WHEELING, WV- Wednesday night's third game of the Central Division Final wasn't looking good for the Wheeling Nailers when the midway mark of the contest arrived, as they trailed the Toledo Walleye, 5-1. Although Wheeling fell short, the home side made a terrific push at a comeback. Matt Alfaro recorded a goal and two assists, while Cam Hausinger scored twice. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to overtake TJ Hensick's hat trick, as the Walleye prevailed, 5-4 at WesBanco Arena to take a 3-0 series lead.
Toledo took advantage of some early opportunities on offensive zone draws, as it skated out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. The opening goal came 3:40 into the contest. Josh Dickinson grabbed the puck out of the right corner and turned toward the net, where he jammed a shot through the cluster of bodies. The second marker came nine seconds into a power play, as TJ Hensick let a wrist shot go from the top of the right circle, and placed his attempt a few inches off of the ice on the left side of the cage.
The middle frame was wide open, as both teams turned on the red light three times. Cam Hausinger temporarily brought the Nailers within one, when he roofed a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle. The Walleye then rattled off three straight in a span of 3:44. Hensick completed his hat trick with back-to-back strikes, as he skated onto a Brandon Hawkins pass to deposit his second from the right circle, then tipped in Cam Clarke's point drive for his third. Patrick Curry followed that up by burying a one-timer on a 2-on-1 rush with Mitchell Heard. Wheeling began to rally in the closing six minutes, as it closed the gap to two. Matt Alfaro had a terrific individual effort at the 14:16 mark, as he danced through the Toledo defense on his way to shoveling a shot into the left side of the goal. 1:59 later, Alfaro helped set up the next marker, as he spotted Hausinger, who converted a power play chance from the right side.
The Nailers got one step closer to a tie game with 6:57 remaining in the third period. Sean Josling tossed in a long wrist shot, which squeezed through Billy Christopoulos to make the score 5-4 in favor of the Walleye. Despite a power play and some 6-on-5 time at the end, Wheeling was unable to get an equalizer to materialize, as 5-4 was the final score.
Billy Christopoulos got the win in goal for Toledo, as he made 21 saves on 25 shots. Louis-Philip Guindon took the loss for the Nailers, as he allowed five goals on 16 shots, before giving way to Mitchell Weeks, who was perfect on 16 shots in relief.
The Nailers and Walleye will play game four of their Central Division Final Series at WesBanco Arena on Thursday at 7:10, followed by game five (if nescessary) on Saturday at 7:10. The Nailers want you to join #NailersArmy and get your playoff tickets now by visiting wheelingnailers.com or 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.