(5-1-2-0, 12 PTS, T-1st North, T-4th East)
35 GF, 29 GA
PP: 38.5% (15-for-39), 1st
PK: 74.4% (29-for-39), 27th
24-F-Reid Gardiner (8 goals, 5 assists, 13 points in 8 games)
11-F-Cody Wydo (2 goals, 11 assists, 13 points in 8 games)
8-F-Nick Sorkin (3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points in 8 games)
21-F-Cam Brown (1 goal, 10 assists, 11 points in 8 games)
17-F-Kenny Ryan (7 goals, 2 assists, 9 points in 8 games)
26-D-Kevin Schulze (1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points in 8 games)
31-G-Sean Maguire (3-1-0 record, 4.04 GAA, .907 Sv% in 5 games)
(6-2-1-0, 13 PTS, 1st Central, T-3rd West)
29 GF, 23 GA
PP: 12.9% (4-for-31), 23rd
PK: 91.7% (33-for-36), 2nd
8-F-Christian Hilbrich (4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points in 9 games)
27-F-AJ Jenks (4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points in 9 games)
10-F-Shane Berschbach (1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points in 9 games)
7-F-Tyler Barnes (3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points in 8 games)
11-F-Zach Nastasiuk (2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points in 9 games)
4-D-Kevin Tansey (2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points in 9 games)
30-G-Pat Nagle (6-0-1 record, 1.96 GAA, .931 Sv% in 8 games)
Head to Head
2016-17 Season Series: Walleye 6, Nailers 4
2016-17 Season Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 3, Walleye 2
All-Time Series: Walleye 36, Nailers 31
All-Time Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 23, Walleye 14
Skates Down on the Throttle
The Wheeling Nailers put forth a dominant performance in their most recent game on Saturday night, as they earned their fifth victory of the season, tossing aside the Indy Fuel, 5-1 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Wheeling had the lead almost from the outset, and never looked back, marking the first time this year that a game never became tied after a goal had been scored. Kevin Schulze opened the scoring with a power play goal 2:25 into the contest, and Reid Gardiner followed that up later in the first period, putting the Nailers ahead, 2-0. The first few minutes of the middle frame were one-sided, as Wheeling blew the game open. Nick Sorkin collected the club's first shorthanded marker of the season at the 33-second mark. Kenny Ryan and Gardiner then tallied 47 seconds apart from each other, putting the visitors ahead, 5-0. Tommy Olczyk was the only Indy player to solve Sean Maguire, who backstopped the victory with 41 saves.
More Siphoning of the Fuel
The Toledo Walleye also took advantage of the last place Indy Fuel in their last outing, collecting a 3-2 win at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and extending their winning streak to four games. Charlie O'Connor netted his first goal of the year to put Toledo in the first period, before Indy drew even in the early stages of the second. With less than one minute until intermission, former Nailer Christian Hilbrich put the Walleye back on top to stay. Zach Nastasiuk added a marker in the third period, which was insurance at the time, but turned out to be the game winner, as Toledo skated away with the two points. Pat Nagle turned in another solid performance between the pipes, making 24 saves on 26 shots, improving his record to 6-0-1 in a Walleye uniform and 21-3-3 in regular season play dating back to the start of 2016-17.
A Clash of Super Powers
One of the early season strengths for the Nailers will collide with one of the early season strengths for the Walleye, following the first minor penalty of the night for the visitors. Wheeling's power play has been explosive during the first eight games of the campaign, lighting the lamp in all eight contests, including a pair of 2-for-3 outputs last weekend against Cincinnati and Indy. The Nailers are clicking at a 38.5% success rate, which is 9.9% higher than the next closest team in the ECHL - the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Toledo knows a little something about special teams success, as the Walleye led the league on both the power play and penalty kill in 2016-17. The Walleye penalty kill has shut down 33 of 36 opposition power plays thus far this season, ranking second in the ECHL with a 91.7% success rate. Toledo carries a 12.9% power play into Friday's game against the Nailers, who denied all eight Indy man advantages on Saturday, while also adding a shorthanded goal.
Big Fish for the Pond
During the summer of 2017, the Walleye made an attempt to recruit a larger team, after battling through a physical playoff run, which saw them fall short against the Colorado Eagles in the Western Conference Final. The tallest player they could find is one that Wheeling fans are quite familiar with - 6-foot-7 forward Christian Hilbrich. So far, Hilbrich has made a large impact on his new team, leading Toledo with nine points in nine games, including four goals. The Walleye didn't stop there, as the blueline also got a boost in size, with the signings of 6-foot-4 defensemen Davis Vandane and Kevin Tansey. On the other end of the tape measure, 5-foot-6 goaltender Jeff Lerg, who earned 64 wins with Toledo, departed for Europe, as well as 5-foot-10 twin brothers Tyson and Tylor Spink, who finished first and second in ECHL Rookie of the Year voting with 76 and 75 points respectively.
Fewer Games, but Still a Rival
Friday night marks the first of six head-to-head meetings between the Nailers and Walleye this season, as well as the first of three battles at WesBanco Arena. Last season, Toledo finished with the best record in the ECHL, but Wheeling hung right in there, before falling just short in the season series, 6-4. Home ice was a big factor in the successes of the two clubs in 2016-17, as the Nailers were victorious in three of five games in West Virginia, while the Walleye took four of the five decisions at Huntington Center. When Toledo first returned to the league in 2009, it experienced a few rough seasons, missing out on the playoffs in three out of five years. Wheeling capitalized on that, winning four of the first five season series. However, since things turned drastically positive for the Walleye, they have won each of the last three head-to-head sets - a run that the Nailers will look to put an end to this year. After this weekend's home-and-home series, both clubs will play a Saturday home game against each other in December.