WHEELING - More often that not Kyle Bushee leads with actions. But after what he called an "inexcusable" effort Saturday night at WesBanco Arena, the Wheeling Nailers defenseman had seen all he could stomach.
Pierre-Luc O'Brien and Trent Campbell each had a goal and an assist as South Carolina (16-16-2 - 34), a team that had lost five straight entering the contest, scored a trio of goals in the third period for a 3-1 victory. The Stingrays had been 1-14-1 when trailing after two.
"It's dumbfounding to me. For us to come out like that and have a one-goal lead in the third and not have any emotion?'' Bushee asked. "For us to come out and give an effort like this is really, really disappointing.
Wheeling’s Chris Barton makes an all-out effort to gain control of the puck during Saturday night’s game.
Photo by Joe Lovell
"If guys don't want to be here it's time for them to make a decision whether we're going to bear down or pack it in.
"I have too much pride and have too much faith in this team, that I don't want to play with guys that don't want to be here."
The Nailers (17-12-2 -36), who dropped eight points behind victorious Elmira in terms of first place in the Atlantic Division and are six out of the basement, looked as though they were going to get away with one until Chris Doyle found himself all alone in front of Wheeling goaltender Peter Delmas. He punched home his second of the season at 2:33 of the third to tie it at 1-1.
South Carolina0 0 3 - 3
Wheeling0 1 0 - 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Kroll Sc (slashing ), 6:14; Scherer Sc (charging), 12:26; Tolles Whl (interference), 17:52.
2nd Period-1, Wheeling, Bedard 8 (Torquato, Minella), 0:30. Penalties-Paquette Sc (boarding), 10:54; Oreskovic Sc (slashing ), 12:38; Hansen Whl (high-sticking), 17:15; Bedard Whl (holding), 19:51.
3rd Period-2, South Carolina, Doyle 2 (Paquette), 2:33. 3, South Carolina, O'Brien 14 (Lacroix, Campbell), 5:31. 4, South Carolina, Campbell 9 (Flemming, O'Brien), 12:48. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-South Carolina 6-7-13-26. Wheeling 8-11-10-29.
Power-Play Opportunities-South Carolina 0 / 3; Wheeling 0 / 4.
Goalies-South Carolina, Grubauer 11-7-1-1 (29 shots-28 saves). Wheeling, Delmas 7-4-0-0 (26 shots-23 saves).
Referee-Tom Chmielewski (27); Linesmen-Zach Roberts (84), Jim Scarpace (50).
"We're not winning battles and we got outworked. We kind of hung Delly out to dry,'' Nailers interim coach Clark Donatelli said. "We weren't getting pucks in deep and losing 1-on-1 battles all over the ice.
"It was an easy night and we weren't hard to play against.''
O'Brien scored the winner off a Wheeling turnover. Adam Ross looked to be tripped in the corner but play went on, allowing O'Brien to skate in front and backhand in his team-leading 13th of the season at 5:31.
Campbell capped things after a series of Nailers giveaways. Delmas stood tall on the first one before Campbell deposited his ninth.
"It comes back to my point earlier about whether you want to play or not,'' Bushee said. "It's hard to play hockey - this isn't an easy game. When we think it's going to be easy, this is the result.
"We're a team that, yes we have skill, but we have to grind it out. We're never going to beat a team with tic-tac-toe.''
Bushee wasn't finished.
"You look at Wilkes(-Barre) and Pittsburgh and teams in the AHL and NHL that have so many injuries. The guys that are getting called up and doing well are the guys that play hard,'' he said. "It's not easy, but when it comes down to it it's got to be a game for us where we go in straight lines, drive the net and finish checks. We do that and we'll have success.
"When we stray away from that and try to take the easy way out, this is what happens.''
The Nailers scored first when after a scramble around Stingrays goaltender Phillip Grubauer (28 saves), Mickael Bedard banked one off his pads for his his eighth goal of the season. But that was all the Nailers could muster in 29 shots, the majority of which came from the perimeter. Wheeling also had numerous shots blocked, which also irked Bushee.
"We've got to realize if a guy is in the lane, you can't shoot. We've got a couple D-men that for whatever reason feel like that no matter how hard they shoot it, they're going to shoot it through someone,'' he said. "In this league the guys are too good - your time and space gets taken away too quickly.
"Myself included, you can't use the big slapshot. I'm part of the problem here too. They did a good job of taking away lanes, but at the same time that's a fault of ours for not recognizing.''
The Nailers are back home today for what amounts to a must-win game at 2 against the Greenville Road Warriors.
"We want to win every game we go out and play,'' Donatelli. "We're a little banged up right now, but that's an opportunity for some other guys to step up and get the job done.
"We'll see if they can get it done (today). They didn't get it done (Saturday)."