Hirano’s Hat Trick Lifts Cyclones in Emotional Contest

Sports

CINCINNATI, OH- The Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones have played some wild and spirited games this season. On Wednesday night at Heritage Bank Center, the two teams combined for 11 goals and plenty of dislike. In the end, former Nailer Yushiroh Hirano was the difference maker, as his two goals in the third period completed a hat trick and turned a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 win for his squad. Wheeling got goals from five different players, including the firsts of the year for Matt Foley, Adam Smith, and Brandon Saigeon.

The first period got off to a good start for the Nailers, but had a frustrating finish, as Cincinnati came back with three straight goals. Wheeling’s opening marker came at the 6:07 mark. Nick Hutchison plated a perfect pass to the top of the crease, where Matt Foley drove in to redirect the puck into the net. After a fight between Cam Hausinger and Dajon Mingo, the Cyclones tied things up. Louie Caporusso spotted Matt Cairns slipping in the backdoor, and Cairns finished the play on the left side of the ice. Cincinnati then tallied twice in a span of 32 seconds later in the stanza. Lincoln Griffin took advantage of traffic in the crease with his right circle wrist shot, and Yushiroh Hirano followed by tipping in a turnaround shot from Caporusso.

The middle frame was a completely different story, as Wheeling dominated with three goals on 19 shots. Adam Smith brought the visitors within one at the 5:24 mark, when he hustled in to squeeze home the rebound of Shaw Boomhower’s long distance wrister. The Nailers continued to push, and with 5:54 left, they broke through for the equalizer. Chris Ortiz’s left point slap shot set off an array of chances, with Brandon Saigeon eventually cashing in by lofting a shot over the sprawled out netminder. 1:19 later, Wheeling took the lead. Cam Hough’s shot during a delayed penalty was stopped, but Hutchison crashed the crease to push the rebound in over the goal line.

The two sides exchanged goals 11 seconds apart at the start of the third. Caporusso banged in a loose puck on the right side to tie the score, before Shaw Boomhower regained Wheeling’s lead by following up a blocked shot in the slot. Unfortunately, the game turned away from the Nailers around the midway mark of the stanza, when they were whistled for back-to-back penalties. Hirano cashed in on both power plays, ripping a pair of shots into the top-right corner of the cage. Wheeling literally and figuratively fought to the finish, but came up short in a 6-5 decision.

Cole Kehler got the win for the Cyclones, as he made 31 saves on 36 shots. Stefanos Lekkas suffered his first regulation defeat in a Wheeling uniform, despite turning away 32 of the 38 shots he faced.

The Nailers and Cyclones will meet up again on Saturday night at WesBanco Arena.

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