WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers welcomed another great crowd to WesBanco Arena for Country Night on Saturday, as 3,259 fans came out to support the home town squad. Wheeling showed some great glimpses early with 2-0 and 4-2 leads, but just couldn't put the Fort Wayne Komets away. Fort Wayne scored three times in the third period, as Mark Rassell tied the match with a shorthanded goal, then Oliver Cooper scored the deciding goal with 12:47 left, as the Komets defeated the Nailers, 6-5. Cédric Desruisseaux potted a pair of goals for Wheeling, while Chris Ortiz had a three-point performance.
The first period featured some of everything, including six total goals, with four going the way of the home team. The Nailers came out with loads of energy and got their first two markers within the first five minutes. Brooklyn Kalmikov was first on the board, as he received a pass from Jordan Frasca, dangled his way through the bottom of the right circle, and shoveled a shot into the left side of the cage. 1:15 later, Cédric Desruisseaux finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Gianluca Esteves by chipping a shot into the top-right corner. Fort Wayne answered with two goals in a span of 1:11. Mark Rassell opened space for Shawn Boudrias wrist shot from the slot, then Matt Alvaro buried a one-time feed in front of the net, which came off of an Oliver Cooper pass. 1:47 after that, Wheeling regained its advantage. Chris Ortiz had all sorts of patience, as he handled the puck in the trapezoid. He eventually spotted Esteves, who slipped a shot along the ice and in from the middle of the zone. Desruisseaux netted his second of the contest on a 4-on-3 power play with 1:46 remaining, as he held the puck in the bottom of the left circle, and found an opening in the top-left corner, as he placed his shot into the top shelf.
The scoring subsided for the most part in the middle frame, as only one goal was scored, and that was by the Komets who pulled within one. Daniel Maggio let a wrist shot go from the right point, and the puck had eyes, as it sailed through traffic and into the twine for the power play marker.
The Nailers had multiple glorious opportunities to build on their lead, as they received three straight power plays, including one of the four-minute variety, which closed out the second and started the third. However, at the 2:06 mark of the final frame, Fort Wayne turned the tables, and tied the match with a shorthanded strike. Mark Rassell got a pass from Alvaro and flew into the slot, where he squeezed a backhander through Brad Barone's legs. The Komets took their first lead of the night 2:47 later. Marcus McIvor lofted a shot toward the goal from the left point, and got a deflection from Jacob Graves for the tally. Wheeling was able to answer that strike in quick fashion, as Chris Ortiz sizzled a shot into the top-left corner for a 5-5 score at the 6:15 mark of the stanza. It only took 58 seconds for Fort Wayne to go ahead again. Adam Brubacher slid a pass across the low slot for Oliver Cooper, who touched the puck in on the left side of the crease. The Nailers were unable to overcome that goal, and the Komets came out on top, 6-5.
Corbin Kaczperski settled down after a rocky start to collect the win for Fort Wayne, as he made 28 saves on 33 shots, which included a 21-for-22 effort over the last two periods. Brad Barone suffered the defeat for Wheeling, as he surrendered six goals on 29 shots.
The Nailers will play three games on the road next week, as they will visit the Norfolk Admirals on Wednesday and Friday at 7:05, then Saturday at 6:05. The next home game is Wheeling Hockey Hall of Fame Night on Friday, March 24th at 7:10 against the Kalamazoo Wings. Former Nailers Head Coach Peter Laviolette and former Thunderbird Brock Woods are the two inductees. That night is also a Frosty Friday. 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.