Lynch Wins It in OT, Nailers Sweep Fuel
Big weekend puts Wheeling in tie with Indy in Central Division
WHEELING — Disappointed by a loss to Utah to begin a three-game weekend, the Wheeling Nailers bounced back in a big way by sweeping a pair from the Indy Fuel.
Zac Lynch buried his 11th of the season at 1:02 of overtime as the Nailers (19-16-2 — 40) opened the second half of their schedule Sunday at WesBanco Arena with a 4-3 victory against the Fuel (19-18-1 — 40). It was the third point of the day for Lynch, who beat Indy goaltender Matt Tomkins on the short side.
“We didn’t do our jobs Friday night and we knew that, but we also knew that we had two more opportunities to make a statement in the division,” said Lynch, whose second assist set a career high. “This is really big, especially with how tight this division is.
“We learned a lot about ourselves this weekend and we had guys step up in big situations.”
The Fuel snuck out of town with point, thanks to a rebound goal with less than five minutes remaining to tie the score at 3-3. Off a clean face-off win, Alex Brooks collected a Kevin Dufour rebound and beat John Muse, who was stellar with a 36-save effort.
“Most of the time when Muse gets beat, it’s on a major breakdown by us somewhere,” Wheeling coach Mike Bavis said. “He stood tall for us all day and gave us a chance to win.”
On the game-winning goal, defenseman Dan Fick circled several times in his own zone before getting the puck ahead to Lynch, who busted past the offensive blue line with speed.
“Fick got me the puck and I knew I had enough speed that I could beat the first guy,” Lynch said. “I saw that I had a good enough angle to get a good shot off and luckily I was able to beat the goalie.”
Despite each team playing its third game in less than 72 hours, there was no shortage of energy during a first period that featured three goals.
Wheeling got things started with a tally that was at first ruled no-goal, but was then overturned. With a scrum in front of Indy goaltender Tomkins (27 saves), the Nailers’ Troy Josephs found a way to stuff his 16th goal of the season — in 20 games — into the back of the bet at 6:29.
The Fuel evened the game at 1-1 with a power-play goal at 13:43. Mathew Thompson gathered in a rebound only to see his momentum take him past the goal line. However, Thompson backhanded the puck off the stick of Wheeling goaltender John Muse.
Indy went right back on the man advantage nine seconds later, but this time the result favored the Nailers. Lynch harassed a Fuel defenseman in his own zone and knocked the puck onto the waiting stick of Cedric Lacroix, who skated in alone and beat Tomkins for his eighth of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead. That marked the 11th shorthanded goal — league high-tying fourth for Lacroix — which is tied for the top spot in the ECHL
That’s the way it remained until the 8:20 mark of the second when Matt Rupert left a drop pas for Logan Nelson, who beat Muse for his seventh of the season and second in as many night, to tie it again at 2-2.
Renars Krastenbergs notched his 11th at 1:31 of the third to give the Nailers a 3-2 lead. A power play that struggled entering the zone for most of the weekend, finally converted.
“It’s not the way you draw it up, but it certainly felt good that it went in the net,” Bavis said. “(The Fuel) really do a good job of defending the line on the rush.”
Wheeling had to work to protect that lead as it was whistled for three consecutive penalties that enabled the Fuel to have a total of 1:32 of a two-man advantage.