needed to make a statement.''
The Nailers upped the margin to 5-1 after two periods as Wild faked a shot and fed a wide-open Daultan Leveille who tapped in his first professional goal. Leveille is a former No. 1 pick of the Atlanta Thrashers.
''I think the overall team commitment to play the system that we need to play,'' Donatelli said was the difference. ''Everyone was on the same page and we were working as units of five.
''At times the game got away from us a little bit. Every single time that we tried to drift off a little from our game plan and certain things happened and they were coming right back at us.
''So if we don't stick to the game plan and do the things we're supposed to do - take care of our own end, chip and run, get pucks deep. If we don't do that, then we're in trouble.''
The Royals received third-period goals from Chris Langkow and Denny Urban, but the Nailers countered with a pair from Bobby Farnham, his second and third goals of the early season.
''We had a good week of practice and I think guys started to get the systems down a little bit better,'' Wild said. ''We've got two different organizations coming in and (some) guys have never played the system, and it's a tough system.
''That's why, like Pauly (Crowder) said, that is why Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre are so successful in this system. We have to learn it and hopefully we can take another step forward (tonight).''
Nailers defenseman Paul Cianfrini had a pair of assists, as did Lefebvre and Cam Fergus. ... The seven goals were three more than Wheeling had scored in the first four games combined. ... Attendance was 2,604. ... The same two teams meet at WesBanco Arena at 7 tonight.
Reading1 0 2 - 3
Wheeling2 3 2 - 7
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Crowder 2 (Lefebvre), 7:44. 2, Wheeling, Crowder 3 (Lefebvre, Cianfrini), 11:30. 3, Reading, Syner 2 (Cox), 13:54. Penalties-Stevenson Rea (tripping), 3:23; Tifu Rea (roughing), 8:31; McNeill Whl (roughing), 8:31; Wellar Rea (hooking), 15:00; Comrie Rea (slashing ), 16:59; Stevenson Rea (roughing), 16:59; Marshall Rea (fighting - major), 20:00; Farnham Whl (cross-checking, fighting - major), 20:00.
2nd Period-4, Wheeling, Chaput 1 (Wild, Fergus), 4:54 (PP). 5, Wheeling, Wild 1 (Fergus, Crowder), 10:53 (PP). 6, Wheeling, Leveille 1 (Wild, McNeill), 12:13 (PP). Penalties-Flemming Rea (tripping), 3:52; McNeill Whl (tripping), 6:31; Langkow Rea (high-sticking), 6:54; Ross Whl (interference), 9:33; Flemming Rea (interference), 10:06; Wellar Rea (roughing), 10:36; Flemming Rea (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:47; Stevenson Rea (holding), 18:47; Torquato Whl (butt-ending attempt double), 18:47.
3rd Period-7, Wheeling, Farnham 2 (Chaput, Stejskal), 5:21. 8, Reading, Langkow 2 (Urban, Vallorani), 6:14. 9, Reading, MacDonald 2 (Urban, Syner), 13:55 (PP). 10, Wheeling, Farnham 3 (Crowder, Cianfrini), 17:10 (PP). Penalties-Stejskal Whl (tripping), 13:02; Wild Whl (holding), 14:46; Marshall Rea (holding), 15:20.
Shots on Goal-Reading 11-8-12-31. Wheeling 13-10-14-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 1-6; Wheeling 4-10.
Goalies-Reading, Anderson 1-2-0-0 (37 shots-30 saves). Wheeling, Killeen 1-2-0-1 (31 shots-28 saves).
Referee-Nick Leduc (14); Linesmen-Kyle DeMaggio (57), Mike Sheehan (90).