By Marky Billson
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. – Andy Franck’s play in net for the 8-2 Wheeling Nailers has turned many heads.
Including head coach Glenn Patrick’s.
“Even if Andy Chiodo comes down, Franck is playing on Friday,” Patrick said at the team’s press conference on Monday. “It’s not who’s No. 1 or No. 2. It’s who’s playing well.”
The Nailers travel to defending ECHL champion Trenton on Friday.
Franck became the Nailers’ man of the hour when he stopped 57 of 63 shots in three games this past weekend.
This impressive performance came after being thrust into the starting goaltender’s position following last Thursday’s call-up of Chiodo to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Chiodo’s stay with the Baby Penguins is listed as day-to-day, though it will likely last at least until Thursday.
Sebastien Caron, the Pittsburgh netminder whose quadriceps injury necessitated a goalie restructuring throughout the organization, cannot come off injured reserve until then.
So for now, a 24-year-old who has a final exam on Wednesday at Mercyhurst College is the starting goaltender for the first-place team in the North Division of the ECHL.
It isn’t as if he hasn’t earned this opportunity.
Signed during the preseason almost as an afterthought, he outplayed Brandon Crawford-West and Derek Dolson to win a spot on the roster.
Now, he has produced even better statistics than Chiodo despite twice-a-week, five-hour round trips to Erie and once having to miss a practice to attend class.
Franck is 3-1 with a 2.00 goals against average and .918 save percentage, while Chiodo is 5-1 with a 3.45 GGA and .868 save percentage in Wheeling.
Franck credited his success to a new-found patience in the net.
“Coming from college I could be more free to make the first move,” he said. “I’ve quickly learned that you can’t do that here.”
Mark Scally, a 28-year-old netminder who appeared in 17 games for the Nailers in 2000-01 and one in 2003-04, is currently Franck’s backup.