WHEELING - Nine games into the ECHL season and the Wheeling Nailers have already been whistled for 59 minor penalties. Of that total, 30 have been stick infractions, or what hockey coaches commonly refer to as 'lazy penalties.'
Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli denied that his team has a discipline problem following a longer than usual practice that included Todd Reirden and Bill Guerin on Tuesday morning at WesBanco Arena.
''Some calls you don't agree with and that's just how it is,'' Donatelli said. ''Some of the stick penalties we took are suspect, but we have to kill them.
''That's the bottom line.''
Donatelli pointed to the Nailers ranking third in the league in penalty killing at home (they are actually fourth at 92.9 percent), but ignored the fact the club has allowed 12 power-play goals in 40 chances on the road, for a kill percentage of 70 percent.
''We're not doing anything different,'' Donatelli said of the home vs. away numbers. ''It's just some times we're missing a couple key guys, or maybe they're in the box.''
With a roster that rivals any in the league in terms in talent but sitting at 3-4-2 and coming off consecutive losses, including one to previously winless Evansville on Friday night, it's not the time to be making excuses. This team does have a discipline issue right now.
The numbers simply do not lie.
Granted, it's nothing that can't be corrected. But it starts with taking ownership of the problem, and that begins with the head coach and trickles down. If there's no accountability for poor play or bad decisions, it certainly won't stop.
Wheeling is only four points out of first in the Atlantic Division, but things need to change or it will be a 14-point deficit before you can say slashing.
Donatelli pointed out in the preseason that with the amount of talent in the league because of the NHL lockout, it was going to be imperative for the Nailers to stay out of the box. Well, they aren't, and that must change.
Moving on, Wheeling will have a trio of new players in the lineup at 7:05 tonight when they take on the Reading Royals at WesBanco Arena. Keven Veilleux, a former second-round pick, and Adam Payerl were sent down Monday from Wilkes-Barre, with the former expected to be here about six days on a rehab assignment. They'll join defenseman Carl Sneep, also a former second-rounder, who came down Friday.
''They're both going to bring some size. One is 6-foot-3 (Payerl) and the other is 6-5,'' Donatelli said. ''Keven hasn't played a game in a year because of injuries.
''He's a big, strong, tough kid who has some offensive ability.''
Payerl is a big body who will park himself in front of the net, while the team will try to take advantage of Sneep's shot on the point of the power play.
Injuries are also taking an early toll. Ben Farrer is on the 21-day IR with a ''fractured sternum,'' according to the coach. He's joined there by Zach Hansen (ankle), Denver Manderson, who dislocated his shoulder not even a period into his return, and Zack Torquato. Chris Barton is out a week while he deals with an infection in his leg.
''It's tough, but we've got guys that are filling in and doing a great job,'' Donatelli said. ''It comes and goes - you either don't have enough, or you have a lot.''
Stan The Man
Retired John Marshall girls' basketball coach Stan Blankenship recently went into the West Virginia Wesleyan Hall of Fame. But did you know Blankenship won a total of 13 letters in four sports from 1968-73?
Let me say that again: 13 letters in four sports.
Blankenship picked up four each in cross country, track and field and basketball, and garnered another in football.
I can't remember any athlete winning 13 collegiate letters. But we know that the state's all-time leader in girls' basketball victories surely did.
Congratulations to Villanova receiver Nick Hurley who recently scored his first collegiate touchdown. The 5-10, 180-pounder who graduated from Wheeling Central, completed the feat at the 13:57 mark of the fourth quarter on Oct. 20 against Georgia State, in the Georgia Dome.
The Wildcats prevailed, 49-24.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net