The Wheeling Nailers' Cody Sylvester has been on a tear. The Komets know it all too well; he totaled three goals and six points in the home-and-home series that concluded with a 4-3 Nailers overtime victory Wednesday at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Sylvester tied it on a 42-foot shot with 1:08 remaining in regulation – Fort Wayne's A.J. Jenks was in the penalty box serving a hooking call – and Sylvester netted the winner from slightly closer range in the 3-on-3 extra time.
“We played an unbelievable defensive game,” said coach Ben Boudreau, whose Komets are 7-1-3 against the Nailers.
“I thought our details were great, keeping them to 16 shots in regulation time there. We did everything we needed to do to win, and it sucks to come out with a loss.”
Goaltender Jeremy Helvig stopped 15 of 19 shots for Fort Wayne (14-6-4). For Wheeling (14-23-5), which defeated the Komets 6-3 on Saturday, Shane Starrett thwarted 25 of 28 shots.
“I thought we played a really good game, for the most part,” said Jackson Leef, who put Fort Wayne up 3-2 by banging in the rebound of a Blake Siebenaler shot 8:34 into the third period. “We outchanced them yet again tonight, just a couple tough bounces at the end. We need to find a way to finish those out.”
Fort Wayne got an early power-play goal from Brandon Hawkins, who has eviscerated his former team with six goals and 10 points in 11 meetings.
The Nailers, who had only one shot through the first 15:39, didn't score until their fifth shot, 4:16 into the second period, when a wild bounce in their end set up a 3-on-1 up-ice rush that was finished by a Matt Miller one-timer.
“I think we were just playing hard on pucks, winning our small-area battles, our one-on-one battles, holding on to the puck,” said Leef, a native of Fort Wayne. “I think that's one of those things that's been helping us. That's our success right there. If we stick to that, I think we're hard to play against.”
Siebenaler, who's also from Fort Wayne, answered just two minutes later with a 50-foot slap shot, giving him goals in back-to-back games.
Siebenaler, who played with Hawkins last season for the Nailers, has three goals in 24 games this season. Leef has two goals in 15 games.
Starrett prevented the Nailers from falling behind further, thwarting Matt Murphy and Zach Pochiro on breakaways late in the second period.
Just 28 seconds into the third period, Helvig followed suit with a sprawling save on Lawton Courtnall.
But Helvig couldn't stop Matt Alfaro's shot, at the end of a 2-on-1 rush, that tied it at 2 at 7:45.
The Nailers played without forward Joshua Winquist, as he served the first half of his two-game suspension for elbowing Komets goalie Dylan Ferguson, who was out with a neck/head injury.
Fort Wayne scored on 1 of 2 power plays. Wheeling was 1 of 4.