WHEELING, WV- The 30th season of Wheeling Nailers Hockey came to its conclusion on Thursday night at WesBanco Arena, as the Toledo Walleye collected a 3-1 win in game four of the Central Division Final to advance to the Western Conference Final. Marcus Vela scored in his return from the AHL for Toledo, and was joined by John Albert and Patrick Curry, before Matt Alfaro netted the lone tally for the Nailers.
The first period took only 29 minutes of real time to play, as there were minimal whistles and very few chances, with the two sides combining for just nine shots on goal. One puck did find its way into the back of the net. Toledo had killed off a penalty 15 seconds earlier, and the visitors used that momentum to lead into the goal. The Walleye attacked off the rush, as Brandon Hawkins dropped a pass into the slot for Marcus Vela, who threaded in a shot, as he made his return from the AHL's Hershey Bears.
Toledo got a couple of bounces in the early stages of the middle frame to put in a pair of markers. Brett McKenzie snagged the puck out of a linesman's skate and directed a pass across the ice to an open John Albert, who stepped up and drilled in a shot from the right circle. Less than three minutes later, the Walleye struck again, just after their power play had ended. Josh Dickinson's attempt deflected to Patrick Curry, who whizzed in a shot from the right circle. With less than one minute to go in the period, the Nailers got on the scoreboard. Matt Alfaro had his stick get broken with a slash, which would have put Wheeling on the power play. However, he grabbed a new piece of equipment from the bench and quickly put it to work, as he shuffled in a shot from the left circle.
Unfortunately, the scoring concluded at that point, as the Nailers' attempt at a comeback fell short, and the Walleye prevailed, 3-1 to end the series.
Billy Christopoulos got the win in goal for Toledo, as he stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced. Mitchell Weeks made 17 saves on 20 shots for Wheeling in his first pro start.
The Nailers thank all of their fans for their amazing support all season long, and are looking forward to season 31, which begins on Saturday, October 22nd at WesBanco Arena against Toledo. Season memberships 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.