KALAMAZOO, MI— Aaron Irving scored four goals and had five points as he helped the Kalamazoo Wings roar back from a 5-2 third period deficit on their way to a 6-5 win over the Wheeling Nailers on Wednesday night at Wings Event Center.
Earning a handful of early power play opportunities, the Wings took the game’s first lead, courtesy of Jimmy Mullin’s 17th goal of the season. Irving took a long shot from the right wing side, and a pad save from Colin Stevens kicked the puck to the top of the left circle where Mullin finished with a one-touch put back.
Kalamazoo looked poised to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room after a period of play, but the Nailers drew even with just 1.9 seconds remaining in the frame. Moving through center ice, Garrett Meurs took a long wrist shot which changed directions on its way to Joel Martin and short-hopped over his leg.
Not skipping a beat in the second period, the Nailers took control of the game and started the frame with three unanswered goals, eventually establishing a 4-1 lead. Riley Bourbonnais earned a power play strike at 4:37 of the period, Tyler Vankleef scored his second of the season at 7:18, and Bourbonnais produced his second of the period and 20th of the year at 13:12.
31 seconds after Bourbonnais made it 4-1, Kalamazoo roared back with a tally of their own. Barreling into the right wing corner, Irving handled the puck and slid an impossible-angle shot to the goal. His effort ended up ricocheting off the back of Colin Stevens’ skate and dribbled over the line for Irving’s 10th goal of the season.
Down by two and in the early goings of the third period, the Wings surrendered a fifth goal, putting their backs firmly against the wall. Nick Sorkin one-timed a shot in the slot off a feed from Meurs and made it 5-2, Nailers, just 1:04 into the stanza.
From then on out Kalamazoo dominated the play and began mounting their comeback. Irving fired a laser on a power play at 7:47 of the third period and beat Stevens over the glove for his second goal of the season, cutting the Wheeling lead to a pair of goals.
Just 39 seconds later, Irving capped off the hat trick after burying a centering feed from Kyle Blaney on the doorstep. Irving’s goal was his 12th of the season and brought the Wings to within a goal with under 12 minutes to play in regulation.
Drawing a late penalty on Marcus Basara, Kalamazoo earned their fifth power play of the night and used the extra attacker to equalize the game at five. Reeling in a pass at the top of the left circle, Tyler Biggs saw some room and stepped into a wrist shot that found a tight window in the top corner of the goal.
The 5-5 tie would hold into the closing moments of regulation, sending the teams into a three-on-three sudden death overtime. 2:27 into the overtime period, Irving and Josh Pitt linked up for a give-and-go which opened Irving at the front of the goal for a re-direct of the puck. He tipped the pass under the bar, capping off a four-goal, five-point performance, and lifting the Wings to a 6-5 win.
Next: Kalamazoo @ Cincinnati Cyclones- Saturday, February 23, 7:35 p.m., U.S. Bank Arena.
Broadcast information: Saturday’s game will air on AM 1660 The Fan or online at www.1660thefan.com/listen-live.
Photo credit: Kimberly Moss
Single-game tickets are on sale! Tickets start as low as $10 and can be purchased at http://kwings.com/SingleGameTickets or at the Wings Event Center box office.
Wings Event Center, owned and operated by Greenleaf Hospitality Group, is home to the Kalamazoo Wings professional hockey team and a full entertainment venue offering concerts, sporting events, family shows and trade shows. Built in 1974, Wings Event Center values partnerships with the community to bring events and attractions that enrich the lives of residents in the Kalamazoo area.