WHEELING - Staring at a six-game winless streak and having only one victory in regulation for the season, the Wheeling Nailers turned to backup goaltender Scott Darling on Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena. Cam Fergus scored the first two goal of his pro career, Peter Lenes had a goal and an assist as he returned from shoulder surgery and Darling stopped all 18 shots he faced as the Nailers 4-7-3 - 11) rolled to a 4-0 victory against the Evansville Icemen (5-11-1 - 11).
''I think it was a good, solid team effort,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said after the club won for just the fourth time in its last 28 games dating to last season. ''We worked on our forecheck, changed it up a little bit, and the defense was solid.''
That defense was banged up as the Nailers were forced to go with five along the blueline, but it didn't matter as they came up with arguably their most physical and complete effort.
Wheeling’s Cody Wild (24) tries to stuff the puck past Evansville goaltender, Paul Karpowich, during action of their ECHL game Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
Wheeling got on the board at the 9:17 mark of the first when Christiaan Minella put home a rebound on the power play for his first goal of the season, one of three Nailers (Lenes, Fergus) to accomplish that feat.
It was 2-0 at 8:50 of the second when defenseman Peter Merth made a nice pass from behind the Evansville net to an open Lenes who waited until Icemen goalie Paul Karpowich went down and then tucked it in.
''Lenny brings a lot of energy and that's why we started him, too,'' Donatelli said. ''Our plan was to spot him and not to play him regular, but every time I looked down at him he gave me the nod.''
Evansville 0 0 0 - 0
Wheeling1 1 2 - 4
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Minella 1 (Crowder, Wild), 9:17 (PP). Penalties-Mahovsky Evn (slashing ), 8:18.
2nd Period-2, Wheeling, Lenes 1 (Merth), 8:50. Penalties-Kennedy Evn (high-sticking), 17:38.
3rd Period-3, Wheeling, Fergus 1 (Crowder), 2:52 (SH). 4, Wheeling, Fergus 2 (Lenes, Sneep), 17:21 (PP). Penalties-Minella Whl (holding), 2:12; Gens Evn (boarding), 4:38; Ross Whl (tripping), 9:36; Lavender Evn (high-sticking), 15:40; Gens Evn (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:44; Whitney Evn (delay of game), 15:44; Minella Whl (slashing ), 16:45.
Shots on Goal-Evansville 4-7-7-18. Wheeling 14-11-8-33.
Power-Play Opportunities-Evansville 0-3; Wheeling 2-6.
Goalies-Evansville, Karpowich 2-5-0-1 (33 shots-29 saves). Wheeling, Darling 1-2-0-0 (18 shots-18 saves).
Referee-Don Jablonski (18); Linesmen-Joe DeMizio (59), Zach Roberts (84).
The lead swelled to 3-0 when Fergus stole a pass and backhanded it past Karpowich for the Nailers' first shorthanded goal of the season at 2:52 of the third. He then capped the scoring by beating Karpowich 5-hole coming down the right side.
''He wasn't playing much down the stretch there,'' Donatelli said of Fergus, who played hurt. ''But I had to put him out there because he's a good penalty killer.
It all made a winner out of Darling.
''Scotty's been playing really well in practice and (Patrick Killeen) has been playing a lot of minutes, so we figured we'd give 'Killer' a rest,'' Donatelli said. ''He's got confidence coming out of the American League. Glad to see Scotty get that first 'W.' ''
Paul Crowder added a pair of assists for the Nailers.