For the first time since 1993, Wheeling, W.Va, is going to the ECHL’s Championship Series. On Tuesday night, the Wheeling Nailers broke a 2-2 tie with three goals in a span of 4:39 during the early stages of the third period, as they defeated the South Carolina Stingrays, 5-2 in game seven of the Eastern Conference Final. Jarrett Burton netted his third game-winning goal of the series, while three other players chipped in with multiple points.
For the first time in the series, the first period featured non-stop action and plenty of scoring. The Nailers got on the board first at the 2:21 mark. Cody Wydo won a battle in the corner, before feeding John McCarron, who roofed a wrist shot from the right face-off dot. South Carolina had a quick answer to tie the match 1:08 later. Wade Epp let a wrist shot go from the left point, getting a tip from David Pacan for the equalizer. Wheeling temporarily regained the advantage at 8:03. McCarron launched a pass ahead to Wydo, who broke in with a shot from the right circle. His first attempt got stopped, but juggled, allowing him to pot the rebound. The Stingrays drew even again, thanks to a power play goal with 1:34 left. Bobby Shea blocked a clearing attempt at the left point, then set up Austin Fyten, who clobbered in a one-timer.
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Neither team was able to light the lamp in the second period, but in the first five minutes of the third, the Nailers exploded with three goals to pull ahead for good. The first of those markers came at the 24-second mark. Derek Army lunged in front of a clearing attempt, playing the puck to Clark Seymour, who let a shot fly from the line. Vitek Vanecek made the save, but Jarrett Burton pounced on the rebound, depositing it in with his backhand. Forty-five seconds later, the lead was extended to two. Ty Loney sped down the right side of the ice, faked his way around the goaltender, and slid a pass into the crease, where it was poked in by Jordan Kwas. Loney added an insurance tally for the 5-2 final score, when he backhanded in the rebound of Cody Wydo’s right circle wrister.
Brian Foster earned the win in goal for Wheeling, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced. Vitek Vanecek took the loss for South Carolina, allowing five goals on 29 shots.
The Nailers will face the Allen Americans in the Kelly Cup Final, starting on Saturday at 9:05 in Texas. Wheeling’s home games will take place on June 1, 3, and 4 (if necessary). A full series schedule will be released soon.