TOLEDO, OH- The top two teams in the ECHL's Central Division locked horns on Wednesday night at Huntington Center, and it took until the final five minutes to decide a winner. Unfortunately for the visiting Wheeling Nailers, the two points went to the host Toledo Walleye, as Matt Berry scored from the left circle with 4:49 remaining and Brett Boeing added an empty netter for a 5-3 result. Sean Josling, Josh Maniscalco, and Jesse Lees were the goal scorers for Wheeling.
The first period was wide open, as both teams found the back of the net twice. The Nailers struck first at the 3:40 mark on the power play. Justin Almeida and Sam Houde entered into the offensive zone on the rush, then fed Sean Josling, who dragged the puck around a defender and whipped a shot into the bottom of the goal. Toledo drew even at the 10:16 mark. Brandon Hawkins had his one-time drive robbed by Louis-Philip Guindon, but the rebound got sent right to Ryan Lowney, who put an open shot into the top-right corner of the cage. Jared Cockrell gave Wheeling another lead with 3:02 remaining, when he tipped in Josh Maniscalco's point shot, but the Walleye answered on the man advantage, when Randy Gazzola swept in a wrist shot from the high slot.
The tight tilt continued in the middle frame, as the two sides lit the lamp once each. Toledo took the lead on the power play at the 5:40 mark, when TJ Hensick's left circle shot dribbled into the crease, where it was whacked into the net by John Albert. The Nailers brought things back to even with 5:02 to go, when Jesse Lees drove his way into the slot, and blistered a wrist shot through goaltender Kaden Fulcher.
With under five minutes left, the Walleye snapped the deadlock. Gazzola shuffled the puck to Matt Berry, who whizzed in a wrist shot from the left circle. Brett Boeing lunged to poke in an empty netter and put the finishing touches on the 5-3 Toledo win.
Kaden Fulcher got the victory in goal for the Walleye, as he made 23 saves on 26 shots. Louis-Philip Guindon turned in a great performance for Wheeling, as he thwarted 37 of the 41 shots he faced, but ended up with the defeat.
The Nailers will play one more game this week, as they will visit the Reading Royals on Saturday at 7:00. Wheeling will then play three home games next week. Wednesday, March 9th is a 7:10 start time against Toledo, then Reading comes in for a pair on Saturday, March 12th at 7:10 and Sunday, March 13th at 4:10. March 13th is Pups & Pucks, in which fans get to bring their dogs to the game, and there will be a dog treat giveaway. The next big promotional night is Throwback Night on March 25th, starring Paul Bissonnette and Louis Dumont. 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.