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Series Opener Goes to Indy, 5-2

Friday, April 19th
Series Opener Goes to Indy, 5-2

INDIANAPOLIS, IN- The Wheeling Nailers began their 2024 Kelly Cup Playoff journey on Friday night, as they opened a best-of-seven series against the Indy Fuel. After tying for the season series lead with seven goals, Indy's Kyle Maksimovich played a big role in his team's success in game one, as he recorded two goals and an assist. The Fuel scored twice in a 57-second span during the second period to take a two-goal lead, and ultimately went on to the 5-2 victory at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

The series started with a bang, as the two teams who played 11 times in the regular season were plenty ready to distribute the hatred. Gloves hit the ice just 3:57 into the match, as Justin Lee challenged Brett Bulmer, following a collision between Lee and Kale Howarth along the glass. Some more physicality led to the opening goal, as the Fuel capitalized on the man advantage. Zach Jordan carried the puck down the middle of the offensive zone and attempted to force his way to the goal. Kyle Maksimovich followed his teammate, and batted a loose puck in for the tally.

Wheeling netted its first goal of the postseason at the 1:21 mark of the middle frame. Tanner Laderoute swung a pass off of the right boards to Davis Bunz, who stepped into a slap shot and wired it into the top-left corner of the cage. Indy regained its lead at the 5:07 mark. Bryan Lemos stole a Nailers pass and broke into the right circle, where he zipped a wrist shot into the bottom-left corner of the net. 57 seconds later, Maksimovich struck for a second time. Colin Bilek launched a pass into center ice, where Maksimovich batted it down to himself, then sped in and squeezed a shot into the left side of the goal. A second steal by Lemos led to a third goal in the stanza for the Fuel, as he sent Andrew Bellant in behind the defense on the right side. Bellant attempted to cut toward the goal, and ultimately dribbled a shot through Jaxon Castor's legs.

Both sides found the twine in the third period. Dillon Hamaliuk brought Wheeling within two at the 11:05 mark, when he slammed in a one-time feed from Jordan Martel in the bottom of the right circle. That marker came during a 4-on-3 power play. The Nailers got another man advantage later in the tilt, but Indy killed it off, and proceeded to add an insurance goal for the 5-2 final score, when Maksimovich delivered a one-time dish to Kale Howarth on the right side of the slot.

Mitchell Weeks picked up the win in goal for the Fuel, as he made 18 saves on 20 shots. Jaxon Castor turned away 26 of the 31 shots he faced in his playoff debut for the Nailers.

The Nailers and Fuel will play game two of their Central Division Semifinal Series in Indy on Saturday at 7:10. The series will then shift to WesBanco Arena for games three and four on Monday and Tuesday at 7:10. Monday's game will feature Fan Appreciation Night festivities, including the vacation giveaway to Put-in-Bay. To purchase tickets for the playoffs or for any questions or concerns about ticketing, please visit wheelingnailers.com or call (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.

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