WHEELING - After falling behind halfway through the opening frame, the Wheeling Nailers took over in the second and third periods to cruise to a 5-1 victory over the Elmira Sunday at Wesbanco Arena, giving them seven wins in their last eight games.
"We're making a push here to make it in the playoffs," said Nailers netminder Eric Hartzell, who stopped 20 of 21 shots faced for his fifth consecutive win in net. "Every game really matters right now. The guys have been working really hard in practice and in the games and it's really paying off."
Eleven different players recorded points for the Nailers (35-25-6 76 points), as they took all four standings points possible on the weekend with the win over the Jackals (22-36-8 52 points) to put them three points ahead of the playoff cutoff with just six games remaining in the regular season.
Tyler Fernandez goes for the puck in front of the Elmira net Sunday during the Nailers gameat WesBanco Arena.
"It's a real big four points," said Nailers coach Clark Donatelli. "Our guys played a real good solid game. They stuck to the system and it paid off here with a good win."
Elmira's Artem Demkov opened the scoring at the 9:56 mark of the opening frame, netting his 16th of the year on the power play with assists from Daniel Koger and Mike Vaskivuo, and the Jackals led 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Wheeling got all they would need in the opening 1:06 of the middle frame.
Tom Kuhnhackl picked up a Cody Sylvester rebound and fired it off the shoulder of Jackals starter Tony Capobianco (31 saves), who was making his professional debut, and the puck trickled in behind him to even the score just :28 into the second period. Mike Ratchuk also picked up an assist on Kuhnhackl's fifth as a Nailer this season.
Less than aminute later Tyler Fernandez put home a Shane Bakker rebound for his 10th of the campaign and what would end up becoming his his second game-winner in as many contests. "Bakker got it and put it toward the net," said Fernandez. "I was able to tuck it into the open net, I'll take them any way I can get them.
"We came out in the second period and really started to play our game. When you're playing the teams that are out of the playoffs and don't need those points like we do you really have to put them away."
Ratchuk helped Wheeling start to do just that when he made it 3-1 with 4:51 remaining in the frame, taking a pass from Sahir Gill and firing it top shelf. Max MacKay also picked up his first of two helpers on the afternoon.
The Nailers had several chances to add to the lead early in the third period, before Christiaan Minella picked up his second in as many games, backhanding a lose puck into a wide open cage from the left side of the crease to extend the lead to three at the 9:04 mark. Fernandez and MacKay picked up the assists.
Chaz Johnson capped the scoring 1:22 later, working into the offensive zone on a play that was started by Hartzell to net his second of the weekend and 13th of the season, finishing off the Jackals to give Wheeling the 5-1 victory.
The Nailers remain seventh in the Eastern Conference and continue their six game homestand with a pair of contests against Toledo Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Wesbanco Arena.