WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers and Norfolk Admirals gave the WesBanco Arena crowd a roller coaster of emotions in the final five minutes of Saturday night's weekend opener. Norfolk erased a two-goal deficit in a span of two minutes, before the Nailers rebounded with two goals in 40 seconds to earn a 5-3 victory on home ice. Lukas Svejkovsky and Cédric Desruisseaux were involved on both late game strikes for Wheeling, as Svejkovsky netted the winner, then Desruisseaux added the insurance. Jaxon Castor made 26 saves for his first career win.
The first ten minutes of the contest saw lots of great action, and the Nailers were able to build a 2-1 lead. Wheeling's first goal came at the 3:33 mark, when the puck was swung back to Isaac Belliveau at the left point. Belliveau swiped his wrist shot along the ice and into the left side of the cage. The Admirals temporarily tied the score 4:14 later, when Justin Robidas wired his snap shot off of the right post and in from the left face-off dot. The Nailers bounced right back to take the lead 1:14 after that. Matt Koopman won a battle for the puck on the left side of his own blueline, then forced his way down the left wall and into the offensive end, where he fed Jordan Martel for a wrist shot which rang off the crossbar and in.
Wheeling upped its advantage with a goal in the middle frame. Matthew Quercia worked the puck off the wall and into the left circle for Martel. Instead of shooting immediately, Martel patiently waited and delivered a pass to Davis Bunz, who crashed into the slot, and roofed a shot into the top-right corner of the twine.
The final five minutes featured some wild twists and turns, starting with back-to-back markers by Norfolk to pull even. Simon Kubicek's feed from the center point banked off of a body and went to Denis Smirnov, who potted a shot into the open left side of the goal. Two minutes later, Andrew McLean knotted the score, when he slipped in from the right point, and slid a shot inside of the left post. However, the tie only lasted for 31 seconds, as the Nailers regained the lead. Cédric Desruisseaux and Lukas Svejkovsky broke in on a 2-on-1 rush, with Desruisseaux delivering a pass through the slot to Svejkovsky, who chipped in the shot from the right side. 40 seconds after that, Svejkovsky returned the favor, as he sent Desruisseaux on a breakaway, which he converted with a backhander through the netminder's legs. That craziness gave the game its 5-3 final score.
Jaxon Castor earned his first professional win for Wheeling, as he stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced. Jimmy Poreda took the loss for the Admirals, as he allowed five goals on 31 shots.
The Nailers and Admirals will finish off the calendar year against each other on Sunday at 6:10 for a Kids New Year's Eve celebration. The night will feature an interactive light show, free sparkling grape juice, as well as New Year's hats and noisemakers. It will also be a Screen Time Sunday in which one lucky fan will win a new TV courtesy of Walmart, and $2 ice cream sundaes will be available at Flurry's. The next Big Six Promotional Game is Super Nailers World on Saturday, January 13th. Season memberships and other terrific ticket plans for the 2023-24 season are available now by 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.