Tough, Physical Nailers Return
WHEELING – Though his methods were at the very least questionable, Kalamazoo’s Justin Taylor accomplished his goal of getting Wheeling’s Jack MacLellan off the ice late in regulation of Friday night’s game at WesBanco Arena.
Taylor grabbed MacLellan after the whistle with 32 seconds left and started throwing punches, and MacLellan reciprocated. Nailers captain Dustin Stevenson, who had a run-in with Taylor seconds earlier, termed it ‘a cowardly play.’
MacLellan was off the ice for nearly the entirety of overtime and the Nailers (20-17-6 – 46) could have used him during a 4-on-3 power play. The K-Wings had no such luck in the shootout.
MacLellan’s shot clipped off Kalamazoo (22-16-3 – 48) goaltender Joel Martin’s left shoulder and into the net in the second round and Peter Mannino made it stand up as the Nailers emerged with a 3-2 victory.
Wheeling netted a pair of power-play goals in seven chances and Mannino stopped 35 shots for his second victory in as many starts, helping his team back into the playoff picture and to within two points of the Wings for the sixth seed with 29 games remaining in the regular season.
”It’s disappointing to give them a point, but the goal is to win the game … that’s why we play,” Mannino said with a smile. ”It’s that time of the season and we’re playing (teams) – it doesn’t even matter if they are ahead of us or behind us – every point is crucial.
”Right now the way we want to play is to win games.”
The contest was abnormally chippy from the hop for a pair of teams that don’t play often.
That’s in large part because the Nailers got back to their physical brand of hockey, as good an indicator as any that they are on their game.
”I agree with that,” Wheeling forward Max MacKay said.
The K-Wings quieted a nice-sized, raucous crowd early when David Pacan beat Mannino with a clean wrist shot 1:27 into the game for his sixth of the season. MacKay, though, knotted it with less than seven minutes left in the period when he deflected in Nick D’Agostino’s point shot for his 10th.
”I kind of made a back pass and Dags took a good shot for a tip,” MacKay said. ”I think it hit off my stick and a couple of their skates and it went in.”
Near the end of an extremely physical second period, Wheeling took the lead. Colin Mulvey reeled in the loose puck to the left of the Kalamazoo net and banged home his fourth, this one on the power play.
”I don’t remember much of the play but I think D’Agostino (two assists) got a shot and it kicked wide and I got lucky,” Mulvey said. ”I think this was mid-stretch Nailers hockey like when we started to turn it up and went on that nice (12-game) run.”
That’s the way the score stayed until 40 seconds remained in regulation. Lawrence jumped on a rare Mannino rebound and went top shelf for his fifth.
Mannino, though, stopped all five K-Zoo shootout attempts, including the final one in which he poke-checked the puck from Lawrence.
”That’s our game and that’s the way we want to play,” Stevenson said.
The Nailers and Wings meet again at 8 tonight, also at WesBanco Arena.
”I wish we got the puck in deep a little bit more and managed the puck a little better, but the guys worked hard,” Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ”We had some jump, were physical and were finishing our checks and weren’t taking any stupid penalties.
”They come out and get the first goal right away on a misread, but guys stayed composed and stuck to the gameplan.”
Kalamazoo1 0 1 0 – 2
Wheeling1 1 0 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Kalamazoo, Pacan 6 (Caria), 1:27. 2, Wheeling, MacKay 10 (D’Agostino, Sylvester), 13:52 (PP). Penalties-Lawrence Kal (tripping), 3:17; Martell Kal (boarding), 11:14; Ponich Kal (holding, roughing), 13:27; McGrath Whl (roughing), 13:27; McGrath Whl (cross-checking), 16:57; Sirota Kal (cross-checking), 17:03; Ruopp Whl (roughing), 17:03; Lawrence Kal (cross-checking), 17:06.
2nd Period-3, Wheeling, Mulvey 4 (D’Agostino, Ratchuk), 16:20 (PP). Penalties-Fernandez Whl (slashing ), 6:14; Bakker Whl (tripping), 9:55; Ftorek Kal (cross-checking), 16:05.
3rd Period-4, Kalamazoo, Lawrence 5 (Ftorek, Pacan), 18:20. Penalties-Lawrence Kal (cross-checking), 14:49; Taylor Kal (fighting – major), 19:28; MacLellan Whl (fighting – major), 19:28.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Caria Kal (hooking), 1:19.
Shootout – Kalamazoo 0 (Veilleux NG, Taylor NG, Caria NG, Pacan NG, Lawrence NG), Wheeling 1 (MacKay NG, Gill NG, MacLellan G, Ratchuk NG, Sylvester NG).
Shots on Goal-Kalamazoo 6-17-12-2-0-37. Wheeling 8-4-4-4-1-21.
Power-Play Opportunities-Kalamazoo 0-3; Wheeling 2-7.
Goalies-Kalamazoo, Martin 9-7-0-3 (20 shots-18 saves). Wheeling, Mannino 2-0-0-0 (37 shots-35 saves).
Referee-Brett Sheva (8); Linesmen-Ryan Daisy (64), Zach Roberts (84).