FORT WAYNE, IN- After offense was the story of the night in the preseason opener, defense and goaltending stole the show on Sunday afternoon, as the Wheeling Nailers and Fort Wayne Komets shifted venues to Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. All three goals in the tilt were scored in the first period, as the Nailers got tallies from Aaron Aragon and Bobby Hampton to edge Fort Wayne, 2-1. Mario Culina and Tristan Côté-Cazenave took care of business from there, as they thwarted 30 of 31 Komets shots.
The first period saw a bit of a rare occurrence, as all three goals that were scored were unassisted. The first two markers went Wheeling's way, starting at the 2:43 mark. Aaron Aragon battled the puck free on the left side of the ice, then drove in toward the net. Aragon had his first shot stopped, but wasn't about to go away empty-handed, as he banged in his own rebound. Midway through the frame, the Nailers added to their advantage with a shorthanded strike. Bobby Hampton made the steal in center ice, then cruised in on the left side of the ice with Eetu Selänne on a 2-on1 break. Selänne's presence opened up the ice for Hampton, who swerved to his right, and swung his shot into the bottom-right corner of the cage. Fort Wayne got a goal back 16 seconds after a successful penalty kill, as Anthony Petruzzelli broke away from his defensive blueline and snapped a shot into the left side of the goal.
The rest of the afternoon belonged to the goaltenders, as Wheeling's Mario Culina and Tristan Côté-Cazenave and Fort Wayne's Colton Point were perfect in the final two stanzas, as the contest ended with a 2-1 score in favor of the Nailers.
Former Komet Mario Culina got the win for Wheeling, as he stopped 13 of the 14 shots he faced. Tristan Côté-Cazenave denied all 17 shots sent his way in relief. Colton Point came away with 18 saves on 20 shots for the Komets.
The Nailers will open the 2022-23 regular season on Saturday night, when they play host to the Toledo Walleye at 7:10. The ZOOperstars will be performing their hilarious show that families are sure to enjoy throughout the night, with characters such as Squidney Crosby and Mario Lemule. Season memberships, Big 6 ticket plans, and single game tickets are available for the 2022-23 season by visiting wheelingnailers.com or 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.