BRAMPTON, ONTARIO – Brampton Beast goaltender Zach Fucale stood tall on Monday afternoon at the Powerade Centre, making 26 big saves to help the Beast to a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Wheeling Nailers.
The win, Fucale’s 19th of the season, gives the Rosemere, Quebec native the franchise record for wins in a season, eclipsing Kristofer Westblom’s mark of 18 victories in a single campaign set back in the 2013-14 Central Hockey League season.
David Ling, Jordan Henry and Chris Auger lit the lamp for the Beast, who are now five points ahead of their North Division rivals in the race to the Kelly Cup playoffs.
The Beast were the first to find the back of the net and did so early in the opening period. Beast newcomer Josiah Didier fired a puck on goal that got through Nailers starter Sean Maguire but hit the post and just sat in the crease. David Ling barrelled in and tapped in his 8th goal of the season, with Didier and Chris Leveille drawing the assists.
Wheeling got the goal back later in the first period as Nick Sorkin sent a laser of a wrist shot over the glove hand of Fucale for a power play goal at 13:47.
Both teams fought hard but skated into the first intermission tied at 1-1, with Wheeling taking a 14-10 edge on the shot clock.
The Beast battled through a tough second period and outshot their opponents 11-7 in the frame but it was the Nailers who earned the go-ahead goal. Cody Wydo hacked at Fucale’s gloveat the side of the goal and shook the puck loose, cut behind the net and tucked in the goal at 10:41.
The Beast entered the third period trailing by one but they dug deep following the second intermission and came out flying to start the third period.
Brampton peppered Wheeling’s Maguire to start the frame and ended the period with 20 shots on goal, but through the first nine minutes of the frame, Maguire seemed to have the answer.
Jordan Henry broke through his armour at the 9:03 mark, pouncing on a loose puck in the high slot and squeezing a quick shot through the goaltender’s pads to tie the game at 2-2.
With the Powerade Centre crowd of 3,118 still roaring after Henry’s game-tying goal, the Beast struck again.
Connor Crisp settled down a loose puck behind Maguire and sent a perfect no-look tape-to-tape pass onto the stick of Auger, who snapped home the eventual game-winner less than a minute later at 9:59.
The remainder of the final period was intense as both teams fought hard but the Beast defense won out and limited the Nailers to seven third period shots on goal.
The Nailers had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes as Beast captain Brandon Marino was sent to the penalty box for interference at 18:46.
Wheeling pulled Maguire in the final moments and enjoyed a brief 6-on-4 power play advantage but Fucale and the Beast shut the door to come away with the crucial win.
Notes: Molson Three Stars: 3) Henry (BRA) 2) Auger (BRA) 1) Fucale (BRA). Brandon MacLean extended his point streak to five games, picking up two goals and five assists in the process. Brandon Marino extended his point streak to six games, collecting two goals and seven assists in that span. The Beast return to action on Friday, February 24 as they head to SNHU Arena to face the division-leading Manchester Monarchs. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00PM.