ORLANDO, FL- The Wheeling Nailers got off to a fantastic start on Saturday night, and that effort carried them through the night, as they evened the three-game series against the Orlando Solar Bears with a 5-2 victory at Kia Center. Jordan Frasca and Tanner Laderoute both tallied a goal and an assist, while Evan Vierling chipped in with three assists and Jaxon Castor made 25 saves.
The Nailers enjoyed a phenomenal first period, as they outshot Orlando, 12-2, while putting a pair of pucks past the netminder. The opening goal came at the 5:49 mark. Justin Lee let a wrist shot go from the top of the left circle into a maze of bodies. The puck bounced to Jordan Frasca at the top of the crease, where he quickly shifted to his backhand and slid in the marker. With less than ten seconds left in the stanza, Davis Bunz added to the lead. Bunz had his first shot from the right circle blockered away, but the rebound went straight back to him, and he changed his target, as he found the twine on the glove side.
Both teams lit the lamp once in the middle frame. The Solar Bears initially cut the Wheeling lead down to one on the man advantage. Marc-Andre Gaudet slithered a low wrist shot on goal from the right point, which was stopped. However, Brayden Low raked the rebound free, and sifted the puck under Jaxon Castor's right pad. The Nailers regained their two-goal edge 90 seconds later. Thimo Nickl fired the puck on goal from the right point, and was thwarted by Colten Ellis. The rebound popped up to the left side of the crease, where Tanner Laderoute whacked it home with his backhand.
Jordan Martel gave Wheeling some key insurance with 10:33 left, when he finished off a quick passing play from Evan Vierling and Frasca by slamming in a shot from the right side of the crease. The assist was Vierling's third of the night. Mitchell Hoelscher brought Orlando within two with a power play goal off of a rebound on the right side of the crease, before Matthew Quercia applied the final dagger in the 5-2 Nailers triumph with an empty netter.
Jaxon Castor earned his third consecutive win in goal for Wheeling, as he denied 25 of the 27 shots he faced. December's ECHL Goaltender of the Month Colten Ellis was handed just his second loss in his last 11 starts, as he allowed four goals on 32 shots.
The Nailers and Solar Bears will have Sunday off, before concluding their three-game series in Orlando on Monday at 7:00. Wheeling will then play three straight home games next weekend on January 12th, 13th, and 14th. The highlight game of that stretch is the next Big Six Promotional Night, which is Super Nailers World on the 13th. That game will feature a video game arcade in the main lobby, a hat giveaway, question mark boxes with various prizes, Nailers Kart during intermission, and specialty jerseys. 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.