By Jeremy Peter
WHEELING, W.Va. – For all but about 20 seconds of Friday night’s game, the Wheeling Nailers did everything they had to in order to be successful. But a team has to play a full 60 minutes and nothing less, and the Cincinnati Cyclones were more than willing to provide that tutorial.
Mike Quesnele converted a Nailers turnover into a goal at 9:14 of the third period and captain Barret Ehgoetz (pictured) came flying off the bench on a line change and beat Curtis Darling with 45 seconds remaining as the Cyclones escaped with a 2-1 victory at WesBanco Arena.
The Cyclones take a 3-2 lead in the Best-of-7 North Division semifinal series, and look to eliminate the Nailers in Game 6 Saturday at U.S. Bank Arena.
“I thought we competed well but didn’t get enough pucks and bodies to the net in the first 55 minutes of the game,” Cincinnati coach Chuck Weber said. “Quesnele threw a puck to the net and (Mac) Faulkner goes to the net and I think Darling was distracted by Faulkner and we were able to get a greasy goal there.”
The home team has still yet to win in the series, with Wheeling taking the first two in the Queen City, and the Cyclones the next three.
Weber joked that perhaps he’d have his team hop on the bus today and take a couple laps around Cincinnati in an effort to give it an away game feel.
It looked as though the Cyclones would be going home down in the series after seldom-scoring Wheeling defenseman Chris Snavely snuck in backdoor and chipped in a pretty pass from Tommy Goebel on the power play at 15:11 of the second period. It was the Nailers’ first goal with the man advantage in their last 11 chances dating back to Game 3.
That’s the way it stayed until Quesnele knotted it after the Cyclones intercepted an attempted stretch pass from Nailers defenseman Reid Cashman from deep in his own end.
Wheeling had a chance to go back ahead when Boomer Ewing caught Cincinnati goaltender Loic Lacasse out of the net but couldn’t poke it by the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder.
Less than two minutes later it was Cincinnati’s turn as it broke in for a 2-on-1 against Wheeling defenseman Jonathan Ralph. But Jake Dietrich’s shot from the right circle was turned aside by Darling, who stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced to earn a hard-luck loss.
The home crowd was resigned to watching free hockey, but the defending champion Cyclones had other ideas.
After Wheeling dumped the puck, Lacasse came out of the crease and hurried the it ahead to Matt Syroczynski, who stopped just inside the Nailers blue line and fed it to Ehgoetz who jumped into the play off a good change.
He maneuvered around a defender, deked Darling and put his first of the series into the net on the backhand.
“These guys never quit. We talk about playing 60-minute games,” Weber said. “It’s just a simple, quick-up play.
“I have to give my assistant Dean Stork credit for the work he does with our goaltenders as far as moving pucks. Loic has really improved in his puck movement, and it shows.”