WHEELING - The play looked to have no chance as Wheeling's Luke Pither broke into the offensive zone with a Trenton defender draped all over his back. Somehow the high-scoring Nailers forward was able to fight through the obstruction and feather a pass to Chris Barton, who rifled a one-timer past Titans goaltender Niko Hovinen at 1:01 of overtime for his ninth of the season to give Wheeling a 3-2 victory Friday night at WesBanco Arena.
''It wasn't anything we did strategically, it was just a great effort,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said.
The Nailers (14-12-6 - 34) had just come off an unsuccessful two-man advantage near the tail end of regulation, and that was on the heels of being outplayed for nearly 40 full minutes. Despite this, they found a way to break through for a major divisional victory against the Titans (14-13-5 - 33) that leaves them one point out of second in the Atlantic Division.
Wheeling’s Carl Sneep (2) battles with Trenton’s Justin Taylor (9) as netminder Peter Delmas secures the loose puck.
The two teams meet again at 7 tonight at WesBanco Arena.
''We won an ugly one,'' Donatelli said. ''We got running around and killed some penalties, but it was an ugly game.
''We need a little luck on our home stretch here, and Delly came up big when we needed it.''
Trenton0 2 0 0 - 2
Wheeling2 0 0 1 - 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Higgins 3 (Chupp, Hansen), 2:29 (PP). 2, Wheeling, Crowder 11 (Chupp, Zurevinski), 14:54. Penalties-Johnston Tre (interference on the goalkeeper), 0:46; Higgins Whl (interference), 4:39; Alvarez Tre (interference), 11:22; Zajac Tre (high-sticking), 14:58; Schultz Tre (delay of game), 19:25.
2nd Period-3, Trenton, Cepis 9 (Schultz), 1:49. 4, Trenton, Harper 1 (Cepis, Bohmbach), 17:08 (PP). Penalties-Higgins Whl (holding), 4:28; Higgins Whl (cross-checking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:13; Farrer Whl (charging), 16:00.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Hostetter Tre (delay of game), 17:17; Bohmbach Tre (interference on the goalkeeper), 17:38.
OT Period-5, Wheeling, Barton 9 (Pither), 1:01. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Trenton 6-14-7-0-27. Wheeling 13-6-12-1-32.
Power-Play Opportunities-Trenton 1-5; Wheeling 1-6.
Goalies-Trenton, Hovinen 4-5-1-2 (32 shots-29 saves). Wheeling, Delmas 5-2-0-1 (27 shots-25 saves).
Referee-Ryan Murphy (10); Linesmen-Jim Scarpace (50), Justin Eckman (72).
Delly, of course, is Wheeling goaltender Peter Delmas, who was never bigger than he was during a stretch in the second period in which the Nailers, leading by one, had to kill off six consecutive minutes of Trenton power plays.
Shane Harper, playing his first game with Trenton, nearly knotted it up when he solidly rang the puck off the post. He didn't miss seconds later though, lifting it far-side over Delmas' shoulder for the tying power-play goal at 17:08 of the second.
''They scored with about four seconds to go on that 5-on-3 to keep the other (power play), but overall I thought our PK did well,'' Donatelli said of a group that killed five of six. ''They're pretty good and they're not fancy - get the puck to the net. So Delly had to make some big saves.''
The Nailers had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first with a power-play goal from Chris Higgins, his third of the season. Cody Chupp made a nice play coming off the wall and got it to Higgins, who deflected it past Hovinen on the backhand, breaking a streak of 17 consecutive Titans kills.
A little less than 12 minutes later Paul Crowder banged in a rebound, also a backhander, for his 11th goal of the season. Chupp and Scott Zurevinski assisted.
From that point forward though, Trenton carried the play, including Jacob Cepis' ninth of the season. It was all for naught when Pither and Barton combined to send the fans home happy.
''They're a good team and they're going to be coming, but we've got to be better,'' Donatelli said. ''Our retrievals weren't as good as we'd like them to be.
''Sometimes we're getting to the puck but we're turning it over.
''The middle was open but you've got to beat them to the puck.''
Delmas finished 25 saves, while Hovinen charted 29.