Nailers Dominate Road Warriors

WHEELING – The Wheeling Nailers figured to get a boost Tuesday night with the return of last season’s leading scorer Chris Barton to the lineup. Out for about six weeks, it was learned prior to the game that his presence would be all the more needed with Paul Crowder (illness) and a banged-up Chris Higgins having to sit out the first of two meetings with Greenville in a 16-hour span.

A 30-goal scorer in 2011, Barton jumped right back in the mix by notching a pair and Peter Delmas missed a shutout by less than 30 seconds as the Nailers (9-10-5 – 23) won their third in a row, 3-1. The same two teams are back at it at 11 a.m. today at WesBanco Arena.

”We’ve got a little bit of swagger,” Delmas said following a 20-save performance. ”I feel like this team is a lot like the first year I was here.

”Our first periods have been really good the last two games. It’s helped me out a lot, especially with my first two games back still being pretty rusty.”

The first was all it took Tuesday.

Barton scored his second of the season on a power-play deflection 3:11 into the game, then added his second a little more than two minutes later, beating ECHL Goaltender of the Week Nathan Lieuwen on the backhand. It is the seventh straight game Wheeling has scored with the man advantage.

”I fanned on it the first time and I put it to my backhand and put it just over the goalie’s shoulder,” Barton said. ”It’s not very much fun when you’re sitting in the stands watching every night.

”But you definitely don’t want to take it for granted and I was pretty excited to get out there.”

The Nailers continued their dominance less than a minute later by scoring their third in the game’s first 6:56, this time shorthanded. The Road Warriors carelessly threw the puck into the slot from behind their net, with Cam Fergus grabbing it and feeding to Cody Chupp, who beat Lieuwen for his sixth of the season.

How good was Wheeling in the first? The Road Warriors didn’t register their first shot until almost seven minutes in and at one point trailed 3-0 on the scoreboard and 12-1 in shots.

”They had a real good first period,” Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said.

”We wanted to get (Barton) going right off the bat.

”We don’t have many practices before Christmas, just games. So we throw Barts in there and let him go as long as he can go.”

Barton nearly scored a hat trick on two occasions, hitting the post on the first and missing on an empty netter the other.

”You’ve just got to string a few together and guys will get confidence,” Barton said. ”Then the puck starts going in and it keeps rolling. So I tried to jump in and do the same thing.

”I know we had quite a few losses there, but I think we’ve put together some good efforts and they’re starting to show now. We’re starting to play a lot better together.”

Delmas earned his second victory in three days, though he didn’t have to make a lot of great saves. When he did, however, he turned Brendan Connolly away on a wraparound in the first, then denied Sean Berkstresser on a breakaway just after a Greenville power play had expired in the third.

”I think I lost a little bit of focus last game just because of simple rust,” Delmas said. ”I really wanted to have a full 60 minutes and make sure I was focused the whole game. I was really happy just to do that – the technical stuff will come as the rust starts to come off.

”This blue line is probably one of the best ones we’ve ever had. There’s some good players down here – (Cody) Wild, (Peter Merth) again. We have quality D-men and there shouldn’t be a whole lot of pucks going into our net.”