WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers learned a few things in their first playoff loss Saturday night at WesBanco Arena.
For starters, they're now aware that giving open looks to guys like Justin Vaive isn't ideal. Same goes for Andrew Rowe, Kyle Jean and Andrew Yogan.
Heck, even Emerson Clark got into the act.
Wheeling’s Max MacKay, left, collides into Greenville’s Brad Cole.
It all added up to a thud of a Game 1 for Wheeling in its Best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal. The Road Warriors stole home-ice advantage with a 7-3 victory, with Game 2 scheduled at 6 tonight back at WesBanco Arena.
''They had a lot of Grade-A scoring chances and they popped them all in,'' Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. ''We've got to be better collectively as a team defensively.
''They are too good a team to be giving them nine or 10 Grade-A scoring chances.''
Vaive potted a pair of goals - his first and second of the playoffs - and added a pair of assists to help goaltender Jason Missiaen author a 32-save victory. At one point in the third period Greenville held a 7-1 lead, before Tom Kuhnhackl netted his team-high fourth of the playoffs and second of the game, and Christiaan Minella scored his third on a rebound with 18 seconds left.
''If Jason Missiaen doesn't make some of those saves it's a different story,'' Greenville coach Dean Stork said. The Nailers ''haven't played in a while and we expect to see a different team.
''We know Wheeling is going to be coming out hard.''
The Road Warriors made life tough on the Nailers, specifically in the neutral zone and in front of Missiaen. There were few scoring chances off the rush and even fewer second-chance scoring opportunities.
''You have to be aggressive around the net,'' Wheeling forward Chaz Johnson said. ''We've got to be getting those loose pucks, but they did a great job of boxing out and getting to guys' sticks.
''I take my hat off to Greenville ... they're a really good team and we didn't think we were going to walk through them like we did South Carolina.''
Rowe started the scoring at 6:09 of the first when he took a pass in the slot from Michael St. Croix, who was stationed below the goal line, and whipped the puck past Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon (16 saves on 23 shots).
Kuhnhackl tied it at 17:34 on assists from Zack Torquato and Denver Manderson. Torquato was whistled for a high-sticking minor less than two minutes later though, and a Greenville power play that was dormant in the first round, got untracked.
Yogan walked out of the right corner and roofed a puck over Condon's shoulder for a beautiful goal - his second of the playoffs - and the rout was on.
''We just came off our series and didn't have much time and that sometimes benefits a team,'' Vaive said. ''Coming into a series your battle level is still high and your adrenaline is still kinda pumping from that last series, and we did a good job of that.
''Obviously they are a very good team and they swept one of the better teams in our conference, so we know we were fortunate. It will probably be a different story (today).''
Vaive made it 3-1 as his rebound shot off a Yogan breakaway found the net. Jean scored the Warriors' second man-advantage goal when Wheeling attempted to clear a blocked shot up the middle of the ice and the puck was intercepted.
Less than two minutes later Vaive struck again as Scott Arnold won a race to the puck and fed it to the 6-foot-5, 237-pound forward in the slot.
''This kind of starts a fire under us,'' Nailers captain Dustin Stevenson said. ''We knew they're a transition team and we tried to play run-and-gun hockey a little bit, and that's not us.
''This is the playoffs and you play them potentially six more times, so we're going to have learn from this.''
Greenville2 3 2 - 7
Wheeling1 0 2 - 3
1st Period-1, Greenville, Rowe 4 (St. Croix, Vaive), 6:09. 2, Wheeling, Kuhnhackl 3 (Torquato, Manderson), 17:34. 3, Greenville, Yogan 2 (St. Croix, Vaive), 19:21 (PP). Penalties-Stamler Grn (slashing ), 9:03; Klassen Grn (elbowing), 10:34; Torquato Whl (high-sticking), 19:03; Bakker Whl (boarding), 19:34.
2nd Period-4, Greenville, Vaive 1 (Yogan, Nicholls), 3:07. 5, Greenville, Jean 3 (Cole, Berkstresser), 13:57 (PP). 6, Greenville, Vaive 2 (Arnold, Klassen), 15:09. Penalties-Vaive Grn (cross-checking), 0:54; Torquato Whl (tripping), 5:56; Grassi Whl (delay of game), 12:29; Clark Grn (interference on the goalkeeper), 16:59.
3rd Period-7, Greenville, Clark 2 (Berkstresser, Stamler), 5:04. 8, Greenville, Berkstresser 1 (Noreau, Rowe), 8:20. 9, Wheeling, Kuhnhackl 4 9:23. 10, Wheeling, Minella 3 (MacKay, Manderson), 19:42 (PP). Penalties-Clark Grn (fighting - major), 6:36; Cianfrini Whl (fighting - major), 6:36; Clark Grn (elbowing), 18:43.
Shots on Goal-Greenville 6-9-8-23. Wheeling 10-14-11-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Greenville 2-4; Wheeling 1-5.
Goalies-Greenville, Missiaen 4-2-0-0 (35 shots-32 saves). Wheeling, Condon 4-1-0-0 (23 shots-16 saves).
Referee-Frederic Leblanc (25); Linesmen-Shaun Morgan (71), Ryan Daisy (64).