TOLEDO, OH- The Wheeling Nailers and Toledo Walleye gave the students lots of exciting action to watch during Toledo’s school day game on Wednesday morning at Huntington Center. The two teams lit the lamp ten times in regulation, then needed even more hockey to decide a winner, as the match progressed to a shootout. David Jankowski was the hero in the third round for the Nailers, as he scored the winning goal, in support of Michael McNiven, who stopped 31 shots during the game. Wheeling was victorious, 6-5. Dillon Hamaliuk, Tanner Laderoute, and Lukas Svejkovsky all had a goal and an assist for the Nailers, who are now tied with the Walleye for the top spot in the Central Division.
Two of the top-five offenses in the league flexed that muscle early, as both clubs put a pair of goals on the board in the first period. The first half of the stanza belonged to the Nailers, who struck twice in a span of 1:02. Matt Koopman won a face-off to Raivis Ansons on the right edge of the left circle, where he immediately roofed a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the net. Tanner Laderoute followed that goal by slamming in a centering pass from Dillon Hamaliuk during a delayed penalty. Brandon Hawkins started Toledo’s comeback with 5:19 remaining, when he waltzed into the slot, and fired a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the twine. Then, with 14.7 seconds to go, Grant Gabriele took a one-timer from the left circle, which squirted into the crease for Trenton Bliss to touch in over the line.
The goals kept on flying in during the middle frame, as four more pucks found the twice. Wheeling regained the lead at the 4:16 mark. Jarrett Lee whipped a pass through the slot to Bobby Hampton, who slammed in a one-timer from the left side of the crease. The Nailers added to their advantage with a pair of power play strikes. Lukas Svejkovsky wound his way into the right circle, where he whizzed a wrist shot past Jan Bednar’s glove. 3:08 later, Svejkovsky set up another one on the man advantage. This time, he sifted a pass to the top of the crease, where Hamaliuk deflected the feed into the cage. The Walleye got a goal back with 1:33 left, when Colin Theisen swatted in a loose puck in the right circle.
Wheeling was back on its heels for the majority of the third period, as Toledo held a 12-1 advantage in shots, and scored twice to tie the match. Chase Gresock pulled the Walleye to within one, when he wired in a one-timer from the left circle at the 8:45 mark. Then, with 34 seconds to go, Hawkins forced overtime, when he skimmed a shot along the ice and in from the top of the right circle.
Both teams had phenomenal chances to grab a win in the extra session, as each side received a power play. However, the penalty kills both stood tall, and the score remained deadlocked at 5-5, so a shootout was necessary to decide a victor. Neither side scored in the first two rounds. In round three, Toledo turned to Orrin Centazzo, who had his high shot denied. The Nailers went with David Jankowski, and that was the right decision, as he lifted a shot into the top-right corner for the 6-5 Wheeling win.
Michael McNiven earned his second triumph in a Nailers uniform, as he thwarted 31 of the 36 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, including a remarkable glove save on Brandon Hawkins in the second period. He then blocked away all three shootout attempts. Jan Bednar received the shootout loss for the Walleye, as he made 16 saves on 21 shots during the game, before a 2-for-3 effort in the shootout.
The Nailers will continue their road trip with a pair of games in the Hoosier State over the weekend, as they will visit the Indy Fuel on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and the Fort Wayne Komets on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.