Delmas Sets Team Shutout Record
WHEELING – Kory Nagy had him dead to rights, and Peter Delmas knew it. With 1:53 separating the Wheeling goaltender from his franchise-record ninth career shutout, Delmas thought he had just blown it.
”The puck hit off a guy in front and went right to his stick and I didn’t react quick enough,” Delmas said. ”He had the whole net, so lucky he put it right into me.
”I got lucky there for sure.”
Delmas cradled the puck in his midsection and wasn’t tested from that point forward, leading the Nailers (24-23-10 – 58) to a 3-0 victory Saturday night at WesBanco Arena. The victory improved Delmas’ career record against the Titans to 11-2, and allowed Wheeling to stay in the thick of the playoff race.
”I’m honored because I know lots of good goalies have been here,” Delmas said. ”It’s an old franchise, so it’s pretty meaningful.
”I don’t think I’ve ever had a record, so it’s cool.”
While the zero on the scoreboard meant a lot, the two points are of far more importance. The Nailers find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff race entering today’s home face-off with Kalamazoo. They’re 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 15 games to play.
The saving grace could come in the fact Wheeling has games in hand on every team in the conference, including five on seventh-place South Carolina, which is 11 points up on the Nailers.
”If we play like that and our compete level is like it is, we’ll have success,” Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ”We have to take care of business.
”Right now it’s still in our own (destiny) to make the playoffs.”
Donatelli preached in pregame about the importance of getting into the face of Trenton (23-28-8 – 54) goaltender Scott Wedgewood early, and remaining there for a full 60 minutes. Wheeling responded with 20 first-period shots and got the only goal it needed on just the type of play the coach had in mind.
Paul Crowder whacked at a loose puck in the crease twice and finally put it behind Wedgewood on the third try for what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 16:07 of the first period. Chris Barton and newcomer Max MacKay earned the assists, helping to drop Wedgewood’s record to 0-12 when starting back-to-back games.
”We wanted to concentrate to get to the hard areas and get the pucks to the net,” Wheeling forward Cam Fergus said. Crowder’s ”a pretty awesome player and (Saturday) is just another example of his dominance.
”It’s these kind of games where we need our top guys to be big players and obviously he played great.”
Crowder finished with three assists, including setting up Fergus for the back-breaking goal at 15:51 of the second period to make it 2-0. It was the Nailers’ third shorthanded goal (last in the league) of the season, and second for Fergus.
”Pauly made a pretty nice pass to me and I just took off,” Fergus said of a breakaway in which he beat Wedgewood over the glove. ”I was kind of cheating offensively there a little bit, but he managed to get me the puck and I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best.”
The key sequence happened just prior, however. The Nailers were down two men with Crowder (high-sticking) and Peter Lenes (goaltender interference) in the box, giving Trenton a two-man advantage for 1:34, but it did not register a shot.
”I think we had three or four blocked shots and that was a real turning point,” Donatelli said.
Wheeling put it away as Barton scored on the power play, his 15th of the season, at the 5:58 mark of the third. Keven Veilleux had the primary helper.
”Playoffs are coming and we’ve got some work to do,” Fergus said. ”It’s now or never for us.
”We put ourselves in this position, so we’ve got to get ourselves out of it.”