4,754 fans piled their way into WesBanco Arena on Saturday night, and they were rewarded with a stellar effort by their hometown Wheeling Nailers. Riley Brace and Carter Rowney each had four-point games, including Brace with a hat trick, as the Nailers rolled over the Reading Royals, 6-3. Ben Shutron netted his first professional goal, while Franky Palazzese had 37 saves for his first career win.
The first period featured lots of action, as three goals were scored on 23 shots, while Patrick McGrath rung in the 2014-15 season by throwing down the gloves with Bryant Molle. The first marker of the campaign went to the Royals, when Sean Wiles and Pat Mullane connected on a 2-on-0 shorthanded break. Wiles dropped the puck to Mullane, who snapped in along the ice. Wheeling registered its first goal 2:28 later, temporarily tying the game. Sahir Gill slid a pass through the slot to David Gilbert, who slammed a one-timer into the right side of the cage. Reading regained the lead with under a minute remaining in the frame, when Olivier Labelle dribbled a loose puck over the line for a power play goal.
Labelle’s goal marked the last time that the Royals saw the lead, as the Nailers stormed back in the second. Carter Rowney evened the score with a power play tally at 4:08, as he whisked through the defense, before wristing a shot into the top-right corner of the net. Later in the period, Rowney help set up one of his teammates, giving Wheeling its first advantage of the season. Rowney slid a pass into the slot for Riley Brace, who patiently swung the puck to his backhand, splitting Connor Knapp’s legs. The duo of Rowney and Brace weren’t finished there, as the two teamed up for a shorthanded goal with 36 seconds left in the frame, as Brace ultimately finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Ben Shutron for a 4-2 lead after forty minutes.
Reading climbed to within a goal at the 15:34 mark of the third, as Brett Flemming capitalized on a Wheeling broken stick, roofing a shot from the slot. However, the Nailers answered 21 seconds later, as Shutron buried a wrist shot from the left circle, giving the home team a two-goal lead yet again. With 1:08 to go, Brace completed his hat trick, banging in an empty net goal from neutral ice for the 6-3 final score.
Franky Palazzese earned his first professional victory in goal for Wheeling, stopping 37 of the 40 shots he faced. Connor Knapp suffered the loss for Reading, surrendering five goals on 26 shots.
The Nailers will play their next three games on the road, starting on Friday night at 7:35, when they visit the Gwinnett Gladiators. Wheeling’s next home game takes place on November 1st at 7:35 against the Royals.