WHEELING - Fans, players and coaches of the Wheeling Nailers have been waiting somewhat impatiently for the club to break out of its early season scoring funk. Down 3-1 with the crowd booing it off the ice after the second period, it didn't appear as though that was going change Saturday night at WesBanco Arena.
Then something clicked.
Led by the first two goals of Cody Sylvester's professional career the Nailers (2-3-0 - 4) roared back with four unanswered in the third period to stun Greenville (3-4-0 - 6) by a 5-3 score.
Wheeling’s Carter Rowney tries to get positioned in front of Grenville goalie Connor Knapp during action of their game Saturday night at WesBanco Arena.
Wheeling won, 5-3.
Photo by Alex Kozlowski
Wheeling hadn't scored four goals in any of its first four games.
"Obviously it's not good when your home crowd boos you,'' forward Chaz Johnson said, though downplaying that the team used it as motivation. "We were frustrated ... we've been frustrated for a while.
''But at the end of the day being frustrated doesn't really do anything.
"We're not going to win them all, but at the end of the day when we play like this we can look ourselves in the mirror.''
The Nailers held a 34-15 shot advantage through two periods, but save for Carter Rowney banging in a rebound at 4:07 of the first, were having a difficult time solving Road Warriors goaltender Connor Knapp.
''The first and second we weren't in front of the net and the goalie saw a lot of pucks,'' Sylvester said. ''I think maybe that is why he was saving them.
''In the third period I thought we got in front of him around the net and took away his eyes. If you can't see them, you can't stop them.''
Wheeling got to within one a minute into the third as Sylvester pounded home a rebound on the backhand just as a four-minute, carryover penalty to Greenville's J.M. Rizk was expiring.
''It was definitely a long time coming,'' Sylvester said. ''That monkey is definitely off my back and it felt really good to get that one.
''It's a greasy one, but I knew it was going to be (that kind).''
Thirty-eight seconds later it was tied as Scott Zurevinski tipped in his first goal of the season. The goal was originally awarded to Johnson, who to his credit, immediately alerted officials it belonged to Zurevinski.
''I am the type of person that's not going to take credit for something that's not mine (because) I don't want to get jinxed,'' said Johnson, who earned an assist along with Barry Goers on the play.
It appeared as though the Nailers had taken a 4-3 lead with 4:02 left as defenseman Mike Ratchuk's shot from the point was deflected in, but referee Tyler Puddifant immediately waved it off for high-sticking.
Not to worry, because Sylvester wasn't finished. He intercepted a pass from a Warriors defender right in front of Knapp and roofed the puck into the cage for his second of the night. Zack Torquato (two assists) and Jack MacLellan (six shots) got credit for the helpers.
Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon made a sprawling save without the benefit of his stick, which was knocked away, with 13 seconds remaining, and Goers fired the puck from his own end line into an empty net on the other end of the ice for his first goal in a Nailers uniform and a 5-3 final. Denver Manderson, who had a game-high seven shots and seemed to be just about everywhere, earned his third assist on the play.
''They've been playing well but we've been waiting or them to break out, and it happened at a great time,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ''It's one thing saying it to everybody and it's another going and proving it.
''The thing I look at is, they saw how hard they have to work to win a hockey game.''
Condon stopped 21 of 24 shots, including three breakaway attempts during the first two periods. Had one of those gone in, the outcome could have been much different.
''There's a couple ways to look at it, but when you let in a weak goal like that first one it took our momentum away,'' Condon said. ''Great mental toughness from the guys for bailing me out.
''I would have felt terrible if we had lost that game.''
Condon was referring to a tying first-period goal by Greenville's Jordie Johnston, his fifth of the season. It was an innocent-looking play from the bottom of the right circle.
''He looked to the slot so I kind of relaxed a little bit as I went to go to the top of the crease,'' Condon said. ''He went back on me and whenever you let one in the 5-hole, especially as a butterfly goalie, it's not a good feeling.''
Andrew Carroll (second) and Brett Perlini (first) also scored for Greenville.
Johnson drew rave reviews for his hard work and delivered a number of booming hits, as did fellow forward Christiaan Minella. Johnson wasted no time going after the Warriors' Michael Kantor after he buried Goers with a borderline late hit midway through the first period.
''We're together eight or nine months and you build a bond and a brotherhood. At the end of the day a team is a family, and if you win a championship together, you build great memories together.
''If a guy would have hit me like that, I know my brothers would have had my back.
''That's why when I see someone hit Barry like that, I am going to go protect him.''
Greenville2 1 0 - 3
Wheeling1 0 4 - 5
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Rowney 2 (Manderson, Torquato), 4:07. 2, Greenville, Johnston 5 (Perlini, Rizk), 14:17. 3, Greenville, Carroll 2 (Baldwin, Kantor), 18:08. Penalties-Kantor Grn (high-sticking), 0:45; MacLellan Whl (high-sticking - double), 5:33; Kantor Grn (fighting - major), 10:09; Johnson Whl (fighting - major), 10:09; served by Minella Whl (bench - too many men), 12:08.
2nd Period-4, Greenville, Perlini 1 (Hynes, Marcou), 4:21 (PP). Penalties-Miller Whl (roughing), 3:51; Marcou Grn (holding), 6:10; Cole Grn (holding), 9:10; Carroll Grn (broken stick), 9:57; Zurevinski Whl (slashing ), 12:24; Rizk Grn (butt-ending attempt double), 17:00.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Sylvester 1 (Manderson, Rowney), 1:00. 6, Wheeling, Zurevinski 1 (Johnson, Goers), 1:38. 7, Wheeling, Sylvester 2 (Torquato, MacLellan), 16:57. 8, Wheeling, Goers 1 (Manderson), 19:53 (EN). Penalties-Hynes Grn (cross-checking), 9:16; Johnston Grn (roughing), 13:22; Johnson Whl (roughing), 13:22.
Shots on Goal-Greenville 8-7-9-24. Wheeling 19-15-12-46.
Power-Play Opportunities-Greenville 1-5; Wheeling 0-6.
Goalies-Greenville, Knapp 2-2-0-0 (45 shots-41 saves). Wheeling, Condon 2-2-0-0 (24 shots-21 saves).
Referee-Tyler Puddifant (28); Linesmen-Ryan Daisy (64), Zach Roberts (84).