READING, PA- The Wheeling Nailers took the ice with a unique lineup of seven forwards and nine defensemen on Saturday night, as they collided with the Reading Royals at Santander Arena. Despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Scarfo and Craig Skudalski, Wheeling was unable to hold off a second period surge by the Royals, who prevailed, 5-3 on their home ice.
The Nailers got off to a great start, as they lit the lamp twice during the opening period of play. The first goal came just 51 seconds into the stanza, as Matt Abt's right circle shot was tipped by Ryan Scarfo, who ended up depositing his own rebound into the cage. Then, after each squad spent time on the man advantage, Graham Knott fed Craig Skudalski, who powered in a shot from the top of the crease. Reading tallied with 2:57 remaining, when Rob Michel shifted behind the Wheeling defense, then reached the backhand side of his stick around Alex D'Orio's right pad to slide the puck in over the line.
The Royals had a strong surge to start the second period, as they pulled ahead with three goals in a span of 3:54. Hayden Hodgson knotted the game at the 6:36 mark, when he ripped in a wrist shot from the left circle. 1:06 later, Reading converted on a power play, as Eric Knodel set up Frank DiChiara for a one-timer from the right circle. The Royals then struck for a shorthanded marker, when Brayden Low broke down the left side on a 2-on-1, and lifted a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the cage.
With 5:41 left in regulation, the Nailers made a late push, pulling to within a goal. Alec Butcher rang a wrist shot off the crossbar, but the rebound pounded down to Graham Knott, who popped in an attempt from the left side. Unfortunately, a tying goal never materialized, and DiChiara's second of the night went into an empty twine, putting the finishing touches on Reading's 5-3 win.
Felix Sandstrom was the winning netminder for the Royals, as he made 25 saves on 28 shots. Alex D'Orio suffered the defeat for Wheeling, despite stopping 31 of the 35 shots he faced.
The Nailers will play another road game on Friday night, when they visit the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:35. Wheeling's next home game is Protect & Serve Night on Saturday, February 15th at 7:05 against the Fort Wayne Komets. In addition to honoring First Responders, there will be a trading card set giveaway and a full team autograph session after the game. The next Big Six Promotional Game is Pittsburgh Penguins Night on Saturday, February 29th, starring 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Max Talbot. Friends & Family Ticket Packages are available for all Saturday home games, which include four tickets, four Tito's Sloppy Doggs and a $10 voucher to the team shop for $52. 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.