WHEELING - Barry Goers raced into the zone, the game resting on his stick. All that stood between the Wheeling Nailers defenseman and victory was Elmira goaltender Neil Conway.
''I got him down and that was the goal. I got a little lucky, I think,'' Goers said later.
Goers got Conway down, but he didn't get much stick on the puck. No matter, because it still slid through the pads and into the net in the eighth round of the shootout as Wheeling (24-19-6 - 54) prevailed by a 2-1 count Saturday night at WesBanco Arena.
It was the third victory in a row and fourth in five games for Wheeling, which looks to finish a perfect 3-in-3 weekend with a victory today at Fort Wayne. The Nailers improved to 16-0-1 when leading after two periods.
''We're kind of on the bubble as far as playoffs and it's getting that time of year where we need to turn it up and take our game to another level in order to be a playoff-competitive team,'' Goers said. ''Every game is really important from here on out.''
This one turned into a virtual game of can you top this between Conway (32 saves) and Nailers goaltender Peter Mannino (26 saves). The latter, however, ended up with the final say as he turned away Dane Walters with a pad stop to end the game.
''I thought they both played well, but we had a lot of chances and didn't bury them,'' Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. ''Each goalie made some really big saves so I am just glad we got the win.
''It's a good rivalry. Some of our guys have been banging heads with them for three years.''
Elmira (19-23-6 - 44) forward Mike Vaskivuo scored in the first round of the shootout but Wheeling's Mike Ratchuk tallied for the fourth time this season in a shootout - tops in the league among defensemen - by waiting until he was almost past the goal line before shooting high and knocking the water battle on to of the net to the ice.
It remained that way until Wheeling's seventh shooter, Sahir Gill, beat Conway with a wrist shot. With the game on the line, Jordan Pietrus answered as his shot deflected off Mannino's pad and into the net.
Goers then finished the deal.
''It's been a while since we've been able to feel good about the way we've been playing,'' Gill said. ''That's the most important thing, is that we're starting to play the way we're supposed to - the way we need to.
''It's not always the prettiest game, but we thrive on being hard on pucks and being a hard team to play against.''
Ratchuk gave the Nailers a 1-0 lead 14:40 into the first on the power play. Stationed in the left circle, Denver Manderson (five-game points streak) fed the puck to Ratchuk at the mid-point and he blasted home his 10th goal of the season off a one-timer. Zack Torquato extended his points streak to six with the secondary assist.
''He's a game-changer. He can skate and when he's on, he's on,'' Donatelli said of Ratchuk. ''I always tell Mike that less is more because he's already ahead of everyone else.
''He always has success when he plays like that.''
Mannino's shutout bid ended at 6:39 of the third when his defenseman, Jake Areshenko, lost and edge and fell down at the offensive blueline, allowing Elmira's Artem Demkov free passage down the left side. He picked the top-left corner for his 13th of the season.
''We're a very defensive-minded team and when you play that way you wear teams down during the course of a game,'' Goers said. ''If we get up and have a lead, especially through two periods, we keep it.
''I think that goes to our system and how we play.''
Elmira0 0 1 0 - 1
Wheeling1 0 0 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Ratchuk 10 (Manderson, Torquato), 14:40 (PP). Penalties-Pietrus Elm (slashing ), 13:21; Lamarche Elm (hooking), 19:10.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Cianfrini Whl (cross-checking), 6:46; Fernandez Whl (hooking), 15:36; Cianfrini Whl (delay of game), 18:57.
3rd Period-2, Elmira, Demkov 13 6:29. Penalties-Torquato Whl (hooking), 9:11; Areshenko Whl (tripping), 13:53.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout - Elmira 2 (Vaskivuo G, Koger NG, Demkov NG, Hobbs NG, Karlsson NG, Culek NG, Pietrus G, Walters NG), Wheeling 3 (Rowney NG, Manderson NG, Ratchuk G, MacKay NG, Sylvester NG, Torquato NG, Gill G, Goers G).
Shots on Goal-Elmira 9-6-11-1-0-27. Wheeling 16-8-7-2-1-34.
Power-Play Opportunities-Elmira 0-5; Wheeling 1-2.
Goalies-Elmira, Conway 5-0-0-1 (33 shots-32 saves). Wheeling, Mannino 3-1-0-0 (27 shots-26 saves).
Referee-Andy Thackaberry (22); Linesmen-Jim Scarpace (50), Justin Eckman (72).