INDIANAPOLIS, IN- The Wheeling Nailers were close, but unfortunately, not close enough on Friday night, as they opened their three-game road trip at Indiana Farmers Coliseum with a clash against the Indy Fuel. Chase Lang's power play goal at the 11:59 mark of the second period was the difference, as Indy edged Wheeling, 3-2, keeping the Nailers five points behind Fort Wayne for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Lane Gilliss netted his first career goal in his pro debut for Wheeling.
The Nailers played great for the majority of the first period, as they had a 1-0 lead with one minute remaining. However, two goals in ten seconds by Indy flipped the script, as the home team took a 2-1 advantage into the intermission. Wheeling got its goal with some terrific puck movement in the offensive zone. Davis Bunz tossed a shot on goal through traffic from the right point, which produced a rebound to the left circle. Lane Gilliss pounced on the loose puck and slammed in the goal - a great way to celebrate his pro debut. A power play strike got the Fuel on the board with 25 seconds left. Alex Wideman's attempt from the left side dribbled its way to the bottom of the right circle, where Max Golod powered a one-timer inside the right post. Ten seconds later, Logan Nijhoff dropped a pass to Andrew Bellant, who roofed a one-timer from the top of the right circle.
The deficit remained at one in the middle frame, as both squads converted on power plays. The Nailers pulled even at the 2:37 mark. Samuel Tremblay forced his way deep on the left side of the offensive zone, and although his first try didn't go in, he quickly moved the puck to Sean Josling, who threaded in a shot from along the left side of the goal line. Indy went back in front with 8:01 remaining. Spencer Watson sent a pass from circle to circle for Luc Brown, who let a shot go from the left side. Chase Lang had his first tip ring off the right post, but he continued to bang away at the loose change, and eventually got the puck to trickle in over the line.
Wheeling fought hard to try to find an equalizer in the third period, as the visitors held a 17-7 advantage in shots, and included 1:08 of 6-on-4 power play time at the end. The Fuel bent, but didn't break, and took the 3-2 final score into the win column.
Zach Driscoll earned the victory in goal for Indy, as he thwarted away 29 of the 31 shots he faced, including all 17 attempts in the third. Brad Barone made 24 saves on 27 shots in goal for the Nailers.
The Nailers will continue their three-game road weekend on Saturday at 7:35 against the Fort Wayne Komets, before making one final stop on Sunday at 5:15 against the Toledo Walleye. Wheeling will play a pair of home games next week. Education Day returns on Wednesday, March 8th at 10:45 a.m. against Toledo, and that game is sold out. Saturday, March 11th is Country Night at 7:10 against Fort Wayne, which features a live post game concert by Jonathan Moody. Ticket packages 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.