The Wheeling Nailers struck three times in the second period, and twice following a controversial goal call, taking the second game of the series against the Rapid City Rush by a 3-1 score on Friday night.
Both teams skated to a scoreless deadlock after 20 minutes of play, but things got out of hand, both on the scoreboard and on the ice in the second period. Wheeling got the scoring entries started when Ryan Scarfo completed a Nailers break down the ice. He fired a shot from the far circle that slipped by Rush net-minder Alex Sakellaropoulos, pushing Wheeling to a 1-0 lead with 9:53 played in the second period (Yushiro Hirano and Steve Johnson assisted). Moments later, the Rush appeared to tie the game up, but a controversial ruling spent the period spiraling out of control. With 5:30 left in the second, Rush forward Taylor Crunk shoved at the puck in a net front scrum and contacted the puck with the shaft of his stick, past Wheeling goalie Jordan Ruby, and in. The original call on the ice was no goal, and after review, the call was somehow upheld. Irate, Tyler Poulsen was assessed a minor for abuse of officials, and Wheeling scored 21 seconds later on the power play. Nick Saracino pocketed a rebound on the glove side of the net of Sakellaropoulos and slid it by his outstretched leg, bringing the Nailers lead to 2-0 with 5:09 left in the second period (Yushiro Hirano assisted). Following the goal, Rush forward Brennan Saulnier got into a skirmish and was assessed a 2-minute roughing minor, a 10-minute match penalty for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct for continuing the altercation, earning an ejection from the contest. The scuffle put the Rush immediately on a five-minute major penalty kill, which Wheeling capitalized on in the final seconds. With 23.5 seconds remaining in the second period, Alec Butcher maneuvered from the near circle towards the slot, and finished a slick motion with a backhand behind Sakellaropoulos to give Wheeling a 3-0 lead after two (Justin Almeida and Steve Johnson assisted).
Tyler Coulter continued his red-hot rookie season and got the Rush on the board in the early minutes of the third, but that’s as close as the Rush would come to the Nailers. Just 2:37 into the frame in four-on-four hockey, Coulter slam dunked a rebound outside of the crease of Wheeling goaltender Jordan Ruby, cutting the deficit to 3-1 (Keeghan Howdeshell and Eric Israel assisted). After penalties were traded back and forth, the game came to its conclusion, resulting in Wheeling taking the series with a 3-1 victory.
Alex Sakellaropoulos, making his Rush debut, stopped 28 of 31 shots in the defeat (2-5-0-0 total, 0-1-0-0 with the Rush).
The Rush conclude their five-game homestand and three-game series against the Nailers tomorrow on Saturday, December 14th. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m. MDT at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.
‘Twas the last home game before Christmas, and all through the Civic Center is a night so special, we bid you all to enter. It’s a “Christmas Night” showdown against the Nailers from Wheeling, and hopefully on the scoreboard the Rush will have them reeling! There’s a trapper hat giveaway presented by Bud Light, with Santa and his sleigh present for pictures all night! It’s a night filled with hockey and Christmas cheer, so what are you waiting for?! Get your tickets HERE.