FORT WAYNE, IN- The Wheeling Nailers opened their 30th season on Saturday night with a seesaw battle against the Fort Wayne Komets at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Things were going well for approximately 25 minutes, as the Nailers built a 3-1 lead. However, the Komets rallied back and eventually pulled ahead with 7:24 remaining in the game, as they collected a 4-3 win on their home ice. Sean Josling led the offensive attack for Wheeling with a goal and an assist.
The first period of the season went well for the Nailers, who got things started with the first goal of the campaign. Nick Hutchison poked the puck away from a Fort Wayne player and broke all the way down the length of the ice, before sliding a backhander through goaltender Jiri Patera's legs for a shorthanded strike. The Komets got on the board with a power play marker later in the frame, when an errant clear deflected off of Stephen Harper and into the net. Wheeling rebounded to snag the lead back with just eight seconds left in the period, when Sean Josling redirected in a left point shot from Adam Smith.
The Nailers carried that momentum into the early stages of the middle stanza, as they increased their lead to two. Matt Alfaro swept a pass across to Patrick Watling, who blazed in a one-timer from the right circle. Fort Wayne came back with a pair of goals to draw even, getting both from Matthew Boudens. Boudens' first marker was a tip-in off of Will Graber's right point wrist shot. Then, his second tally was a breakaway, which he lifted into the top-left corner of the cage.
The teams battled tooth and nail in the third period, when it became clear that one goal would make the difference in the game. With 7:24 to go in regulation, it was the Komets who got that goal, as Oliver Cooper tipped in Marcus McIvor's right point shot, which was set up by an offensive zone face-off win by Stephen Harper. Fort Wayne won three key defensive zone face-offs in a row during the final minute of the contest, which helped them take the 4-3 score to the finish line.
Jiri Patera picked up the win in goal for the Komets, as he made 25 saves on 28 shots. Joe Murdaca turned aside 24 of the 28 shots he faced in his Wheeling debut, and was unfortunately saddled with the defeat.
The Nailers will continue their season-opening four game road trip on Wednesday night at 8:00, when they face the expansion Iowa Heartlanders for the first time ever. Wheeling's first home game is Saturday, November 6th at 7:10 against the Fort Wayne Komets. Season memberships, mini plans, and single game tickets are available, and fans can get more information by calling (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.