WHEELING, WV- Saturday night's game between the Wheeling Nailers and Iowa Heartlanders at WesBanco Arena went down to the wire, and there was a feeling that one break would determine a winner. With 2:37 left in the third period, Joe Widmar snapped a tied score, and Trevin Kozlowski made 35 saves, as Iowa defeated Wheeling, 4-2. Nick Hutchison and Patrick Watling both had a goal and an assist for the Nailers.
The first period was a spirited one, as the two teams combined for 42 penalty minutes, including a fight off the opening face-off between Josh Victor and Cole Stallard, as well as a bout in the final minute between Shaw Boomhower and Kaid Oliver. Unfortunately, a couple of goals were mixed in, and both were scored by the Heartlanders. The first tally came at the 5:37 mark, when Jack Billings chased down a dump-in and centered the puck to Jake Smith for the snipe from the low slot. With less than a minute to go, Iowa connected on a two-man advantage, as Jack Billings whipped in a wrist shot from the right circle.
Wheeling controlled the middle frame from start to finish by outshooting Iowa, 16-1, while trimming its deficit on the scoreboard down to one. The Nailers got their goal on the power play. Niclas Almari moved the puck to Patrick Watling, who let a one-timer go from the right circle. Nick Hutchison got a piece of the attempt to send it into the cage and extend his point streak to 16 games.
Early in the third period, Wheeling got a huge breakaway save from Stefanos Lekkas on Billings, then transitioned the other way for the tying goal. Hutchison tipped a pass to the left side of the slot for Watling, who drilled a shot inside the left post. The score stayed deadlocked until 2:33 remained, when Iowa capitalized on a fortuitous bounce. The Nailers coughed up the puck behind the goal, allowing Connor Graham to center a feed to Joe Widmar, who slammed in a shot from the left side. Ben Sokay finished off the 4-2 win for the Heartlanders with an empty netter.
Trevin Kozlowski played a big role in earning the victory for Iowa, as he stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Stefanos Lekkas suffered the defeat for Wheeling, despite making 19 saves on 22 shots.
The Nailers and Heartlanders will meet again at WesBanco Arena on Sunday at 4:10. Following the game, there will be a skate with even-numbered players. 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.