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Nailers Solve Komets on the Road, 4-3

Saturday, March 9th
Nailers Solve Komets on the Road, 4-3

FORT WAYNE, IN- The Wheeling Nailers saved their best performance at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for their final visit of the 2023-24 regular season. Wheeling earned two huge points on Saturday night, as it overcame three separate one-goal deficits to silence a crowd of 9,499 fans. The key part of the game was the beginning of the second period, when Evan Vierling tied the score, then Justin McRae delivered the game winner with his first professional goal 64 seconds later. Taylor Gauthier's 30 saves made the 4-3 score hold up for the win.

After Friday's defensive battle, the script got flipped early on Saturday, as the two teams combined for five goals in the first period. Fort Wayne struck first during a two-man advantage. Connor Corcoran clobbered a shot wide from the blueline, but the rebound exploded out to Xavier Cormier, who dunked it into the right side of the cage. The Nailers tied the score 2:17 later. Matt Koopman forced a turnover at his own blueline, and created a 2-on-1 rush in the other direction. Koopman kept the puck to himself in the right circle, and whipped a shot through Ryan Fanti's legs. The Komets regained the lead at the 9:33 mark. David Jankowski got tripped up at the offensive blueline, but play was allowed to continue. The result was Jake Chiasson swiping in a loose puck in the low slot. Wheeling did receive a power play a few minutes later, and cashed in, thanks to Isaac Belliveau. The rookie blueliner backpedaled from his left to his right, then faked a shot, before delivering a wrist shot off the bottom of the left post and in. With 2:38 to go, Xavier Bernard gave Fort Wayne its third lead of the stanza with a seeing-eye wrist shot from the left point.

The start of the middle frame belonged to the Nailers, who flipped their 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead in a matter of less than three minutes. At the 1:30 mark, Evan Vierling stole the puck from Corcoran, and created a breakaway for himself. Vierling made a quick stickhandle, then zipped a shot into the left side of the twine. 1:04 later, Wheeling took its first lead of the night. Justin Lee let a shot go from the middle of the blueline, and got a deflection from Justin McRae just outside of the crease for the first goal of his professional career. That marker also chased Ryan Fanti from the Komets crease.

Although there wasn't any scoring in the final 37 minutes of the contest, there were plenty of chances. However, the Nailers were bound and determined to make sure that they took a regulation win home with them, and that's exactly what they did, as they were victorious, 4-3.

Taylor Gauthier earned his league-leading 22nd win of the season for Wheeling, as he stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced, including all 21 in the second and third periods. Ryan Fanti gave up four goals on 14 shots and received the loss for Fort Wayne, before giving way to Tyler Parks, who was 15-for-15 in relief.

The next stop on the road journey for the Nailers is Coralville, Iowa, where they will play three straight games against the Heartlanders on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with Wednesday's opener starting at 7:35. Wheeling's next home game is Education Day against the Indy Fuel on March 19th at 10:45 a.m. That will be the first of four straight home contests for the Nailers, which will also feature the next Big Six Promotional Game - Wizards & Wands on March 23rd. The first 2,500 fans at Wizards & Wands will receive a free wizard wand. There will also be acceptance letters to Wizarding School, specialty jerseys, Butter Beer, Quidditch, and more. 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.

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