BRAMPTON, ONTARIO – Brampton Beast forward Connor Crisp tied the game early in the third period but the Wheeling Nailers stormed back to take a 5-2 decision over the Beast on an otherwise perfect Military Appreciation Day at the Powerade Centre on Sunday afternoon.
To their credit, the Brampton Beast fought very hard considering they were playing their third game in less than three games against a Wheeling Nailers club that was idle on Saturday night.
After a slow start to the game, Brampton managed to dictate the pace throughout much of the latter half of this North Division showdown to outshoot the Nailers 29-27.
However, the Beast’s divisional rival ultimately prevailed by scoring three consecutive goals in the third period to break a 2-2 tie and earn the victory.
Chris Auger and Connor Crisp scored for the Beast (5-2-1-2), who were denied a chance to win four straight games for the first time in their ECHL history.
Because of the victory, the Nailers (6-3-0-1) are now tied for fourth place in the division with the Beast.
The well-rested Nailers began the game with authority by creating heavy pressure on the Beast both off the cycle and on the rush. By the midway point of the opening period, the Beast trailed 9-4 on the shot clock.
Wheeling’s strong play out of the gate was rewarded when Kevin Schulze scored the ice-breaking goal at 3:55.
Derek Army increased the advantage to a pair of goals with a perfectly placed slap shot into the net with 1:02 remaining in the frame.
There were several other golden opportunities for the Nailers to score even more goals in the first period, but the Wheeling skaters were denied by strong goaltending from Zach Fucale. He made multiple highlight reel glove grabs and blocker saves to keep his team close.
The Beast did turn on the heat late in the period and managed to cut the deficit in half with 47 seconds remaining in the first frame— a mere 15 seconds after Army’s marker. Auger deftly deflected the puck into the net from the slot after receiving a beautiful centering pass from Luke Pither.
Because of the late offensive surge, the Beast only trailed 13-12 on the shot clock heading into the first intermission.
Part two of the contest was just as evenly played as the Beast registered 11 shots compared to 10 for the Nailers.
The home team’s recent strong play on the penalty kill came to the forefront in this period as they stifled three Nailers power plays with aggressive zone coverage that led to shorthanded attacking rushes.
Solid defense and goaltending from both sides led to no goals being scored in the second period.
While the Beast attackers were not able to convert on early power play chances to start the final period, it did give them the momentum that led to the equalizing goal at 7:46. Crisp scored for the second night in a row outmaneuvering Nailers netminder JP Anderson with a backhand-to-forehand deke.
Adam Krause stole momentum back with a goal 29 seconds later, at 8:15, to put the Nailers up 3-2.
Krause struck again with a power play marker at 12:11 to give the Nailers their second two-goal lead of the afternoon.
Despite non-stop pressure in the dying minutes of the game, the Beast were not able to draw any closer due to excellent netminding by Anderson, as he denied multiple point-blank chances down the stretch.
Cody Wydo confirmed a Nailers win with an empty net tally with 28 seconds remaining.
The Beast will look to avenge this loss against the Nailers when the two teams meet on Tuesday morning at WesBanco Arena. Puck drop for this matinee showdown is 11:05 a.m.
Notes: Molson Three Stars: 3) JP Anderson 2) Connor Crisp 1) Adam Krause. Brandon Marino, Yannick Veilleux and Brandon MacLean had their respective point streaks of eight, seven and three games come to an end. The Beast were 7-for-8 on the penalty kill and 0-for-4 on the power play. This was the first home game of the season where the Beast were held to less than three goals.
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