The Wheeling Nailers have made a habit of coming up with dramatic finishes in the playoffs at North Charleston Coliseum, and on Saturday night, they added another chapter to that novel. Tom Kuhnhackl broke a 2-2 tie with 9:53 gone by in overtime, as the Nailers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with a 3-2 victory.
The Stingrays opened the scoring during the latter part of the first period, getting on the board in the series, while ending Mike Condon's shutout streak at 154:20. The goal came on a transition rush, as Wayne Simpson skated hard down the left side of the ice, before hitting trailer Luka Vidmar in the right circle. Vidmar collected the puck on his tape, before lifting a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the goal.
The second period featured one goal for each squad, with the two tallies separated by just 13 seconds. The Nailers got the equalizer first, courtesy of a power play goal. Sahir Gill won the ensuing face-off to Max MacKay, who immediately hooked up with Denver Manderson for a slap shot which was powered through from high in the zone. Gill's assist extended his point streak (regular season and playoffs) to 12 games. Unfortunately, South Carolina's response came right away, as Jack Downing came out from behind the net, sneaking a shot in from the bottom of the left circle.
With 11:09 to go in the third period, Wheeling drew even. Denver Manderson tossed a shot on goal from the left side, which was knocked away by netminder Pheonix Copley. However, Chaz Johnson pounced on the rebound, dragging it to his forehand, before slipping it inside of the right post. Johnson's second tally of the postseason ultimately forced overtime.
9:53 into the extra session, the Nailers pulled away with the victory. Tom Kuhnhackl took a pass from Jake Areshenko, before flying down the left side, and taking a wrist shot, which was launched into the top-right corner of the net.
Mike Condon grabbed the win in goal for Wheeling, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Pheonix Copley suffered the loss for South Carolina, making 37 saves on 40 shots.
The Nailers and Stingrays will head to Wheeling for game three on Wednesday night at 7:00. Games four and five (if necessary) will also take place at WesBanco Arena on April 25th and 26th (if necessary) at 7:00.