WHEELING, W.Va.- The transition from Junior Leagues and college hockey to the ECHL can sometimes be tough. More games, especially a three games in three days or four games in five days stretch, can really test the body. A young team such as the Wheeling Nailers is just getting used to professional hockey life, and guys have guys run out of gas. A more veteran team, such as the Fort Wayne Komets, knows how to gut it out. That was the case in Wheeling on Saturday as Fort Wayne took a 5-1 victory.
In the first period, Wheeling seemed to have some jump but it quickly disappeared as the hosts gave up two goals in the span of 1:25 in the middle of the period. This followed a very disjointed power play during which the Nailers gave the shorthanded Komets multiple opportunities. Both goals by the guests were plays the Nailers goaltender Taylor Gauthier had no chance of stopping. On the first one, Samuel Dove-McFalls sent a shot/pass to the front of the net, where Mark Rassell redirected the puck into the net and gave the Komets a 1-0 lead at 11:09. The second goal came off a Cédric Paré turnover at the offensive blue line that the Komets turned into a 2-on-1 rush that Matthew Boudens converted at 12:34 for a 2-0 lead. The Komets doubled up the Nailers on shots in the frame by a 14-7 count.
In the second, the Komets continued to outplay the tired Nailers. Another goal on a play where Gauthier really had no chance put the game out of reach in the Komets’ favor. Stefano Giliati kept the puck in at the offensive blue line and sent the puck toward the net where former Nailer Joshua Winquist redirected the puck in for a 3-0 lead at 14:06. Again, the Nailers were outshot in the stanza 15-8 despite having 2 power plays in the period.
The third period saw a small spark of life from the Nailers to begin the frame but they could not figure out Komet goaltender Ryan Fanti. The Komets would get goals from Tye Felhaber and Blake Siebenaler to extend the lead before a last-minute goal by Griffin Lunn, his first career goal, spoiled the shutout bid for Fanti.
“I definitely think there were some guys you could tell had no gas in the tank. I felt there were a few guys that were stuck in quicksand. And I think this is the hard part of being a pro is there games where you just don’t have it or you’re just not feeling it but you have to find a way to contribute. And as a young team you have to find that out the hard way.” Nailers bench boss Derek Army stated after the game.
“Our focus coming into this game was challenging them. So our turnovers have to be limited and our situations where we give them opportunities has to be cut back and it certainly was not; I think we had 16 turnovers in the third period, you’re never going to win a hockey game with that. That being said we did have chances but overall I’d say I’m disappointed in how [we] executed the game plan.” Army continued.
The Komets will travel to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Thursday for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop against the Fuel.
Wheeling is off until Friday, when the Nailers will travel to Huntington Center in Toledo for a game against the Walleye. Face off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
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