WHEELING, WV- If there's one thing everyone knows, it's that fans appreciate winning, and on Fan Appreciation Night, the Wheeling Nailers delivered. Matt Koopman, Sebastian Dirven, and David Jankowski all scored the first goals of their pro careers, as the Nailers closed out their home schedule with a 4-3 triumph over the Fort Wayne Komets. 76,140 fans came out to support their home team in season 31, which was an increase of over 16,000 fans from last year.
The Nailers had a superb start to their evening, as they pumped three pucks into the net in the first period. The first goal took just 1:28 to develop. Matt Koopman's initial shot whistled wide, but the rebound hopped out to Cédric Desruisseaux. His backhander rang off the crossbar, but that loose puck went to Koopman, who got rewarded as he popped in the first goal of his pro career. Another first came less than five minutes later. Peter DiLiberatore slipped a pass across the blueline for Sebastian Dirven, who drilled a one-timer along the ice and in from the right point. 38 seconds after that, Wheeling put another one on the board during a delayed penalty. Peter Laviolette laid a punishing check, which led to a retalation infraction by the Komets. However, the power play never happened, thanks to Tyler Drevitch, who flipped a backhander inside of the right post.
The 3-0 score came less than one second away from carrying all the way through the middle frame, but Fort Wayne got on the board with 0.9 on the clock. Garrett Van Wyhe centered the puck into the low slot, where Andy Willis scraped his first pro goal along the ice on the right side.
5:12 into the third period, the Nailers got an insurance goal at the time, but it turned out to be much larger. David Jankowski joined the parade of first career goals, when he rifled a wrist shot from the slot into the left side of the cage. The reason it became such a significant tally was because the Komets pulled within one, as they struck twice in a span of 14 seconds. Samuel Dove-McFalls powered in a one-timer from the high slot, then Anthony Petruzzelli shoveled a shot into the top-left corner. Wheeling made sure the score stayed that way to the finish line, as the home side was victorious, 4-3.
Brad Barone earned the win in goal for the Nailers for the second straight night, as he thwarted 32 of the 35 shots he faced. Rylan Parenteau took the loss for Fort Wayne, as he made 30 saves on 34 shots.
The Nailers will play their final three games of the 2022-23 season in Coralville, Iowa, as they will face the Heartlanders on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. All three contests will start at 8:05. 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.