Nailers prevail by alternative means
The game plan, as Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli envisioned, was twofold: Stay out of the penalty box and pepper the opposing goaltender with frequent shots.
It didn’t exactly work out that way Sunday afternoon inside WesBanco Arena.
Not only were the visiting Greenville Road Warriors awarded eight power play opportunities, Nailers’ netminder Peter Delmas discovered himself under siege – virtually from start to finish.
Nevertheless, Wheeling found a way to register an important two points following a 5-3 victory in front of 2,300 supporters.
Of course, the Nailers might have expected this would be no ordinary 60-minute endeavor, especially considering Greenville’s propensity for rattling cages.
“We know their reputation and felt like it could be a nasty game,” advised Wheeling defenseman Kyle Bushee.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Bushee, quite likely the Nailers’ most productive blueliner, had called out his teammates following a less-than-impressive 3-1 home ice loss to South Carolina.
Though Wheeling’s Sunday play was undisciplined on occasion, the Nailers responded with a stout performance, in the end going toe-to-toe with a well-skilled Warriors’ club which unleashed a season-high 43 shots vs. a Nailers’ backstop.
Wheeling, countered, however, via a pair of quick-strike goals, opening periods two and three, respectively. Bushee assisted on both and logged four helpers on the day.
Matt Lombardi’s connection, his ninth of the season,13 ticks into the third period, elevated Wheeling to apparent 4-1 command.
Greenville, though, gamely rallied, twice converting man-advantage scores to make it a 4-3 lighting with 2:36 to play.
It took Cody Chupp’s empty-netter at 18:51 to finally quell the storm and put the wraps on Wheeling’s 18th win of the season.
But not before referee Don Jablonski earned his keep, issuing 67 penalty minutes in a wild final 27 seconds.
Greenville’s Brendan Connolly ignited the fireworks, earning a minor, major and (slashing) game misconduct. That incident led to an additional trio of misconducts.
As the final horn sounded, Greenville’s Jeremy Gouchie and Wheeling’s David Brownschidle dropped the gloves for a spirited fight. Additionally, Greenville captain and ex-Nailer T.J. Reynolds was tossed for ‘physical abuse of officials.’
“Just a great, gritty effort by our guys,” Donatelli disclosed. “That was probably Peter’s (Delmas) best game. He’s as solid as they come.”
Wheeling received a two-goal, three-point outing from leading scorer Chris Barton. Winger Mikael Bedard also connected.
The postgame news wasn’t all positive. The Nailers lost 6-2, 210-pound forward Christiaan Minella to a reported separated shoulder.
PITTSBURGH sports fans are in denial today – and perhaps for the immediate future.
On the hockey front, Penguin mainstays Jordan Staal and James Neal have been lost reportedly for weeks after sustaining weekend injuries.
The Pens, of course, remain without mega-star Sidney Crosby (out indefinitely), and valuable defenseman Kris Letang.
Four weeks ago, NHL analysts declared Pittsburgh the team to beat for this season’s Stanley Cup. Suddenly, there is legitimate concern regarding the hockey club’s ability to become postseason participants…
THE Steelers, meanwhile, remarkably find themselves in R.I.P. mode following Sunday’s stunning loss at Denver.
Coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t about to lay blame on the team’s inordinate number of injuries, though how could they not factor in?
FINALLY, consider Pitt’s poor football Panthers who may have authored the most inept performance of 70 teams who qualified for the long, drawn-out bowl season.
Which brings us to tonight’s BCS title tilt in the Big Easy. I still don’t get a majority of experts tabbing Alabama to avenge its regular season overtime loss to LSU.
From our perspective, Les Miles’ Tigers are the superior team and will go about proving as much tonight in the Superdome……
WHAT a weekend at Wheeling Jesuit University which hosted the 5th Annual Cancer Research Classic! Organizer Doc Merrick, his support staff, and Wheeling Jesuit personnel continue to raise the bar on what is truly a national event – not only showcasing many of the country’s elite prep hoop talent – but also raising awareness of cancer research for which Wheeling Hospital is a major player….
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org