WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers have had great success in specialty jersey games this season, and on Saturday night, it was a SpongeBob SquarePants uniform that brought two points to WesBanco Arena. Alec Butcher broke a 1-1 tie with his first professional goal in the second period, before Craig Skudalski's third period strike decided the game, as the Nailers were victorious over the Indy Fuel, 3-2, in front of 4,170 fans.
After a scoreless first period which saw tons of defense, both teams got on the board in the opening minute of the middle frame. Indy struck first at the 17-second mark, when Robert Powers' left point wrist shot was tipped into the twine by Brett Welychka. The Nailers responded just 30 seconds later. Yushiroh Hirano had his left circle shot gloved away, but the rebound sat in the crease, where it was swatted home by Zac Lynch. With two minutes remaining in the stanza, Wheeling took its first lead of the night. Alec Butcher banked his second chance off of goaltender Jason Pawloski, trickling the puck in over the goal line for his first career goal in his pro debut.
The Fuel pulled even at the 6:39 mark of the third period, when Logan Nelson broke down the right side, and roofed a wrist shot into the top-right corner. However, the Nailers answered immediately, regaining the lead just 33 seconds later. Alex Rauter and Hirano had a couple of chances in front of the net, before the puck made its way to Craig Skudalski, who slammed in what turned out to be the winning goal. Wheeling's defense and goaltending shut the door the rest of the way, closing out the 3-2 home triumph.
Matt O'Connor earned his eighth win of the season between the pipes for the Nailers, blocking away 21 of the 23 shots he faced. Jason Pawloski made 25 saves on 28 shots in the loss for Indy.
The Nailers and Fuel will meet at WesBanco Arena again on Sunday at 3:05. Sunday's game is a Family Funday, which features a Post Game Skate with the Team (odd-numbered players). The next big promotional game is Country Roads on February 16th. The first 2,000 fans in attendance that night will receive a Mason Jar. 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.