WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers earned a point in their final home game of the 2018-19 season, while securing at least a .500 record overall. Wheeling battled back from three deficits, including one in the third period, as Winston Day Chief forced overtime with 3:35 left in regulation. However, the lone shootout goal was scored by the Indy Fuel, who prevailed, 5-4 at WesBanco Arena. Johnny Austin notched the first two-goal game of his professional career.
The first period featured lots of offensive chances, and it was Indy who took a 2-1 lead into the intermission. Former Nailer Josh Shalla recorded the game's opening goal, when he converted on a breakaway, turning to his backhander in order to slip the puck in along the ice. Wheeling answered at the 16:03 mark, as Johnny Austin threw in a wrist shot from the right point. However, the tie lasted for just 53 seconds, as the Fuel regained the lead. Mathew Thompson cut to the right side of the slot, where he zipped a shot off Matt O'Connor's arm and into the cage.
Indy added to its advantage at the 9:53 mark of the middle frame, when Olivier Labelle lifted in the rebound of Travis Brown's left circle wrist shot. The Nailers surged back with two goals in a span of 28 seconds to temporarily tie the tilt. Austin notched his first career two-goal game by wiring a shot in off the right post, then Alec Butcher finished off a rush with Zac Lynch by sliding in a feed on the left side of the crease. However, the Fuel regained the lead in the closing seconds of the period, as Logan Nelson squeezed in a shot from the left circle.
Wheeling battled back to earn a point in the third period, as Winston Day Chief redirected Yushiroh Hirano's wrist shot from the left circle to make the score 4-4 and force extra hockey.
The Nailers successfully killed two penalties in overtime, leading to a shootout. Unfortunately, that effort wasn't able to earn a second point, as Logan Nelson was the lone goal scorer in the shootout, lifting Indy to the 5-4 win.
Chase Marchand earned his first professional victory for the Fuel, stopping 39 of the 43 shots he faced in the game, before adding three saves in the shootout. Matt O'Connor turned in a solid effort for Wheeling, making 41 saves on 45 shots in the game, before going 1-for-2 in the shootout.
The Nailers will close out the 2018-19 season on Sunday, when they visit the Fort Wayne Komets at 5:00.