The Wheeling Nailers will have to wait until the final day of the
regular season to find out where they will land in the Eastern
Conference Standings. On Friday night, Wheeling fell to the Cincinnati Cyclones, who scored twice in each period, picking up a 6-3 win at US Bank Arena.
Cincinnati got off to a quick start, scoring twice in the opening 3:34 of the contest. Josh Shalla was the first goal scorer of the evening, as he finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Jonathan Hazen, capitalizing off of a Wheeling turnover with a wrist shot from the left side of the slot. 50 seconds later, the Cyclones struck again. Dan Eves won an offensive zone face-off, before sliding a shot in from the bottom of the right circle. The Nailers got on the scoreboard at the 7:53 mark of the stanza. Denver Manderson centered the puck to Tom Kuhnhackl, who slammed in a shot from low in the slot. Derek Army also assisted on the goal, registering his first professional point.
Unfortunately for Wheeling, the middle frame began in similar fashion to the first. At the 2:22 mark, Josh Birkholz picked off a pass high in the defensive zone, sending himself on a breakaway, which he finished off with a wrist shot high on the glove side. 3:09 later, Cincinnati upped its lead, as Byron Froese won a draw back to Taylor Aronson, who flew in a wrist shot from the right point. For the second period in a row, the Nailers cut into the deficit, doing so on the power play. Dustin Stevenson fired a pass from his own zone to Sahir Gill at the offensive blueline. Gill waited for teammates to join the rush, then slipped a pass to Denver Manderson, who banged a shot off of the crossbar and in, making the score 4-2 Cyclones after two.
In an odd twist, the third period followed the exact path of the first and second. Cincinnati extended its lead with a power play goal at the 8:22 mark, as Andrew Blazek set up Jonathan Hazen, who ripped in a wrist shot from the left circle. Later in the stanza, Josh Shalla connected for his second tally of the evening, when he placed a shot inside of the left post. The Nailers recorded one more goal in the game for the 6-3 final score, as Derek Army powered in a one-timer for his first professional marker, set up by Tom Kuhnhackl's feed from behind the cage.
Magnus Hellberg took the win for the Cyclones, making 28 saves on 31 shots. Eric Hartzell ended up on the wrong side of the scoresheet for Wheeling, turning away 33 of the 39 shots he faced.
The Nailers and Cyclones will close out the regular season on Saturday night at 7:35 p.m. in Cincinnati, before both teams head to the playoffs. Wheeling's home playoff games will take place on April 23rd, 25th, and 26th (if necessary), all at 7:00 p.m. .