GREENVILLE, SC – The Greenville Road Warriors evened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Wheeling Nailers with a 2-1 overtime win on Friday night. The series shifts to Wheeling for the next three games on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday next week.
In the first period, the Road Warriors looked like an entirely different team than just 24 hours earlier taking the play to the Nailers throughout the opening frame. Had it not been for the stellar play of goalie Peter Delmas, Greenville could have built a whole lot bigger lead.
Delmas kept his team in the game as the Road Warriors launched six shots his way in the first eight minutes of play. Discipline was an issue for the visitors after Channing Boe was whistled for interference at 13:12. He was joined in the penalty box just 1:06 later when Joey Haddad was called for tripping at 14:18. Ex-Hartford Wolf Pack forward Paul Crowder joined the parade to the sin bin when he was sent off for roughing at 14:58. But despite a lengthy 5-on-3, Greenville was unable to cash in.
The Road kept their composure and shortly after both teams were at full strength, Shane Harper took an outlet pass from Brendan Connolly and drove hard to the net. He attempted to make a pass, but it was blocked right back to him and so he lifted a shot past the Delmas who was caught out-of-position. The goal broke gave the home team a 1-0 lead at 17:33.
Nic Riopel, in his first start since Game Two against Elmira, made six saves to hold the Greenville lead.
Riopel elevated his game in the second period as Greenville fell into some early penalty trouble. Wes Cunningham was whistled for tripping with 18 seconds left in the first period and with time carrying over to the second, Sam Klassen’s cross-checking call at 1:03 gave Wheeling a 41 second 5-on-3. Riopel made a pair of strong saves to keep the puck out of the net and repel the threat.
Wheeling’s Joey Haddad took a roughing call at 7:01 allowing Greenville and opportunity to use the power play to attempt jog its offense as they’d gone that far into the period without so much as generating a shot on goal. With Haddad off the ice, Delmas saw a lot of rubber come his way putting 10 shots on net over the final 13+ minutes of the period but none were able to get in the net behind Delmas.
Early in the third period, a turnover at center ice led to a 2-on-0 rush with twins Tim and Paul Crowder. Paul fed Tim a pass off the left post that he tucked just underneath Riopel at 42 seconds.
Greenville remained confident and pressed forward raising their own level and effort The Road Warriors went heavily on the attack in an effort to get the tie breaker in regulation but came up short. But Delmas raised his game and turned aside each of the nine shots he saw sending the game to overtime.
A bad change early in the extra session, saw the Road Warriors tagged for too many men on the ice violation and Wheeling went to work on the power play. The Nailers lone pair of shots, which amounted for 67 percent of their shots in overtime, but Riopel denied each of those bids. Ten seconds after the kill ended Andrew Orpik was whistled for cross checking and it was Greenville’s turn to attack. The Road Warriors did slip a puck into the net, but it was after a whistle on a Delmas cover up. While momentum evened up with the teams back at full strength but a Wheeling defensive breakdown led to the Road Warriors’ winning goal. Marc-Olivier Vallerand took a pass in the slot from Justin Bowers, but his shot was spiked away by Delmas. Jimmy Kilpatrick, however, came streaking in and slammed home the rebound for the winner. It was Kilpatrick’s second of the playoffs and was scored at 11:21.
Riopel’s second win of the playoffs came with 21 saves in just over 71 minutes of work. Greenville ended the night 0-for-8 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
The Road Warriors will be back for Games Six and Seven, if necessary, at the BI-LO Center on April 26 and 27 with 7:35 p.m. start times. Games Three through Five are at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling on Wednesday, April 20, Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23. Wednesday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m. while Friday and Saturday will get underway at 7:35. Fans can visit Bailey’s at 2409 Laurens Road for Road Warriors watch parties of each game