(11-6-2-0, 24 PTS, T-1st North, T-2nd East)
76 GF, 65 GA
PP: 26.9% (25-for-93), 1st
PK: 76.3% (71-for-93), 25th
11-F-Cody Wydo (11 goals, 15 assists, 26 points in 18 games)
24-F-Reid Gardiner (11 goals, 12 assists, 23 points in 19 games)
23-F-Garrett Meurs (11 goals, 10 assists, 21 points in 18 games)
8-F-Nick Sorkin (3 goals, 16 assists, 19 points in 19 games)
16-F-Derek Army (7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points in 19 games)
5-D-Danny Fick (7 assists, 7 points in 19 games)
30-G-Will King (1-1-1 record, 3.24 GAA, .906 Sv% in 3 games)
(11-7-1-0, 23 PTS, 3rd North, T-5th East)
63 GF, 53 GA
PP: 15.0% (12-for-80), 19th
PK: 83.1% (54-for-65), 13th
90-F-Matt Willows (7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points in 19 games)
19-F-Alex Krushelnyski (8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points in 15 games)
27-F-Mark Naclerio (7 goals, 9 assists, 16 points in 19 games)
9-F-Ryan Penny (7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points in 19 games)
8-D-Nolan Zajac (4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points in 19 games)
14-F-Adam Schmidt (3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points in 17 games)
31-G-Mark Dekanich (5-4-0 record, 3.13 GAA, .896 Sv% in 9 games)
Head to Head
Season Series: Royals, 2, Nailers 1
Season Series at WesBanco Arena: Royals 1, Nailers 0
All-Time Series: Royals 91, Nailers 73
All-Time Series at WesBanco Arena: Royals 41, Nailers 40
Seesaw Tilt Slipped Away
The Wheeling Nailers had a pair of leads on Friday night, but the Reading Royals managed to spoil the evening with a late rally. Reading opened the scoring early, before the Nailers responded just ten seconds later, as Hunter Fejes chased down an aerial pass by Dylan Zink, poking the puck into the right side of the net. Wheeling took its first lead of the night at the 11:59 mark of the first period. Nick Sorkin came out of the left corner and spotted Cody Wydo, who hammered home a one-timer from the left circle. The Royals drew even in the middle frame, but the Nailers regained their advantage, courtesy of Derek Army's slap shot from the left face-off dot on the power play. Wheeling was only guilty of three minor penalties that resulted in power plays, but the Royals scored on two of those during the third period, turning the game around for a 4-3 decision in favor of the visitors. Adam Morrison made 24 saves in his second game with the Nailers.
Cashing in on Opportunities
The Reading Royals ended a brief two-game skid on Friday night, as they erased a 3-2 deficit to collect a 4-3 win at WesBanco Arena. Matt Willows got the scoring started for the Royals, as he intercepted a pass, and proceeded to bury a shot from the left side of the slot. After Wheeling scored back-to-back goals to go ahead, Alex Krushelnyski potted the equalizer at the 3:51 mark of the second period, skating onto a feed from Willows, before shoveling a backhander underneath the crossbar. Reading trailed entering the third period, but Saverio Posa drew a slashing minor and Adam Comrie drew a trip, leading to consecutive power plays, which both resulted in goals. Steven Swavely tied the game, squeezing in a shot from the left side of the crease, before Michael Huntebrinker banged in the game winner off of a pass by Krushelnyski. John Muse made 31 saves for the win, including 14 in the third period.
May the Force be with us
For the second time in the 2017-18 season, the Nailers will take the ice wearing special uniforms, as they celebrate Star Wars Night at WesBanco Arena. Wheeling was victorious in its first tilt with specialty jerseys, as it defeated the Toledo Walleye, 4-3 in overtime on Marvel Super Hero Night. There will be two more specialty jerseys worn during the campaign, as the Nailers will feature unique looks on February 2nd for 90's Night and on March 10th for Pittsburgh Penguins Night. Wheeling will be looking to end a two-game skid on Star Wars Night, as the last win on this special occasion took place during the 2014-15 season, when Tyler Fernandez snapped a 2-2 deadlock with 26 seconds left and Morgan Ellis added an insurance tally for a 4-2 triumph over the Elmira Jackals. This will be the third straight season that Star Wars Night features a special jersey.
Jumping Right Back in
Both teams received a player from their AHL affiliates before Friday's game, as the Pittsburgh Penguins reassigned forward Freddie Tiffels to the Nailers from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, while Reading received forward Alex Krushelnyski from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Tiffels picked up the secondary assist on Derek Army's power play goal in the second period, giving him eight points in seven games with Wheeling this season, to go along with his goal last Saturday with the AHL Penguins. Krushelnyski also found his way onto the scoresheet in his return to the Royals, as he scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the second period, before setting up Michael Huntebrinker's winning tally with 11:48 remaining in the third period. Including Tiffels and Krushelnyski, each squad has six players who have either AHL or NHL contracts.
Time to Even the Score
Saturday night marks the fourth of 11 head-to-head meetings between the Nailers and Royals this season, as well as the second of five battles at WesBanco Arena. Reading picked up the win on Friday night in its first visit of the year to Wheeling, and has now won four of its last five trips to town, dating back to the start of last season. The Nailers dropped the opening match of the year in overtime at Santander Arena, but rebounded in the second game, and holds a 1-1-1 record against its 17-year rival. Despite the fact that there are six games in 21 days scheduled between the ECHL affiliates of the Penguins and Flyers, these are the only two of those that will be played in the Friendly City. After Saturday, the next game for the Royals in West Virginia takes place on January 26th, while Wheeling will travel to Pennsylvania for matches on December 6th, 15th, and 16th.