CORALVILLE, IA- It was a wild game for two periods on Wednesday night, but the Wheeling Nailers were able to flex their offensive muscle early and defend the lead late. Matthew Quercia snapped a 4-4 tie in the middle frame with his second goal of the night, then Sam Houde added an insurance tally, as the Nailers defeated the Iowa Heartlanders, 6-4 at Xtream Arena, in order to maintain their positioning on the inside of the Central Division Playoff Race.
The Nailers were in full control of the first 17 minutes of the opening stanza, before a late Iowa comeback sent the teams into the intermission deadlocked, 2-2. Wheeling got on the board first at the 3:36 mark. Josh Maniscalco drove his way toward the net, then slid the puck off to the left side, where Justin Almeida sifted a shot through goaltender Corbin Kaczperski. Patrick Watling added to the lead less than five minutes later on a play that he started with a terrific backcheck at his own blueline. The defensive breakup led to a 2-on-1 rush with Watling and Sam Houde, in which Houde plated a one-timer for Watling on the right side of the slot. The Heartlanders got life with 2:31 remaining, when Jake Bennett tossed in a seeing-eyed wrist shot at the start of a power play. Then, with less than 30 seconds left, Bennett sent another wrist shot toward the goal, which got tipped in by Zach White.
Even more goals flew in during the middle frame. Wheeling regained the lead at the 3:05 mark, when Matthew Quercia backhanded in the rebound of Cédric Desruisseaux's initial attempt, which had rang off the crossbar. Iowa pulled even, when Ryan Kuffner swatted in the rebound of Fedor Gordeev's right point wrist shot, then went ahead for the first time 1:09 later, when Josh Koepplinger rifled in a cross-crease feed from Kris Bennett on the man advantage. The Nailers bounced back to tie the game with a power play goal of their own. Sean Josling and Cédric Desruisseaux battled the puck to the front of the net, where a shot was smacked in by Tim Doherty. 3:05 later, Wheeling maneuvered its way back on top. Desruisseaux led the charge on a 2-on-1 break, put a pass on a tee for Quercia, who clobbered in his second of the night via a one-timer. 1:39 after that, the Nailers connected for another one-time snipe, as Watling swerved his way into the low slot, then set up Houde, who launched in a shot from the bottom of the right circle.
Wheeling shut things down in the third period, as the Nailers took the 6-4 score into the win column.
Louis-Philip Guindon earned the victory in goal for Wheeling, as he booted away 27 of the 31 shots he faced, including all ten in the third period. Corbin Kaczperski took the loss for the Heartlanders, as he allowed six goals on 27 shots.
The Nailers will start to make their way back east on Friday, as they will visit the Indy Fuel at 7:00. Wheeling will then play back-to-back home contests against the Toledo Walleye on Saturday at 7:10 and Sunday at 4:10. Fans can come see the Kelly Cup on Saturday, then Sunday has a post game skate featuring the entire team. Fan Appreciation Night is also right around the corner, when the Nailers battle the Komets on April 15th at 7:10. Season memberships, single game tickets, and partial packages are available, and fans can get more information by calling (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.