Through the first three weeks of the ECHL season, the Wheeling Nailers are the lone unblemished team with a 5-0-0 record. The Nailers lead the league in goals per game (4.40), shots per game (37.80) and shots against per game (20.60) while they are tied for third in goals-against per game (2.00). Wheeling’s +12 goal differential also ranks first in the ECHL.
The Nailers opened last weekend with a 3-2 overtime win against Gwinnett. Zack Torquato notched the game-winning goal with just 42 seconds remaining in the extra session, after Chris Kushneriuk and Andrew Hotham scored during regulation. Matt Lombardi had two assists, including a helper on the game winner. Peter Delmas earned the win in net turning aside 21 shots in his first appearance of the season.
Wheeling made ECHL history with its 6-4 win against Trenton on Saturday, becoming the first team in the league’s 24-year history to reach the 800-win plateau. The team began play as the Carolina Thunderbirds in the ECHL’s inaugural season in 1988-89, capturing the Riley Cup as league champions. After playing as the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds from 1989 through 1992, the club moved to Wheeling for the 1992-93 season, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in West Virginia this season.
Chris Barton led the way for the Nailers in Saturday’s win with a hat trick while Patrick Johnson and Nick Plastino each contributed three assists. Lombardi chipped in with a pair of goals and Devin DiDiomete also had a two-point with a goal and an assist. Patrick Killeen recorded his fourth win of the year in goal turning aside 18 Titans’ shots.
Killeen, who represented the Nailers at the 2011 ECHL All-Star Classic in Bakersfield, is tied for third in the league with four wins and is tied for seventh with a 2.00 goals-against average. After his first appearance this season, Delmas is fifth in the ECHL with a 1.87 goals-against average.
Barton leads the club, is tied for third among all rookies, with five goals, while fellow rookie Johnson paces the team with seven points (2g-5a), which is tied for third among first-year players.
Wheeling concludes a four-game home stand on Friday against Kalamazoo before heading on the road for four straight games, beginning with a Saturday contest in Trenton.