CORALVILLE, IA- The Wheeling Nailers left everything they had on the ice Saturday night, as they closed out the 2022-23 season against the Iowa Heartlanders at Xtream Arena. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to come away with a victory. Nick Nardella scored a hat trick for the Heartlanders, which included a tying and go-ahead goal 11 seconds apart in the second period, as Iowa defeated Wheeling, 4-2. David Jankowski and Brooklyn Kalmikov were the two goal scorers for the Nailers, as Jankowski finished the campaign with a five-game point streak.
Both teams found the twine in the first period, as the two goals came 3:25 apart from each other. Wheeling was first on the board at the 9:23 mark. Gianluca Esteves sent Cédric Desruisseaux blazing through center ice and into the offensive zone, where he got a shot off from the right side. Mitch Benson made the save, but the rebound kicked out to David Jankowski, who deposited the loose puck and extended his point streak to five in the process. The Heartlanders pulled even with a big bounce from their building. Jesse Jacques pounded a shot wide to the left, but the rebound went straight to Jake Durflinger, who dished a feed into the low slot, where Nick Nardella had himself a tap-in.
The Nailers regained the lead just after the midway mark of the middle frame, but a late surge gave Iowa the advantage when the buzzer sounded. Samuel Tremblay battled the puck in over the blueline, and proceeded to send Tanner Laderoute and Brooklyn Kalmikov in on a 2-on-1 break. Laderoute delivered a perfect pass through the slot, as Kalmikov slammed in his 23rd goal of the year. Nardella was the story of the final four minutes, as he scored twice in a span of 11 seconds to complete his hat trick and put the Heartlanders in the lead. The tying tally came off of a net mouth scramble, which was created by Clayton Phillips' initial shot, as Nardella tapped in a loose puck on the left side of the crease. On the go-ahead strike, Zach White won a face-off forward, and Nardella stepped into the bottom of the right circle, where he roofed a wrist shot up and under the crossbar.
Iowa played a strong defensive game in the third period, as it limited Wheeling to nine shots on goal. White collected the final goal of the year, as he wired a shot from his own left corner all the way down and into the empty net for a 4-2 score.
Mitch Benson picked up his second straight win for Iowa, as he made 26 saves on 28 shots. Oskar Autio played well in his debut for the Nailers, as he denied 25 of the 28 shots he faced in the defeat.
The Wheeling Nailers would like to thank everyone for all of their incredible support, as the 2022-23 season comes to an end. We are all extremely excited for season 32 to begin in the fall.