Wheeling Takes Down Manchester

Members of the Wheeling Nailers celebrate after a goal during Tuesday night’s game. Photo by Joe Lovell

WHEELING — Jeff Christian said Nov. 4 that one day his Wheeling Nailers would thank Toledo for the whipping it administered that night. Taking the knowledge of why that 6-1 loss occurred and putting it to good use against East-leading Manchester on Tuesday night at WesBanco Arena, the Nailers played perhaps their most complete game of the season.

Alternate captain Brett Stern dropped the gloves twice and Sean Maguire stopped 23 of 26 to earn his first professional victory, leading Wheeling (11-10-3 — 28) to a 4-3 victory against the Monarchs (17-8-2 — 36).

“That was Nailers hockey,” Christian said. “(The Monarchs) play a very offensive-flow, high-tempo game and we can play that game too. But I said I didn’t want another repeat of Toledo. We can’t chase the puck and we can’t chase them around.

“We have to be patient and disciplined. Garett Meurs, that’s his game. He’s the best rat in the league.”

For the 14th time in 25 games the Nailers surrendered the first goal, as Gasper Kopitar notched his third of the season at 9:14 of the second. But Wheeling, which finished checks with abandon from the outset, fought back.

Adam Krause sprung Christian Hilbrich on a breakaway at 15:08 of the period, and he beat Sam Brittain, who lost for the fourth time in 18 starts, between the pads for his third. Immediately after though, the Monarchs’ Tony Turgeon took out Krause with a questionable hit, which would rear its head later.

Manchester retook the lead later in the period as Rick Pinkston scored his first, beating Maguire through a screen.

The Nailers came back once more. Meurs made a great move along the boards and fed a perfect pass to Nick Sorkin, who deposited the puck for his seventh. It was Sorkin’s first game back since a five-game stint in the AHL.

“Points-wise that is the best team in the (East), so that is a big plus for us to come out and get that win,” Sorkin said. “And in the fashion we did it with guys sticking up for each other, that’s what it’s about.

“Sternie showed great passion and toughness for us. When you have stuff like that it makes it a lot of fun.”

Meurs mixed it up, as he did all night, with Ashton Rome, which led to a Nailers power play. Even though they didn’t convert, it began to set a tone.

“We came in and looked at the standings and knew it was a big test for us,” Meurs said. “We wanted to make a point that we’re not going to go away.

“I don’t really say much, I just try to play the game hard. Sometimes it doesn’t work out in the other team’s favor and they don’t like that.”

The Monarchs, who entered with the league’s third-ranked power play, finally got on the board in that fashion at 6:04 of the second. Jordan LaValle-Smotherman gathered in a blocked shot and rifled it past Maguire.

But Wheeling wasn’t finished. Danny Fick’s right-point wrist shot deflected off a Manchester player and into the net. It marked the defenseman’s first goal of the season, which tied the game 2-2 after two periods.

But before the period ended, Turgeon hit Krause again, this time from behind. Stern, who was in the vicinity, had seen enough and stuck up for his teammate.

“That’s Sternie and that’s why we love the guy,” Christian said. “And Derek Army got his bell rung there and will be evaluated. He wanted to go out for the third period and I literally almost had to tackle him in the hallway.

“That’s the heart and the character of our guys.”

The Nailers came out inspired in the third as Cody Wydo was turned away on a 3-on-1 and then rang one off the post minutes later.

Jordan Kwas came up big, as he has most of this season, and ended up with the game-winning goal. Skating down the left side, he got a defender flat-footed and wristed his eighth between the legs of Brittain at 6:12 of the third period.

Almost immediately after Turgeon jumped Meurs from behind, and Stern ended up fighting again away from the play, this time against rookie Kevin Morris. Those two were given five for fighting and game misconducts for being the secondary altercation.

“We had a lot of character,” Christian said. “I’m proud of the guys for the way they battled.

“But I told them you’ve got a big problem now because you’ve beaten Toledo and Manchester and you’ve beaten Fort Wayne.

“That means you can beat anybody, but we have to see it on a consistent basis.”

To a man, the Nailers were excited for Maguire.

“He was up in (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and now he’s here. He’s been really positive and he’s been great,” Sorkin said. “I was glad we could get it for him.

“He was good and made a lot of big saves and got it done.”

Manchester     2  1  0 — 3

Wheeling     2  1  1 — 4

1st Period-1, Manchester, Kopitar 3 (Privitera, Arnold), 9:44. 2, Wheeling, Hilbrich 3 (Krause, Schulze), 11:54. 3, Manchester, Pinkston 1 (Shore, Rome), 15:08. 4, Wheeling, Sorkin 7 (Meurs), 19:07. Penalties-Sorkin Whl (hooking), 4:10; Turgeon Man (charging), 12:36; Rome Man (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:07; Army Whl (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:07.

2nd Period-5, Manchester, LaVallee-Smotherman 7 (Shore, Doremus), 6:04 (PP). 6, Wheeling, Fick 1 (Krause), 9:39. Penalties-Rome Man (double – roughing), 2:51; Meurs Whl (roughing), 2:51; Krause Whl (holding), 4:30; Turgeon Man (fighting – major), 14:18; Stern Whl (fighting – major), 14:18.

3rd Period-7, Wheeling, Kwas 8 (Schulze, Webster), 6:12. Penalties-Meurs Whl (roughing), 3:49; Morris Man (fighting – major, game misconduct – secondary altercation), 6:53; Turgeon Man (double – roughing), 6:53; Stern Whl (fighting – major, game misconduct – secondary altercation), 6:53; Kwas Whl (cross-checking), 13:59.

Shots on Goal-Manchester 11-5-10-26. Wheeling 8-12-8-28.

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

Goalies-Manchester, Brittain 12-4-1-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Wheeling, Maguire 1-3-0-0 (26 shots-23 saves).

A-1,428

Referee-Chris Pontes (12). Linesmen-Brent Hooks (61), Ryan Madsen (57).

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