Nailers Win Fifth Straight

WHEELING – Christiaan Minella’s line Friday night read like this: zero goals, zero assists, a plus-1 and four shots. Nothing to write home about, but his Wheeling teammates know what he means.

”I’m not the goal scorer on the team, so what I can bring to the table I do,” Minella said. ”That’s playing physical, getting in on the forecheck and getting the puck out of our zone.

”I’m just doing that to the best of my ability and if the puck goes in for me sometimes great, but if not at least I’ll keep it out of our net.”

The leader of a ferocious forecheck, Minella and everyone else in a Nailers uniform was in the face of the Elmira Jackals from start to finish, leading to a shot differential of 35-10 for the home team more than halfway through the third period. Because of that, it’s not hard to figure how Wheeling’s fifth straight game – all victories – at WesBanco Arena ended.

Chris Barton scored a pair of goals, Daultan Leveille and Paul Crowder had a goal and an assist each and Andrew Hotham added two helpers as the Nailers (11-10-5 – 27) routed the Jackals (12-12-3 – 27) by a 5-1 count.

”He backchecks hard, he forechecks hard, he never loses a battle in the D-zone,” Hotham said of Minella. ”Those are definitely the kind of guys you need.

”Those are the kind of guys who make everyone else work harder. Without guys like that, the puck’s not staying in their zone and it’s not getting out of ours.”

That wasn’t much of an issue here.

Barton rang one off the crossbar and in 9:38 in on the power play for a 1-0 Nailers lead. It was the ninth consecutive time Wheeling has scored with the man advantage, coinciding with the arrival of Hotham via trade.

”That’s why we went after him.” Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said.

A little more than two minutes later, Barton struck again as Hotham found him coming off the bench. Barton skated alone down the slot and wristed his fifth past Jackals goaltender Maxime Clermont.

Elmira beat Peter Delmas (4-0-0) for the only time at 6:35 of the second when Artem Demkov wristed the puck past Delmas’ shoulder for his team-leading 16th.

But the Nailers, as they have seemed to have continually done during this winning streak, counter punched. Peter Merth’s shot went wide but Phillipe Lefebvre was there to bang home the rebound for his seventh.

”You’re not going to score if you don’t shoot the puck and that’s something we’ve stressed,” Hotham said. ”We’ve done well doing that.”

Wheeling put the finishing touches on things with a pair of goals 21 seconds apart early in the third period.

Leveille, stationed in front, deflected home a Hotham point shot for his third at 4:02, and that was immediately followed by the eighth of the season from Crowder, who whistled a one-timer into the cage as he was falling down in the slot.

”The whole face-off play worked exactly how it was planned,” Leveille said. ”It wasn’t just the tip, it was (Luke) Pither winning the draw back to the point and a good shot.”

Delmas stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced to lower his goals-against average to 2.00. The Nailers and Jackals are back at it at 7 tonight on Wheeling ice.

”We’re capitalizing on our chances and we’re getting pucks to the net and the puck is going in,” Donatelli said. ”The guys are paying attention to detail in their personal game so each guy knows what he’s going to bring to the game. It’s a little chip wall play, your stick is going to be in the passing lane or it’s a deflection.

”That’s the best thing, when they do something, have success and everyone is on the same page. They start really believing in it.”

Elmira0 1 0 – 1

Wheeling2 1 2 – 5

1st Period-1, Wheeling, Barton 4 (Crowder, Hansen), 9:38 (PP). 2, Wheeling, Barton 5 (Hotham, Leveille), 11:04. Penalties-Demkov Elm (delay of game), 8:07; Bushee Elm (cross-checking), 8:28; Merth Whl (interference), 15:55.

2nd Period-3, Elmira, Demkov 16 (Bushee, Campanale), 6:35. 4, Wheeling, Lefebvre 7 (Merth, Fergus), 10:51. Penalties-Campanale Elm (slashing ), 2:27; Bourbeau Elm (delay of game), 4:01.

3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Leveille 3 (Hotham, Merth), 4:02. 6, Wheeling, Crowder 8 (Zurevinski, Lenes), 4:23. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Elmira 7-3-6-16. Wheeling 12-15-11-38.

Power-Play Opportunities-Elmira 0-1; Wheeling 1-4.

Goalies-Elmira, Clermont 3-5-1-1 (38 shots-33 saves). Wheeling, Delmas 4-0-0-0 (16 shots-15 saves).


Referee-Andy Thackaberry (22); Linesmen-Ray King (39), Brad Phillips (66).