GREENVILLE, S.C. - Special teams have been a deciding factor in the 2013-14 season for the Wheeling Nailers, and Friday night, they decided the game in a positive way. With the score tied at 2-2 entering the third period, the Nailers scored twice shorthanded and once on the power play, while posting a 4-for-4 effort on the penalty kill. Max MacKay celebrated his 23rd birthday, while Mike Condon made 37 saves in a 5-2 Wheeling victory against the Greenville Road Warriors at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
At the 4:09 mark of the opening period, the Nailers struck first. Drew Schiestel launched a pass through neutral ice for Sahir Gill at the offensive blueline. Gill worked his way in against the defense, before feeding MacKay in the left circle. MacKay proceeded to rip a wrist shot into the left side of the goal.
Greenville answered 2:46 later, when Marc-Olivier Vallerand scored on the rebound of his initial shot from the top of the right circle. Later in the period, Wheeling regained the lead. Chaz Johnson and MacKay won a puck battle in the right corner, with MacKay ultimately dancing his way to the front of the net, before slipping a backhander around Jeff Malcolm's right pad for a 2-1 lead after one.
With 5:47 to go in the second period, the Road Warriors pulled even. Sam Klassen sent the puck ahead to Vallerand, who sped up the left side of the ice, getting a step on the Wheeling defense. When he went to the net, Vallerand left the puck off on his left side, lifting it into the goal for the equalizer.
In the third period, the Nailers turned up their special teams and took the lead at the 4:25 mark, while playing shorthanded. Shane Bakker chipped the puck up the left wing wall for Johnson, who flew past the Greenville defense and onto a breakaway. Once he was in alone, Johnson kept the puck on his forehand, beating Malcolm high on the glove side.
With 2:57 left, the Wheeling power play got on the board, doubling the lead. Mike Ratchuk faked a slap shot from high in the slot, then connected with Jacob Lagace, who blasted home his own slap shot from the right circle. Cody Sylvester tacked on a shorthanded, empty-net marker with 58.1 seconds remaining, clinching the 5-2 triumph.
Condon turned aside 37 of the 39 shots he faced. Malcolm was the losing goaltender after surrendering four goals on 34 shots.
The Nailers and Road Warriors will do battle again at 7 tonight in Greenville. Wheeling's next home game takes place at 3 p.m. on Jan. 26 against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Wheeling2 0 3 - 5
Greenville1 1 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Wheeling, MacKay 7 (Gill, Schiestel), 4:09. 2, Greenville, Vallerand 10 (Johnston, Isaacs), 6:55. 3, Wheeling, MacKay 8 (Johnson, Stevenson), 16:47. Penalties-Ratchuk Whl (slashing ), 11:09; Sylvester Whl (slashing ), 13:40.
2nd Period-4, Greenville, Vallerand 11 (Noreau, Klassen), 14:13. Penalties-Marcou Grn (tripping), 9:19; Grassi Whl (roughing), 18:18; Cameron Grn (roughing), 18:18.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Johnson 6 (Bakker), 4:25 (SH). 6, Wheeling, Lagace 5 (Ratchuk), 17:03 (PP). 7, Wheeling, Sylvester 6 (Grassi), 19:01 (SH EN). Penalties-Cianfrini Whl (boarding), 2:29; Cole Grn (slashing ), 5:35; Hosmer Grn (delay of game), 15:41; Ratchuk Whl (high-sticking), 17:32.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 6-16-13-35. Greenville 11-13-15-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Wheeling 1-3; Greenville 0-4.
Goalies-Wheeling, Condon 11-7-0-4 (39 shots-37 saves). Greenville, Malcolm 6-4-0-1 (34 shots-30 saves).
Referee-Tyler Puddifant (28); Linesmen-Sean D'Loughy (45), Scott Senger (56).