(28-21-4-0, 60 PTS, T-2nd North, T-4th East)
192 GF, 175 GA
PP: 20.4% (46-for-225), 3rd
PK: 81.0% (171-for-211), 22nd
8-F-Nick Sorkin (6 goals, 37 assists, 43 points in 51 games)
23-F-Garrett Meurs (18 goals, 24 assists, 42 points in 46 games)
14-F-Riley Bourbonnais (18 goals, 14 assists, 32 points in 48 games)
5-D-Danny Fick (1 goal, 17 assists, 18 points in 51 games)
9-D-Jaynen Rissling (4 goals, 12 assists, 16 points in 40 games)
6-D-Dan Milan (4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points in 53 games)
29-G-Adam Morrison (12-10-1 record, 3.08 GAA, .907 Sv% in 24 games)
(28-20-3-0, 59 PTS, 4th North, 6th East)
159 GF, 140 GA
PP: 16.2% (28-for-173), 20th
PK: 87.0% (140-for-161), 3rd
90-F-Matt Willows (20 goals, 33 assists, 53 points in 51 games)
3-F-Chris McCarthy (15 goals, 19 assists, 34 points in 45 games)
8-D-Nolan Zajac (12 goals, 19 assists, 31 points in 51 games)
17-F-Michael Huntebrinker (16 goals, 13 assists, 29 points in 44 games)
14-F-Adam Schmidt (11 goals, 16 assists, 27 points in 38 games)
16-F-Matt Wilkins (9 goals, 18 assists, 27 points in 33 games)
29-G-Branden Komm (9-7-2 record, 2.74 GAA, .912 Sv% in 19 games)
Head to Head
Season Series: Royals 5, Nailers 3
Season Series at Santander Arena: Royals 3, Nailers 2
All-Time Series: Royals 94, Nailers 75
All-Time Series at Santander Arena: Royals 52, Nailers 34
Seconds Away from a Point
The Wheeling Nailers took the Fort Wayne Komets down to the final minute of Friday night's game, which was looking like it might head to overtime. Jaynen Rissling scored the opening goal at the 7:37 mark of the first period, shoveling in a pass from Ross McMullan. With less than one minute remaining in the opening stanza, Trevor Cheek tallied the equalizer for Fort Wayne. The Komets carried that momentum into period two, as Justin MacDonald gave them the lead, and Cheek's second of the night made the score 3-1. The Nailers battled to within one on a tip-in by Riley Bourbonnais, then knotted the score 54 seconds into the final frame on Bryan Arneson's first ECHL marker. However, with 32.6 seconds left in regulation, a rebound goal by Marc-Olivier Roy gave the Komets a 4-3 win. Michael Houser made 28 saves in the victory, edging Adam Morrison, who stopped 34 of 38 shots for Wheeling.
Don't Get too Comfortable
The Reading Royals had a run in which they scored ten consecutive goals this weekend, as they blanked the Cincinnati Cyclones, 8-0 on Friday night, then opened up a 2-0 lead against the Brampton Beast on Saturday night. Reading may have enjoyed its powerful offense a bit too much in Saturday's tilt, as Brampton rebounded by netting six of the final eight goals, coming back to beat the Royals, 6-4. Travis Brown and Nolan Zajac were responsible for the tallies in the first period, before Matt Willows answered three straight strikes by the Beast for a 3-3 deadlock heading into the second intermission. Zajac's second of the night put Reading ahead at 8:18 of the third period, but Brampton's Brandon Marino responded 1:07 later, and Cody Donaghey punched home the winning marker with 4:08 to go in the contest. Zachary Fucale earned the win with 26 saves, while Mark Dekanich took the loss, giving up five goals on 31 shots.
It has been a busy time since the Nailers last took the ice on Friday night, as the team has been involved in eight transactions - nine if you include Riley Armstrong being named the head coach of the Maine Mariners. Following in the footsteps of Cam Brown, Freddie Tiffels, and Cody Wydo earlier in the week, three more players have made their way to the AHL. Those are defensemen Kevin Schulze, Jeff Taylor, and Dylan Zink, all going to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Wheeling got one player back from the AHL, as Colin Stevens was released from his PTO with the Binghamton Devils. The Nailers made two trades to acquire new players, both in exchange for future considerations. The first is forward Marcus Basara from the Allen Americans, who has seven points in 22 games. The second is forward Tyler Vankleef from the Wichita Thunder, who has one goal in four games. Finally, Wheeling signed two players - forward Matt Harrington and defenseman Sean Gammage. Harrington hasn't played in the ECHL this season, but has in the past, and even spent time with the Nailers during the 2014-15 campaign. Gammage suited up in four games with the Worcester Railers.
Closing out the Third Quarter
When the Nailers take the ice on Sunday, they will do so for the 54th time in the regular season, which will bring the third quarter of the campaign to a close. Wheeling has been the busiest squad in the North Division, as it will become the first team in the grouping to play 54 games. When all is said and done this weekend, the Nailers will have played two more games than Adirondack, Manchester, and Reading, and four more games than Brampton and Worcester. A win on Sunday would give Wheeling its second 11-win quarter of the season, as it enters play with a 10-6-1 mark in its last 17 matches, one victory shy of the 11-5-2 record that took place during the first 18 games of the year. In addition to the timing being the most significant, with the season winding down, the final quarter will also be the most important when it comes to playing within the division, as the Nailers will play 13 of their last 18 games against North Division opponents.
We've Seen This Rink More Than Any
Sunday afternoon marks the ninth of 11 head-to-head meetings between the Nailers and Royals this season, as well as the sixth and final battle at Santander Arena. Wheeling will be looking to earn a split in Reading, having dropped three of the first five games, while also trying to prevent the Royals from clinching the season series, as they enter with a 5-3 advantage. Reading won the last clash 2-1 in overtime at WesBanco Arena on January 26th, while the Nailers were victorious in their last trip to Pennsylvania, 4-2 on December 16th. Matt Willows has been the top performer in the season series, collecting eight points in eight games. Wheeling's active leader is Garrett Meurs, who has amassed four points. Sunday will be the 87th game all-time for the Nailers at Santander Arena - the most in any road building, surpassing the 86 games played against Johnstown at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. The most games in any city for Wheeling is 98 in Toledo, which has spanned two arenas.