Nailers score 11th-straight win

Photo by Joe Lovell The Wheeling Nailers’ Justin Addamo, who hit the game-winning goal Friday, celebrates with teammate Jordan Martel after the Nailers’ 11th straight win on Friday night inside WesBanco Arena against the Reading Royals.

WHEELING — The Wheeling Nailers moved to within one win of the franchise record for consecutive victories Friday night with a 2-1 overtime triumph over Reading at home.

Team captain Justin Addamo’s scored 3-minutes, 21-seconds into overtime as the Nailers (27-16-1-1 56 points) won for the 11th straight game and continued their torrid 2024 portion of the regular season. The 11 consecutive wins tied the 1994 team which was coached by Peter Laviolette.

“I saw the open ice and was trying to use my body to go to the outside. Honestly, I just put the puck on net and didn’t even know it went in until I heard the crowd,” Addamo said of his game-winner. “It wasn’t the prettiest game out there, but a win is a win is a win.”

Addamo forced his way into the right side of the slot, and lifted a backhander into the top-right corner of the net and under the crossbar to deliver the win.

“That was a great play by Justin,” Wheeling head coach Derek Army said. “That’s why he is the captain.”

The victory was also the third in overtime in their last four outings.

“Like I said, a win is a win and we’ll take two points any time we can get them,” Addamo added.

Wheeling hasn’t lost since a 2-1 reversal to Kalamazoo on January 14. The Nailers and Royals meet again tonight at 7:10 on Pittsburgh Penguins Night. The 12-game win streak came during the 2004 season.

“I thought that was as close to a playoff game as you’re going to get, as far as the feel,” Army said. “It was such a tight game. They (Reading) did a good job of pushing us.

“We like overtime,” Army stressed. “When you get to overtime you just take your chances and see what happens.”

Neither team would dent the scoreboard in the first period as they combined for just 12 shots, with Wheeling holding a 7-5 edge.

The second period, however, saw some life from both sides. The Nailers recorded a season-high 19 shots in the middle period, but still found themselves deadlocked at 1 entering the third 20-minute period.

With time winding down in regulation, Wheeling’s Matt Koopman was whistled for a holding penalty with 39 seconds left. The Nailers killed the remaining time, but were left short-handed for the first 82 seconds of the extra 7-minute session.

“Killing that penalty to start overtime was huge,” Army said of the 4-on-3 advantage the Royals had for 29 seconds. “The penalty kill stepped up.”

Wheeling goaltender Taylor Gauthier, who earned his eighth straight triumph by stopping 23 of 24 shots, including all 13 in the third period and overtime, agreed.

“I thought the guys did a good job of limiting them to what we were giving them,” Gauthier said of his team’s defensive play in front of him. “The guys have picked me up every time this season and that is the sign of a good team.”

His 17th victory this season moves him atop all goalies in the league.

“I’m seeing the puck really well and the guys are playing really well in front of me,” he added.

Wheeling got on the board first at the 7:32 mark of the second period. David Jankowski sent the puck toward the goal and ended up creating a rebound, which was poked in by Peter Laviolette from the right side of the crease for his first goal of the season. Laviolette had a busy period as he also threw down the gloves with Steven Leonard, after Laviolette laid out Nick Fea with a huge hit.

The Royals pulled even with 2:44 to go, when Tyson Fawcett was awarded a penalty shot for being pulled down on a scoring chance. Fawcett converted on the penalty shot, as he curved from left to right and lifted a forehand shot into the upper portion of the cage.

“I thought I played it pretty well,” Gauthier said of the penalty shot. “It was just unfortunate that it went in.”

As far as winning in overtime, Gauthier said it doesn’t matter how the team wins, as long as it wins.

“I think as we come down the stretch the games are going to get tighter and tighter,” Gaughtier added. “At the end of the day, two points is two points.”

Following tonight’s clash, the Nailers hit the road for three straight games in Utah against the Grizzlies.


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