WHEELING - Mike Ratchuk thinks in the long run Thursday night will be a positive.
With his Wheeling Nailers rolling along on a 12-game point streak and an Elmira team they had beaten each of the five previous meetings this season in town, Ratchuk believes he and his teammates may have taken their foot off the gas pedal for the perhaps the first time this season.
Maxime Clermont stopped a career-high 44 shots and the Jackals (8-11-3 - 18) became only the second team this season to score two power plays in a game against the Atlantic Division-leading Nailers (13-6-3 - 29) in a 5-2 victory at WesBanco Arena.
Photo by JOE LOVELL
Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon, left, tries to look around Elmira’s Christian Ouellet (25) as Nailers defeseman Mike Grassi (14) keeps a close eye.
''Maybe this will shrink our heads a little bit,'' said Ratchuk, who scored his sixth goal of the season and added an assist on Zack Torquato's team-leading eighth. ''We got off to a slow start for whatever reason and couldn't quite make it all the way back.''
According to Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli, that's more a reflection of what his team did not do, rather than what Elmira did. The Jackals didn't get to Wheeling until rougly 6 a.m. and were coming off a home loss to a Florida team that will be in Wheeling on Saturday and Sunday.
''We didn't take advantage of that,'' Donatelli said. ''We didn't play a good 40 minutes and we got away from our game.
''It's a wake-up call for our guys.
''We've been on a good run here, but we always talk about winning one period at a time and we didn't do that.''
It appeared as though the teams were headed to a scoreless first period but the Jackals grabbed the momentum in the closing seconds. Covering the left point for one of his defensemen, Jordan Pietrus flung the puck toward the net where it was redirected out of the air by Ludwig Karlsson and past Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon for a 1-0 Elmira lead with 12 seconds remaining.
The Jackals made it 2-0 as captain Jean Bourbeau shoved his third past Condon at 9:19 of the second. But two power-play goals - a one-timer from Ouellet and a blast from the mid-point by Danny New - in a span of a little more than two minutes proved the difference. Condon was replaced at that point by Mathieu Corbeil, who stopped the only five shots he faced and has not allowed a goal in roughly a game and a half in a Wheeling uniform.
''The first one was tipped in and maybe he could have had the fourth one, but he's been tremendous for us,'' Donatelli said of Condon. ''The guys weren't playing well in front of him and we didn't want to leave him out there.
''Once the fourth one went in we figured it was enough so we got him out so he can come back and start Saturday.''
Wheeling got on the board 14:02 into the second when Ratchuk made a nifty move around a defender and fed Torquato, who put a laser of a slapshot over Clermont's glove shoulder. The Nailers then made it a two-goal game as Ratchuk one-timed the puck into the net from the right circle just after the first of two Elmira penalties had expired, putting the teams back at even strength.
''If we had come out and played like that in the first and second period it would have been a different game. But it wasn't and hopefully we can learn from it,'' Donatelli said. ''The good thing is we were able to stop it by coming out and having a good third period.
''The thing they have to realize is when you're playing well and going like we are you've got a target on your back. You're going to get the best from the other team every night.
''We've got to be ready to play every shift, every period and every night.''
Rob Bellamy closed the scoring with an unassisted empty-net goal with 41 seconds remaining.
Ratchuk's goal ended a run of 24 successful Elmira penalty kills in a row. ... The only other time the Nailers allowed a pair of power-play goals in a game was during a 2-1 loss at Reading on Nov. 10 ... Ratchuk's six goals are one off the ECHL lead for defensemen. Ontario's Jake Newton and Las Vegas' Jeff May have seven each. ... This marked the first time in seven games Wheeling has allowed more than three goals.
Elmira1 3 1 - 5
Wheeling0 1 1 - 2
1st Period-1, Elmira, Karlsson 3 (Pietrus, Ouellet), 19:48. Penalties-Gill Whl (hooking), 1:09; Bourbeau Elm (roughing), 7:26; McGrath Whl (roughing), 7:26; Bourbeau Elm (fighting - major), 9:30; McGrath Whl (fighting - major), 9:30.
2nd Period-2, Elmira, Bourbeau 3 (Hobbs, Culek), 9:19. 3, Elmira, Ouellet 1 (Culek, New), 11:53 (PP). 4, Elmira, New 2 (Rutkowski, Ouellet), 13:06 (PP). 5, Wheeling, Torquato 8 (Ratchuk), 14:02. Penalties- Whl (holding), 0:45; Jacobs Elm (holding), 2:31; Fernandez Whl (tripping), 10:55; Flanigan Whl (roughing), 12:51; Johnson Whl (boarding), 16:07; Pietrus Elm (holding), 19:23.
3rd Period-6, Wheeling, Ratchuk 6 (Goers, Torquato), 5:33 (PP). 7, Elmira, Bellamy 6 19:19 (EN). Penalties-Carter Elm (tripping), 3:33; served by Jacobs Elm (bench - too many men), 5:10.
Shots on Goal-Elmira 10-9-3-22. Wheeling 13-18-15-46.
Power Play Opportunities-Elmira 2-4; Wheeling 1-4.
Goalies-Elmira, Clermont 3-5-0-1 (46 shots-44 saves). Wheeling, Condon 10-4-0-2 (16 shots-12 saves); Corbeil 1-0-0-0 (5 shots-5 saves).
Referes-Frederic Leblanc (25); Linesmen-Shaun Morgan (71), Ryan Daisy (64).