FORT WAYNE, IN- The Wheeling Nailers are coming home with a series lead. Wheeling stared down one of its most difficult buildings from the regular season, and won both games there this weekend, as they lead the Fort Wayne Komets two games to none in their Central Division Semifinal Series. Jared Cockrell snapped a tied score late in the second period, then Sean Josling added a key insurance marker, which turned out to be the game winner. Louis-Philip Guindon made the performance by his teammates stand up with 41 saves, as the Nailers earned a 4-2 triumph at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
The first period was a feisty one, which saw lots of post-whistle altercations, as well as a couple of goals. Fort Wayne had control of the play in the first half of the period, and that resulted in the opening goal. With the two teams playing 4-on-4, Connor Jones chased down a puck on the left side of the trapezoid, and quickly centered a pass to Will Graber, who potted a shot from the slot, where he was left open. The Nailers had a strong response in the back half of the stanza, and were able to draw even on a power play. Josh Maniscalco worked the puck into the left circle for Justin Almeida, who immediately drilled a pass through the slot for Dylan MacPherson, who stepped up on the right side and wired a shot into the open side of the cage.
The Komets came with some early pressure once again, but Wheeling held its ground, then bided its time as it produced a go-ahead goal. That tally came with with 3:39 remaining. Jared Cockrell poked the puck through the defender's legs, as he created a breakaway for himself. Cockrell faked from forehand to backhand, and slid a shot around Samuel Harvey's right pad.
A key moment in the contest took place in the early stages of the third period. The Nailers were forced to kill a 4-on-3 penalty kill, which turned into a 5-on-4. They did so successfully, and that immediately parlayed into a goal. Justin Almeida pinned the puck in the offensive zone to finish off the kill, then he dipped to the goal line, before centering a pass to Sean Josling, who buried a wrist shot into the top-left corner of the net. Fort Wayne pulled within one on Adam Brubacher's center point wrister, but Wheeling answered 1:20 later, as Cam Hausinger willed in the rebound of Patrick Watling's cannon off the left post, as the Nailers were victorious, 4-2.
Louis-Philip Guindon was sensational in goal for Wheeling, as he thwarted away 41 of the 43 shots he faced in the win. Samuel Harvey took the defeat, as he made 24 saves on 28 shots.
The series will shift to WesBanco Arena for the next set of games, as the Nailers will host the Komets for games three, four, and five on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (if necessary). All home games will begin at 7:10. The Nailers want you to join #NailersArmy and get your playoff tickets now by visiting wheelingnailers.com or by calling (304) 234-GOAL.