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Published: Monday, 12/27/2004

Storm has its way in Wheeling again

SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

WHEELING, W.Va. - A year ago the Wheeling Nailers had their way with the Toledo Storm, winning seven of their nine meetings on the way to capturing the ECHL Eastern Conference championship.

It has been quite a different story between these two long-time rivals in the 2004-2005 season, especially the last five days.

After defeating Wheeling 3-2 on home ice Wednesday, the Storm came off its Christmas break yesterday to knock off the Nailers again at WesBanco Arena, this time 4-2.

Goaltender Scott Fankhouser recorded 40 saves while right wing Shawn Collymore collected his fourth and fifth goals of the season to extended Toledo's record against the Nailers this season to 3-1-1.

"We don't talk about last year at all," Storm coach Nick Vitucci said. "That's something we don't want to think about. We're getting things together now after going through a tough period of injuries and call-ups."

Yesterday's victory was the third in a row for the Storm, all with Fankhouser stationed in the net.

"He has been strong for us in this stretch. I hope he can keep it up," said Vitucci.

It was also a good game for Toledo's special teams, which converted three of four power-play opportunities while allowing Wheeling to score just once in five chances with the man advantage.

The Nailers' power-play goal came during a 5-on-3 advantage early in the second period to tie the score at 2. With both Pierre-luc Sleigher and Craig Olynick in the penalty bin for the Storm, Wheeling's Kenny Corupe was able to deflect in a shot taken by Brendon Hodge at the 3:37 mark.

Toledo, despite being outshot 18-8 in the opening period, had taken a 2-1 lead.

Tyler Knight, stationed on the doorstep to the right of Dany Sabourin, had an easy tap-in of a rebound after Andrew Oke's shot bounced away from the Nailer netminder. Knight's goal, his 11th, put the Storm on top 1-0.

Wheeling got even at 17:27 on some hard work by Stefan Brannare, who kept banging away at the puck despite having his wraparound attempt blocked by Fankhouser. Finally, Brannare got the puck loose again and teammate Evgeny Lazarev was able to lift it up over the goaltender's shoulder into the net.

Fankhouser complained that he had covered the puck and that the whistle should have blown, but the goal stood.

Toledo bounced back in front 2-1 later in the first period with its initial power-play tally as Steve Slonina took a pass from Maris Ziedins and scored on a wrister with only 36 seconds left before the intermission.

After Wheeling tied the game, Collymore scored his fourth goal of the season and first of the night as the Nailers were unable to clear the puck. The goal put the Storm ahead to stay at 3-2 with 1:51 to play in the second period.

Collymore capitalized on another scoring opportunity with 7:16 remaining in the third to close the scoring.

Wheeling coach Pat Bingham called that goal the back-breaker for his team.

The Nailers, playing shorthanded with just nine forwards and five defensemen available, were just about to get Hodge back on the ice after a 10-minute misconduct penalty when Collymore found the net.

"We were hoping to be down by only one goal when we got Hodge back. But when we fell two behind, we just flattened out," Bingham said.

After outshooting Toledo 38-21 over the first two periods, Wheeling managed only four shots over the last 20 minutes.

The loss dropped the Nailers' record to 17-11-0 and kept them two points behind idle North Division leader Atlantic City.

Toledo 13-9-3 (29 points) pulled into a tie with the Johnstown Chiefs for fourth place, seven points behind the Boardwalk Bullies.



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