By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
WesBanco Arena is set to hold games three, four and five of the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals where the Allen Americans will be taking on the Wheeling Nailers in a seven game series. Games one and two were played at the Allen Event Center down in Allen, Texas. The series is currently tied 1-1 with the Americans coming out victorious in game one with a score of 5-3 and the Nailers evening up the series in a game two victory with a score of 7-6.
Game three will be played on Wednesday, June 1 with the puck drop at 7:05 p.m. Game four will be Friday, June 3 with a 7:35 p.m. start time. Since the series is tied at 1-1, game five will be necessary and that game will be played on Saturday, June 4 with a 7:35 p.m. start time. All games will be played at WesBanco Arena until the, if necessary, games six and seven, which would be played back in Texas at the Allen Event Center.
The Nailers are chasing their first Kelly Cup championship title in franchise history. The last time the Nailers made it to the finals was when they were formally known as the Thunderbirds and the championship trophy was called the Riley cup in 1993. They didn’t come out on top in ’93 with a loss to the Toledo Storm, so the Nailers are really trying to end the dry spell here in 2016.
In game one, the Americans jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and never trailed after that. They then got up on the Nailers 4-1 before giving up two power play goals in the third to make it a 4-3 game. Gary Steffens would then score his eighth goal of the playoffs to make it a 5-3 game, and that would end up being the final score.
In game two, the Nailers showed up to play early by getting out to a 7-1 lead, but then let the Americans back into it by giving up five unanswered goals. The Americans were unable to tie up the score with nine and half minutes remaining in the third period. Game two ended with a score of 7-6, and now they will travel to Wheeling, West Virginia for the next three games.
The one word to describe the 2015-2016 Nailers team would have to be “resilient” because of their 22 comeback wins this season. This team can never be counted out in any game due to the great goal-tending play and their high powered offense.
Some key players of this postseason have been Riley Brace, Matthew Maione and John MaCarron. They’re second, third, and fourth, respectively, in scoring (Riley has 23 pts, Maione 21, and McCarron 20). Maione has been a key player for this Nailers team the entire season with his impeccable defense, which helped him earn ECHL Defensemen of the Year honors.
One offensive strategy that interim head coach, Jeff Christian, emphasizes is getting bodies to the front of net and screening the opposing goalie. Christian thinks that if the goalie can’t see the puck, then he won’t be able to stop it. Christian is filling in for former coach David Gove, who’s on an indefinite leave of absence.
If the Nailers can win games three and four, then they have the possibility of winning the Kelly Cup on home ice in front of their electric crowd. The team is expecting to see upwards of 5,000 fans at WesBanco Arena this week to create a hostile environment for the Americans.
Photo by West Virginia MetroNews