ORLANDO, FL- The Wheeling Nailers and Orlando Solar Bears were locked in a tight battle for two periods at Amway Center on Friday night. Unfortunately, the third period went to the team from the south, as the Solar Bears snapped a 2-2 tie with four goals, including Dylan Fitze's second and third of the night, as Orlando defeated Wheeling, 6-2. Justin Almeida and Tim Doherty were the goal scorers for the Nailers.
After feeling each other out in the opening few minutes, the two teams exchanged goals in the back half of the first period. Wheeling struck first at the 14:36 mark, when Justin Almeida took a lead pass from David Drake, then flew up the ice to rip a shot into the top-left corner of the net. The Solar Bears answered with a late power play strike. Tristan Langan's pass deflected off a Nailer into the right side of the slot, where it was chipped in by Dylan Fitze.
The middle frame followed a similar script to the first, but in reverse order. Orlando potted its second of the night on the man advantage, as Odeen Tufto's shot produced a rebound, which was stashed in by Tyler Bird from the slot. The Nailers responded in shorthanded fashion. Josh Maniscalco hurdled his way out of his own zone to create the chance, as he zipped a shot on net from the right circle. Although the initial try was stopped, a juicy rebound squirted out to Tim Doherty, who slammed it home from the left side.
With the score tied at the start of the third, the next goal was going to be a big one, and that goal went to the Solar Bears, as Fitze connected for his second of the night by punching in a shot from the slot. Just seconds after the final media timeout, Orlando upped its lead, when Odeen Tufto took a feed from Tristan Langan, and wired a shot into the left side of the goal. Wheeling thought it got one back moments later, thanks to Josh Maniscalco, but the marker was wiped off the board due to goaltender interference. The Solar Bears took advantage with two goals in the closing minute, as Michael Brodzinski got an empty netter and Fitze completed his hat trick for the 6-2 result.
Amir Miftakhov got the win for Orlando, as he made 28 saves on 30 shots. Stefanos Lekkas suffered the defeat, as he stopped 23 of the 28 shots he faced.
The Nailers and Solar Bears have two more games on the docket this weekend at Amway Center, as they will play Saturday at 7:00 and Sunday at 3:00. Wheeling's next homestand is a three-game weekend on January 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. Friday is a Frosty Friday against Kalamazoo at 7:10, Saturday is First Responders Night against Iowa at 7:10, then Sunday will feature a post game skate with even-numbered players, following the 4:10 tilt against Iowa. Season memberships, single game tickets, and partial packages 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.