WHEELING, W.Va.- Goaltending play and timely goals are the keys to winning hockey games. On Wednesday night, the Wheeling Nailers got both. Alex D’Orio turned in a stellar 34 save effort, and former Indy Fuel forward Nick Hutchison notched a pair of special teams goals (one short-handed and one on the power play) to lead the Nailers past the Fuel by a 5-1 count.
“[D’Orio] obviously credit to him, he held the fort big time. He was awesome in the net.” Nailers coach Derek Army commented after the contest. “… it was credit to [D’Orio] for holding us in it and making some huge stops in the first and making some huge stops throughout the game.”
After the game, D’Orio was asked about his efforts and contribution:
“My d-men did a great job just taking sticks so I can see the puck and there is no deflection too. So, I think they did a great job tonight to help me through that.” D’Orio said of his game tonight. “I’m just giving the team a chance to win. That’s it and as we saw in the third period guy had confidence and scored three so; that’s my job to give them the chance to win”
The Nailers came out strong in the first 5 minutes but were stymied by the Fuel skaters and their goaltender Cale Morris. Fuel players consistently throughout the game blocked Nailers shot attempts, and in the first, Morris made a great save on a one-time opportunity by a Nailers defenseman that seemed to ignite his teammates. The Fuel was able to take the puck up ice and take an early lead with a rebound goal by Riley McKay at 6:27. That lead would last all of :59, and Patrick Watling picked up his team-leading ninth goal of the season at 7:26 off a good one-time feed from Will Reilly.
For Watling, it was his fourth goal of the season against the Fuel. He has points in 10 of the last 11 games he has played against Indy.
“He’s very offensively gifted. He’s a guy who, you give him a little chance he’s going to capitalize. And having [Justin] Almeida with them was huge; but those guys they find the soft ice. There’s a reason guys score goals; they go to the net, they go to the hard areas and they just seem to find or the puck seems to find them and that’s one of those things for [Watling] he’s got that in him; Hutchison the same thing and [Almeida] really completed that line really good.” Army commented
In the second, Wheeling continued to find quality shots over quantity. Dylan MacPherson converted on one of Wheeling’s nine second period opportunities with a missile that found its way over Morris’ shoulder. Wheeling had to kill off two more penalties in the second while not having a power-play chance in the frame.
In the third, Wheeling found its footing and controlled play for long periods, wearing out Indy. The Nailers heavily pressured the Fuel and, in a short-handed situation, forced the Fuel to turn the puck over in the Nailers’ offensive zone. Reilly fired the puck from the point, and Hutchison deflected the puck into the top of the net, putting Wheeling ahead 3-1. Chris Otiz would get a redirect goal off a Watling shot to give the Nailers a 4-1 lead. Hutchison would tally a power-play goal to cap the scoring. This one came from a Reilly shot that Hutchison redirected for the final goal of the game.
“[Reilly] has been great for us so far obviously he’s a great player and we are lucky to have him down here and hopefully he keeps shooting the puck so I can keep tipping them.” Hutchison said of his night against his former club.
Hutchison’s goals extended his point streak to five games. He said postgame:
“I definitely feel really good on the ice, obviously it doesn’t happen without [Watling] or [Alfaro] even [Almeida] tonight and every other guy has been really welcoming me here since I’ve been traded and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity that Army has been giving me so far and hopefully I’ll be able to stay on the right path here.”
Army echoed that statement, saying:
“It was a big step in terms of Hutchison having a good game against his former team.”
The Wheeling Nailers return to action on Friday, Nov. 26, when they face the Iowa Heartlanders at Xtream Arena.
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