ECHL Central Division Semifinals Game Recap: Wheeling Nailers vs. Indy Fuel Game 3 | 04/22/2024

Stacey Grubich/InsideTheRink

The Wheeling Nailers welcomed the Indy Fuel into WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, WV, tonight for game 3 of the Kelly Cup Central Division Semifinals as the Nailers came out on top in an exciting 3-2 overtime win.

The Nailers captain, Justin Addamo, scored the game-winning goal to give the Nailers a 2-1 series lead.

Wheeling goaltender Jaxon Castor stood on his head, stopping 31-of-33 shots in the winning effort.

The Nailers were a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill but 0-for-4 on the powerplay. Indy outshot Wheeling 33-25 for the game.

First Period

Wheeling came out hard in the first period. The Nailers prevented Indy from getting any long-sustained pressure as they would cause turnovers and turn the puck back up ice and into the Fuel’s zone.

The Nailers started on the right foot early. Just 13 seconds into the first, Nailers’ Lukas Svejkovsky had a great opportunity. Svejkovsky used his speed to cut into the center of the ice and release a shot on net as Indy netminder, Mitchell Weeks, was up for the early test as he made the save and put the rebound into the right-wing corner.

At 2:38, Wheeling would have two great opportunities again. Davis Bunz would get a quick shot on net from the blue line that was stopped by Weeks, but the rebound kicked out to David Jankowski of the Nailers, who would get another shot on net from the slot, but that was also turned away by Weeks.

After putting a bit of pressure on Indy in their zone, Wheeling opened the scoring at 11:40. Isaac Belliveau picked up his first career Kelly Cup Playoff goal when he picked the puck off the boards from a rim by Matt Koopman. Belliveau would loop down low and around the net before finding himself in the slot wide-open and rifling a shot by Weeks. Addamo collected the secondary assist.

Wheeling continued to put on the pressure with 2:15 to go in the period. The Nailers had three grade-A chances off of rebounds from Weeks, but he was able to turn away all three chances to keep Indy’s deficit to one.

Wheeling took a 1-0 lead into the intermission, outshooting the Fuel 12-5 in the period. Wheeling went 0-for-1 on the powerplay and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.

Second Period

After a back-and-forth first 10 minutes of the second, Indy was able to get on the board at 10:02. Matthew Cairns was looking for a back-door pass that was deflected by Nailers’ defender, Dillon Hamaliuk, and found the stick of Fuel forward, Kyle Maksimovich, who made no mistake putting it in the back of the net for his third goal of the playoffs. Kale Howarth was awarded the secondary assist.

Wheeling answered back at 15:18 to take a 2-1 lead off a 2-on-1 break. Jankowski found Bunz on the left-wing side, who went skate-to-stick off a bad pass and ripped a shot on the glove side of Weeks for his second goal of the series. Tanner Laderoute picked up the secondary assist.

With 1:32 to go, Colin Bilek of the Indy Fuel skated down the left-wing wall and cut to the middle of the ice in front of Wheelings’ netminder. Castor would shut down the five-hole attempt to keep Wheelings’ one-goal lead.

The score remained 2-1 heading into the second intermission. The Fuel had many opportunities as they outshot Wheeling 17-8 in the period, taking a 22-20 shot advantage through two periods of play. Wheeling went 0-for-2 on the powerplay and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill for the period.

Third Period

Being the third game in four days, both teams came out sloppy in the third period. Both teams struggled to connect on passes and tried to force plays that were not there.

The Nailers iced the puck with 6:31 to go. It took Indy all of 10 seconds off the ensuing faceoff to find the back of the net and tie the game at 2. Andrew Perrott received a perfectly placed one-time pass from Santino Centorame. Perrott riffled the puck from the top of the left-wing circle to beat Castor, who looked like he picked up the shot late. Maksimovich picked up his second point of the night on the secondary assist.

At 15:37, Parrott would get another one-time shot off, but this time, Castor was up to the task as he robbed Parrott with the blocker to keep the game tied at 2. Nothing would come to light after the save, and the third would end 2-2.

The Fuel outshot the Nailers, 11-4 in the third period, and took a 33-24 shot total at the end of regulation. Wheeling went 0-for-1 on the powerplay in the period and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.

Overtime

It took only 30 seconds and one shot for Wheeling to win the game. Addamo’s pass to the far side of the rink was broken up by an Indy defender and landed on the stick of Justin Lee. Addamo opened up to receive a one-time pass from Lee and riffled the puck over the pad and under the glove past a sprawling Weeks.

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Zachary Alvarado

Inside The Rink journalist covering the Wheeling Nailers and Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL. I am a Duquesne University Sports Information and Media major graduating in December. I have been passionate about hockey since I was 4 years old.

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