Nailers Triumph Against Jackals, 6-2

WHEELING – The Wheeling Nailers returned to the friendly confines of WesBanco Arena on Wednesday night and didn’t look like a team out of the ECHL playoff picture.

Paul Crowder scored two goals and Cam Fergus had a goal and two assists as the Nailers started a season-ending, three-game homestand with a 6-2 triumph against Elmira.

”That was a character win,” Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said.

”A lot of guys are still trying to get to the AHL (American Hockey League) and if you just pack it in that’s not a good character trait for the scouts and so forth.

”The guys are playing for pride.”

Elmira (38-25-3-4 – 83) entered the night tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with Florida. But with the defending champs’ 3-1 victory against Orlando on Wednesday, the Jackals are, for the moment, on the outside looking in at home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Donatelli said his team relishes the spoiler role, especially against an Elmira team that had won two straight against his club.

”I thought overall we played really hard,” he said. ”They kind of took it to us a few times this year and the guys kind of wanted a little payback and an opportunity to spoil whatever we could for them.”

Five players triggered the horn for Wheeling (31-28-3-8 – 73), which scored six goals for only the fourth time this season. The Nailers put six up against Kalamazoo on March 3 and seven against Evansville and Reading on December 16 and October 26, respectively.

”We had over 40 shots (42),” Donatelli said. ”That’s a good team we played. Our competition level was high. We’re happy to see the puck going in the net.”

Crowder echoed that sentiment.

”It was a high-energy game and it’s fun to play when you have that feeling,” he said.

Crowder scored the first and last goals of the game – both on the power play – to tie Chris Barton for the team lead with 21.

The first came 17:36 into the first period when he fired a rocket past Jackals netminder Ian Keserich from just below the blue line.

Wheeling exploded for four second-period goals, including a pair 1:39 apart during the first two minutes of the stanza.

Fergus recorded his 11th goal of the season :19 into period to make the score 2-0. Moments later, Matt Germain lit the lamp to increase the lead to 3-0.

Elmira quickly trimmed the deficit to 3-2 on goals by Matt Tassone and Steven Kaunisto, but the Nailers made it a two-goal game, 4-2, later in the period thanks to Adam Ross’ first goal of the campaign.

”We talked about establishing the shot right away,” Donatelli said. ”Right off the faceoff and it worked (Wednesday).

Wheeling was 3-for-5 with the man advantage.

Keven Veilleux scored his ninth goal of the season with a man advantage to make the score 5-2 with 55 ticks left in the second.

Crowder’s other goal sealed the deal with 13:40 left to play in the third.

Donatelli was pleased to see Veilleux dent the scoring column.

”He’s a big-time player and an NHL talent,” he said of the forward, who has only played 32 games this year combined with the Nailers and Baby Pens. ”His knee is feeling good, he’s in good game shape and he’s playing hard.

”I’m glad to see him playing hard down the stretch.”

The Nailers finish the season against Toledo on Friday and Trenton on Saturday. Faceoff is at 7 both nights.