Nailers in 0-2 Hole Heading on Road
WHEELING – As far as losses go, they don’t come much tougher.
A dominant third-period team all season, the Wheeling Nailers surrendered a 3-1 lead Sunday at WesBanco Arena, then watched as Josh Nicholls put home a rebound 9:19 into overtime for his for his professional playoff goal as Greenville took a 2-0 lead in the Best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 4-3 victory. The series shifts south for the next three games, beginning Tuesday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
”They’re not down … they’re anxious and wish they could play right now,” Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said of his players. ”We’ve been winning on the road all year, so it’s fine.
”Obviously we didn’t want to go down there down two, but that’s the situation and we’ll deal with it.”
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Wheeling’s best player, Denver Manderson, may have been lost for the series as a result of what appeared to be an elbow to the head from Road Warriors forward Kyle Jean.
”Obviously he is our No. 1 center on the team and he is banged up pretty good right now,” Donatelli said. ”That’s up to the officials and I am sure they will do the right thing and take a look at it.”
The Road Warriors weathered an early Wheeling storm, as the home team came out with far more energy than it had a night earlier, and cleaned up mistakes in the defensive zone.
Still, it appeared as though a Wheeling victory was imminent, when Christiaan Minella had the puck on his stick 1:38 into overtime, but Greenville goaltender Jason Missiaen used all 6-foot-8 of his frame to come up with a clutch save.
”I saw the shot coming in from the point and it was a soft one, so I knew the rebound was going to be in front of me,” Missiaen said. ” I just threw my glove up there and it happened to end up in it.”
A little more than eight minutes later Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon couldn’t handle a long shot off the stick of Andrew Yogan, and Nicholls, who beat all three Nailers forwards up the ice, calmly tucked the puck into the net.
”It was a good hockey game to watch,” Greenville coach Dean Stork said. ”I thought Wheeling really put the gears to us there in the first and the second, but we had some chances there in the third and overtime.
”It was back-and-forth but we were fortunate enough to get the win. It probably could have went either way.”
Captain Dustin Stevenson got Wheeling off on the right foot with his first goal of the playoffs, a wrist shot from the left circle through a screen that beat Missiaen (42 saves). Manderson made it 2-0 at 5:06 of the second with a laser from the mid-slot on the power play, off assists from Max MacKay, extending his point streak to six, and Sahir Gill.
”We wanted to set the tone, especially in our building,” forward Zack Torquato said. ”Eventually it’s going to go our way and we can’t get too frustrated here.”
Immediately after the Manderson hit, with the small but boisterous crowd in full, disapproving roar, Scott Arnold’s shot hit the crossbar behind Condon, who also stopped 42, and went in for his second playoff goal to make it 2-1.
The Nailers began the third period with carry-over power-play time and took advantage 31 seconds in, to make it 3-1. Taking Manderson’s spot on the left point, Torquato received a pass from MacKay, faked a shot and maneuvered around a defender and into the slot, wristing the puck past Missiaen.
From that point forward though, it was all Greenville.
Yogan notched his third, again off the crossbar and in, to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games to make it 3-2 at 6:52 on the power play.
Jean pounded home the last of several rebounds from in close at 13:08 to send it to overtime.
Wheeling must now regroup quickly.
”This one hurts,” Nailers defenseman Mike Ratchuk said. ”I think we’ve had the ability with this group since Day 1, that if we use our strengths and do all the little things that are important, we can go a long way.
”We’ve come back from losses and we’ve gone on streaks from playing our style.”
Greenville0 1 2 1 – 4
Wheeling1 1 1 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Stevenson 1 (Manderson, Torquato), 8:47. Penalties-Stevenson Whl (interference), 14:23; Noreau Grn (interference, fighting – major), 17:20; Bakker Whl (fighting – major), 17:20.
2nd Period-2, Wheeling, Manderson 2 (MacKay, Gill), 5:06 (PP). 3, Greenville, Arnold 2 (Clark, Johnston), 14:45. Penalties-Stevenson Whl (tripping), 0:52; Johnston Grn (tripping), 3:56; Berkstresser Grn (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 10:44; Bakker Whl (removing the helmet, fighting – major), 10:44; Cole Grn (delay of game), 14:45; Stevenson Whl (delay of game), 14:45; Vaive Grn (hooking), 18:40.
3rd Period-4, Wheeling, Torquato 1 (MacKay, Gill), 0:31 (PP). 5, Greenville, Yogan 3 (St. Croix, Jean), 6:52 (PP). 6, Greenville, Jean 4 (Clark, Cole), 13:08. Penalties-Rowe Grn (tripping), 1:30; Minella Whl (holding the stick), 6:12; Johnson Whl (cross-checking), 9:23.
OT Period-7, Greenville, Nicholls 1 (Yogan), 9:19. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Greenville 11-15-13-7-46. Wheeling 17-17-6-5-45.
Power-Play Opportunities-Greenville 1 / 4; Wheeling 2 / 4.
Goalies-Greenville, Missiaen 5-2-0-0 (45 shots-42 saves). Wheeling, Condon 4-1-1-0 (46 shots-42 saves).
Referees-Ryan Murphy (10); Linesmen-Shaun Morgan (71), Ryan Daisy (64).