WHEELING - With the difference between second and 10th places in the Eastern Conference a razor-thin six points, the last thing the scoring-starved Wheeling Nailers needed was another subtraction. That's exactly what they received though, as skilled forward Jack MacLellan informed coach Clark Donatelli following Wednesday's morning skate that he was leaving the club immediately to pursue hockey and academic opportunities in England.
The need to keep things simple against the cellar-dwelling Toledo Walleye suddenly was all the more enhanced.
Puck-moving defenseman Mike Ratchuk (plus-3) tallied his league high-tying fifth game-winning goal of the season and assisted on another while first-time starting goaltender Kieran Millan shook off the rust with a 21-save effort as the Nailers (22-19-6 - 50) eased to a 4-1 victory against the Walleye (16-26-3 - 35).
Wheeling goaltender Kieran Millan shrugs off a shot during Wednesday night’s game against Toledo.
''The big thing was to compete, win our 1-on-1 battles, play good defense, and the offense would take care of itself,'' Donatelli said. ''I thought we did a great job - guys blocking shots, wall play, stick detail and using the good habits that we have been trying to create.
''We had good success with getting pucks below the goal line on their 'D' so we could go low-to-high.''
After a scoreless first period that saw Wheeling's Patrick McGrath earn his league-high 16th fighting major, Shane Bakker broke the scoring ice with his third goal in three games - his season total - when he re-directed a Tyler Fernandez pass from the corner past Toledo goal