TOLEDO, Ohio - Rookie Denver Manderson found the back of the net twice Friday night, and his second goal ended up being a crucial one. The forward put the Wheeling Nailers ahead 4-1 in a game that they ultimately won by a final score of 4-3 against the Toledo Walleye at Huntington Center.
The victory was Wheeling's 30th of the season, but it didn't gain any ground on first-place Elmira, which rallied for a 3-2 victory against Reading. The Jackals lead the Atlantic by three points on the Nailers (30-18-5 - 65), who have two games in hand.
The Nailers got on the scoreboard first, lighting the lamp at the 3:23 mark of the first period, thanks to some hard work going to the net. Peter Lenes started a transition rush in Wheeling's favor, moving the puck ahead to Manderson. Manderson skated into the offensive zone, and sent the puck toward the goal, where it deflected off of netminder Jordan Pearce, who had Christiaan Minella crashing the slot. Pearce was unable to control the puck, which dribbled into the net.
Wheeling wasted little time in adding to the lead in the second period, needing just 23 seconds to score. Paul Crowder won an offensive-zone faceoff, with Matt Schepke's help, as the puck went back to Zach Hansen at the blueline. Hansen took a shot from the point that got deflected by Crowder, through Pearce's legs and into the back of the cage.
Later in the period, the Nailers earned their first power play of the contest, cashing in with their third goal. Crowder picked up the puck off the boards, and set up Andrew Hotham, who skated into the bottom of the left circle before beating Pearce with a short side wrist shot.
Midway through the third period, the Walleye broke the shutout bid, as Joey Martin scored a power-play goal with a wrist shot from the right circle. However, Wheeling was quick to answer as Manderson took a feed from Minella and proceeded to score on a shot from high in the slot. Toledo made a strong bid at a comeback late in third period, as Todd Griffith potted a power-play goal and Harrison Reed scored an even- strength marker. However, the Nailers had the final say.
Peter Delmas picked up a victory for Wheeling, making 19 saves on 22 shots. Pearce took the loss for Toledo, stopping 28 of the 32 shots he faced.
The Nailers and Walleye will do battle again on Saturday night at Huntington Center, with opening faceoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
Wheeling1 2 1 - 4
Toledo0 0 3 - 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Manderson 17 (Lenes), 3:23. Penalties-Schnell Whl (fighting - major), 7:31; Emmerson Tol (fighting - major), 7:31; Southorn Whl (fighting - major), 11:41; Krug Tol (fighting - major), 11:41.
2nd Period-2, Wheeling, Crowder 13 (Hansen, Schepke), 0:23. 3, Wheeling, Hotham 5 (Crowder, Ross), 14:24 (PP). Penalties-Toews Tol (interference), 12:36; Ross Whl (holding), 15:22.
3rd Period-4, Toledo, Martin 16 (Page, Krug), 10:54. 5, Wheeling, Manderson 18 (Minella, Lenes), 11:23. 6, Toledo, Griffith 10 (Page, Krug), 17:20 (PP). 7, Toledo, Reed 13 (Griffith, Ryan), 19:41. Penalties-Crowder Whl (tripping), 6:14; Moir Whl (interference on the goalkeeper), 8:53; Barton Whl (slashing ), 16:33.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 10-16-6-32. Toledo 5-7-10-22.
Power-Play Opportunities-Wheeling 1-1; Toledo 1-4.
Goalies-Wheeling, Delmas 13-7-1-0 (22 shots-19 saves). Toledo, Pearce 0-1-0-0 (32 shots-28 saves).
Referee-Tom Chmielewski (27); Linesmen-Jake Brenk (82), Mike Sheehan (90).