WHEELING - The one place the Wheeling Nailers have been able to hang their hat in the early season was their home penalty kill, which entered Friday night's game with Toledo at a robust 94.1 percent.
That didn't figure to change, considering the Walleye had a power play that ranked second-to-last in the ECHL, converting at less than 8 percent.
Defenseman Wes O'Neill, who was the captain of the Kalamazoo teams that eliminated Wheeling from the postseason each of the last two years, scored a pair of goals with the man advantage on near identical plays, as the Walleye (5-5-1 - 11) handed the Nailers (3-5-3 - 9) their fourth straight loss, this one 5-2 at WesBanco Arena.
Wheeling’s Ian Schultz (21) and Toledo’s Phil Rauch (20) mix it up Friday night at WesBanco Arena.
Photo by Joe Lovell
''We just need a better effort from some of our players,'' said Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli, who declined to name those guilty of not playing hard. ''The lineup is constantly changing, but that's no excuse.
''(This time) it was the penalty kill.''
The Nailers fought back twice from one-goal deficits, but the Walleye took the lead for good at the 17:11 mark of the second period with Wheeling defenseman Carl Sneep in the penalty box for boarding.
Like he would do at the beginning of the third period, O'Neill slipped into the slot and deflected the puck past Wheeling goaltender Patrick Killeen for his third goal of the season.
But the one that broke the Nailers' back was O'Neill's fourth 52 seconds into the third that made it a 4-2 game.
It happened because Ian Schultz was whistled for a double-minor for roughing after getting tangled up with Toledo's Phil Rauch in the Wheeling end.
''He was trying to fight and get himself going,'' Donatelli said. ''He was mad and he showed a little bit of spunk.
''That's what Schultzie brings.''
The Walleye could officially celebrate snapping their own three-game losing streak, when captain Kyle Rogers scored into an empty net from his own blue line with less than a minute remaining.
The same two teams meet tonight in Toledo.
''I don't know about a must-win,'' Donatelli said. ''Florida (last year's league champion), I don't know what place they were in with a month gone.
''It's a long season. We've got to get a win, but more importantly we've got to put three periods together and play solid hockey, and we can live with the results.''
Toledo scored the lone goal of the first period as Cody Lampl's point blast hit something on its way in and got past Killeen, who allowed four goals on 24 shots. It was Lampal's first of the season.
The Nailers knotted things when Keven Veilleux, playing his second of what is scheduled to be three games during a rehab stint with Wheeling, notched his first as he cleaned up a rebound of a Philippe Lefebvre shot. Cody Wild earned the secondary helper.
After the Walleye retook the lead on Randy Rowe's fourth of the season, Cody Chupp evened the score as he slammed a Reid McNeill rebound past winning goaltender Jordan Pearce (23 saves on 25 shots) for his fourth of the season.
''We've got to fight through it,'' Donatelli said. ''We're at home and we can't let these slip away.''
The Nailers only had one power-play chance. ... Forward Adam Payerl was out of the lineup one game after taking 10 stitches above his right eye following a fight. ... Referee Marc-Andre Lavoie took a puck to the mouth in the third period but stayed in the game after a lengthy delay. Reports say he required emergency dental surgery after the contest.