GREENVILLE, SC- Overtime hadn't been too friendly to the Wheeling Nailers to start the 2020-21 season, but on Wednesday night, things turned in the other direction. Wheeling got a two-man advantage in the bonus period and made it pay off, as Matt Alfaro finished off the rebound of his initial shot to lift the Nailers to a 5-4 victory over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
The Swamp Rabbits got on the board first with a fortunate bounce, but Wheeling rebounded well and took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room. On the Greenville strike, Matt Wedman tossed a puck into the slot, where it bounced off of a Nailers player and trickled into the goal. Wheeing tied things up at the 11:55 mark, as Cody Sylvester crossed into the slot and launched a wrist shot past John Lethemon on his glove side. With 3:27 left in the frame, the Nailers took the lead with a shorthanded tally. Brady Tomlak poked the puck away at his own blueline, springing Lawton Courtnall on a breakaway. Courtnall faked to his backhand in order to shovel a shot into the top of the net.
The middle frame started with a back-and-forth stretch, which resulted in a 3-3 deadlock. Joey Haddad tied the game the first time for the Swamp Rabbits, as he wired in a one-time feed from Frank Hora in the right circle. Wheeling went back on top 1:36 later, as Ryan Scarfo drove to the front of the net to tap in the rebound of Patrick Watling's initial shot. Greenville's next equalizer came at the 9:47 mark, when Greg Meireles connected with Max Zimmer, who cruised into the slot to deposit the pass into the left side of the cage.
Two goals in a span of 23 seconds got things rolling at the start of the third period. Ryan Zuhlsdorf slid in a shot from the left point to briefly put the Swamp Rabbits ahead, before Sean Josling sniped a wrist shot from the right circle to square the score at four. Those were the lone goals of the stanza, as both teams went to overtime for the fourth time in eight games this season.
For the third time this year, special teams decided the result in the extra session, and this one went to the Nailers, who drew back-to-back penalties to create a 5-on-3. Josling dished a pass through the crease to Matt Alfaro, who had his first shot robbed, but was able to follow up and cash in on the rebound to give Wheeling the 5-4 triumph.
The Nailers will continue their week in South Carolina with a pair of games against the Stingrays on Friday at 7:05 and Saturday at 6:05. Wheeling's next home series will be played against South Carolina on January 22nd, 23rd, and 24th. The Friday and Saturday games begin at 7:10, while the Sunday start time is 4:10, and there are a limited number of tickets available. Season memberships are also available for the 2020-21 season. To purchase yours or to get more information, visit wheelingnailers.com or call (304) 234-GOAL. 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.The m