Joly, Nailers Bury Thunder in Wheeling, 7-1
Michael Joly scored two goals and added an assist to help lead the Wheeling Nailers to a crushing 7-1 victory over the Wichita Thunder on Saturday evening. Wheeling jumped out to a decisive lead, scoring six unanswered goals before the Thunder finally got on the board. Austin McIlmurray had the only goal for Wichita. Alex D’Orio stopped 29 shots in the victory.
The Nailers took a 2-0 first period lead, outshooting the Thunder in the first, 15-9. Wheeling got on the board at 6:22. Matt Foley fired a shot from the point that Vladislav Mikhalchuk tipped past Thunder netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos for his second goal of the year.
It took just 16 seconds for the Nailers to get back on the board. Wheeling entered the Wichita and on a 3-on-1 break. Patrick Watling passed the puck to Joly in front of the crease, but the puck was knocked off his stick. Shane Kuzmeski swept in, scooping up the loose puck and burying it in the back of the net for his second goal of the year.
The Nailers poured it on in the second period, adding three more tallies as they outshot Wichita 19-12 in the period. Joly scored the first of those goals less than a minute into the second. Joly fed the puck to Matt Miller cruising down the slot. Miller’s shot was stopped by Sakellaropoulos, but Joly picked up the rebound, tucking it inside the right post for his fourth goal of the year.
Just before the 10-minute mark, Wheeling was back on the board. Lawton Courtnall entered the Thunder zone on a 2-on-1 break. He passed the puck to Brady Tomlak who fed it back to Courtnall. He fired a wrist shot that beat Sakellaropoulos, giving Courtnall his eighth goal of the year.
The Nailers added one more goal just before the end of the second period. Matt Alfaro approached the Wichita net on a 2-on-0 break. He fired a shot that Sakellaropoulos saved, but the rebound came right to Patrick McNally who stuffed it in for his fifth goal of the season.
The Thunder had been outshot 34-21 through the first two periods, but it did not get any better in the third, as Wheeling added 17 more shots and two more goals. The first came at 5:36 when Joly added his second tally of the contest. Watling’s initial shot was stopped, but the puck feathered loose to the opposite side of the net where Joly stuffed it in.
Eight minutes later, Wichita finally got on the board. Peter Crinella tapped of the puck back into the high slot where McIlmurray blasted a one timer past D’Orio for his fifth goal of the year.
With a little over five minutes left in the contest, Bobby Tomlak finished off the scoring with his fourth goal of the year. Sakellaropoulos came out to play a puck behind the net, allowing Garet Hunt to swoop in and make the steal, passing it in front to Tomlak who fired the puck into the basically wide open net.
Miller, Foley, and Watling each had two assists for the Nailers. Tomlak added a goal and an assist. Sakellaropoulos stopped 44 of 51 shots for the Thunder.
The loss drops Wichita (22-10-5) into third in the Western Conference. The Thunder remain in Wheeling on Sunday. Game time is scheduled for 3:10 CT.
By Robert Pannier