By TRACY WATSON
For The News-Register
WHEELING - Friday night it was a pair of rare power-play goals that continued Wheeling's hot streak, one night later it turned out to be the Nailers' first shootout victory of the season.
Wheeling’s Max Mackay (7) and Cincinnati’s Wade Megan (61) chase the puck Saturday night.
Photo by Joe Lovell
All in all, Coach Clark Donatelli's team is turning heads and gaining much do respect in the ECHL.
After allowing a shot to sail past him with less than six minutes to play to tie the contest, goalie Mike Condon stopped all four tries in the shootout while Sahir Gill and Max MacKay buried their efforts as Wheeling defeated Cincinnati by a 2-1 margin to the delight of a nice WesBanco Arena crowd Saturday night.
It was the 12th consecutive game in which the Atlantic Division-leading Nailers (13-5-3 - 29) have recorded a point, and comes after Friday's overtime victory against Reading.
Interestingly, it also puts Wheeling a game up on the Cyclones (12-7-1 - 25) the past five seasons. During that time the Nailers 18-17-2-2 against their Queen City rivals.
"That is a high-powered, very well coached hockey team over there," Donatelli said of Cincinnati. "But our guys just continue to get it done by playing hard and doing all of the little things."
The fans barely had time to get situated in their seats before Gill got the Nailers on the board 36 seconds in. He took a nice pass from Barry Goers and sent a laser over Michael Houser's shoulder for a quick 1-0 advantage.
It took 53:46 of clock, but just when it looked like Wheeling might get the shutout, Cincinnati knocked in the equalizer. With the Nailers having trouble getting control of the puck, Wade Megan beat Condon on a helper from Drew Daniels at 14:22 of the third to knot the game at 1-1.
After the defenses continued to dominate in overtime and each team misfired on its initial shot in the shootout, it was Gill once again lit the light for Wheeling.
Cincinnati's Barry Almelda missed on his chance to even the count and both teams were held out of the net on their third chances. MacKay then gave the Nailers a 2-0 lead in the shootout and turned things over to Condon, who blocked Megan's shot to seal the deal.
"This was a real nice win for us," Donatelli added. "We had a couple of defensemen playing forward, but we still managed to find a way to get it done.
"Our penalty kill was good again in the couple times we needed it and we got some good blocks out there. Sahir Gill got us off to a good start and he continues to get better and better and had a good overall game.
"Cincinnati is a highly skilled team that likes to rush the net and score, but defensively we just weren't letting the odd-man rush. On offense we were doing a good job of letting the puck do the work.
"We worked it around, played it down the walls and just paid good attention to detail. I know we have won some games, but for us this was just another one. We are taking them one at a time, one period at a time and it seems to be working.
"In our eyes we don't see any of this as a streak, we just know if you continue to work hard and go out and do things right, good things are going to happen."
The victory was the third of the season against Cincinnati for Wheeling, which is 10-0-2 in its previous 12 games. After starting the season with seven straight victories, the Cyclones have recently lost four of six.
Wheeling returns to action Thursday when Elmira pays a visit to WesBanco Arena at 7 p.m. The Nailers will also entertain a tough Florida squad in a two-game set next Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Cincinnati 0 0 1 0 - 1
Wheeling 1 0 0 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Gill 4 (Goers), 0:36. Penalties-Ratchuk Whl (cross-checking), 7:11; Hazen Cin (boarding), 17:22; MacDonald Cin (delay of game), 19:34.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Wysopal Cin (roughing), 7:15; Stevenson Whl (roughing), 7:15.
3rd Period-2, Cincinnati, Megan 10 (Daniels), 14:22. Penalties-Grassi Whl (tripping), 5:54.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout - Cincinnati 0 (Birkholz NG, Almeida NG, Shaw NG, Megan NG), Wheeling 2 (Torquato NG, Gill G, Ratchuk NG, MacKay G).
Shots on Goal-Cincinnati 8-10-7-4-0-29. Wheeling 10-7-4-3-1-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Cincinnati 0 / 2; Wheeling 0 / 2.
Goalies-Cincinnati, Houser 4-4-0-1 (24 shots-23 saves). Wheeling, Condon 10-3-0-2 (29 shots-28 saves).
Referee-Don Jablonski (18).
Linesmen-Zach Roberts (84), Justin Eckman (72).