WHEELING - Oh, the irony.
Paul Crowder made his first appearance at WesBanco Arena in a Cincinnati Cyclones jersey Sunday, having spent parts of the last three seasons with Wheeling. During his stay, the former Nailers captain made no secret of destesting the shootout.
After going 0-for-9 during his time with Wheeling, Crowder burned his ex-team with the winner, beating Mike Condon over the glove shoulder in the fifth round as the Cyclones 12-7-0 - 22) downed the Nailers (11-5-3 - 25) by a 3-2 score.
Wheeling’s Paul Cianfrini moves the buck up the ice
Not to worry, however, because thanks to rallying from a 2-0 deficit heading into the third period, Wheeling, which leads the Atlantic Division, earned a point in its 10th consecutive game to move into a third-place tie in the Eastern Conference.
''We don't like talking about streaks or anything. We talk about trying to win hockey games one at a time,'' Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. ''I don't think we came out that hard in the first period, but we battled back.
''We've been a team that prides itself on winning third periods.''
It's true. The Nailers have outscored the opposition 21-12 in the third period this season.
Cincinnati's Barry Almeida notched his ninth goal of the season at 4:01 of the first to snap a string of 29 consecutive Wheeling penalty kills for a 1-0 lead after one. The margin increased 1:31 into the second period as Jonathan Hazen (second) beat Condon from the left circle to make it 2-0 heading to the third.
Condon, though, kept it close with a couple of big saves, none finer than the one he made on John McFarland, who got a step on the defense and tried to slip a backhander in to no avail.
''I was a little deep on the second goal and I didn't really like that one,'' Condon said. ''But the guys bailed me out, though I was pretty disappointed I couldn't get the win in the shootout.
''That's something I will continue to work on in practice.''
The Nailers received their first two power plays early in the third and really began to turn on the pressure. They outshot Cincinnati 16-6 in the period and finally cashed in, but not before a number of close calls.
On that second power play, Wheeling looked like it had a sure goal as Ben Duffy found some freedom in the slot, but the Cyclones' Chris Reed somehow managed to get his stick on the puck. Not long after, Sahir Gill and Zack Torquato hit the post on consecutive shots.
Finally, Tyler Fernandez was able to get position and tuck a rebound past Cincinnati goaltender Michael Houser (28 saves) for his second of the season. Max MacKay and Scott Zurevinski earned assists.
A little more than two minutes later defenseman Paul Cianfrini kept the puck at the point and made his way to the bottom of the left circle before unleashing a wristshot that beat Houser for his first of the season to tie the game at 6:47. Duffy and MacKay earned assists.
''It doesn't matter who you play with on this team,'' MacKay said. ''You just have to be in the right place at the right time and it will be good.
''Nobody ever gives up on this team and everyone has each other's back.''
Each team had some chances down the stretch.
Anthony Luciani was open in the Wheeling slot with 10:13 to go, but Condon came up with a clutch save. Wheeling's Chaz Johnson just missed wide on a backhand, and Mike Ratchuk revved up for one of his end-to-end rushes, but Houser was able to get a piece of the puck to keep it out.
Then, perhaps the best opportunity came 50 seconds into overtime as defenseman Jake Areshenko beat Houser under the arm, but the shot trickled wide.
Cincinnati's Logan Shaw and Wheeling's Ratchuk, on a beautiful move in which he tucked the puck into the net, traded third-round shootout goals. Two rounds later Crowder went bar-down and MacKay's attempt went wide to seal the deal.
''It was a great move,'' Donatelli said. ''I wish Pauly all the best because he's a great guy on and off the ice.
''I just wish he didn't score that goal.''
Cincinnati1 1 0 0 - 3
Wheeling0 0 2 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Cincinnati, Almeida 9 (Birkholz, Aronson), 4:01 (PP). Penalties-McGrath Whl (hooking), 2:15.
2nd Period-2, Cincinnati, Hazen 2 (Shaw, Corbin), 1:31. Penalties-MacDonald Cin (fighting - major), 14:02; McGrath Whl (fighting - major), 14:02; Harvey Whl (holding), 15:34; Crowder Cin (high-sticking - double), 19:04.
3rd Period-3, Wheeling, Fernandez 2 (MacKay, Zurevinski), 4:22 (PP). 4, Wheeling, Cianfrini 1 (Duffy, MacKay), 6:47. Penalties-Daniels Cin (tripping), 2:51; Johnson Whl (interference on the goalkeeper), 7:44; Brace Cin (tripping), 13:38.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout - Cincinnati 2 (Almeida NG, Brace NG, Shaw G, Lewis NG, Crowder G), Wheeling 1 (Duffy NG, Zlobin NG, Ratchuk G, Gill NG, MacKay NG).
Shots on Goal-Cincinnati 7-13-6-4-1-31. Wheeling 5-7-16-2-0-30.
Power-Play Opportunities-Cincinnati 1 / 3; Wheeling 1 / 4.
Goalies-Cincinnati, Houser 4-4-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves). Wheeling, Condon 8-3-0-2 (30 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Frederic Leblanc (25).
Linesmen-Francois Dussureault (62), Patrick Richardson (82).