Thunder Take Weekend Finale Thanks to 3rd Period Surge
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers had the Wichita Thunder right where they wanted them through two periods on Sunday afternoon at WesBanco Arena. Defeseman Matt Miller led the charge with two goals and an assist, as the Nailers had a 4-2 lead. However, the third period was all Wichita, as the visitors struck four times for a 6-4 comeback win. Anthony Beauregard had five points for the Thunder, giving him a league-leading 42.
The first period was wide open, as the two squads combined for four goals on 27 shots. Before they got to the scoring, the fans were treated to a fight off the opening face-off for the second time on the weekend, as Garet Hunt and Stefan Fournier threw down the gloves. The Nailers got on the board first, thanks to a pair of defensemen who connected low in the offensive zone. Patrick McNally hopped a pass to the top-right side of the crease, where Matt Miller had a slam dunk for the goal. Wichita answered on the power play, when Beau Starrett chipped in a bouncing puck in the slot. Austin Fyten helped Wheeling regain the lead for a brief moment, after Jacob Pritchard settled down a bouncing puck and set up his linemate on the right side. With under a minute to go, the Thunder made the score 2-2, as Jay Dickman finished off an odd-man rush with Anthony Beauregard and Fournier.
The Nailers dominated the middle frame, as they outshot Wichita, 18-1, while lighting the lamp twice. The go-ahead goal came while the team played shorthanded. Jacob Hayhurst flew from his own end all the way to the opposite side of the ice, before handing the puck off to Miller, who roofed a wrist shot from the left circle. Wheeling extended its lead right as a power play expired, as Joshua Winquist stole the puck and quickly turned his shot into the cage from the low slot.
As great as the second period was for the Nailers, the third period went the other direction. Wichita's comeback started with a two-man advantage goal, as Jay Dickman threaded a pass through the crease to Beauregard on the left side. The Thunder pulled even with less then ten minutes to go, as Beauregard's backhander sat in the crease where it was tucked in by Fournier. Fournier nearly put the visitors ahead, but the goal was disallowed due to a kick. However, with 2:08 remaining, Wichita did go ahead, as Dickman's cross-ice feed to Fournier went off of a Wheeling stick and in over the goal line. Beauregard added an empty netter to finish off the 6-4 Wichita decision.
Evan Weninger was the winning goaltender for the Thunder, as he made 31 saves on 35 shots. Taran Kozun turned away 27 of the 32 shots he faced in his debut for the Nailers.
The Nailers will spend the next week in Florida, as they will play a three-game series against the Everblades on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Wheeling's next home game is Thursday, April 1st against the Jacksonville Icemen at 7:10. A limited number of tickets are available for Wheeling Nailers home games, and season memberships and flex packs are also available. To purchase yours or to get more information, visit wheelingnailers.com or call (304) 234-GOAL. The Wheeling Nailers, considered one of the top things to do in Wheeling, West Virginia, provide affordable family entertainment for fans throughout the Ohio Valley.