ELMIRA, NY - Chaz Johnson spent parts of four seasons as an Elmira Jackal, but his return with the Wheeling Nailers will leave a lasting memory. Johnson scored his first three goals as a Nailer, completing Wheeling's second hat trick of the season, as the visitors defeated the host Jackals, 5-1 at First Arena.
Midway through the first period, the Jackals got on the scoreboard first. Former Nailer Kyle Bushee led a rush through center ice, cruising into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 break.
Once he reached the slot, Bushee slid a backhand pass over to Jakub Culek, who snapped in a shot from the left side. Culek's tally was the lone goal of the frame, as Elmira carried a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
The second period was a significantly different story, as the Nailers drastically swung the contest into their favor.
Four minutes in, Anton Zlobin flew through the right side of center ice, before winding his way around the back of the net, and ultimately finding Johnson, who tipped in his first goal in a Wheeling uniform. Fifty-one seconds later, the visitors took their first lead of the night, when Zack Torquato won a face-off to Cody Sylvester, who finished the play with a goal from the slot. At the 11:14 mark, the Nailers lit the lamp again, thanks to some bang-bang passing by Sahir Gill and Stephen MacAulay. Gill fed MacAulay in the left corner, before getting the puck back, so that he could power a one-timer into the cage. Just 2:40 after that, Johnson tacked on his second goal of the stanza, tipping in Zlobin's bid from the left circle. Wheeling's four-goal period matched a season-high, leading to a 4-1 advantage after 40 minutes of play.
With 4:40 left in the game, the Nailers had one more goal in their bag of tricks, and it turned out to be a trick, as Johnson completed the hat trick in his return to Elmira. Zlobin found the former Jackal at the bottom of the left circle, where he lifted a shot into the top of the goal, giving his new squad a 5-1 victory.
Mike Condon was in control again for Wheeling, stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced, earning the win between the pipes. Scott Greenham allowed five goals on 33 shots, taking the loss for the Jackals.
The Nailers will take on the Jackals one more time this week, as the two teams will clash at 7 tonight from Wheeling's WesBanco Arena.