WHEELING, WV. – The Wheeling Nailers and WesBanco Arena debuted their brand new jumbotron on Friday night, and the home team captured plenty of thrilling moments on the big screen. Morgan Ellis scored two goals, including the game winner with 1:53 remaining, while Riley Brace added four assists, as the Nailers took down the Fort Wayne Komets, 5-4. The win was Wheeling’s 800th since the team moved to the Ohio Valley in 1992.
With the division leader in town, the Nailers stepped up to their competition, burning out of the gates with a 3-1 lead. Wheeling’s first tally came at the 3:33 mark, when Morgan Ellis drove forward from his left point position, placing a wrist shot into the right side of the net. 1:40 later, the Nailers added to their lead. Tyler Fernandez lunged the puck into neutral ice, sending Zack Torquato and Riley Brace on a 2-on-1 break. Torquato fed a pass across, before getting it back, and slamming in his tenth of the campaign. The Komets pulled within one on a power play goal by Mike Embach, who shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand to finish off an initial attempt by Shawn Szydlowski. Wheeling got that goal back before the end of the frame, when Shawn Skelly wired in a shot from the right circle.
Fort Wayne recorded the lone goal in the second period, doing so at the 2:51 mark. CJ Severyn slipped a pass through the crease to Drew Daniels, who tapped in a shot on the right side of the cage.
The slow second period led to an explosive third, as the two sides combined for four red lights. The Komets evened the score at 5:55, when Szydlowski redirected Embach’s shot in front of the crease. Wheeling went back on top at the 12:32 mark, while playing with a two-man advantage. Torquato connected with Derek Army, who clobbered home a one-timer from the left circle. Embach tied the game for Fort Wayne again with 3:02 remaining, when he flicked in a wrist shot from the left side of the slot. In a case where the last goal won, the Nailers had the final say, as Ellis powered in his second of the evening with 1:53 left in regulation for the 5-4 final score.
Franky Palazzese was the winning netminder for Wheeling, as he blocked 34 of the 38 shots he faced. Roman Will took the loss for Fort Wayne, surrendering five goals on 25 shots.
The Nailers and Komets will do battle again on Saturday night at 7:35.