Reading Rallies

WHEELING – Not acceptable. Not OK. Pretty bad collapse.

All of those are ways the Wheeling Nailers and their coaching staff described their 4-3, overtime loss to the Reading Royals on Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena. Wheeling (3-5-3 – 9) blew a three-goal lead in the third period and has won just once in regulation during its first 10 games.

”Certain guys out there just couldn’t get it done and they’re going to be held accountable,” Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. ”My job here is to develop hockey players and get them to the next level. Winning is part of development.

”We’re going to take the positives out of it and guys are going to be held accountable for what they do. It’s that simple.

”Part of development is being held accountable.”

Wheeling goaltender Patrick Killeen was stellar again, but was victimized by some poor play in the defensive zone by his own team, which dominated play throughout the first two periods. Killeen stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced.

”I guess we weren’t as solid in the D-zone and as thorough with pucks – making good plays and getting them out of the zone,” said defenseman Carl Sneep, who had a pair of assists. ”They buried their chances.

”It was pretty quiet in (the locker room). I think everybody in the locker room has a pretty bitter taste in their mouthes.”

Certainly, captain Peter Merth does.

”You’re up three goals, you’ve got to have that,” he said. ”They didn’t stop and we’ve got to do a better job of shutting teams down once we get a lead.

”Everyone’s thinking the same thing: what happened? No one wants to be in that situation, so it comes down to what are you going to do? How are you going to react?

”That starts (today)?”

Trailing 3-0, the Royals (4-5-1 – 9) began chipping away at the deficit. First it was Ian O’Connor (first of the season) punching home a loose puck at 4:50. Next was Kirk MacDonald (third) who slid one through Killeen’s legs at 11:58.

The equalizer came at 16:08 when Scott Wietecha (second) blasted one home from the right point.

”Reading kept coming on and pushing the pace at us and we didn’t push back,” Donatelli said. ”Then we ended up getting away from our game, weren’t getting pucks deep and we were losing 1-on-1 battles all over the ice.

”We just couldn’t stop the momentum.”

That momentum carried into overtime. Nailers defenseman Reid McNeill made a sliding play to break up a 2-on-1 Royals break, but moments later Wietecha wristed a shot past Killeen for the winner at 2:10 of the OT.

”I think it’s just something we have to work on as a team, to play that way each game and each period and be consistent in our play,” Merth said. ”When we are playing, we think good things happen. When we let up, things don’t go our way.”

The Nailers jumped ahead in the first as Philippe Lefebvre deflected a McNeill point shot past winning goaltender Philipp Grubauer (17 saves) for his second of the season. They upped the margin to 2-0 on a slick backdoor pass by Sneep to Lefebvre, who put it in on the backhand for his third of the season. Stefan Chaput assisted on both goals.

”I made a couple plays and the guys finished,” Sneep said. ”It was a nice faceoff play there that ‘Levy’ finished off.”

Sneep set up the third goal with a long pass to Cody Chupp who carried the puck into the offensive zone, stopped at the left dot and unleashed a wrist shot that beat Grubauer for his third on the season.

”A beautiful goal,” Sneep said.

The Nailers, who finished 0-for-5 on the power play, are back in action Friday night when they play host to the Toledo Walleye at 7:05.

”We’ve got to realize that’s not OK,” Merth said of the effort. ”But we’ve got to look ahead now and realize what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”