WHEELING - With only 16 games remaining in the regular season following Friday night's game at WesBanco Arena, the Wheeling Nailers can ill afford to let any points slip away. They did against Atlantic Division cellar-dwelling Trenton.
Connor Goggin scored in the eighth round of the shootout and Scott Wedgewood stopped 33 shots during regulation and overtime and then all eight in the SO as the Titans (23-27-8 - 54) secured a 3-2 victory. The same two teams meet at the same place, at 7 tonight.
"We played really well. It was a really good, solid game,'' Wheeling (23-24-10 - 56) coach Clark Donatelli said.
Nailers goaltender Scott Darling saved 34 Trenton shots and didn’t allow a SO goal until the 8th attempt.
The Nailers, who are 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, twice rallied to get the game to overtime. Paul Crowder scored his team-leading 18th of the season just prior to the end of the second period to knot the score at 1-1, and Keven Veilleux tied it 2-2 with 1:25 remaining in regulation.
Despite Scott Darling making 34 saves, Wheeling again fell victim to the shootout. Wheeling has lost seven games in such situations.
"I really thought Zack Torquato was going to win it there as the fifth shooter. That's the way we had it set up,'' Donatelli said.
Trenton1 0 1 0 - 3
Wheeling0 1 1 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Trenton, Haczyk 12 (Johnston, Kessel), 1:21 (PP). Penalties-Trottier Whl (tripping), 1:15; Tamblyn Tre (high-sticking), 1:44.
2nd Period-2, Wheeling, Crowder 18 (Veilleux, Torquato), 19:30 (PP). Penalties-Drewiske Tre (cross-checking), 5:37; Veilleux Whl (interference), 7:26; Kessel Tre (tripping), 17:32; Schmit Tre (high-sticking), 18:30.
3rd Period-3, Trenton, Nagy 6 (Haczyk, Cianfrini), 3:54. 4, Wheeling, Veilleux 4 (Lenes, Crowder), 18:35. Penalties-Goggin Tre (delay of game), 4:54; Merth Whl (slashing ), 7:33; Cepis Tre (roughing), 10:49; Merth Whl (roughing), 10:49; Schultz Tre (diving), 15:36; Merth Whl (tripping), 15:36; Drewiske Tre (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:29; McNeill Whl (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:29.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout - Trenton 1 (Schultz NG, Johnston NG, Haczyk NG, Cepis NG, Todd NG, Baker NG, Kessel NG, Goggin G), Wheeling 0 (Barton NG, Veilleux NG, Lenes NG, MacKay NG, Torquato NG, Hansen NG, Fergus NG, Crowder NG).
Shots on Goal-Trenton 14-13-7-2-1-37. Wheeling 14-12-6-3-0-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Trenton 1 / 3; Wheeling 1 / 5.
Goalies-Trenton, Wedgewood 16-20-3-2 (35 shots-33 saves). Wheeling, Darling 9-10-1-1 (36 shots-34 saves).
Referees-Don Jablonski (18).
Linesmen-Brian Oliver (36), Ryan Daisy (64).
Torquato was one of the closer members of the team to Wheeling Park senior Randy Stephens, who died as a result of cancer Monday and was buried earlier Friday. That made for an emotional night that included a Nailers No. 1 jersey hanging behind the bench, as well as new "RS" decals on Wheeling's helmets.
"That was really tough for the guys going to the wake Thursday,'' Donatelli said. "That's a real life situation, and those are difficult."
The Titans wasted little time in getting to Darling, beating him with their first shot of the night. Bryan Haczyk, who later added an assist, punched home a shot from the right side of the net for his 12 th of the season just 1:21 into the contest for a power-play goal.
Trenton nearly made it 2-0 with 9:05 left in the first, but Andrew Johnston rang the post to the right of Darling.
The Nailers tied it with 30 seconds remaining in the second on a 5-on-3 power play as Crowder gathered a loose puck and beat Wedgewood. Veilleux and Torquato earned assists.
Despite that goal, Wheeling was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
"I wasn't happy with the power play at all,'' Donatelli said. "If there's one negative, that's it."
The Titans retook the lead 3:54 into the third as Kory Nagy grabbed a rebound Darling would like to have back and put it into the net.
That's the way it remained until a Peter Lenes rebound was corralled by Veilleux at the left side of the net. With Wedgewood down and the crease crowded, Veilleux was able to lift the puck into the top portion of the cage.
"I'm really proud of how we came back late there,'' Donatelli said. "There's 16 games left and we've got to start winning some games.''
Following tonight's game, the Nailers play host to Kalamazoo on Sunday.