Last WeekWednesday, December 19th: WHEELING NAILERS 7 @ Norfolk Admirals 6 (shootout)Last week began with the second highest scoring game of the ECHL season, as the Wheeling Nailers and Norfolk Admirals combined to score 13 goals on Wednesday night. Wheeling had its best start of the year, powering out of the gates with five goals in the first period for a 5-2 lead. Five different players accounted for the goals - Nick Saracino, Brien Diffley, Renars Krastenbergs, Dan Fick, and Winston Day Chief. The gap stayed at three during the middle frame, as Saracino added his second of the night for a 6-3 score, but the Admirals rallied to draw even in the third. Matt O'Connor took over in goal with the score deadlocked at six, and he shut the door from there, while Cam Brown tallied the lone shootout marker, lifting the Nailers to victory.
Friday, December 21st: WHEELING NAILERS 6 @ Norfolk Admirals 3The headline grabber for Friday night's clash at Norfolk Scope Arena was special teams, which the Nailers took in one-sided fashion. Wheeling converted on three of five power play chances, while keeping the Admirals off the scoreboard during eight man advantage opportunities. The Nailers also scored two shorthanded goals, giving them five tallies on special teams. Nick Saracino (2G, 1A) and Kevin Spinozzi (1G, 2A) led the way with three points each, while Cedric Lacroix, Zac Lynch, and Cam Brown also contributed with goals. Wheeling was outshot 35-20, but Matt O'Connor shined again, making 32 saves for the win.
Saturday, December 22nd: WHEELING NAILERS 5 @ Norfolk Admirals 0The final score was the perfect indication for the way Saturday's contest was played, as Wheeling finished off its three-game sweep in Virginia with a dominating performance. Kevin Spinozzi opened the scoring just 1:22 into the match, and the Nailers never looked back. Nick Saracino notched his fifth and sixth goals of the week for a 3-0 lead, before Alex Rauter and Spinozzi applied the finishing touches during the closing minutes. Wheeling outshot the Admirals, 47-21, and Matt O'Connnor stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first career shutout. The five-goal triumph was the largest of the season for the Nailers.
This WeekThursday, December 27th: WHEELING NAILERS @ Indy Fuel, 7:05 p.m.The Nailers return to divisional play this week in the toughest division in the ECHL, as all six teams currently have winning records. On Thursday, Wheeling makes the first of two trips to Indiana Farmers Coliseum to face the Indy Fuel. The Nailers have won their last two games against the Fuel at WesBanco Arena, scoring 11 total goals. After losing back-to-back games for just the second time this season, Indy has gone 5-3-0 in its last eight tilts, but sits in the basement of the Central Division at 14-13-0. The Fuel lit the lamp five times in both of their games last week, falling 6-5 to Toledo on Friday, before edging Kalamazoo 5-4 on Saturday.
Friday, December 28th: WHEELING NAILERS @ Kalamazoo Wings, 7:30 p.m.There is one team in the Central Division that the Nailers have yet to solve this season, and they will get a fourth crack at it on Friday night, as they travel to Wings Event Center to clash with Kalamazoo. Wheeling rallied from a pair of deficits to earn a point in its last trip to Michigan, but former Nailer Reid Gardiner's overtime goal gave the Wings a 4-3 decision. Similar to Wheeling, the Wings had a bit of a rough start to the year, but have come on extremely strong as of late, winning ten of their last 13 games to climb into a tie for fourth place in the division. However, Kalamazoo went 1-2-0 in the last week before the holidays, sandwiching a win at Fort Wayne in the middle of home losses to Toledo and Indy.
Monday, December 31st: Reading Royals @ WHEELING NAILERS, 6:05 p.m.It's a New Year's Eve tradition, as Wheeling plays on home ice for the 25th time in 27 seasons on the final day of the calendar year. The Thunderbirds and Nailers have combined to go 13-7-4 at home and 1-0-0 on the road on December 31st, and Wheeling is hoping that the third time is the charm against Reading, who has spoiled the New Year's Eve party twice at WesBanco Arena. Speaking of the Royals, they have been playing some strong hockey in December, as they saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday against the Worcester Railers. The loss was only Reading's second of the year in regulation on the road, as it has gone 9-2-3 outside of Pennsylvania, compared to a 5-6-3 mark at Santander Arena.
Notes- The Nailers are 8-0-1 in their last nine games, and are one game away from their eighth double-digit point streak in team history.- Wheeling is averaging five goals per game during those last nine games, outscoring the opposition, 45-21.- The Nailers finished the season with an 8-1-1 record against the South Division, bringing their mark to 16-3-2 against those clubs over the last two years.- Cam Brown and Nick Saracino are both on ten-game point streaks, with Brown recording 24 points and Saracino recording 23 points during their runs. Kevin Spinozzi has 12 points during his current seven-game point streak.- Brien Diffley scored his first professional goal in Friday's win.- On Saturday, Matt O'Connor became the first Wheeling goaltender since Scott Darling (January 5, 2013) to dish out an assist and earn a shutout in the same game.
Central Division Standings1. Cincinnati Cyclones 20-5-2-2, 44 pts.2. Toledo Walleye 19-6-2-0, 40 pts.3. WHEELING NAILERS 15-11-2-0, 32 pts.4. Kalamazoo Wings 14-13-0-1, 29 pts.5. Fort Wayne Komets 14-12-0-1, 29 pts.6. Indy Fuel 14-13-0-0, 28 pts.
Team LeadersGoals: Nick Saracino- 17Assists: Cam Brown- 24Points: Nick Saracino- 37Penalty Minutes: Cedric Lacroix- 84Plus/Minus: Nick Saracino- +17Wins: Matt O'Connor- 7Goals Against Average: Matt O'Connor- 2.48Save Percentage: Matt O'Connor- .914Shutouts: Matt O'Connor- 1
Next Big Promotional NightsMonday, December 31st - New Year's Eve & Star Wars Night - $8 TicketsSaturday, January 12th - Nickelodeon Night Featuring SpongeBob & Patrick, Scout Night
Next Five Home GamesMonday, December 31st vs. Reading Royals, 6:05 p.m.Thursday, January 3rd vs. Toledo Walleye, 7:05 p.m.Friday, January 11th vs. Utah Grizzlies, 7:05 p.m.Saturday, January 12th vs. Indy Fuel, 7:05 p.m.Sunday, January 13th vs. Indy Fuel, 3:05 p.m.