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ECHL PLAYOFFS: Nailers Halfway to Their Goal

May 7, 2011
By SHAWN RINE - Sports Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - The ongoing debate concerning which professional sport has the best playoff really isn't a conversation at all from this vantage point. It is, and always will be, hockey.

Why, you ask?

There are no second chances. In a game with so few legitimate scoring opportunities, Kalamazoo goaltender Ryan Nie doesn't get a do-over on Doug Rogers' goal in Game 3 that bounced up and over the netminder, nor is there reprieve for the wrist shot by Wheeling's Andrew Lord that squeezed through his 5-hole and trickled into the net.

Article Photos

Wheeling’s Dan Henningson (12) and Kalamazoo’s Patrick Asselin will battle once again tonight as the Nailers and K-Wings meet in Game 4 of the ECHL Eastern Conference Finals at WesBanco Arena.

That's why every game is so important. A series can change on a single shift.

All of this leads to Nailers coach Stan Drulia declaring heading into tonight's Game 4 of the Best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals at WesBanco Arena, that the team hasn't accomplished anything until it wins four games.

As hard as it worked to gain the 2-1 series advantage by stealing Game 1 on the road and then retaking the upper hand with a victory Thursday night, a Wheeling loss tonight and this series takes on a completely different feel. Suddenly it's a Best-of-3 and the Wings will have taken back home-ice advantage.

"Obviously with three games at home, we want to take advantage of it," said Wheeling defenseman Kyle Bushee, who had an assist and was a plus-2 in Game 3. "But we know they're going to be really good (tonight).

"They're going to come back with a real strong effort, and we have to come back with the same intensity."

Sign of Things to Come?

Both the locker room and the coaches office was abuzz about the energy inside The Bank on Thursday night. While the attendance was not ideal 1,748 paid those who showed made their presence felt.

"The sound of the building out there at the end is phenomenal," Drulia said. "I think the city is really, really taking to this group of guys that we've got.

"Our guys come into work every day and the fans have been phenomenal."

Officials are expecting a stellar crowd for tonight's nationally-televised game (America One Network). Wheeling's front office has been working virtually around the clock to promote what is being billed as "Pack the House Night."

The players are anxious to see what kind of turnout there is, also.

"It was definitely nice to get the crowd in and hopefully we can continue that (tonight) and Sunday," said forward Tim Crowder, who scored the game-winner Thursday.

Bushee agreed.

"We've done everything we can to get the fans out. We really appreciate the fan support that we get here," he said. "We only had 1,500 here, but they were screaming their heads off and really gave us a boost. The louder the energy in the building, we feed off it.

"We know they want us to do well and it's almost like a seventh man on the ice for us. It really gives us an extra boost to want to win for this community and this town."

From a coach's perspective, Drulia couldn't be more pleased with the effort being made to put more fans in the seats. He, too, hopes that culminates in a deafening atmosphere tonight.

"Our staff, our office has done a fantastic job promoting our team and doing everything they can to get people in here," Drulia said. "We know it's going to be a big crowd in here (tonight) and we're looking forward to it.

"It's been a real team commitment from everyone - on and off the ice."

Injuries Mounting

Not only was Wheeling without starting goaltender Peter Delmas in Game 4, but defenseman Peter Merth also wasn't able to go. Of the two, Merth probably has a better chance of getting back into the lineup tonight.

"Merthy will be a game-time decision and Channing Boe writes his final exam (Friday) morning," Drulia said. "It's been interesting trying to shuffle and juggle with all these kids we've got out of universities.

"We understand they have commitments to schooling and their future and education, and we're allowing them to do that. I think Jim and Rob (Brooks), as an ownership group, have been very understanding in allowing us to work these kids in and out of the lineup."

As for Delmas, the injury doesn't appear to be serious. That being said, it's unknown when, or even if, he'll be able to return to the series.

"We've got an all-star goalie that (hadn't) played in the playoffs yet (hadn't) started," Drulia said of Patrick Killeen. "We're very fortunate. Even the guy we brought in as the third guy is a pretty good goaltender. Philadelphia allowed us to bring Adam Morrison in, in lieu of Delmas' injury.

"We'll go day-to-day here, but I would say Killer is going (tonight).

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at

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