WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers had a terrific start to Saturday night's season opener, but unfortunately, the finish went the other direction. Wheeling jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Adam Smith, Carter Johnson, and Josh Maniscalco, before the Toledo Walleye rallied back with five straight tallies to spoil the party on Opening Night at WesBanco Arena and take a 5-3 decision.
The first period was exactly what the Nailers were hoping for, as they outshot Toledo, 11-5, while jumping out to a 2-0 lead. The opening marker of the campaign came just past the midway mark of the stanza. Adam Smith curled his way to the bottom of the right circle, then proceeded to roof a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the cage. Brooklyn Kalmikov and Cam Hausinger recorded the assists, with Kalmikov collecting the first point of his pro career. With less than a minute to go, Wheeling added to its advantage. Kalmikov's centering feed bounced off of Hausinger's skate and went straight to Carter Johnson, who immediately ripped a shot up and under the crossbar for the 7,000th goal in team history.
The Nailers put another one on the board in the early stages of the middle frame. Hausinger delivered a perfect pass through the top of the crease for Josh Maniscalco, who stepped up from the blueline and pounded in his first goal of the campaign. The Walleye began to come back as the second period progressed. Toledo netted its first goal of the night on the power play at the 10:59 mark, when Lukas Craggs wristed a shot through a pile of bodies from the top of the right circle. Gordi Myer followed with a remarkable goal, as he got the puck on his blade, and went with a lacrosse move, as he whipped the puck around and into the top of the net.
The Walleye carried their momentum from the second into the third, and quickly turned their deficit into a lead. 61 seconds into the stanza, Seth Barton evened the score, when he deposited the rebound of Gordie Green's initial chance off the rush. 1:15 later, Toledo took its first lead of the night, as Mitchell Heard flew into an opening on the right side of the slot, then twisted a wrist shot into the left side of the cage. With 6:05 remaining, Green tacked on a key insurance goal to create the 5-3 final score, as he redirected in a tape-to-tape pass from Ryan Lowney on the top-right edge of the crease. The Walleye recorded 25 of the contest's final 34 shots on goal, after Wheeling fired 16 of the first 21.
Sebastian Cossa collected the win for Toledo, as he made 22 saves on 25 shots. Tommy Nappier suffered the defeat for the Nailers, as he came away with 25 stops on the 30 shots he faced.
The Nailers and Walleye will meet again in Wheeling on Sunday at 4:10. The first post game skate of the season will take place on Sunday, as the odd-numbered players will be skating with the fans. The Nailers will also play a pair of home games next weekend, as they welcome Cincinnati to town on Friday for a Frosty Friday, followed by a Sunday tilt against Iowa, which will also feature a post game skate, in addition to a Halloween celebration. 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.