WHEELING, WV – The Greenville Road Warriors face the Wheeling Nailers in Game Five of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series tonight at 7:35 p.m. at WesBanco Arena. The Road Warriors trail the series three games to one and must win tonight to force Game Six in Greenville on Tuesday.
RECAPPING THE ACTION:
GAME ONE: GRW 3 – WHL 4
Greenville came out of the gates firing in Game One and grabbed a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game. Shane Harper banged home his first pro playoff goal off of a set up by Brendan Connolly on a 2-on-1 rush. Wheeling, though, swung momentum in its favor with three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead. Tyler Murovich tied the score at 8:33 of the first and was followed by Joey Haddad’s shorthanded breakaway that beat Chris Beckford-Tseu at 10:45. Marc-Olivier Vallerand chipped a backhander behind Peter Delmas 4:46 into the third period and pulled Greenville back within one. But the deficit grew to two, again, with Murovich’s second of the night 4:56 later. Brendan Connolly netted Greenville’s third of the night 2:22 after Murovich’s score, but Delmas shut the door from there. Beckford-Tseu sustained his first loss of the playoffs with 17 saves on the night. Delmas turned away 33 bids in the win.
GAME TWO: GRW 2 – WHL 1 (OT)
Nic Riopel made his first start since taking the decision in the 6-3 loss to Elmira on April, 6 and out-dueled Peter Delmas in a dramatic, low-scoring affair. For the second straight game Shane Harper gave the Road Warriors a 1-0 lead with a first period goal. The goal at 17:33 came with assists from Brendan Connolly and Andrew Rowe. Riopel had 13 saves through two periods, including two during a Wheeling 5-on-3 power play in the second, and Greenville’s lead remained 1-0 heading into the third. The advantage evaporated 42 seconds into the period when Tim Crowder finished off a 2-on-0 break with his brother Paul. It was his first goal of the playoffs. With neither team able to score again in regulation, the scene shifted to overtime. Greenville had a handful of great scoring chances among its eight shots, but Delmas was a tough nut to crack. Finally, at 11:21, Jimmy Kilpatrick spiked home a rebound for the win and evened the series at one game each.
GAME THREE: GRW 2 – WHL 3
In their first road playoff game since April 6, the Road Warriors could not match Wheeling early and fell behind 2-0 within the opening 10 minutes of the first period. Joey Haddad converted a 3-on-2 rush off of a pass from Jason DeSantis 1:06 into the game and then Alex Grant scored an unassisted marker at 9:52. Wheeling kept the advantage despite Greenville holding a 15-9 shot advantage in the period. Greenville’s offense chipped away at the lead in the second with a power play goal from Chris Clackson as part of its 17-shot barrage on Peter Delmas. Then 1:38 into the third Brendan Connolly netted the tying goal by pouncing on a rebound from a Brad Cole point shot. Brandon DeFazio, however, turned out to be the hero with his backhand shot at 10:47 that beat Nic Riopel high to the glove side. Riopel had 21 saves on the night but sustained the loss.
GAME FOUR: GRW 1 – WHL 2
The Road Warriors came out of the gate strong and picked up the game’s first goal for their efforts. Working a strong forecheck, Chris McKelvie and Chris Chappell teamed up to set up Sean Berkstresser in the high slot. His wrist shot beat Peter Delmas 4:40 into the game for Greenville’s 1-0 lead. It was the only lead the Road Warriors held in the game as Andrew Orpik netted the tying score at 9:35 of the first. Orpik batted his own rebound past Chris Beckford-Tseu after the initial shot was blocked. The score stayed tied heading into the second but Mikael Bedard broke that with a wraparound that rattled home 7:13 into the period. Greenville surged with 13 shots in the third period, but Delmas held Greenville at bay and Wheeling earned the one-goal win.
WHAT’S ON TAP FOR TONIGHT:
The Road Warriors and Nailers meet tonight in Game Five of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. Wheeling earned wins in Games One, Three, and Four while Greenville was triumphant in Game Two. Wheeling became the first team in the series to win back-to-back games thanks to its 2-1 triumph in Game Four last night. The Nailers have limited Greenville to three goals or fewer in all four games. In the regular season three games was the longest such stretch. This is the 3rd time these organizations have met in the playoffs. Winston Salem beat Johnstown 4-3 in the 1989 Riley Cup Finals and Wheeling beat Johnstown 3-1 in the 1993 Riley Cup Quarterfinals.
During the regular season, the Road Warriors boasted the third best penalty kill in the Eastern Conference and sixth best overall penalty kill in the ECHL at 83.6 percent. They also gave up the fifth fewest power play goals at 52. Since the playoffs have begun, the Road Warriors have taken their penalty kill to another level. They rank second in the league, first among Eastern Conference playoff teams at 97.2 percent. Greenville has given up just one power play goal, a 5-on-3 PPG, in the playoffs and has not surrendered a PPG in this series. They have killed off 21 straight penalties overall.
The Road Warriors have provided their fans with plenty of edge-of-your seat action in the 2011 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Each game in this series against Wheeling has been decided by one goal and only Game Four had the winning score provided before the third period. Only Game One and Game Two against Elmira were decided by more than two goals and the average margin of victory is 1.63.
Road Warriors fans can head to Bailey’s Sports Grille for tonight’s Road Warriors Watch Party. Bailey’s, 2409 Laurens Road in Greenville is the official watch party location for all Road Warriors away games. So grab a group of friends and get there for the Road Warriors up on the big screens courtesy of Bailey’s and America One. The Road Warriors will return home for Game Six, if necessary, on Tuesday, April 26 at 7:35 p.m. at the BI-LO Center. All students can get into the game for $6 by purchasing their ticket the day of the game at the BI-LO Center Box Office. There are also group discount tickets available for groups of five or more. Call 864-674-PUCK to speak to a Road Warriors representative.