CINCINNATI, OH- Friday night's game between the Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones at Heritage Bank Center was centered around special teams. Wheeling outscored Cincinnati 3-2 when the teams played 5-on-5, but unfortunately, the Cyclones had a big say in other scenarios, as they came out on top in an 8-5 slugfest. Cincinnati's Zack Andrusiak became the fourth player to score a hat trick in the season series, while five different players lit the lamp for the Nailers.
The opening stanza was wide open, as both teams scored twice on 14 shots. The first two goals went to the Cyclones, who tallied during 4-on-4 play, then just seconds after a power play had ended. On the first marker, Wyatt Ege sent Zack Andrusiak flying in on the left side. Andrusiak made his way to the circle, before lifting a shot into the top-left corner of the net. 1:24 later, Matt McLeod touched in a feed from Jesse Schultz on the right side of the crease. Wheeling started its comeback with a power play strike at the 10:20 mark. Josh Maniscalco slid a pass to Patrick Watling, who clobbered a one-timer from the right circle. Just over three minutes later, the Nailers got the equalizer, when Bobby Hampton cruised across the slot, then shelved a wrist shot up under the crossbar.
Cam Hausinger gave Wheeling its first lead of the night with a backhand wraparound at the 2:08 mark of period two. However, the rest of the frame was anything but what the visitors envisioned, as Cincinnati netted five of the next six goals. Jesse Schultz had a puck bounce to him for an open left side shot to tie the match, then 50 seconds later, Gianluca Esteves whacked in a loose puck for a shorthanded tally. Sam Houde brought the Nailers within one with a rip from the top of the right circle, but the Cyclones fired back with two power play goals and another on a delayed penalty. McLeod redirected a centering pass from Ege during 6-on-5 play, then Andrusiak collected two on the man advantage - one on a one-timer from straight away, and another after speeding into the left circle.
The two sides exchanged goals 24 seconds apart in the third period, as Lincoln Griffin scored on a shorthanded breakaway for Cincinnati, and Brandon Saigeon tossed in a shot from the left circle on a Wheeling power play. The Cyclones prevailed, 8-5.
Michael Houser got the win in goal for Cincinnati, as he made 31 saves on 36 shots. Brady Claeys took the loss for the Nailers, as he allowed six goals on 21 shots, before giving way to Hayden Lavigne, who stopped 14 of 16 shots in relief.
The Nailers will return to WesBanco Arena for a two-game series against the Reading Royals on Saturday at 7:10 and Sunday at 4:10. Saturday is St. Baldrick's Night, as fans are invited to get their heads shaved to support childhood cancer research. Sunday is Pups & Pucks, when fans can bring their dogs to the game. That game will feature a Puppy Parade, a Dog Kerchief Giveaway, and a raffle of puppy paintings done by the players. 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.