Defenseman Mike Ratchuk has been as clutch as they come in the early goings of the season for the Wheeling Nailers. On Saturday night, he sent the fans home happy, netting his third game winning goal of the season and second in an overtime period, as the Nailers defeated the Reading Royals for the first time this season, 4-3. Wheeling now has points in 11 straight games, going 9-0-2 during that stretch.
The first period featured plenty of hitting and energy, but neither side was able to find the back of the net. That quickly changed at the 1:15 mark of the middle frame, when the Nailers struck first. Ryan Flanigan sprung Zack Torquato into the offensive zone on a breakaway. Torquato picked his spot, lifting his team-leading seventh goal of the season over Brandon Anderson's glove. Reading came back to tie the score at the 8:07 mark, when Louie Caporusso spotted TJ Syner on the right side of the crease. With 6:58 left to go, Wheeling jumped on top again, courtesy of a power play goal. Flanigan's initial shot was blocked, but the rebound kicked out to Barry Goers, who hesitated, before feeding Tyler Fernandez for a tap-in on the right side of the crease. The goal for Fernandez was his third in five games with the Nailers.
Wheeling maintained its lead in the beginning of the third period, before the teams went back-and-forth over the course of the final eight minutes. Ryan Cruthers knotted the score at two at the 12:10 mark for the Royals, when he tipped in Ryan Kavanagh's wrist shot from the right point. 2:21 later, the Nailers went back on top, when Mike Ratchuk's backhand bounced off of a few objects in the slot, before trickling over the goal line for a power play marker. However, Reading answered again 21 seconds later, as TJ Syner popped in a loose puck on the left side of the net.
The game progressed into overtime, and that's when Ratchuk provided the heroics. At the 1:59 mark, the blueliner skated to the left circle, before powering a slap shot into the top-right corner of the cage.
Mike Condon earned the victory in goal for Wheeling, making 24 saves on 27 shots. Brandon Anderson took the overtime loss for the Royals, turning away 28 of the 32 shots he faced.
The Nailers will continue their nine-game home stand on Saturday, when they play host to the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:00 p.m..