The Wheeling Nailers have had a flair for the dramatics this season, and on Saturday
night, the excitement level was at an ultimate high. Zack Torquato
netted the game tying goal with one second to go, earning the Nailers a
point, before the Florida Everblades took home the bonus point, scoring
on two of five shootout attempts. Florida's win was 5-4.
The Nailers drew first blood at the 4:21 mark of the opening period, forcing a turnover in their offensive zone. Chaz Johnson picked Brandon MacLean's pocket behind the goal, before centering a pass to Sahir Gill, who cashed in on a one-timer from low in the slot. Later in the period, the Everblades turned the game into their favor, capitalizing on a successful penalty kill. With 3:45 left in the frame, former Nailer Olivier Dame-Malka boomed home a slap shot from the left point. 2:35 later, Kyle Bonis finished off an end-to-end rush, deking to his left, before finding the back of the cage.
It took Wheeling just 37 seconds to tie the score in the second period. Carter Rowney finished a check behind the Florida net, freeing the puck for Zack Torquato in the right corner. Torquato centered a pass to Max MacKay, who lifted in a shot from the slot. With 4:28 remaining in the period, the Nailers took the lead, thanks to a power play goal. Rowney danced his way through the Everblades' defense, before setting up Tyler Fernandez, who tapped in his team-leading third power play tally of the campaign. With 44 seconds to go, Florida evened the score, also connecting on a power play, as Mathieu Roy redirected Jordan Henry's shot from the blueline.
The game remained tied at three until the final two minutes of the third period, when the two squads put on a back-and-forth show for the ages. Mike Merrifield gave the Everblades the lead with 1:58 to go, redirecting Kyle Bonis' centering pass through Mike Condon's legs. Then, with one second left, Zack Torquato earned the Nailers a point, when he banged a rebound through Trevor Cann's legs, sending the contest into overtime.
After a scoreless extra session, a shootout was necessary. Brandon MacLean opened the scoring in round one for Florida, before Mike Ratchuk drew Wheeling even in round three. Matthew Pistilli put the Everblades ahead in the fourth round, and unfortunately, Carter Rowney was unable to keep the game alive for the Nailers.
Trevor Cann got the win for Florida, making 24 saves on 28 shots, before stopping four of five shots in the shootout. Mike Condon took the shootout loss for Wheeling, despite a 26-save effort in the game.
The Nailers and Everblades will do battle again on Sunday at 3:00.