WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers and Reading Royals put on quite the show for the 3,245 fans who came out to WesBanco Arena for Star Wars Night on Saturday, and in the end, the home team was victorious. Garrett Meurs intercepted a pass and buried a wrist shot at 2:10 of overtime, giving the Nailers a 5-4 win. Zach Tolkinen scored his first two goals of the year for Wheeling, and Hunter Fejes recorded the first Gordie Howe Hat Trick by a Nailers player this season.
Both teams lit the lamp once in the opening stanza, as the Royals got on the scoreboard once, before the Nailers answered. Reading's goal was created by Chris McCarthy and Matt Willows, who worked the puck down low on the left side of the offensive zone. Willows ultimately threaded a pass through the slot to Alex Krushelnyski, who slammed in a one-timer on the right side. Wheeling knotted things up with 5:36 to go. Garrett Meurs backed a pass out to Zach Tolkinen at the blueline. With traffic setting up in the slot, Tolkinen took a wrist shot, which found its way into the goal.
The action ramped up even more in the second period, and most of the excitement was generated by the Nailers. Hunter Fejes gave the home squad its first lead of the night, drilling in a face-off win by Derek Army from the top of the left circle. Less than four minutes later, Tolkinen dented the twine for the second time, once again depositing a wrist shot from long distance. The Royals temporarily trimmed the margin to one on Mark Naclerio's goal, but Wheeling carried a two-goal edge into the intermission, thanks to Cam Brown, who stepped up on the right side of the slot, drilling in the rebound of Fejes' initial shot. That assist completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick for Fejes, who dropped the gloves in the first period. Tempers ran high at the end of period two, as one play produced 36 penalty minutes.
Reading scored twice in a span of 16 seconds during the third period, tying the score, and forcing overtime. Mark Naclerio banked in a shot from along the left side of the goal line at 10:48, and Chris McCarthy followed with a shot which tipped off of Will King's glove, and floated into the net.
In overtime, the Nailers earned the bonus point. Fejes forced a turnover, as goaltender Mark Dekanich accidentally fed Garrett Meurs, who proceeded to beat him with a wrist shot from the left side for his second overtime winner of the year and a 5-4 final score.
Will King earned the win for Wheeling, making 39 saves on 43 shots. Mark Dekanich took the overtime loss for Reading, giving up five goals on 33 shots.
The Nailers have one more home game this weekend, and it's Pups & Pucks on Sunday afternoon at 3:05, when they host the Fort Wayne Komets. Fans can bring their dogs to the game. Additionally, it's a Family Funday, featuring a post game skate with the team (even-numbered players). The next big promotional game is Bricks & Kids Night on January 13th. To purchase tickets, or to get more information about season tickets, flex plans, group tickets, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.