ECHL Central Division Semifinals Game Recap: Wheeling Nailers vs. Indy Fuel Game 4 | 04/23/2024

Wheeling Nailer celebrate a win over the Indy Fuel
Stacey Grubich

For the fourth game in five days, the Wheeling Nailers and Indy Fuel met Tuesday night at WesBanco Arena in their Central Division semi-final game, where Wheeling picked up a 3-0 win. The Nailers now lead the series 3-1. Jaxon Castor and Jordan Martel led the way for the Nailers. The Nailers can close the series out on Saturday and move on to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Despite the score, the game was much closer. Both teams had great chances throughout the game, but it was the Nailers who were able to convert on theirs.

Martel recorded the game-winning goal and a two-goal performance to propel the Nailers to a win.

Castor recorded his first professional shutout in a 21-save performance. He stood on his head to kill any momentum Indy were getting from extended shifts in the Wheeling zone.

First Period

The first period was tightly contested, with low shots at the start. Through the first 9:07, there were just three shots between the two clubs, but none were high-opportunity shots.

The Nailers opened the scoring at 13:19 with 10 seconds left on a penalty to Indy captain Seamus Malone. Off a faceoff to Indys’ goaltender, Mitchell Weeks, Justin Addamo would win the draw, and it was Evan Vierling who would find the puck in a scrum to know it toward the front of the net for Martel to locate the puck and swat it past the blocker side of Weeks. Martel picked up his third goal of the series. Vierling (one assist) and Lukas Svejkovsky (1) would pick up the assists on the goal.

Indy took a late penalty at 18:47, but Wheeling would be unable to get a goal before the horn went to end the first. 47 seconds of powerplay time would carry over to the second period. Wheeling went 1-for-1 on the powerplay and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill while outshooting Indy 7-5 for the period.

Second Period

The second period was full of sloppy play and dump-and-change hockey. Neither team could get anything going until Ross MacDougall of the Fuel took a hooking penalty. On the ensuing powerplay for Wheeling, Martel picked up his second goal of the game to put Wheeling up 2-0 at 14:21 of the second. Martel ripped a perfectly placed one-time pass from Svejkovsy past a sprawling Weeks, who was unable to get across his crease in time to make the save.

Davis Bunz took a penalty for tripping at 14:37. Wheeling did an excellent job preventing Indy from any high-danger scoring chances and killed the penalty off continuing into the final five minutes of the period.

After a somewhat sloppy period that saw both teams struggle to get any long-sustained pressure going, the Nailers took a 2-0 lead into the locker room for the second intermission. Wheeling went 1-for-3 on the powerplay in the middle frame and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. Shots were knotted at seven a piece for the per,iod with Wheeling leading the shot total 14-12 through 40 minutes of play.

Third Period

The puck was dropped on the third, and it was shutdown time for the Nailers. Indy put on the pressure early, throwing everything on the net, but Wheeling goaltender Casor was able to turn every shot he faced, keeping the Nailers up 2-0.

After weathering another onslaught of zone time by the Fuel, Wheeling turned the puck out of the zone and down on a 2-on-1 rush. Svejkocsky ripped a shot on net to get a rebound, but Weeks was able to control the shot and smother the rebound for a faceoff.

Down by two, Indy put on the pressure even more. Wheeling did everything to keep the Fuel out from the middle of the ice and only allowed shots from the outside that Castor was able to turn aside with ease.

At 13:07, Matthew Quercia had a mini breakaway opportunity to extend the Nailers lead to 3-0 on the penalty kill. He would make a small move to get Weeks moving, but Weeks managed to get his shoulder on the shot to keep the deficit at two for his team.

With 3:40 remaining, Indys’ Colin Bilek was called for hooking. On the ensuing penalty for Indy, the Fuel went down 2-on-1. Matus Spodniak and Cam Hausinger passed back and forth a couple of times before Spodniak opened his hips to take a one-time shot. Castor quickly moved laterally to shut down a grade-A opportunity and preserve his shutout.

David Jankowski sealed the deal with an empty net goal at 19:43.

The horn would sound ending the game and tempers would flair with a line brawl in front of the Indy Fuel bench.

Shots were nine a piece for the third period and the shot total was 23-21 in favor of the Nailers. Wheeling went 0-for-1 on the powerplay and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.

For the game, Nailers were 2-for-5 on the PP and 5-for-5 on the PK.

What’s Next

The Wheeling Nailer and Indy Fuel have the next three days off before both teams head to UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, PA, for game five. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

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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