TOLEDO, OH- The Wheeling Nailers gave the league-leading Toledo Walleye all they could handle on Friday night, but when the final buzzer sounded, they came up one goal short. Toledo scored twice on the power play in front of its sellout crowd of 8,056, and also added a pair of even strength goals. Andrew Ammon, Brett Stern, and Christian Hilbrich lit the lamp for the Nailers, who fell 4-3 at Huntington Center.
The first period was a busy one, as three goals were scored in the first nine minutes. Wheeling was the first team to strike at the 2:29 mark. Christian Hilbrich won a battle for possession in the left corner, where he dribbled the puck around to Gage Quinney. Quinney made his way to the left circle, before dishing a pass through the low slot to Andrew Ammon, who slammed in the feed on the right side of the crease. Toledo pulled even with an even strength goal that came less than a minute after a power play had expired. Tyson Spink wheeled his way behind the net, before centering the puck to Nolan Zajac, who stepped up, and roofed a shot from the right side of the slot. The tie lasted for 63 seconds, before the Nailers went back on top. With loads of traffic in front, Brett Stern let a shot fly from the left point, ringing it in off of the left post.
Special teams turned the game around in the middle frame, as the Walleye went ahead with a pair of power play markers. The first one came at the 4:55 mark of the period. Evan Rankin fished a loose puck out from the left side of the crease, and slipped it into the low slot to Tyson Spink, who potted a shot into the open side of the cage. With 7:42 remaining, Rankin was the player who scored the goal, as he grabbed a pass from Simon Denis in the slot, turned, and spiked a backhander into the right side of the net.
The lead was extended by Toledo at the 6:14 mark of the third period. Rankin found Spink open at the bottom of the right circle, where he shoveled in a shot to create a two-goal margin. The Nailers pulled back to within a goal with 6:59 remaining. Ryan Segalla took a wrist shot from the left point, which was deflected down and into the cage by Christian Hilbrich. Unfortunately, the momentum was paused, as the visitors were given a five-minute penalty. While the kill was successful and featured two glorious attempts to score, an equalizer wasn't in the cards, and the Walleye held on for the 4-3 win.
Jake Paterson got the victory in net for Toledo, stopping 23 of the 26 shots he faced. Sean Maguire was busy in the Wheeling crease, as he came up with 38 saves on 42 shots in the setback.
The Nailers will return home on Saturday for Star Wars Night at 7:05 against the Kalamazoo Wings. Fans will be able to meet Star Wars Characters, and Wheeling will take the ice in Jedi jerseys. Additionally, the first 1,000 kids will receive a free backpack. Later on this month, the Nailers will host Pittsburgh Penguins Night Starring Pascal Dupuis on January 28th against the Brampton Beast. To purchase tickets, or to get more information about season tickets, mini plans, group tickets, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.