By SHAWN RINE
WHEELING - While the Ohio Valley was out ringing in the New Year, the Wheeling Nailers were at home readying for a previously unscheduled work day. Fresh off a 4-1 loss to the Reading Royals at WesBanco Arena, it was back to practice this morning.
Wheeling’s Mike Ratchuk fights for possession of the puck.
''First off I want to start by thanking everyone that came out (Tuesday) and for the show of support, but I want to apologize to them for the embarrassment,'' Nailers (14-10-5 - 33) forward Chaz Johnson said. ''We've been doing a lot of talking lately about this and that.
''If coach asks to go north-center, we've got to go north-center. If he asks to get the puck in deep, we've got to get it in deep. He's the coach for a reason and we can't do what we want to do. We've got to do it his way.
''His way was working for us when we collected 12 straight points and we've drifted off that.''
Drifted might be a kind description. Since that 12-game point streak Wheeling has lost 7 of 8 and what once was a comfortable lead on the Royals (15-10-1 - 31), has been whittled to two points.
''It's one thing to go out there and work hard and give it a good effort and the chips fall where they fall, but that wasn't the case,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ''Whether they are getting complacent or not, I don't know. But it's not going to be tolerated.
''We'll definitely solve the problem ... that's for (darn) sure.''
Reading goaltender Josh Watson was making his pro debut but didn't see a lot of action. He turned away 22 of 23 shots but not many could be classified as tough saves. That fact really ate at Donatelli.
''He's a new kid, a first-year pro and we don't get any shots on him or test him,'' the coach said. ''It's disheartening because we get a good crowd in here and then we don't perform.
''We haven't won in a while and then you come home and you think you would be excited to play against a rival. I didn't see any effort, so it's disappointing.''
The Royals spotted the Nailers a 1-0 lead as Jack MacLellan sent a wrister from the mid-slot past Watson 2:42 in. The goal, MacLellan's fifth of the season, was assisted by Scott Zurevinski and Johnson.
That was pretty much it, though. Reading tied it at 9:45 of the period when Michal Cajkovsky spun and backhanded the puck far-post past first-time Wheeling netminder Brooks Ostergard (24 saves). It was the first of two for Cajkovsky, who has five on the season.
A tic-tac-toe play early in the third gave the Royals the lead for good as Ryan Cruthers finished it off with his third of the season.
Johnson went off for a tripping minor that he thought should have resulted in a diving penalty against the Royals at 7:55 of the second, but instead it led to a power-play goal off the stick of Cajkovsky. The Nailers are just 4-7-3 when they allow a man-advantage goal this season, and 10-3-2 when they don't.
Wheeling's Ryley Miller was hit with a match penalty for a headshot on Reading's T.J. Syner less than 30 seconds later, resulting in a 5-minute power play. By rule the play is subject to review, which was to take place this morning. Any supplemental discipline could then be handed out.
'' I'm going to see it on the tape but it didn't look that bad to me,'' Donatelli said. ''(Syner) was out there quite a bit after that.
''Usually you get a headshot and they guy's not in the game, but Syner was on the next power play. I don't think he was hurt.''
Cruthers finished off the scoring with a power-play goal, his fourth of the season to culminate a three-point night.
''You see my face, right? Do I look like someone who is too happy right now?'' Johnson said when asked about frustration setting in. ''Our team is get pucks deep and finish hits, grind and win our battles. We haven't been doing that and this is the result you get.
' Lately there's a lot of talking and we've got to let our game do that.''
Reading1 0 3 - 4
Wheeling1 0 0 - 1
1st Period-1, Wheeling, MacLellan 5 (Zurevinski, Johnson), 2:42. 2, Reading, Cajkovsky 4 (Tifu, Wiles), 9:45. Penalties-Cayer Rea (closing hand on puck), 10:12; served by McGrath Whl (bench - too many men), 18:24.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Molle Rea (fighting - major), 5:21; Bakker Whl (fighting - major), 5:21; Flemming Rea (fighting - major), 17:49; Gill Whl (fighting - major), 17:49.
3rd Period-3, Reading, Cruthers 3 (Tifu, Wiles), 1:02. 4, Reading, Cajkovsky 5 (Wiles, Cruthers), 8:38 (PP). 5, Reading, Cruthers 4 (Tifu, Wiles), 9:53 (PP). Penalties-Johnson Whl (tripping), 7:55; Miller Whl (match - illegal check to head), 9:03; Blandina Rea (fighting - major), 15:11; McGrath Whl (fighting - major), 15:11.
Shots on Goal-Reading 10-7-11-28. Wheeling 6-9-8-23.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 2-4; Wheeling 0-1.
Goalies-Reading, Watson 1-0-0-0 (23 shots-22 saves). Wheeling, Ostergard 0-2-1-0 (28 shots-24 saves).
Referee-Don Jablonski (18); Linesmen-Zach Roberts (84), Justin Eckman (72).