(31-23-6-1, 69 PTS, 4th North, 6th East)
216 GF, 206 GA
PP: 19.8% (48-for-243), 3rd
PK: 79.7% (188-for-236), 23rd
11-F-Cody Wydo (24 goals, 30 assists, 54 points in 47 games)
8-F-Nick Sorkin (7 goals, 41 assists, 48 points in 58 games)
24-F-Reid Gardiner (26 goals, 21 assists, 47 points in 47 games)
23-F-Garrett Meurs (20 goals, 27 assists, 47 points in 50 games)
14-F-Riley Bourbonnais (21 goals, 19 assists, 40 points in 56 games)
5-D-Danny Fick (3 goals, 17 assists, 20 points in 59 games)
1-G-Danny Tirone (First Professional Game)
(32-21-7-0, 71 PTS, 3rd North, 5th East)
187 GF, 166 GA
PP: 16.4% (35-for-214), 19th
PK: 86.5% (160-for-185), 4th
90-F-Matt Willows (25 goals, 39 assists, 64 points in 60 games)
3-F-Chris McCarthy (17 goals, 25 assists, 42 points in 54 games)
8-D-Nolan Zajac (15 goals, 23 assists, 38 points in 60 games)
17-F-Michael Huntebrinker (16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points in 53 games)
16-F-Matt Wilkins (13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points in 42 games)
14-F-Adam Schmidt (12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points in 46 games)
29-G-Branden Komm (13-8-3 record, 2.63 GAA, .915 Sv% in 25 games)
Head to Head
Season Series: Royals 6, Nailers 4
Season Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 2, Royals 2
All-Time Series: Royals 95, Nailers 76
All-Time Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 42, Royals 42
Dramatic Ending for the Win
The Wheeling Nailers earned one of their most thrilling victories of the season on Friday night, as they erased a 3-2 deficit with less than two minutes remaining, rallying back to beat the Reading Royals, 4-3 in overtime at WesBanco Arena. After a scoreless first period, Wheeling grabbed a 2-0 lead, thanks to a pair of goals from defensemen. First up was Matt Abt, who slammed in a one-time feed from Troy Josephs, as Abt made his professional debut. Next was Danny Fick, who finished off Riley Bourbonnais rush around the back of the net. Reading stormed back with three straight strikes to go ahead, but with 1:19 to go, the Nailers drew even with the extra attacker. Garrett Meurs pounded a shot on goal, creating a rebound for Freddie Tiffels to swat in the equalizer. At the 2:34 mark of overtime, Josephs sent the fans home happy, scoring on one knee from the left circle. Adam Morrison made 28 saves for his first career win against the Royals.
Last Leg of Their Trip
The Reading Royals will be excited when Saturday's game comes to an end, as they will get to head home after playing eight straight games on the road in six different cities. In the first seven tilts of the trip, Reading has posted a very unique record, going 2-1-4, with all but one of the contests being decided by a goal. In Friday's match against Wheeling, the Royals fell behind 2-0, before turning to their top line to earn them a point, temporarily going ahead, before settling for an overtime loss. 34 seconds after the Nailers took their 2-0 lead, Matt Willows answered, intercepting a pass along the left wall, and burying a shot from the circle. Willows then assisted on both markers in the third period, which were scored by Matt Wilkins - first off of the rebound of Nolan Zajac's point drive, and second with a turnaround shot in the slot. Mark Dekanich was saddled with his third straight overtime loss, as he stopped 31 of the 35 shots he faced.
Lots of Exciting Extra Hockey
The two North Division rivals from Wheeling and Reading are getting used to playing a lot of hockey in recent games, as the Nailers went to overtime for the fourth time in the last seven contests, while the Royals had to play past regulation for the fifth time in their last seven outings. The season series has seen a golden goal in four of ten matches, including three of the first four played in the Friendly City. Both clubs have earned two overtime wins against each other, with Nolan Zajac and Michael Huntebrinker deciding the games for Reading, while Garrett Meurs and Troy Josephs have tallied the winners for the Nailers. Not including playoffs, prior to the 2013-14 season, Wheeling and Reading went past regulation 25 times, but 19 of those clashes required a shootout. Since then, eight of the nine deadlocks have been settled during the five-minute period. The Royals are tied for the third most trips to overtime this season, going 16 times, while the Nailers have needed more than 60 minutes on 13 occasions.
Wins Start with W's
One player on each roster has thoroughly enjoyed seeing the opposing team during their careers, posting fantastic numbers. Although he was held off of the scoresheet in Friday's game, Wheeling's go-to guy against the Royals has been Cody Wydo. A third year pro, Wydo has collected 16 goals, 12 assists, and 28 points in 33 all-time matches against Reading, netting a hat trick, as well as four game winning goals, including the epic triple overtime winner in game four of the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinal Series. He leads the Nailers with seven points in nine games. For the Royals, that player is Matt Willows. A fellow third year forward, Willows notched three points in Friday's tilt, giving him 13 against Wheeling this season. During his career, Matt has amassed 13 goals, 16 assists, and 29 points in 23 games with two different teams. Similar to Wydo, Willows also has a hat trick to his credit.
Only Right to Face Their Rival
Saturday night marks the 11th and final head-to-head meeting between the Nailers and Royals this season, as well as the fifth battle at WesBanco Arena. On Pittsburgh Penguins Night, it is completely fitting that Wheeling faces the ECHL affiliate of Pittsburgh's biggest rival, as Reading is in its fourth season with the Philadelphia Flyers. One could make a successful argument that the Royals are the biggest rivals for the Nailers, as they are competing against each other for the 17th consecutive season, and next year, they will clash for the 174th time, breaking Wheeling's previous record for the most regular season games played against a single opponent (Saturday will be 172 - the record is 173 against Johnstown). While the Royals have clinched the season series with a 6-4 advantage, the sides are knotted in West Virginia, each winning twice. If a playoff series is on the horizon (both are on the inside of the playoff picture), it would be the fourth.