(PR) Johnstown, PA – Jeff Prough scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season and Gord Burnett scored his first-career ECHL goal to lead the Trenton Devils over the Wheeling Nailers, 5-3, Friday at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Devils fell behind the Nailers in the first period, just as they had when the clubs first met October 23, a 4-1 Devils loss. Less than five minutes into Friday’s game, Hunter Bishop redirected a centering feed from Andy Lord past Devils goaltender Jeff Lerg to give the Nailers the early edge. The Devils prevented the Nailers from extending their lead this time around, with Jeff Prough scoring twice in a span of 7:54. On the first goal, Prough and Tony Zancanaro crashed the net and after Zancanaro’s wrister was stopped by Nailers goalie Mattias Modig, Prough got to the rebound and flicked a knuckling puck toward the net and past Modig to tie the game, 1-1. Dan Charleston notched the secondary assist, and got the primary assist on Prough’s second marker. Coming off a two-assist performance in his season debut, Charleston displayed nifty stickhandling below the end line and made a sharp feed to Prough in front, who deked, shot from the backhand, and beat Modig for the fourth-year pro’s fifth of the season. Kory Nagy got the secondary assist, his first of two points on the night, and Trenton had a 2-1 lead after one period.
In the second, the Nailers battled back with a shorthanded goal, taking advantage of a Devils icing and the ensuing offensive zone face-off. Draw man Matt Lombardi’s stick split in half and the puck went to the outer rim of the left-wing circle for a blast from Kris Vernarsky who beat Lerg over the shoulder for Wheeling’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season at 13:10. But the game didn’t stay tied for long as J.S. Berube and Matt Lombardi set up defenseman Gord Burnett at the right point for a long-range goal that gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 16:48 of the second. Burnett’s first-career ECHL goal remarkably came in the 29-year-old, Regina, SK native’s first regular season game since last December.
The Devils increased their lead when Kory Nagy took a fortuitous bounce on a pass from Jeremy Akeson, carried toward the Nailers goal, made a sharp move, right to left through the net mouth, and beat Modig stick-side to make the score 4-2 at 6:41 of the third period. Despite an insurance goal and a strong effort from Lerg between the pipes, the resilient Nailers pulled back within one goal thanks to their power play. Breaking a string of 12 unsuccessful power plays vs. Trenton in three games this season, Dan Henningson blazed a shot from the left point through the legs of Lerg at 9:24, and Wheeling trailed 4-3.
The situation got stickier for the Devils when Jeremy Akeson took a slashing penalty with 3:58 remaining in regulation, but the Devils penalty kill regrouped and created a scoring chance of its own. Darcy Zajac forced the puck away from the man-up Nailers, and Trevor Kell carried it ahead. With little urgency from the Nailers backcheck, Kell brought it into the zone and saw defenseman Justin Coutu joining the play. Kell passed to Coutu who whistled a shot from just left of the slot through Modig to give the Devils another bit of insurance and a 5-3 lead. Coutu’s first of the year was the Devils’ second shorthanded tally of the season.
A penalty against Wheeling negated the remaining power play time for the pseudo-home team, and the Devils held on for Jeff Lerg, who got his third win of the season, turning away 29 of 32 shots as the Devils improved to 4-3-0-1, over .500 for the first time this season. Trenton is next in action Saturday, facing the Elmira Jackals at First Arena in what will be the first of 16 matchups between the division rivals this season. Puck drop is set for 7:35 p.m.