(30-23-6-1, 67 PTS, 4th North, 6th East)
212 GF, 203 GA
PP: 19.8% (48-for-242), 3rd
PK: 79.9% (187-for-234), 23rd
11-F-Cody Wydo (24 goals, 30 assists, 54 points in 46 games)
8-F-Nick Sorkin (7 goals, 41 assists, 48 points in 57 games)
24-F-Reid Gardiner (26 goals, 20 assists, 46 points in 46 games)
23-F-Garrett Meurs (20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points in 49 games)
14-F-Riley Bourbonnais (21 goals, 18 assists, 39 points in 55 games)
5-D-Danny Fick (2 goals, 17 assists, 19 points in 58 games)
29-G-Adam Morrison (13-11-1 record, 3.15 GAA, .906 Sv% in 26 games)
(32-21-6-0, 70 PTS, 3rd North, 5th East)
184 GF, 162 GA
PP: 16.0% (34-for-212), 19th
PK: 86.4% (159-for-184), 4th
90-F-Matt Willows (24 goals, 37 assists, 61 points in 59 games)
3-F-Chris McCarthy (17 goals, 25 assists, 42 points in 53 games)
8-D-Nolan Zajac (15 goals, 22 assists, 37 points in 59 games)
17-F-Michael Huntebrinker (16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points in 52 games)
16-F-Matt Wilkins (11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points in 41 games)
14-F-Adam Schmidt (12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points in 45 games)
31-G-Mark Dekanich (10-14-3 record, 3.08 GAA, .906 Sv% in 29 games)
Head to Head
Season Series: Royals 6, Nailers 3
Season Series at WesBanco Arena: Royals 2, Nailers 1
All-Time Series: Royals 95, Nailers 75
All-Time Series at WesBanco Arena: Royals 42, Nailers 41
A Trip to the Honor Roll
The Wheeling Nailers got their three-game homestand started extra early on Wednesday, as they hosted their second Education Day game of the season. Wheeling more than earned a passing grade, as it collected a big 5-2 victory over the Worcester Railers, extending its lead to eight points over Worcester in the playoff race. The Nailers got things going offensively right away, as Freddie Tiffels needed just 1:16 to open the scoring. Ross McMullan notched a 4-on-4 goal later in the frame, depositing a feed from Cody Wydo. The Railers came back to tie the tilt on both occasions, leading to a thrilling finish, as the score was deadlocked with under ten minutes remaining. With 6:56 left on the clock, Garrett Meurs put Wheeling ahead for good, roofing a one-timer over Mitch Gillam's right shoulder. Cody Wydo and Tiffels tacked on two more tallies in the closing minutes, and Adam Morrison shut the door to earn the win with a 33-save performance.
Coming Back in Canada
The Reading Royals were also involved in a morning game, as they played the first of three games in three days, when they visited the Brampton Beast on Thursday. It took Reading a bit of time to get adjusted to the Great White North after a weekend in the Sunshine State, as Brampton busted out to a 3-1 lead in the first period, with the Royals getting their lone strike from Adam Schmidt. Reading netted a pair of timely goals in the middle frame, starting with a penalty shot by Matt Willows at the 1:23 mark. With 46 seconds remaining in the stanza, Matt Wilkins got the equalizer, creating a 3-3 score at the intermission. The deciding tally came at the 6:49 mark of the third period, which was the only goal of that frame, and it came courtesy of Tyler Brown on a partial breakaway. Branden Komm made 34 saves to complete the victory.
Our Time of Day
Early start times have been looked at very fondly by the Nailers, who improved to 3-0-0 before noon in 2017-18. Wheeling won both of its Education Day games on home ice, defeating the Adirondack Thunder 6-4 on November 14th, before Wednesday's 5-2 triumph over Worcester. The Nailers also got to play in a morning game on the road this season, edging the Orlando Solar Bears 6-5 on February 11th in a 9:30 game, giving them 17 goals in the three victories. Morning game dominance is nothing new for Wheeling, who has posted a 9-0-2 record in its last 11 matches before the clock hits 12:00, which includes an eight-game winning streak at WesBanco Arena. The eight straight home wins have come against seven different teams, with Elmira being the lone repeat opponent. The Nailers closed out this year with a 7-4-2 record in day games.
Four in the 20-Goal Club
Garrett Meurs became the fourth Wheeling player this season to reach the 20-goal plateau, when he snapped a 2-2 tie with 6:56 remaining in Wednesday's win over the Railers. Meurs joins teammates Reid Gardiner (26), Cody Wydo (24), and Riley Bourbonnais (21), who all achieved the feat earlier in the campaign. Wydo became the first Nailer to score 30 goals in a season since 2009-10, when he reached that mark last year. This is the first time that Wheeling has had four players score at least 20 goals in the same season since 2010-11, when the 20-goal club was made up of Nick Petersen (24), Ben Street (24), Joey Haddad (21), and Mickael Bedard (20). The Nailers are the first ECHL team in 2017-18 to have four players hit the 20's in the goal column, followed by Cincinnati, Florida, Fort Wayne, and Norfolk, who all have three players with at least 20 tallies.
Chasing Them Down
Friday night marks the tenth of 11 head-to-head meeting between the Nailers and Royals this season, as well as the fourth of five battles at WesBanco Arena. Wheeling will be hoping for a pair of regulation victories, as it enters the weekend three points behind Reading for third place in the North Division. The Royals have already clinched a winning record in the season set, having won six of the first nine matches, including both games which have been decided in overtime. The last contest played between the rivals was a 6-0 win for Reading on February 18th in Wheeling's last visit of the year to the Keystone State. Matt Willows has been the top producer in the series, notching five goals and ten points, while appearing in all nine tilts. The Nailers are led by Cody Wydo, who has four goals and seven points this season, as well as 16 goals and 28 points in 32 career games facing an opponent he has great success against.