NORFOLK, VA- The Wheeling Nailers made a strong push in the third period of Saturday night's season opener against the Norfolk Admirals, but came up short in their bid for eight straight seasons with a point on opening night. Eliot Grauer scored twice for the Nailers, and Dan Fick added the third goal, which was all part of a 48-shot attack. Zane Schartz tallied a pair of goals for the Admirals, while Ty Reichenbach backstopped the 5-3 decision in their favor.
Both teams were more than ready to start the season, as chances were aplenty during the first period. The only puck to find the back of the net came off of a Norfolk stick. Taylor Cammarata wrapped the puck around the back of the net, before setting up Connor Hurley, who was able to redirect the feed from just above the crease. Former Nailer Ben Duffy picked up the secondary assist on the opening strike. Additionally, the first fight of the campaign took place during the opening stanza, as Cedric Lacroix threw down the gloves with Jake Wood.
The Admirals added to their advantage with a pair of goals in the middle frame. At the 7:35 mark, Cammarata helped Hurley win a draw back to Zane Schartz at the blueline. Schartz let a wrist shot go, floating it in under the crossbar. Then, with 5:48 remaining, Matt McMorrow's pass was tipped by Jake Wood, as the puck just dribbled in over the goal line.
Wheeling put forth a strong effort in the third period, scoring three power play goals. Two of the markers went to Eliot Grauer, who found the twine with a one-timer from the left circle, then buried the rebound of Michael Phillips' shot for his second of the night. 40 seconds after Grauer's second goal, Dan Fick converted, drilling home a shot from the right circle. Unfortunately, Norfolk picked up two goals in the third period as well, as TJ Melancon stepped up from the blueline to roof what turned out to be the game winner, and Schartz collected his second of the night, squeezing a shot through from the bottom of the left circle, making the final score 5-3 for the Admirals.
Ty Reichenbach had a busy night in the win for Norfolk, turning away 45 of the 48 shots he faced. Evan Cowley made 24 saves on 29 shots in the defeat for the Nailers.
The Nailers will continue their stretch of four straight road games on October 20th, when they visit the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:35. 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.