WHEELING - Wednesday night was all about numbers for rookie Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon. None was more important than four, which is the total combination of points the Nailers need to qualify for the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Condon turned away all 31 shots he faced to tie the franchise record for shutouts in a season with five, as the Nailers (37-25-6 - 80) beat the Toledo Walleye for the sixth consecutive time, 3-0, at WesBanco Arena. Condon, who also blanked the Walleye Tuesday night and won for the 21st time, has not allowed a goal at home in 225:54, and his overall streak sits at 1:25:57, helping Wheeling roll off nine victories in its last 10 games.
The Nailers are seventh in the Eastern Conference, but are four points ahead of eighth-place Fort Wayne for the final playoff spot, and one behind Cincinnati and Greenville for the fifth spot. All three teams, though, have at least one game in hand on Wheeling.
Tom Kuhnhackl controls the puck as Toledo’s Jake Chelios moves in Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena. The Nailers skated to a 3-0 victory.
''Personal accolades are great and all, but right now I am so much happier we got another win and another two points,'' said Condon, who equaled the marks of Dany Sabourin (2004-2005) and Andy Franck (2004-2005). ''Sometimes it looks like a beach ball and other days it looks like BB. I had three posts (Tuesday) night in the third and got hit in the face three times (Wednesday), so I am not sure if it's blind luck or what.
''I don't ask any questions and thank the stars.''
Christiaan Minella provided his 10th goal in 19 games this season, while Tyler Fernandez (12th) and Tom Kuhnhackl (sixth) took care of the other two. In all, nine different Nailers found the scoresheet in another display of what has become a wealth of depth.
''I was looking at our stat sheet (Tuesday) and we don't have one guy that has 40, 50 goals and then everyone is spread out,'' said forward Chaz Johnson, who extended his point streak to seven with a second-period assist. ''We've got a bunch of guys in double-digits and it's always good to have a deep lineup because on any night it can be any line, and in the playoffs you need that.''
But back to those numbers.
The Walleye (21-41-5 - 47), despite being out of the playoff picture for some time, entered the two-game set in Wheeling with the No. 1-ranked road power play in the league. They limped home with an 0-for-11 streak, and without much of anything in the way of quality chances with the man advantage.
''We're working a lot in practice at coming into the D-zone and stopping with the sticks in the right position,'' said Kuhnhackl, who has 12 points in 12 games with the team. ''We play the same system in Wilkes-Barre and everything is so simple, so that's obviously an advantage for me.''
Regardless of what anyone does out of town, Wheeling can secure a playoff bid with victories Friday against Evansville, which is alive, but only by a thread, and Saturday against Orlando. Both are at home and begin at 7 p.m.
''We've got 4-in-5 this week and then just the two in Cincinnati,'' Coach Clark Donatelli said. ''The good thing is we're home and not traveling.
''The guys are doing a real good job of managing the puck and with their shift management and not getting caught tired out there.''
For Johnson, the formula is simple.
''We control our own destiny. We're not focusing on who's playing who,'' he said. ''We do have a lot of games, but that's the business and we're in good shape.
''As deep as we are and as physical as we are, I wouldn't want to play against us.''
Toledo0 0 0 - 0
Wheeling1 1 1 - 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Minella 10 (Gill, Stevenson), 4:22. Penalties-Boak Whl (cross-checking), 9:59; Chelios Tol (hooking), 15:22.
2nd Period-2, Wheeling, Fernandez 12 (Bakker, Johnson), 0:40. Penalties-Nedomlel Tol (tripping), 5:06; Areshenko Whl (interference), 10:36; Gibbons Tol (delay of game), 19:15.
3rd Period-3, Wheeling, Kuhnhackl 6 (Manderson, Areshenko), 5:26. Penalties-Stevenson Whl (slashing ), 1:20; Boak Whl (tripping), 15:20; Elbrecht Tol (fighting - major), 19:08; Bakker Whl (fighting - major), 19:08.
Shots on Goal-Toledo 9-9-13-31. Wheeling 11-14-5-30.
Power-Play Opportunities-Toledo 0-4; Wheeling 0-3.
Goalies-Toledo, Coreau 1-12-3-2 (30 shots-27 saves). Wheeling, Condon 21-12-0-4 (31 shots-31 saves).
Referee-Stephen Reneau (17); Linesmen-Patrick Richardson (82), Francois Dussureault (62).