WHEELING - Forward Philippe Lefebvre scored a pair of goals in the first 12 minutes to help Wheeling take a big lead and the Nailers piled it on Sunday afternoon, winning for the second time in less than 24 hours, beating Evansville by a 7-5 score at WesBanco Arena.
Coach Clark Donatelli's squad actually had a 7-2 lead in the third period only to have the IceMen tally the final three of the contest, including a goal with a little more than a minute showing on the clock with Evansville's goalie pulled.
"We will take this win," Donatelli said. "But when you are up 7-2 in the third, you know they are going to battle, throw the house at you and take every chance they can, and that is exactly what they did.
Wheeling’s Christiaan Minella works the puck out of the corner as he’s hit by EVansville’s Oliver Gabriel on Sunday at WesBanco Arena.
"The guys played very hard, and it was nice to see them pop some goals in, but I am not happy about the fact that we lost the third period, 3-2."
With goalie Peter Delmas on his game early, deflecting away seven Evansville shots, it was Wheeling that dented the scoreboard first. After Rob Madore had denied the Nailers just a short time before, Lefebvre picked up a loose puck and blasted it high over Madore's shoulder at 5:28 for a quick 1-0 advantage.
That lead grew to 2-0 when Lefebvre once again found himself in the right place at the right time following a Wheeling breakaway. Madore managed to knock the initial shot away, however, Lefebvre was there for the rebound, ripping it into net at the 11:53 mark of the first period on assists from Carl Sneep and Christiaan Minella.
"Philippe (Lefebvre) is a great defensive forward, and one of the best penalty killers around, but he also has a little bit of offensive ability," Donatelli said. "It was great to see him bury a couple, but that is what happens when you play good defense.''
The Nailers were not satisfied with the 2-0 lead and went to work on doing something about it late in period. With a crowd around the net, Minella took advantage of the situation and uncorked a close-range shot past a shielded Madore at 19:39 to send the hosts to the locker room with a three-goal lead.
The onslaught continued 33 seconds into the second period when Peter Merth's shot from near the blue line was redirected by Scott Zurevinski, his fifth of the season, and into net for a 4-0 reading.
The four-goal margin was short-lived as Brett Ponich's shot from near his blue line found its way past Delmas at 2:42 to cut the margin to 4-1 early in the second. It was Poinch's first goal of the season.
Things then got a little hairier for Wheeling two minutes later when Clarke found then back of the net on a rebound shot from close in that trimmed the deficit to 4-2 just 4:34 in.
It took most of the second, but the Nailers finally got one back at the 19-minute mark, Zurevinski's second of the afternoon on a laser from the blue line on assists from Merth and Andrew Hotham, leading to a 5-2 upper hand heading into the third period.
Wheeling got the other goal back early in the third, converting on a two-man advantage at the 1:08 mark on Luke Pither's seventh of the campaign, from Hotham and Cody Wild. The bulge grew to 7-2 at 5:26 of the third on Daultan Leveille's second of the year, coming shortly after the Nailers had successfully killed Evansville's third power-play chance of the game.
Evansville did a collect a pretty give-and-go at 11:33 with Patrick Kennedy finishing on a slick pass from Jason Dale, and then quickly followed that up less than a minute later with a close-in shot from Trent Vogelhuber than made it a 7-4 count.
"It was also good to have Peter (Delmas) back, he made some big saves for us early on to let us get that big first period lead,'' Donatelli said. '' It is good to be back home, and you want to get as many wins as you can here because you know you have to go back out on the road. But we played two real good games this weekend."
Lefebvre was the No. 1 star of the game, Zurevinski No. 2 and Merth was No. 3. ... The Nailers' seven goals scored equaled their season high which came in a 7-3 victory against Reading on Oct. 26. ... It was also the third time Wheeling has captured back-to-back victories this season, and the second time at WesBanco Arena. The Nailers had a three-game winning run in late October-early November. ... Wheeling continues its six-game home stand with a 7 p.m. start on Tuesday against visiting Greenville. The teams will meet again on Wednesday at WesBanco in an 11 a.m. matinee.
Evansville0 2 3 - 5
Wheeling3 2 2 - 7
1st Period-1. Wheeling, Lefebvre, 5 (unassisted), 5:28. 2. Wheeling, Lefebvre, 6 (Minella, Sneep), 11:53. 3. Wheeling, Minella, 3, (Ross), 19:39. Penalties-Lefebvre, Whl (holding), 7:22.
2nd Period-4. Wheeling, Zurevinski, 5, (Merth, Lenes), :33. 5. Evansville, Poinch, 1 (Clarke, Vogelhuber), 2:42. 6. Evansville, Clarke, 7, (Beaulieu, Gens), 4:34. 7. Wheeling, Zurevinski, 6, (Merth, Hotham), 19:00. Penalties-Whitney, Evl, (cross-checking), 19:29; Stejskal, Whl, (cross-checking)., 10:01.
3rd Period-8. Wheeling, Pither, 7, (Hotham, Wild), 1:08 (PP); 9. Wheeling, Leveille, 2, (Lefebvre, Pither), 5:26. 10. Evansville, Kennedy, 6, (Beach, Dale), 11:33. 11. Evansville, Vogelhuber, 5, (Beaulieu, Clarke), 12:53. 12. Evansville, Baker, 7, (Beaulieu, Clarke), 18:58. Penalties: Gena, Evl, (cross-checking), :38; Lefebvre, Whl, (tripping), 3:19; Ross, Whl, (interference), 15:11.
Shots on Goal-Evansville 11-5-11-27. Wheeling 16-10-11-37.
Power-Play Opportunities-Evansville 0-4. Wheeling 1-2.
Goalies-Evansville, Madore (37 shots, 30 saves), Dainton (0 shots, 0 saves). Wheeling, Delmas (27 shots, 22 saves).
Referee-Don Jablonski (18); Linesmen-Brad Phillips (66), Joe DeMizio (59).