WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their opening roster for the 2018-19 season. The roster consists of 25 players - 13 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders.
The 2018-19 roster has an average age of 25 years old, with a solid mixture of experienced players and rookies. 16 of the 25 players are rookies by ECHL standards (less than 25 games played at the "AA" level or higher), while six players have played at least two seasons in the ECHL or the AHL. Five players have played with the Nailers previously during their careers.
Starting in the goal crease, the Nailers will open the 2018-19 campaign with three netminders. Matt O'Connor and Danny Tirone both spent time in Wheeling at the end of last season, as O'Connor begins his fourth professional season, while Tirone is a rookie. The newcomer to the nets is Evan Cowley, who split last season between the Manchester Monarchs and the AHL's Springfield Thunderbirds.
One the blueline, Dan Fick returns for his fourth season in a Wheeling uniform, and is the only remaining player from the 2016 Eastern Conference Championship team. Kevin Spinozzi is another familiar face on defense, as he tallied five points in 12 games with the Nailers last year. Johnny Austin, Aaron Titcomb, and Dane Birks all got their first tastes of the pro game in the spring, as Austin appeared in nine games with the AHL's Laval Rocket, while Titcomb posted two points in two games with the Adirondack Thunder. Birks played in one game with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and is the lone member of this season's group under NHL contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Robbie Hall and Craig Skudalski both come in with multiple years of experience in the SPHL, while Josh Couturier and Brien Diffley will both be making their professional debuts.
Up front, Cam Brown is the lone returner, as he is coming off a sparkling rookie season, in which he registered 53 points in 55 games. Four other forwards have significant experience in the ECHL. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Zac Lynch will play close to home, following a 22-goal season with the Manchester Monarchs. Winston Day Chief also put 22 pucks into the back of the net last season, doing so as a member of the Cincinnati Cyclones. Day Chief is a veteran, having played in 262 pro games. Nick Saracino goes from the Railers to the Nailers, after collecting 37 points a year ago. Christian Isackson played two seasons for the Wichita Thunder, before spending the last two years in Europe. Similar to a few of the defensemen, Alex Rauter made his pro debut in the spring, playing both regular season and playoff games with the Atlanta Gladiators. Brad Drobot, Eliot Grauer, and Mark Petaccio have all spent at least one season in the SPHL, and Michael Phillips played in France last year, while Tyler Bird, Renars Krastenbergs, and Cedric Lacroix will all put on a professional uniform for the first time in their careers.
Forward Yush Hirano is not on the opening roster, but is in the process of getting his immigration approved, so that he may join the team in the coming weeks.
Head Coach & Director of Hockey Operations Mike Bavis is entering his first season with the Nailers. Joining him on the hockey operations staff are Assistant Coach Dylan Clarke (1st season), Athletic Trainer Jared Degler (3rd season), and Wheeling, West Virginia native Bill Higgins, who is beginning his 16th season as the team's equipment manager.
DJ Abisalih is the Voice of the Nailers for the eighth season, and you can catch his broadcast of the season opener on Mix 97.3, when the Nailers visit the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday night at 7:00. Wheeling's first home game will take place on November 3rd against the Indy Fuel, featuring a pregame party, the induction of the Wheeling Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2018, and the debut of the team's new alternate jersey. The Wheeling Nailers, considered one of the top things to do in Wheeling, West Virginia, provide affordable family entertainment for fans throughout the Ohio Valley. For information on season tickets, group tickets, flex plans, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.
2018-19 Wheeling Nailers Opening Roster3 D Aaron Titcomb4 F Alex Rauter5 D Dan Fick7 F Tyler Bird11 F Christian Isackson12 F Renars Krastenbergs13 F Nick Saracino14 F Cedric Lacroix15 F Eliot Grauer16 D Craig Skudalski17 F Winston Day Chief19 F Mark Petaccio20 D Johnny Austin21 F Cam Brown22 D Kevin Spinozzi23 F Michael Phillips24 D Josh Couturier25 F Brad Drobot26 D Brien Diffley27 F Zac Lynch28 D Dane Birks30 G Matt O'Connor31 G Evan Cowley35 G Danny Tirone37 D Robbie Hall