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Nailers vs. Walleye Game Day Snap Shot, Jan. 3

Thursday, January 3rd
Nailers vs. Walleye Game Day Snap Shot, Jan. 3

WHEELING NAILERS(16-13-2-0, 34 PTS, T-3rd Central, T-8th West)111 GF, 95 GAPP: 22.1% (29-for-131), 3rdPK: 85.2% (121-for-142), 7th

NHL Affiliate: Pittsburgh PenguinsAHL Affiliate: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

27-F-Zac Lynch (9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points in 31 games)4-F-Alex Rauter (7 goals, 15 assists, 22 points in 24 games)10-F-Troy Josephs (13 goals, 6 assists, 19 points in 14 games)23-F-Michael Phillips (8 goals, 10 assists, 18 points in 31 games)9-F-Yushiroh Hirano (6 goals, 12 assists, 18 points in 26 games)5-D-Dan Fick (3 goals, 15 assists, 18 points in 31 games)1-G-John Muse (5-5-0 record, 2.69 GAA, .903 Sv% in 10 games)

TOLEDO WALLEYE(21-7-3-0, 45 PTS, 2nd Central, 2nd West)118 GF, 99 GAPP: 17.7% (26-for-147), 11thPK: 83.9% (94-for-112), 13th

NHL Affiliate: Detroit Red WingsAHL Affiliate: Grand Rapids Griffins

10-F-Shane Berschbach (14 goals, 25 assists, 39 points in 30 games)17-F-TJ Hensick (10 goals, 28 assists, 38 points in 31 games)86-F-Greg Wolfe (11 goals, 17 assists, 28 points in 31 games)43-D-Matt Register (4 goals, 22 assists, 26 points in 31 games)16-F-Bryan Moore (12 goals, 9 assists, 21 points in 26 games)12-F-Jordan Topping (8 goals, 7 assists, 15 points in 24 games)33-G-Kaden Fulcher (9-2-2 record, 3.02 GAA, .895 Sv% in 13 games)

Head-to-HeadSeason Series: Walleye 2, Nailers 1Season Series at WesBanco Arena: Walleye 2, Nailers 0All-Time Series: Walleye 42, Nailers 34All-Time Series at WesBanco Arena: Nailers 24, Walleye 18

A Perfect Finish to 2018The Wheeling Nailers closed out the 2018 calendar year with a tremendous performance in front of their home crowd of 3,565 on Monday night. Wheeling got the ball rolling on a two-man advantage at the 6:10 mark of the first period, when Alex Rauter drilled in a one-timer from the top of the right circle. Cedric Lacroix added to the lead by driving to the net to pot the rebound of Mike Fazio's shot in the early stages of the middle frame. Troy Josephs followed that up on a power play, as the Nailers took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission. Reading helped Wheeling tack on one more, as Jack Riley tossed the puck into his own net. Yushiroh Hirano got credit for the tally, as the Nailers went on to the 4-0 win. John Muse returned from the AHL with 28 saves to blank his former team, earning the first shutout for a Wheeling goaltender in 26 games all-time on New Year's Eve. The win was the team's fifth in a row on home ice.

Tussle of Top TeamsThe Toledo Walleye traveled to Cincinnati for a showdown of the top two teams in the Central Division on Monday night, and the game lived up to its billing, as the in-state rivals played to a 1-1 draw through the first 40 minutes of play. Eric Knodel opened the scoring for the Cyclones at the 6:09 mark of the first period, before Greg Wolfe answered for Toledo with 4:34 to go in the opening stanza. At the 9:28 mark of the third period, Cincinnati snapped the tie, as Myles Powell connected for his 12th goal of the season. Then, with teammate Nate Mitton in the penalty box, Pascal Aquin turned the tables on the Walleye, netting a shorthanded goal to go ahead by a pair. Alex Wideman capped off a 4-1 Cyclones triumph with an empty netter, while ECHL Goaltender of the Month Michael Houser made 22 saves. Pat Nagle came up with 37 stops for Toledo in the defeat. Cincinnati has still yet to lose in regulation at home this season, going 13-0-3.

A December to RememberAt the start of December, the Nailers sat two games below .500, and were three points back of the final playoff spot in the Central Division. The deficit became as large as five, before Wheeling rallied back with nine wins in the final 12 contests, and is now tied for third place in the division at 16-13-2. The offense has played an enormous role in the turnaround, as the Nailers have scored 60 goals in their last 13 contests. Wheeling has limited the opposition to 37 goals during that time, while collecting two shutouts. The Nailers became the third team in ECHL history to have three straight Player of the Week winners, and Wheeling players had at least a share of the league lead in four different offensive categories during December. Cam Brown led the way with 19 assists and 26 points, while Nick Saracino was tied at the top with 12 goals and a +16 rating.

Dynamic Duo on the Other SideTwo players have shined brighter than the rest of the pack for the Walleye, as Shane Berschbach and TJ Hensick have combined to rack up 77 points over the course of the first 31 games this season. Berschbach has become one of the faces of Toledo Hockey, as this is his fifth season with the Walleye. He has accumulated at least 50 points in each of his previous four years, including a career-best 86 in 2016-17, as Toledo reached the conference final round for the second time in three years. Hensick played 112 games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues. As has been the case for the majority of the past five seasons, the Walleye boast one of the top offenses in the ECHL. Toledo's 3.81 goals per game rank first, followed by Cincinnati at 3.75 in second. The Nailers are fifth in goals per game with 3.58.

Looking for that Home Ice AdvantageThursday night marks the fourth of eight head-to-head meetings between the Nailers and Walleye this season, as well as the third of four battles at WesBanco Arena. In the ten years since Toledo returned to the ECHL, home ice advantage has played a large part in the series, as Wheeling has won 24 of 42 games in its venue, while the Walleye have skated away on top in 24 of 34 tilts at Huntington Center. However, all three decisions this season have gone in the other direction, as Toledo earned a couple of one-goal decisions in West Virginia, while the Nailers silenced nearly 8,000 fans with a 5-2 road triumph on December 8th. Wheeling's Cam Brown and Toledo's TJ Hensick have been the two most productive players thus far, as each has accumulated four points. Both teams will take the ice against Central Division foes on Friday (Wheeling at Indy, Toledo vs. Kalamazoo), before clashing in T-Town on Saturday.

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