TOLEDO, OH- Tuesday night's game between the Wheeling Nailers and the Toledo Walleye was a seesaw contest, which saw one asset shine in each of the three periods - goaltending in the first, offense in the second, and defense in the third period. Christian Hilbrich recorded a point for the sixth straight game to give the Nailers a 3-2 lead in the second period, but the Walleye battled back with two goals of their own to prevail, 4-3, in front of 7,437 fans at Huntington Center.
Goaltending was on display in a big way during the opening period, as the two netminders combined to stop 22 of the 23 shots on net, including some key stops on high quality attempts. The lone goal was scored by the Walleye at the 6:03 mark. Tylor Spink fed a pass to Evan Rankin, who found an extra gear as he sped ahead on the right side of the ice. Rankin blazed in toward the goal, making a quick fake to his backhand, before slipping a forehand shot into the right side of the cage.
The offenses could only be held down for so long, as both teams struck three times in the middle frame. The first goal came at the 1:56 mark. Toledo turned the puck over in front of its own net, allowing Jordan Kwas to set up Garrett Meurs, who roofed a shot from the left side of the crease. A power play goal put the Walleye back in front at 5:42, when AJ Jenks banked a pass through the slot to Alden Hirschfeld, who drilled in a shot from the left circle. The Nailers needed just 36 seconds to even the score, doing so while the sides played 4-on-4. Kevin Schulze and Nick Sorkin led the rush into the zone, with Sorkin getting the final whack in a scramble in the crease. 3:40 after that, Wheeling went ahead. Christian Hilbrich drove the puck out of the right corner, where he had his wraparound stopped. However, Hilbrich followed up his shot, ringing the rebound in off of the left post. Toledo tied the game less than three minutes later during a delayed penalty. Shane Berschbach set up Simon Denis for a one-timer from the center point, which was tipped in by Hirschfeld. With 4:03 to go, the Walleye went back on top with a second marker on the man advantage. Jenks got denied on a jam attempt from the right side, but Berschbach cleaned up the garbage, chipping in the rebound.
In the third period, the defenses rose to the occasion, as only seven shots on goal were recorded by the two teams. Despite hitting a couple of posts, the Nailers came up short, 4-3.
Jake Paterson was the winning goalie for Toledo, as he made 31 saves on 34 shots. Doug Carr suffered the setback for Wheeling, despite turning away 24 of the 28 shots he faced.
The Nailers will travel to Reading for a 7:00 game on Friday, before returning home on New Year's Eve for a 6:05 game against the Elmira Jackals, presented by Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino, Racetrack. $10 tickets will be available on Throwback Night, when the Nailers wear Thunderbirds jerseys. Bam Bam Sticks will be given away, and there will be a Wine Tasting Event as well. Holiday packs are still available, and may be purchased through the Nailers office only. To purchase tickets, or to get more information about season tickets, mini plans, group tickets, packages, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.