WORCESTER, MA- The Wheeling Nailers and Worcester Railers played what felt like a playoff game on Saturday night at DCU Center, and the match was so tight, it required the last round of the shotoout to be decided. Riley Bourbonnais recorded a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in regulation (goal, assist, fight), which ended in a 2-2 tie. Worcester ended up with the extra point, as Tommy Kelley decided the match in round three of the shootout.
The two teams played a scoreless first period, as goaltenders Matt O'Connor and Mitch Gillam both turned in strong performances. The first goal of the night went to Worcester at the 2:10 mark of the middle frame. Justin Hamonic let a shot go from the middle of the blueline, with T.J. Syner getting a piece of the attempt, giving him the tally. The Nailers answered back with 9:27 remaining. Daniel Tedesco poked the puck through center ice, sending Riley Bourbonnais in on a breakaway. Bourbonnais quickly picked his spot, burying his 21st of the season through the netminder's legs. Andrew Schmit picked up his first point with Wheeling, grabbing the secondary assist.
Wheeling took the lead at the 12:20 mark of the third period. Bourbonnais teed up Schmit for a one-timer from the high slot, which was tipped in by Freddie Tiffels. However, with 1:23 to go, the Railers knotted things up. Barry Almeida took a slap shot from the top of the left circle, which was redirected in by Woody Hudson, forcing bonus hockey with a 2-2 deadlock.
Overtime was exciting, but neither team was able to cash in on three shots. The tilt progressed to a shootout. Matt Lane of Worcester and Wheeling's Chris Francis exchanged strikes in the first two rounds, before Tommy Kelley gave the Railers the winning goal, and Mitch Gillam stopped Cody Wydo.
Mitch Gillam made 30 saves to earn the win for the Railers, while Matt O'Connor also turned in a 30-save effort, helping the Nailers pick up a point.
The Nailers will play their next three games on home ice, starting with Education Day Game #2 against the Worcester Railers on Wednesday morning at 10:45. After that, Wheeling will play a two-game set against the Reading Royals on Friday and Saturday, with both tilts starting at 7:05. Friday will be Ladies Night, featuring a pregame wine tasting event. Saturday is Pittsburgh Penguins Night, in which fans can see the Stanley Cup, the first 2,500 fans will receive a Carter Rowney Bobblehead, and the Nailers will wear special jerseys. To purchase tickets, or to get more information about season tickets, flex plans, group tickets, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.