KALAMAZOO, MI- Aaron Irving had himself a night to remember on Wednesday, as the Kalamazoo Wings rallied to shock the Wheeling Nailers, 6-5 in overtime at Wings Event Center. Wheeling built a 5-2 lead on a pair of goals by Riley Bourbonnais and the first goal as a Nailer by Tyler Vankleef. However, Irving and the Wings didn't go away. The rookie defenseman finished his hat trick with two goals in the third period, then potted a fourth goal at the 2:27 mark of overtime, lifting his team to the win.
Both teams lit the lamp in the first period. The opening goal went to the Wings, who converted on one of three man advantages during the stanza. Aaron Irving wound up with a big slap shot from the top of the right circle, which was stopped by Colin Stevens. The rebound dribbled into the left circle, where it was swatted into the net by Jimmy Mullin. Wheeling pulled even with 1.9 seconds left on the clock. Nick Sorkin led the rush into the offensive zone, plating a pass for Garrett Meurs, who thrusted in a shot from high in the slot.
The Nailers carried momentum into the middle frame, exploding for three more goals. At the 4:37 mark, Daniel Tedesco spun his way through center ice, before dishing a pass to Riley Bourbonnais, who sifted in a shot from the bottom of the right circle. Less than three minutes later, Wheeling struck on the power play. Meurs chipped the puck into the slot, where a shot was twisted in by Tyler Vankleef for his first goal as a Nailer. Bourbonnais notched his second tally of the period with 6:48 to go, slamming in a one-time pass by Tedesco. Irving made the score 4-2, when he banked in a shot for Kalamazoo 31 seconds after that.
1:04 into the third period, Nick Sorkin wired a slap shot in off of the crossbar, putting the Nailers ahead by three. However, the Wings rallied back, jumping on Irving's shoulders. The rookie defenseman tallied twice in a span of 39 seconds, pulling the home team within a goal. With 7:19 remaining, Tyler Biggs forced overtime, roofing a wrist shot from the top of the left circle for a 5-5 tie.
At the 2:27 mark of the extra session, Kalamazoo escaped with the victory, as Josh Pitt tossed a pass into the slot, where it was redirected into the top-right corner by Irving for his fourth marker of the night and a 6-5 final score.
Joel Martin ended up with the win for the Wings, making 37 saves on 42 shots. Colin Stevens suffered the overtime defeat for Wheeling, turning away 46 of the 52 shots he faced.
The Nailers will play game three of their six-game road trip on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 against the Adirondack Thunder. The road trip will also take the team through Manchester and Worcester. Wheeling's next home game takes place on March 7th at 10:45 a.m., which is Education Day Game #2 against the Worcester Railers. That weekend will also feature Ladies Night on March 9th and Pittsburgh Penguins Night on March 10th. Fans can see the Stanley Cup on Pittsburgh Penguins Night, the first 2,500 fans will receive a Carter Rowney bobblehead, and the Nailers will wear special jerseys. To purchase tickets, or to get more information about season tickets, flex plans, group tickets, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.