ECHL: Wheeling Nailers Announce Roster for Kelly Cup Playoffs & Series Preview

Photo Credit: Stacey Gramlich | Inside The Rink
Photo Credit: Stacey Gramlich | Inside The Rink

Tuesday, the Wheeling Nailers announced their Kelly Cup Playoff roster as they are set to get underway Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. from Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, Indiana, against the Indy Fuel. Wheeling will roster eleven forwards, six defensemen, two goalies, and seven players on their playoff-eligible reserve list.

Wheeling Nailers 2023-24 Kelly Cup Playoff Roster

Players to Watch

Many Wheeling fans will be expecting to hear #51 Jordan Martel’s name said a lot throughout their playoff run. Martel has scored 35 goals and assisted on 23 for 58 points in 61 games this season. In the final three games of the season, Martel accumulated four goals and three assists for seven points. This included a two goal and one assist for a three point night in Wheelings’ playoff clinching game this past Saturday.

On the defensive side of things, the Nailers will look to Davis Bunz and Thimo Nickl to shut things down in the defensive zone. Davis and Bunz lead the Nailers in plus/minus with plus 20 and plus 25 respectively. Bunz can also get things done on the offensive side of the ice. Bunz has recorded 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points in 58 games played for Wheeling this year.

The Nailers will welcome back their star goaltender, Taylor Gauthier, between the pipes after a stint with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In 42 games played for Wheeling, Gauthier went 24-16-1-1. Though the record is only six games above a winning record, Gauthier had a 2.23 GAA, .923 SV%, and four shutouts on the campaign. The Nailers named Jaxon Castor as the backup goaltender. Castor had a 10-4-1 record in 16 games played with a 2.71 GAA and .899 SV%. Since taking over between the pipes after the recall of Gauthier to WBS, Castor held things down, going 3-1-0 in four games, which included a 5-3 win over Indy and a 6-0 win over Cincinnati Cyclones. Castor allowed seven goals on 92 shots faced, giving him a .924 SV% and a 1.74 GAA in the four game stretch to end the regular season.

Series Preview

On Friday, the Wheeling Nailers will start their quest to lift the Patrick J. Kelly Cup for the first time in franchise history. The Nailers will have to face a tough Indy Fuel team that has been a pain this season. The Fuel went 8-2-1 against the Nailers in the season series. However, every game, except for one, during that rough stretch for Wheeling has been determined by three or fewer goals.

Playoff experience leans the Nailers way and could very well be the difference factor in the playoff series. Wheeling has been to the playoffs 16 times in their history, while Indy has been four times. Nailers head coach Derek Army will look to help get the Nailers back to the Kelly Cup Final for the first time since 2016. His track record in the playoffs has not been good, winning four games and losing seven behind the bench. However, Army has experience and knows exactly how hard it is to make it that far in the playoffs. Army was one of the players on the 2016 Wheeling Nailers team.

Everyone knows how important getting the first goal of a game is, but it will be more important in this series vs Indy. Indy has been dominant during the season when scoring the opening goal of the game. The Fuel were 31-6-5 in games where they scored the opening goal and 31-2-2 when leading after 40 minutes of play. The Nailers have been a shutdown team this season heading into the third period. With a lead after 40 minutes, Wheeling is an incredible 29-1-1. If they can get the Fuel scrambling in the third period, it will benefit them massively, as Indy is 2-19-4 when trailing after two periods of play.

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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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