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Nailers Let One Slip Away

Photo by Joe Lovell Wheeling’s Michael Kim skates around the net during Friday’s game against Cincinnati.

WHEELING — The Wheeling Nailers had the Central Division leading Cincinnati Cyclones on the ropes on Friday night inside WesBanco Arena.

For 50 minutes, Wheeling kept Cincinnati and ECHL MVP Jesse Schultz scoreless. However, hockey is a 60 minute game.

In the final 10 minutes of the third period, the Cyclones stormed back by knocking in a pair of goals to send the game to overtime tied at 2-2.

Frank Hora completed the comeback with a game-winner moments after killing a Nailers’ power play to lift Cincinnati to a 3-2 win over Wheeling.

The Nailers have now lost seven of their last eight games.

“They are a dynamic team,” Nailers coach Mike Bavis said of Cincinnati. “They can open the game up in a hurry. They are fast, competitive, skilled and well-coached. They are a hard team to handle and a 2-0 lead is certainly not safe.

“But in general, we played a pretty good game and had a chance to win a hockey game against a really good team.”

Wheeling netminder Jordan Ruby got his first start since Jan. 4, a 4-0 setback to Cincinnati.

He shined this time around, stopping the first 24 shots he faced until former Ohio State standout Darik Angeli put the Cyclones on the board with 10:07 remaining in the game.

“I thought Jordan Ruby gave us a really good effort and a chance to win,” Bavis said. “He was a big part of us getting a point. He made some saves early in the game that probably should have been in the net.”

The momentum shifted after Angeli’s goal.

Mason Mitchell supplied the equalizer with 4:54 to play as he skated through the left circle and blistered a shot into the top of the net, which sent the game to overtime.

In the extra period, Wheeling had an opportunity to pull out the win on one of its three power plays in the game as Chris Brown tipped a pass in front of the net but Cincy goaltender Michael Houser gloved it at the last second.

Exactly 13 seconds after killing the power play, Hora sent everyone home as he drilled a shot from the left circle and past Ruby.

“We had a missed opportunity on the 4-on-3 but they gained momentum getting that second goal,” Bavis said. “It was one of those ones where they came off the wall and just fired one and it kind of surprised the goaltender.”

After not playing since last Saturday due to the All-Star break, Wheeling came out refreshed and captured the lead early.

ECHL All-Star Cam Brown, got things rolling just under 12 minutes into the action.

Matt Abt corralled the puck on the right-side wall, spun back to protect it from defenders before finding Nick Minerva on the opposite side of the ice.

Minerva, then, whistled a pass to Cam Brown, who was camped out to the right of the net. The All-Star deked right and attacked on his left, squeezing the puck past Houser’s pad and in for a 1-0 edge.

“Minerva just picked up his eyes and I think he sold the shot and fed me backdoor,” Cam Brown said. “It was a really nice play. The goalie came out a lot and I tried to reach around him, so luckily it worked out.”

Wheeling led 1-0 after one period, despite only tallying three shots on goal.

The Nailers extended their lead with 4:46 left in the second as Yushiroh Hirano collected the puck behind the net, turned and sent a back-handed pass through the crease to Brandon Hawkins on the other side, who laced a one-timer into the cage.

A rematch with Cincinnati awaits the Nailers tonight at 7:05 p.m. at WesBanco Arena, where Cam Brown and company will look to get back on track.

“That was definitely a tough one,” Cam Brown said. “I think we need to build off of the good things we did. That’s all you can do. You definitely don’t want to blow a 2-0 lead at home. That’s not acceptable but you have to look at the positives.”

NOTE: Cam Brown represented Wheeling well in the ECHL All-Star Game, dishing out an assist for the Western Conference.

“That was definitely a cool experience,” the all-star said. “I think my favorite thing was getting to know guys from other teams. There are a lot of good guys out there. The hockey world is small so everybody knows everybody, so it was cool to get to know some more guys.”

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