WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers are viewing this weekend in terms of the glass being half full.
Sure, Coach Clark Donatelli's team only managed two of a possible four points and fell to 10th in the Eastern Conference, but in the process it rekindled a fire that was evident earlier in the season but had gone missing the last month or two.
Sam Ftorek scored a 5-on-3 goal 3:07 into the third period and Jordan Binnington stopped 29 shots as Kalamazoo (23-16-4 - 50) escaped WesBanco Arena with a 3-1 victory against the Nailers (20-18-6 - 48) on Saturday night.
Wheeling’s Max MacKay flips the puck toward K-Zoo goaltender Jordan Binnington during action of their game Saturday night.
Photo by Joe Lovell
''It's a little disheartening not to come away with two points, but we ran into some penalty trouble, myself included,'' rookie Wheeling defenseman Harrison Ruopp said. ''Right from the start I thought we came out and were playing very hard ... finishing our checks and getting pucks to the net.
''If we continue doing all those little things I think we are going to be very successful.''
The Nailers threw everything they had at Binnington in the first period before 3,532 fans, which is the second-biggest crowd of the season.
Wheeling outshot Kalamazoo 14-2 in the period, but couldn't get one to go into the net.
The Wings finally broke the ice at the 3:00 mark of the second as Chris Lawrence, who had a solid weekend, beat Peter Mannino (28 saves) with a wrister from the right circle, his sixth of the season.
Things got chippy not long after and it led to five players in the penalty box at once. The Nailers ended up with an abbreviated power play out of the ordeal and Kalamazoo nearly struck again, if not for a textbook defensive play by Wheeling's Sahir Gill as the Wings broke in with a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush.
Mike Ratchuk set up the tying goal 11 seconds before the end of the period as he tried a wraparound, with the puck landing right on the stick of teammate Max MacKay on the other side of the net. MacKay punched home the power-play goal, his 11th of the season and second in as many nights.
''The game that we had last week against Fort Wayne, I think that was, when you look at our lowest form, that one was noticeable,'' Ratchuk said. ''I think this weekend was a good building block for us to get back to where we need to be playing.''
Ftorek, the league's leading power-play point producer among defensemen, sent Matt Caria's pass rocketing past Mannino early in the third and Nick Sirota's backhander from center found its way into an empty Wheeling net for the clincher at 19:10.
''It was a 1-1 hockey game there and our fate, with the way we played and battled, we definitely deserved better,'' Donatelli said. ''One aspect of the game is we have to shoot the puck more. We had a 4-on-3 power play and didn't shoot it.
''We possibly took a stupid penalty and put ourselves down 5-on-3 - I didn't see it - but we had plenty of other opportunities on the other side where we didn't take care of business.
''Everyone in that room knows how hard they have to play to win games and we're doing that. If we keep playing the way we did this weekend, I will be happy with the rest of our season.
''We'll be in the playoffs playing like that.''
Kalamazoo0 1 2 - 3
Wheeling0 1 0 - 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Caria Kal (slashing ), 2:45; Ponich Kal (fighting - major), 11:49; Carrier Whl (fighting - major), 11:49; Kaunisto Kal (slashing ), 18:55.
2nd Period-1, Kalamazoo, Lawrence 6 (Reid, Veilleux), 3:00. 2, Wheeling, MacKay 11 (Ratchuk, Stevenson), 19:49 (PP). Penalties-McGrath Whl (charging), 1:55; Caria Kal (slashing ), 2:31; Sirota Kal (tripping), 2:31; Ruopp Whl (roughing), 2:31; Del Monte Kal (roughing), 11:08; McGrath Whl (roughing), 11:08; Ruopp Whl (roughing), 11:08; Sirota Kal (slashing ), 11:18; Stevenson Whl (slashing ), 11:18; Firman Kal (tripping), 14:47; Taylor Kal (slashing ), 17:50.
3rd Period-3, Kalamazoo, Ftorek 9 (Caria, Reid), 3:07 (PP). 4, Kalamazoo, Sirota 3 (Del Monte, Caria), 19:10 (EN). Penalties-Mulvey Whl (slashing ), 1:51; Stevenson Whl (cross-checking), 2:15; Stevenson Whl (roughing), 9:11; Del Monte Kal (roughing), 12:45; Ruopp Whl (roughing), 12:45; Ponich Kal (tripping), 13:27; Del Monte Kal (roughing), 16:08; Stevenson Whl (roughing), 16:08.
Shots on Goal-Kalamazoo 2-14-15-31. Wheeling 11-11-8-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Kalamazoo 1-5; Wheeling 1-6.
Goalies-Kalamazoo, Binnington 14-9-1-0 (30 shots-29 saves). Wheeling, Mannino 2-1-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Brett Sheva (8); Linesmen-Ryan Daisy (64), Justin Eckman (72).