JACKSONVILLE, FL- Patrick Watling had a night to remember on Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. The Wheeling forward netted four goals and recorded five points, as the Nailers won a game that saw offense as hot as the Florida weather, 8-5.
Both teams found the back of the net in the opening stanza. The first team on the board was Jacksonville, who needed just 12 seconds of power play time to click. Trevor Hamilton slid the puck over to Nick Saracino, who flew a wrist shot past a screen and in from the right circle. The Nailers drew even with less than two minutes to go, off of an offensive zone face-off win. Jesse Lees let a wrist shot go from the top of the right circle, which zipped through Charles Williams' legs. Michael Prapavessis picked up an assist in his first game since being claimed by Wheeling.
The second period was a slugfest, which saw the Nailers light the lamp four times to Jacksonville's two. Cody Sylvester got the outburst started on the power play at the 1:37 mark, as he blazed in a one-timer from the inner edge of the left circle. Abbott Girduckis tied things up for the Icemen with a left circle wrist shot that clipped off of Taran Kozun's blocker. 1:24 later, Wheeling went back on top, courtesy of Patrick Watling's one-time dart from the right hashmark. Jacksonville pulled even less than three minutes after that, when Saracino setup Pascal Aquin for a power play tip in at the top of the crease. Nearly ten minutes went by without a goal, but the Nailers regained their lead with a 4-on-4 strike. Sean Josling took a huge hit to move the puck and got rewarded with an assist, as Adam Smith buried a pass from Matt Alfaro. Wheeling added one more before the buzzer, as Watling ramped in a redirection of Brady Tomlak's right circle wrister.
More scoring took place in the third period, leading to the largest offensive output of the year. Christopher Brown brought the Icemen within one at the 1:19 mark, when he roofed in a one-timer from the right side of the slot. The Nailers responded quickly with a two-man advantage goal, as Watling completed his hat trick by rifling in a shot from the right circle. Brown's second of the frame made the score 6-5 Wheeling, and a gigantic penalty kill with less than six minutes left kept it that way until the final two minutes of the game. Tomlak tossed in an empty netter with 1:50 to go, then Watling put the finishing touches on his sensational night with an empty netter of his own for his fourth goal, fifth point, and an 8-5 triumph.
Taran Kozun earned the win for the Nailers by making 33 saves on 38 shots. Charles Williams took the loss for Jacksonville, as he allowed six goals on 33 shots.
The Nailers and Icemen will wrap up their weekend series in Jacksonville on Sunday at 3:00. Wheeling's next home game is Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Saturday, May 15th against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:10. A limited number of tickets are available for Wheeling Nailers home 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.