FORT WAYNE, IN- Offense was the name of the game during the weekend series between the Wheeling Nailers and Fort Wayne Komets, as the two Central Division rivals combined to score 20 goals in two games. However, the goaltenders rose to the occasion in Saturday night's shootout. Alex D'Orio and Cole Kehler combined to stop 19 of 22 shooters, with Brady Shaw's 11th round attempt found the twine, lifting Fort Wayne to the 6-5 home ice win. Brandon Hawkins and Christopher Brown both notched three points for the Nailers.
Fort Wayne applied a large dose of pressure in the opening stanza, outshooting the Nailers, 19-2, while taking a 2-1 lead into the dressing rooms. Wheeling got on the board first, converting on a play down the length of the ice. Lane Valimont led the puck out of the zone to Christopher Brown, who had a quick give-and-go with Alec Butcher, before snapping in a shot from the left face-off dot. The Komets drew even 3:28 later, when Connor Sanvido roofed a one-timer from the right circle. A little more than four minutes after that, Sanvido was robbed twice by Alex D'Orio, but Fort Wayne continued to press, and ultimately broke through, when Taylor Ross squeezed in a shot from the slot.
Less than a minute into period two, the Komets added to their advantage. Shawn Szydlowski led Brett McKenzie down the middle for a breakaway strike. However, the Nailers weren't rattled, as they drew even with two goals in less than two minutes. Cam Brown trimmed the deficit to one, when his pass bounced off of Ryan Scarfo, then went back to Brown, who swept home a shot from the right side. Moments later, Yushiroh Hirano used his speed to blaze past Olivier Galipeau, then faked out netminder Cole Kehler for his second tally in as many nights. Unfortunately, Fort Wayne regained the lead with a 4-on-3 goal in the final minute, when Olivier Galipeau blasted in a one-timer from the high slot.
Brandon Hawkins continued his phenomenal weekend by helping Wheeling erase two deficits in the third. His first marker came from the right circle on the power play, then his second was a missle from the right side. Even though there was still 14:37 remaining, that final goal forced overtime in a 5-5 deadlock.
The Nailers were forced to kill an early penalty in the extra session, and did so successfully, keeping the game moving along. It kept on moving along, all the way through an 11-round shootout, before the Komets finally decided the match with Brady Shaw's winning goal.
Cole Kehler made 17 saves on 21 shots in the game to get the win for Fort Wayne, while Stephen Dhillon stopped seven of the eight shots he faced as the starter. Alex D'Orio played the entire contest for Wheeling, turning aside 39 shots in regulation and overtime, then another ten in the shootout.
The Wheeling Nailers will begin the regular season on Saturday, October 12th, when they visit the Cincinnati Cyclones. The home opener is one week later on Saturday, October 19th, when the Indy Fuel visit WesBanco Arena at 7:05. Season tickets, partial plans, and group tickets are available now. 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.