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Wheeling Nailers

Game Recap/Analysis

Nailers Continue to Ride Hot Special Teams

Nailers Continue to Ride Hot Special Teams

WHEELING, W.Va. – Special teams can either make or break any game during the hockey season. For the last two home games for the Wheeling Nailers, both the power play and penalty kill units have sealed and secured victories for the black and Vegas gold. A put-away goal on the power play in the third and a massive four-minute kill in the final five minutes of the game helped propel the Nailers to a 4-1 home victory over the Toledo Walleye.

The Nailers came out strong on Sunday afternoon and got the first three shots but were ultimately denied. Toledo scored first as John Albert ripped a shot over Ryan Bednard‘s shoulder and under the crossbar to open the scoring at 4:05 of the first. Both teams traded chances the rest of the period, with Wheeling breaking through on a well-placed Justin Addamo shot from the slot that beat Toledo goalie John Lethemon high to the glove side to pull even through the first. Addamo’s fourth of the season came at 18:14 of the first.

“We had a good push early and then they scored. We maybe got put on our heels a bit, and that’s where as a young team we were trying to find ourselves and not get frustrated. Then when we were finally able to score, that sigh of relief, and we were able to play from there and use the rest to our advantage” Nailer head coach Derek Army said of the start of Sunday’s game.

In the second, the Nailers began to impose their will on the Walleye as the ice seemed to tilt in the host’s favor. Both Lethemon and Bednard had key stops to keep their respective teams in the game. Ultimately, a Nailer shot got through and moved the momentum needle firmly into the hosts’ favor. Cédric Paré received a pass inside the right faceoff dot, skated toward the center of the ice while battling 1-on-2,  and flipped the puck into the upper right corner of the net, giving the Nailers the lead at 17:26 of the second.

In the third, the Nailers tallied an insurance marker at 5:05 as Cédric Desruisseaux took a pass from Brooklyn Kalmakov and skated across the front of the net, getting Lethemon to open up. Desruisseaux slid the puck through the 5-hole for a two-goal Nailer lead.

The dagger came from the Nailers power-play unit as a 5-on-3 man-power advantage presented itself in the middle of the third period. With two Walleye defensemen in the penalty box, the Nailers established possession in the offensive zone. Paré corralled the puck at the right faceoff circle and fired a shot on goal. Lethemon made the initial save. However, the rebound bounced to Carter Johnson, who stashed the rebound into the net, giving Wheeling a near insurmountable three-goal lead with 11:13 remaining in the contest.

A late double-minor high-sticking call against Nailer Samuel Tremblay at 14:58 looked to potentially give the visitors a chance to regain some life. However, the Nailer penalty kill did not allow the Walleye to establish any offensive setup and killed off the penalty to end this game.

The Nailer power play finished the game at 1-for-4 and the penalty kill at a perfect 4-for-4. Lethemon stopped 26 of 30 in the loss, with Bednard stopping 22 of 23 in the win.

The Walleye are off until Friday when they travel to Cincinnati to face the Cyclones at 7:35 p.m.

The Nailers also return to action on Friday in Ft Wayne. Game time from the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum is 8:00 p.m.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    John Hafer covers the Wheeling Nailers for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHNailers.

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