Looking to avenge a 7-2 defeat on Friday night, the Kalamazoo Wings took on the Wheeling Nailers in the final regular season game of the season. It was Fan Appreciation Night at the Wings Event Center and the fans were treated to a 5-2 win to end the season.
The K-Wings managed to get through the first minute of the game without allowing a goal, something that hadn’t happened in three of the previous four games. In fact, Kalamazoo dominated much of the early play, even drawing a penalty three minutes into the game.
Despite generating several good opportunities, they couldn’t put anything past Doug Carr. As the man-advantage expired, Justin Taylor found himself all alone in front of the net. Although he had what was probably the best chance of the period, his shot from between the circles was stopped by Carr.
While Joel Martin didn’t have much to do early in the game he was sharp when called on. His best sequence came just after another failed power play for the K-Wings. Christian Hilbrich broke in on a two-on-one and called his own number. Martin stopped the initial shot and then hurried to the post to slam the door on the rebound.
Rookie Michael Zipp made his Kalamazoo debut and made it onto the score sheet at the 14:22 mark. Unfortunately, it was for a slashing penalty, not a goal. With the former Calgary Hitmen in the box, Peter Schneider used his speed to set up a short-handed opportunity.
The Austrian broke in and fired a shot at Carr. The goaltender knocked it into the air and couldn’t find the puck. It was behind him and trickling to the net. It might have gone in on its own, but Lane Scheidl wasn’t taking any chances. He jammed it into the net for his 27th goal of the season.
Kalamazoo almost made it to the end of the period with the lead. With just 17 seconds left on the clock, Ross McMullan fired a slapshot from just inside the blue line. Martin made the initial stop but the rebound made its way to the stick of Kale Kerbashian who slid a spinning backhander underneath the K-Wing goaltender.
Wheeling tried to get things going early in the second period. Aided by a power play, they had four of the first five shots. Eventually, though, Kalamazoo regained possession of the puck, and then retook the lead. Cam Darcy drove behind the net and reversed the puck back. It hit the back of Carr’s leg and dropped into the crease where Scheidl was first to the puck and poked it behind the net.
Martin again went long stretches without seeing any action. At one point, he did make a nice left pad save on Riley Bourbonnais. The Wheeling forward tried to get Martin leaning the wrong way but the K-Wings goaltender was able to drag his left pad behind him to stop the shot.
At the other end of the ice, Scheidl made a nice move around Ross McMullen and left a pass for Darcy. It would have been an easy goal but Darcy couldn’t get his stick down in time to put it home. However, Kalamazoo’s leading scorer extended the K-Wings lead with just under a minute to go in the period.
Justin Taylor worked his way in front of the net and pounced on a rebound created by Scott Henegar’s shot. Taylor wrapped it around Carr for his 32nd goal of the season.
The third got off to a bang with Joel Martin flashing the leather. The veteran goaltender dropped into a full split and snatched the puck out of the air with a flourish. A few minutes later Tyler Sorenson added another goal for the K-Wings as he beat Carr cleanly from inside the right circle at the 41 second mark. It was the 20th goal on the season for the Kalamazoo all-star.
Brian Hart continued the fun as he chipped in a rebound for the K-Wings fifth goal. Kyle Blaney and Henagar had the assists. Following the goal, Wheeling decided to help their goaltender out by keeping the puck in the Kalamazoo end. They fired 26 shots at Joel Martin in the period and he stopped 25 of them. Only Tyler Currier was able to beat him as he snapped a wrister over Martin’s blocker to bring the the Wheelers within three goals. That was the closest they would come as the K-Wings ended their season with the 5-2 victory.
Kalamazoo matched their win total from last year at 38. They will head to Toledo to start their first round match-up against the Walleye on April 14th.