(34-30-8-0, 76 PTS, 5th North, 10th East)
244 GF, 239 GA
PP: 19.7% (66-for-335), 8th
PK: 75.0% (204-for-272), 27th
2-D-Kevin Schulze (13 goals, 47 assists, 60 points in 68 games)
8-F-Nick Sorkin (14 goals, 43 assists, 57 points in 57 games)
23-F-Garrett Meurs (25 goals, 30 assists, 55 points in 71 games)
18-F-Hunter Fejes (18 goals, 20 assists, 38 points in 48 games)
17-F-Kenny Ryan (13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points in 44 games)
16-F-Derek Army (12 goals, 5 assists, 17 points in 28 games)
1-G-Colin Stevens (10-18-5 record, 3.23 GAA, .893 Sv% in 33 games)
(36-29-6-1, 79 PTS, 5th South, 9th East)
200 GF, 209 GA
PP: 16.7% (39-for-234), 15th
PK: 81.3% (183-for-225), 20th
10-F-Shane Walsh (19 goals, 26 assists, 45 points in 71 games)
17-F-Winston Day Chief (14 goals, 25 assists, 39 points in 71 games)
74-F-Brandon McNally (16 goals, 18 assists, 34 points in 66 games)
5-D-Eric Knodel (8 goals, 20 assists, 28 points in 58 games)
41-F-Dominic Zombo (12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points in 63 games)
4-D-Chris Leone (6 goals, 10 assists, 16 points in 38 games)
30-G-Anthony Peters (31-16-1 record, 3.11 GAA, .895 Sv% in 52 games)
2016-17 Season Series: Cyclones 3, Nailers 1
2016-17 Season Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 1, Cyclones 1
All-Time Series: Nailers 60, Cyclones 59
All-Time Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 32, Cyclones 26
Back at the Banco
The Wheeling Nailers are one week away from the official opening of their 26th season of hockey, but first, they have two preseason games, as the Cincinnati Cyclones visit WesBanco Arena on Friday and Sunday. Wheeling is coming off of another terrific season on home ice, as the 2016-17 Nailers earned 21 wins and 46 points in front of their hometown fans. Unfortunately, a frustrating road record held the club back from reaching postseason play in a fourth consecutive season. Overall, Wheeling went 34-30-8, securing its ninth straight year with a winning record. The 2016-17 Cyclones were in the race until the final weekend of the season, when they fell three points short of the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division. Cincinnati also experienced great success at home, but finished five games under .500 away from US Bank Arena. This will be the Cyclones' 16th season in the ECHL.
A Summer of Change, but not for us
ECHL fans may have needed a road map to keep up with some of the changes that took place during the summer, as 12 teams will take the ice with new NHL affiliates in 2017-18. The Cyclones are one of those clubs, as they concluded their affiliation with the Nashville Predators, welcoming in the Buffalo Sabres and former Pittsburgh Penguins Associate General Manager Jason Botterill. Nashville has since formed a partnership with the Norfolk Admirals, while Cincinnati took over Buffalo from the Elmira Jackals, who closed up operations following the 2016-17 campaign. While the Cyclones are part of the wave of changes, the Nailers are at the opposite end of the spectrum, as they and the Pittsburgh Penguins enter the 20th season of their affiliation, which is tied for the longest active affiliation between NHL and ECHL clubs. After switching divisions last season, Wheeling stays put in the North Division in 2017-18, while Cincinnati moves from the South Division of the Eastern Conference to the Central Division of the Western Conference. The Cyclones were the only team to flip conferences, while three other teams changed divisions, and there are two expansion teams in the league - the Jacksonville IceMen and Worcester Railers.
Hungry for Preseason Success
With just 232 miles separating WesBanco Arena and US Bank Arena, Wheeling and Cincinnati have made preseason meetings into annual occurrences. This season will mark the seventh time in the last eight years that a preseason series between the Nailers and Cyclones has taken place, but just the second of those seven in which both tilts will be played in the Friendly City. Cincinnati has had the upper hand as of late, winning each of the last five preseason matches, dating back to Wheeling's last exhibition win on October 10, 2014. Last fall, the Cyclones opened the slate with a 4-0 win in West Virginia, then came away victorious 3-1 the following night in their home building. Unlike last preseason, when both rosters were very different due to the World Cup of Hockey, both squads will likely see the majority of their Opening Night rosters take the ice at some point during the weekend.
New Endeavors for the Netminders
The expected starting goaltenders for Friday night's preseason opener are Colin Stevens for the Nailers and Anthony Peters for the Cyclones. While no two career paths are identical, the two backstops have some similarities. Stevens and Peters are both beginning their third full professional seasons, and both will do so with a new team. Stevens spent the majority of his first two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs, while also spending a bit of time with the Tulsa Oilers. His first year was the better of the two, as he earned 15 wins. Peters also spent two years in the same location, suiting up with the Florida Everblades. Although he turned in a career-high 31 wins last year, 2015-16 was the better season for him as well, as his 2.20 goals against average was seventh best in the ECHL. Based off of the projected lineups, Wheeling will have eight returning players in the lineup on Friday, while Cincinnati is expected to have six.
Hard to get Much Closer
If fans are looking for close games that will keep them on the edges of their seats, head-to-head battles between Wheeling and Cincinnati tend to do the trick. All four games played between the two sides in 2016-17 were decided by one goal, including two which required overtime. The Cyclones won the season series for the first time since 2012-13, utilizing the two victories in bonus time to come out on top, 3-1. Dating back to the 2014-15 campaign, ten of the 12 clashes have been decided by one goal, and as one may have been able to predict, the set over that stretch is tied, 6-6. What's even more impressive about the tightness of the rivalry is how there has been almost no separation in 15 years of games. Wheeling enters 2017-18 with a 60-59 edge all-time. This season, the clubs will do battle on six occasions, beginning with the home opener at WesBanco Arena on October 21st. Four of the games will be played in Wheeling (Oct. 21, Nov. 3, Feb. 17, Mar. 24), and two will be played in Cincinnati (Nov. 24, Jan. 6).