ORLANDO, FL- Jared Cockrell had the most productive month of December for the Wheeling Nailers, and on Saturday night, he played a major role in lifting them to their first victory of January. Cockrell scored Wheeling's final three goals of the contest for his first career hat trick, while Stefanos Lekkas turned away 24 shots, as the Nailers defeated the Orlando Solar Bears, 4-1 at Amway Center.
The Nailers got off to a terrific start, as they established a physical start, while netting a pair of goals in the opening ten minutes. The first tally came at the 2:39 mark, when Tyler Drevitch feathered a pass to Félix Paré on the right side of the slot. Paré patiently waited Brad Barone down, before flipping a backhander over his right shoulder. Wheeling struck again at the 9:02 mark. Bobby Hampton's second backhand chance banked off of the left post, then landed in the crease, where it was smacked home by Jared Cockrell. Hunter Fejes got a goal back for Orlando on a power play with less than one minute remaining, when he chipped in the rebound of Odeen Tufto's left circle shot.
The one-goal lead remained until there was 5:30 left on the second period clock, when the Nailers got some insurance on the power play. Cockrell and Brandon Saigeon teamed up to force a turnover, and Saigeon immediately fed Cockrell in the low slot, where he was able to sweep a shot in along the ice.
Wheeling's penalty kill got put to the test in the final frame, but the team pushed through with four successful kills, en route to a 6-for-7 performance on the night. At that point, there was only one thing left to accomplish, and Cockrell did that, as he finished his hat trick in the last minute, putting a bow on a 4-1 Nailers triumph.
Stefanos Lekkas got the win in goal for Wheeling, as he denied 24 of the 25 shots he faced. Brad Barone took the loss for the Solar Bears, as he made 24 saves on 27 shots.
The Nailers and Solar Bears will conclude their weekend in Orlando on 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.