WHEELING, W. Va.– In a game that very quickly could have gone off the rails early for the Wheeling Nailers, the team battled hard and came up just short in the end as Toledo got a 4-2 victory here Sunday afternoon.
Taylor Gauthier got the nod in net for Wheeling, making his pro debut after five years in the WHL. Things could not have started much worse. The first shot he faces from Gordi Myer beats him five-hole and gives the Walleye a 1-0 lead at 0:26 of the first. Just nine seconds later, a turnover behind the net is banked off of him as he scrambles back to the net, giving Trenton Bliss his first of the campaign and Toledo a 2-0 lead in the contest. At 5:06 of the first, Toledo scored on the power play as Lukas Craggs would put home a rebound chance and it was 3-0 Toledo.
“He [Gauthier] settled down, and as a team, as a whole, we didn’t give up a lot. We played really good team defense. Now he had to make a couple saves, but I thought overall it was a really good team game defensively and offensively we got some chances..” Nailers bench boss Derek Army stated.
From there, Gauthier calmed down and settled into the game. The Nailers battled back in the second as they picked up a goal from Tyler Drevitch, who just took rocketed a shot over Sebastian Cossa’s shoulder to make it 3-1 at the 13:18 mark of the second. Wheeling would follow that up with a Sean Josling power-play marker at 16:37 as Josling found a rebound and slid it in past Cossa.
“….that’s one for me as a young team, I think, you could have seen them easily go on their own page; but we fought back and pulled to within 3-2 and you have a chance down to the wire, to a few calls that changed the game.”
Toledo would pick up an insurance marker in the third as Gordie Green would drag a loose rebound away from a sprawled Gauthier and flip it into the left side of the net to give Toledo a 4-2 lead with 5:04 left to play in the third. A tripping minor against Chris Ortiz allowed Toledo to keep Gauthier in the net until the dying seconds of the contest and not allowing Wheeling to try to get the goals to tie with an extra attacker on the ice.
Special teams played a role in this one as the Walleye finished 2-for-5 on the man advantage, and Wheeling was 1-for-5.
“I think what it comes down to in this league is if you win specialty teams, you’re going to win the game. We lost the specialty teams last night and we lost it again tonight typically you’re going to lose.” Army said of special teams and how important they are.
Gauthier finished the night making 20 saves on 24 shots against in the loss falling to 0-1-0. Cossa finished with 25 saves on 27 shots and improved to 2-0-0 on the young season.
Wheeling will have another home contest as Cincinnati will visit on Friday. Game time is set for 7:10 p.m. Toledo will return to action on Saturday in Kalamazoo. Puck drop between the Walleye and Wings is 7:00 p.m.
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