WHEELING - It was a fitting and frustrating end to what was a disappointing season.
Leading by two goals with under eight minutes to play, Wheeling's entire season was summed up by what happened the rest of the way.
Trenton scored a pair of late third-period goals, including Jacob Cepis' second of the game at 17:59 that tied the score, then the Titans finished off the comeback on Shane Harper's shootout tally to record a 4-3 victory against the Nailers in front of a noisy crowd in the season finale at WesBanco Arena.
Nailers’ Chris Rooney (28) and Trenton’s Bryan Haczyk (22) drop the gloves.
Photo by Joe Lovell
Coach Clark Donatelli's squad scored a pair of second period goals to take a 3-1 lead, which appeared to be enough heading down the stretch. It wasn't that Wheeling, which finished five points out of a playoff spot, didn't have chances in the end.
At the 3:35 mark of overtime the hosts had a breakaway opportunity that turned into a penalty shot. However, Keven Vellieux could not convert and the game headed to the shootout.
Trailing 1-0, Matt Germain's shot for the tie hammered off of the pipe and the Nailers did not put one on the board.
Trenton 4, Wheeling 3 (shootout)
Trenton 0 1 2 0 1 - 4
Wheeling 1 2 0 0 0 - 3
1st Period-1. Wheeling, Lenes 13 (Fergus, Vellieux), 1:21. Penalties-Corcoran, Whg (tripping - minor), 12:51; Hansen, Whg (high-sticking - minor), 14:30.
2nd Period-2. Wheeling, Crowder 23 (Torquato, Barton), :20. 3. Toledo, Harper 14 (Degon, Cepis), 10:17 (pp). 4. Wheeling, Zollars 1 (Torquato, Crowder), 14:06. Penalties-Barton, Whg (fighting - major), 2:47; Cepis, Trn (fighting - major), 2:47; Velschak, Whl (high-sticking - minor), 8:55; Rooney, Whg (fighting - major), 15:55; Haczyk, Trn (fighting - major), 15:55; Todd, Trn (tripping - minor), 17:58; Hansen, Whl (holding the stick - minor), 18:37.
3rd Period-5. Trenton, Nagy 10 (Cianfrini, Rerripel), 12:41. 6. Trenton, Cepis 25 (Kessel, Goggin), 17:59. Penalties-Hansen, Whg (high-sticking - minor), 14:43; Ross, Whg. (hooking - minor), 20:00.
Overtime-No Goals. No Penalties.
Shootout-Trenton 1 (Ulrich NG, Harper Goal, Haczyk NG, Cepis NG, Groggin NG); Wheeling 0 (Barton NG, Vellieux NG, Germain NG, Lenes NG, Torquato NG).
Shots on Goal-Trenton 11-10-17-6-1 - 45; Wheeling 13-16-7-3-0 - 39.
Power-Play Opportunities-Trenton 1 / 6; Wheeling 0 / 1.
Goalies-Toledo, Ostergard 5-1-0-0 (39 shots, 36 saves); Wheeling, Darling 13-13-1-2 (45 shots, 41 saves).
Referee-Chris Pitoscia (#3). Linesmen-Zach Roberts (#84), Ray King (#39).
"It's a tough loss to a good team," Donatelli said. "But it is just frustrating to lose the third period and shootout after we played so well early. You have to win the third period and once again we just didn't.
"We got off to a real good start, but they slowly got back into the game. They just had too many chances and we continually turned the puck at the blue line they made us pay for it."
For the second consecutive night the Nailers got on the board quickly, this time at the 1:21 mark when Peter Lenes, who had just moments early been announced as the winner of the "Fans Favorite" award, brought the crowd to its feet when his shot trickled past goalie Brooks Ostergard for a 1-0 reading.
The second period began just as the first for the hosts, getting an early goal, just time just 20 seconds in, to double the advantage to 2-0. Paul Crowder's 23rd of the year came from close-range on a rebound with Zack Torquato and Chris Barton charted with helpers.
Trenton finally drew blood on its third power-play chance of the contest on a 20-foot blast that sailed over goalie Scott Darling's shoulder to cut the lead in half at 2-1.
But the hosts got it back just a short time later at 14:06 on Gentry Zollars' first goal, a floater from just inside the blue line that found the back of the net for a 3-1 score.
The Titans were able to pull back to within one at 12:41 of the third on Kory Nagy's short rebound blast past Darling. Trenton then went on the power-play just a short time later, but was unable to convert for the fourth time in five tries.
At 17:59 the visitors got what they were looking for after trailing the entire game, the equalizer. Cepis' second goal of the game past a diving Darling sent the game into overtime. The Titans actually started the extra session on the power-play after a last second penalty on Wheeling, but again could not convert.
"Scott (Darling) did a great job with some really big saves, but we just hung him out to dry in the third period," Donatelli said. "It has been a long year for these guys, we did manage to develop a lot of players and send them to the American Hockey League, but we would have also liked to had more wins and made the playoffs.
"Nobody wants to win any more than I do. You could look back, but it would be crazy to try and go through the season and search for the five points that might have made a difference. Now it is just time to step back and plan for next year.
"It feels real good to get that first full season under my belt, but it is also disappointing that we didn't make the playoffs."
It was awards night for Wheeling and along with Lenes being the fan favorite, others winners included Barton (Offensive Most Valuable Player); Peter Merth (Defensive MVP); Peter Delmas (Ogden Newspapers 3 Stars); Ben Farrer and Lenes (Community Players Of The Year); Germain (Player's Player) and Crowder (Leading Scorer).