WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers had a difficult start to their return to the ice on Saturday night, but showed some positive signs at the end. Unfortunately, a three-goal deficit was too large to overcome, as the Nailers fell 5-4 to the Indy Fuel at WesBanco Arena. Austin Fyten scored twice in his Wheeling debut, while Joshua Winquist also tallied in his first game as a Nailer.
The Nailers' first game in 21 days featured some tough sledding in the opening period. Indy opened things up with two goals in the first three minutes of play, with both coming from the same player. Nic Pierog drove into the left circle and buried a wrist shot at the 1:43 mark, then roofed a shot from the right side on the power play at 2:47. With 2:11 left in the stanza, Peter Krieger added to the lead for the Fuel, as he flew down the ice from his own blueline to the top of the crease, where he faked to his backhand and slipped a shot inside of the right post.
Both teams lit the lamp twice in the middle frame. Wheeling got on the scoreboard with a power play marker at the 4:47 mark. Matt Alfaro found Austin Fyten with a perfect pass through the slot, and Fyten converted with a wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle. Joe Sullivan regained the three-goal advantage for Indy with a power play goal at the 10:11 mark, as he snapped in a cross-ice pass from David Broll. Aaron Thow's wrist shot from the left point two seconds after a penalty had expired gave the Nailers their second tally of the evening, before Sullivan setup Michael McNicholas in the slot for a 5-2 score at the end of two.
Wheeling put together a strong effort to come back in the third period and was able to pull within one. Fyten notched his second of the night off of a quick passing exchange with Hayden Hodgson, then 1:14 later, Joshua Winquist tipped in Patrick Watling's shot for his first goal in a Nailers uniform. Unfortunately, a tying goal wasn't in the cards, as the Fuel collected their 11th one-goal win of the season, 5-4.
Billy Christopoulos picked up the victory for Indy, as he made 17 saves on 21 shots. Brandon Halverson suffered the loss for Wheeling, as he surrendered five goals on 18 shots.
The Nailers and Fuel will travel to Indy for a Sunday re-match at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, beginning at 3:05. Wheeling will then play five consecutive home games, first tangling with the Tulsa Oilers on February 4th and 5th, then welcoming in the Fort Wayne Komets on February 12th and 13th, before finally concluding with the Fuel on February 14th. A limited number of tickets are available for those games, and season memberships and flex packs are also available. 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.