WHEELING - Clark Donatelli has been preaching to his team the last several weeks the importance of playing a full 60 minutes. The Wheeling Nailers needed every second Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena.
Luke Pither and Carl Sneep both had a goal and an assist and Trenton's Jacob Drewiske rang a potential tying shot off the post with four seconds left as the Nailers (5-8-3 - 13) hung on for a 3-2 victory against the Titans (7-9-1 - 15).
It was the second victory in three games for Wheeling, which heads to Elmira on Friday still in search of its first road conquest.
Wheeling’s Christiaan Minella (11) tries to shield Trenton goaltender Scott Wedgewood (1) from the puck as the Titans’ Connor Goggin (6) defends Wednesday night.
''It's like pulling teeth,'' Donatelli said with a laugh. ''It literally comes down to the last second for us to get a win, but they are having success and the hard work is coming to fruition.
''To get a win is hard. There are a lot of good teams in this league.''
Wheeling once again proved that the best defense is a puck-possession offense. The Nailers clogged the neutral zone and surrendered 21 shots, for a total of 54 against in the last three outings. That helped Scott Darling (19 saves) earn his second victory, but he came up with a couple nice saves down the stretch.
Trenton0 2 0 - 2
Wheeling1 1 1 - 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Pither 3 (Sneep, Chupp), 14:06. Penalties-Goggin Tre (kneeing), 19:36.
2nd Period-2, Trenton, Goggin 1 (Hayes, Baier), 2:39. 3, Trenton, Bohmbach 8 (Schultz, Hayes), 16:42. 4, Wheeling, Sneep 1 (Ross, Germain), 16:55. Penalties-Kessel Tre (tripping), 4:22; Ross Whl (delay of game), 10:47; Konan Tre (tripping), 17:36; Minella Whl (high-sticking), 19:49.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Lenes 2 (Pither), 2:25. Penalties-Hansen Whl (interference), 7:38; Sneep Whl (roughing), 15:35.
Shots on Goal-Trenton 5-7-9-21. Wheeling 12-15-4-31.
Power-Play Opportunities-Trenton 0-4; Wheeling 0-3.
Goalies-Trenton, Wedgewood 5-5-0-0 (31 shots-28 saves). Wheeling, Darling 2-3-0-0 (21 shots-19 saves).
Referee-Brett Sheva (15); Linesmen-Ryan Daisy (64), Brian Oliver (36).
''We've been focusing on getting a lot of shots,'' said Pither, a former Titan. ''To get a lot of shots you've got to be in their zone on the forecheck and have good dumps.
''We're doing more of that and getting pucks back and staying in their zone."
"We've had a lot more possession. You don't have to play as much defense when you're doing those things.''
Pither provide the Nailers with a 1-0 lead at 14:06 of the first when he cleaned up a Sneep shot from just above the right circle for his third of the season.
''It was good to get that first goal as a Nailer,'' he said. ''It was just a great play from (Cody Chupp) kicking it to the point.
''We had everybody converging to the net and it kind of got tipped before and popped over the goalie. It was just sitting on the goal line so I hammered it home.''
It's exactly the type of goal Donatelli has been looking for.
''Ugly, getting in front of the net,'' the coach said. ''Being in the right spot and getting a good bounce against a team that just traded him to us is a good thing.
''I knew Luke would be coming around.''
The Titans scored a pair - Connor Goggin's first and Andy Bohmbach's eighth - of goals to take a 2-1 lead at the 16:42 mark of the second, but the Nailers tied it 13 seconds later as Sneep rifled the puck past Trenton goaltender Scott Wedgewood from the right point for his first of the season.
''Sneeper is settling in and not trying to do too much and overhandling (the puck),'' Donatelli said. ''It's the simple play.
''Some guys come down and want to do too much, and Sneeper is realizing that less is more.''
Wheeling got the winner 2:25 into the third off the stick off Peter Lenes, also a former Titan. Pither stopped a Trenton clearing attempt and fed the puck to the slot where Lenes deflected in his second goal in three games since missing the first 13 of the season.
''There was a couple chances early in the game, but 2-2 going into the third, the next goal is a big one,'' Lenes said. ''We were on the forecheck and (Paul Crowder) did a good job getting in there and the puck got to Luke, who fed a perfect pass.
''Every game is a must-win for us, especially here at home.''