FORT WAYNE, IN- The Wheeling Nailers and Fort Wayne Komets waited all summer to get back into action, and they put on a show of nine goals, 71 shots, and five fights at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Wheeling erased an early 2-0 deficit by scoring four straight goals, including a hat trick by Brandon Hawkins. However, the Komets also had a comeback in them, as they tied the game late, then skated away with a 5-4 overtime victory on Shane Bennett's goal.
The Komets were quick to get onto the scoreboard, as they lit the lamp just 1:20 into the contest. Alan Lyszczarczyk poked the puck to the left face-off dot for Shawn Szydlowski, who roofed a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the cage. Fort Wayne added to its lead later in the stanza. Connor Sanvido skated the puck into the left side of the offensive zone on a 2-on-1, and proceeded to snap a shot into the left side of the net.
Wheeling's performance got stronger as the game went along, and with less than four minutes left in the middle frame, it broke through. Brandon Hawkins shuffled his way over the middle of the blueline, deked to his right, then sent a laser into the bottom-right corner of the goal for a shorthanded marker.
Both teams saw their offenses explode in the third period, combining for five goals. The Nailers had a hot start to the stanza, rifling home three tallies in a span of 4:23 to build a two-goal advantage. Yushiroh Hirano tipped in Blake Siebenaler's left circle wrist shot, then Hawkins buried a pair of shots from the left side of the ice, notching a hat trick. The Komets battled back to force extra hockey, as Shawn Szydlowski slid in a power play goal from the blueline, before Max Gottlieb flipped in a shot from the slot in the final minute of regulation.
Fort Wayne ended up prevailing in the new seven-minute overtime session, as Shane Bennett powered his way in on the right side, ramping in the deciding goal for a 5-4 Komets win.
Dylan Ferguson got the win for Fort Wayne, making 26 saves on 30 shots. Andrew D'Agostini had a busy evening for Wheeling, turning away 36 of the 41 shots he faced in the overtime defeat.
The Nailers and Komets will meet again on Saturday at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, with face-off scheduled for 7:35. Wheeling will open its 28th regular season with a road clash against the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday, October 12th at 7:35. The home opener will be Saturday, October 19th at 7:05 against the Indy Fuel. 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, partial plans, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.