WHEELING - Near the end of practice Tuesday morning at WesBanco Arena, Wheeling goaltender Peter Delmas was playfully shooting pucks into the net. It was irony at its finest, since that's about the only way goals are getting into his cage these days.
Delmas has been named the Reebok Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week after going 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and a save percentage of .957 in three appearances last week as the Nailers improved to 4-0-2 in their last six games. It's the second such honor of the season for Delmas, and fourth of his career.
''I feel good and I'm just trying to be consistent and do the same things every day, not skip a day,'' Delmas said. ''I'm doing little things like coming out (to practice) early and going to the gym early.''
Peter Delmas has a 2.29 GAA, a .920 save percentage, and three shutouts.
Delmas made 37 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss against Elmira on Wednesday, stopped 20 shots in a 5-2 victory at Trenton on Friday and was credited with 33 saves in a 3-1 victory at Reading on Saturday. He's started Wheeling's last five games, going 4-0-1, with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
''I'm never going to turn down a start,'' Delmas said of the increased workload. ''I've been talking a lot with our 'D' and in between games about what we want to do with each team and how we want to play the forwards and keep them to the outside.
''We have a good understanding. Everyone has been playing well of late so that makes it easy on me.''
For the season, Delmas is 15-8-4 with three shutouts, is sixth in the league with a 2.29 goals-against average and is tied for fifth with a .920 save percentage. He set the club record for career shutouts (nine) earlier this season.
''He's on a roll here and he's playing with confidence,'' Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. ''He's keeping it under two (goals) almost every night.
''We're also doing a good job staying out of the (penalty) box. But when we need a big save, Delly's been there and that gives the team a lot of confidence when he's in the net.''
There seems to be know question Delmas is an AHL-ready goaltender, except in the minds of Montreal officials, who are the only ones that count.
''You have to have the right attitude,'' he said. ''The only way you're going to get out of here is if you rip it up, so just play your best while you're hear and good things will come.''
The Nailers enter tonight's game against Atlantic Division-leading Reading six points behind Florida and Toledo for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With 11 games to play, including four against the Walleye, starting Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Wheeling likes where it's sitting.
In fact, Donatelli sees no reason why his club can't run the table and win each game.
''It's not a coincidence that we're getting the good chances and we're getting the bounces,'' Donatelli said. ''The last game we played against Toledo, they scored two goals in 35 seconds and we kind of beat ourselves.
''It was a 3-2 game and they scored that empty-netter, then they got another one with two seconds left, which wasn't taken well by our team.
''We've got a tough schedule going forward, but it's going to pay off for us come playoff time. The guys here know that if we don't play playoff-type hockey we're not going to make it.''
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org