GAME PREVIEW: Jackals Host Nailers for the First Time This Season

Game 62: Elmira Jackals (14-39-7-1) vs. Wheeling Nailers (29-25-6-0)

7:05 p.m., First Arena, Elmira, New York

The Jackals and Wheeling Nailers resume their brief season series with a pair of games at First Arena, starting tonight. Despite being divisional foes, this is just the second of three times the teams square off this season, with the final match coming Sunday. Wheeling captured the first match on New Year's Eve, 5-2, at Wesbanco Arena.

The Nailers have slumped to begin March, with four losses over their last five games and a 2-7-1-0 mark in their last 10 games overall. That leaves them at 29-25-6-0 on the season and gives them 64 points, which leaves Wheeling outside of the North Division playoff picture. The Nailers trail Adirondack by eight points heading into this week's games.

The Jackals had their three-game winning streak snapped Saturday against Reading, but they have five wins in the last 10 games (5-4-1-0). Elmira is now 14-39-7-1 on the season and with 36 points, the Jackals are in sixth place in the North Division and 13th place in the Eastern Conference.      

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Last time out
 

The Reading Royals scored three time in the first period and used that to end the Jackals three-game winning streak, 4-1, Mar. 11 at First Arena.

Justin Crandall opened the scoring 5:09 into the game burying a rebound near the post to give Reading a 1-0 lead. The Jackals had a quick answer as Kyle Rankin tipped in a point shot from Brycen Martin at 6:58 for his sixth goal of the season. Reading scored the final two goals of the period less than a minute apart at 14:42 and 15:34. Matt Salhanu scored on a one-timer from the right circle and Florian Iberer netted one from the left circle for the 3-1 lead after the first.

The Royals scored again in the second period when Robbie Czarnik escaped out in front of the Jackals net shorthanded and deposited his 22nd goal of the season at 9:26, which made it 4-1. Despite a strong third period for the Jackals, that 4-1 margin held up as the final score.

Playing spoiler

The Jackals have just 11 games remaining and they all come against the North Division, against the five teams involved in a razor thin playoff race. The Jackals will certainly have an affect on which teams do and don't make the North Division playoffs over the final month of the season.

Elmira is just 6-27-2-0 against their divisional opponents this season, with four wins coming against the Manchester Monarchs. They've already completed the 10-game series with Reading, earning just one win in that head-to-head series.

Over the final four weeks, the Jackals have one more match with Brampton, two games with Wheeling, three with Adirondack and five with Manchester. Brampton is 8-0-0-0 against the Jackals and the Nailers are 1-0-0-0. Adirondack has points in all seven of their head-to-head matches (6-0-0-1) while Manchester is just 5-2-2-0 against the Jackals.

Last meeting: Game 29: Second period slump cost Jackals in Wheeling

The Wheeling Nailers rolled off four straight goals in the second period and used that surge to beat the Jackals, 5-2, Dec. 31 at WesBanco Arena.

Elmira snagged a 1-0 lead late in the first period when Sebastien Sylvestre snapped home a shot from the right circle for his first power-play goal of the season at 16:34. The one-goal lead didn't last long in the second period as Andrew Miller tied the game just 2:50 in the second. Jordan Kwas put Wheeling in the lead at 8:41, starting a string of three goals in just under three minutes to open up a 4-1 lead. Kevin Schulze scored the next two at 11:13 and 11:37.

After making a goalie change, the Jackals got back within two later in the second when Sylvestre scored his second goal of the night at 16:20. Wheeling scored the only goal in the third period and went on to win, 5-2, in the first match between the teams.


Scouting the Nailers

The reigning Eastern Conference champions enter the week just 2-7-1-0 in their last 10 games and in desperate need of wins to remain in the playoff race. At 29-25-6-0, the Nailers have 64 points and are in fifth place in the North Division. They are now eight points out of the final playoff position in the division with just 12 games left. Wednesday begins a four-game road trip for Wheeling, which continues Friday and Saturday in Adirondack, before concluding in Elmira on Sunday.

The Nailers are in the middle of the pack in terms of offense, averaging 3.33 goals per game. Rookie defenseman Kevin Schulze leads the Nailers in scoring with 51 points (10g, 41a) in 56 games. He is fourth among all rookie scorers and is second among all defenseman in the ECHL. He scored two goals in the first match with the Jackals. Cody Wydo is next with 47 points, including a team-leading 26 goals, and Nick Sorkin is third with 46 points (16g, 33a) in 48 games.

Doug Carr and Sean Maguire have split time in the Wheeling net. Carr is 15-11-2-0 in 30 games with a 3.37 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. Maguire is 10-13-3-0 in 27 games and has a 3.23 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage. Maguire stopped 34 of 36 shots against the Jackals on New Year's Eve.


Special teams

The Nailers power play went 1-for-3 in their final game of the week against Quad City and is now 56-for-280 (20.0%) on the season. They rank eighth in the ECHL, but that success drops to just 14.8% on the road.

The Jackals closed out the weekend 0-for-6 on the power play over the last two games, dropping to 31-for-202 (15.3%) on the season, ranking 20th in the ECHL. At home, the Jackals are 10th in the league at 18.3%.

Wheeling's penalty kill is last in the ECHL entering the night, allowing a league-high 58 power-play goals in 240 chances, giving them a 75.8% kill rate. Exactly half of their power-play goals allowed (29) have come on the road. 

The Jackals penalty kill was 5-for-5 Saturday against Reading improving to 81.5% on the kill this season, which ranks 19th in the ECHL. They are third on home ice, however, with a 87.4% success rate at First Arena, behind only Fort Wayne (90.5%) and Florida (88.2%).