WHEELING, WV- There are a lot of words that can describe how the Wheeling Nailers felt about the final four minutes of Wednesday night's game against the Toledo Walleye. Most of those words would have a common theme - anger. Wheeling was 3:06 away from potentially being able to take a point out of the game, but a strange sequence led to Cédric Lacroix's deciding goal, as the Walleye took a 4-3 decision at WesBanco Arena. Jordan Frasca scored his first pro goal for the Nailers, while Carter Johnson came an assist away from a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Both teams got on the scoreboard with special teams goals in the first period. Wheeling had the chance to score first on a penalty shot by Brooklyn Kalmikov, but his backhander was gloved by Sebastian Cossa. Ten seconds later, the Walleye opened the scoring with a shorthanded strike. Trenton Bliss stole the puck in front of the crease, and immediately threw in the goal on the left side. Kalmikov ended up finding the twine on a power play with 6:06 remaining. Cédric Desruisseaux fed him the puck at the top of the right circle, and Kalmikov roofed a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the cage.
The beginning of the middle frame was wild, as the two sides combined for four goals in a span of 1:46 to take a 1-1 score to 3-3. Bliss got the avalanche of goals started, when he dragged a backhander in on the left side, off of a cross-slot feed from Brandon Hawkins. Jordan Frasca's first pro goal knotted the score 27 seconds later for the Nailers, as he followed up his own rebound by dribbling in a right side shot. 39 seconds after that, Mitchell Heard briefly regained the lead for Toledo, as he wired a shot from the slot into the left side of the goal. Wheeling had another response in a matter of just 40 seconds. Cam Hausinger dished the puck through the crease to Carter Johnson, who crashed in to body in the equalizer.
Caution was the key to the third period, as both squads made an effort to earn at least a point. However, with 3:06 left in the game, an extremely bizarre scenario unfolded. Hawkins sent the puck the length of the ice on a play that the Nailers thought should have been icing. However, play was allowed to continue, and Cédric Lacroix took advantage, as he banked the puck in from the left corner. Wheeling had a difficult time establishing offensive zone possession in the closing minutes, then a slashing penalty with 31 seconds left put the finishing touches on the end result, as the Walleye came out on top, 4-3.
Sebastian Cossa got the win for Toledo, as he stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced. Bailey Brkin suffered the defeat for the Nailers, as he made 24 saves on 28 shots.
The Nailers have two more home games coming up this weekend, as they will face the Norfolk Admirals on Friday and Saturday, with both contests starting at 7:10. Friday's game is a Frosty Friday featuring $2 beers. Saturday is Pittsburgh Penguins Night, starring former Penguins players Tyler Kennedy, Jean-Sébastien Aubin, and François Leroux. Saturday will also feature specialty jerseys. Ticket packages and single game tickets are available for the 2022-23 season by visiting wheelingnailers.com or 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.