Joe Tallari became the fourth player to come out of retirement and skate for the Wheeling Nailers this season.
The former Johnstown Chiefs forward joined Wheeling for Friday night’s game against Reading at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Tallari, who once scored 32 goals in a season for Johnstown, didn’t find the net.
Then again, neither did anyone else through regulation and overtime.
Reading scored twice in the ensuing shootout, with another former Chief, forward Andrew Sarauer, netting the eventual winner in the second round. Officially the Royals left the War Memorial with a 1-0 victory.
“I always thought there was maybe a possibility if a team was in trouble they would call me with me being a local boy,” said Tallari, whose wife is an area native. “I was pretty excited when (coach Stan Drulia) called me. I jumped on the opportunity.”
Tallari had three shots on goal but like the rest of his Nailers teammates, he couldn’t crack Royals goaltender Matt Dalton, who had 48 saves and stopped all four shootout attempts. Wheeling netminder Patrick Killeen was nearly as good, making 36 saves before allowing two shootout scores.
“We need to get Killer some quality work,” Drulia said of Killeen, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect. “(Assistant coach) John (Wroblewski) stayed with him for a good 15 minutes after practice (Thursday) working on some details. He was big tonight as was their goaltender. Both goaltenders were phenomenal.”
The Nailers frequently tested Dalton in the first period as Wheeling posted a 20-9 shots advantage.
The host team added 13 more second period shots, but Reading finished with a flurry, outshooting Wheeling 17-12 in the third and putting plenty of pressure on Killeen.
“It was a pretty big battle out there and I give credit to a lot of guys on our team,” Killeen said. “No one backed down. We kept pushing forward and we had a ton of scoring chances. It’s one of those games we would have liked to get two points but we just have to walk away with one and keep going for the rest of the weekend.”
The Nailers travel to Reading tonight, but Tallari won’t make the trip.
“We appreciate Joe coming out for us,” Drulia said. “He’s got a family here and a job. This is home for him. I wish I would’ve known he wanted to play last weekend when we were here twice. We would have suited him up.”
Tallari held his own despite being away from the ice for a season.
“I play in the adult league at Planet Ice and I coach the midget under-18 team,” Tallari, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, said. “When we practice I go hard with them. It was just a matter of the first couple minutes of adjusting to the speed. I hadn’t played since last April. I had to get my hockey legs back. I was doing quick shifts. The guys are great and they did quick shifts. This is a pretty good team they have here.”
The Nailers have nine players on AHL recall, with six of those in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pens’ affiliate. Drulia has scrambled to fill his roster.
“I’ve brought four guys out of retirement this year,” Drulia said of Tallari, Jeremy Tucker, John May and Kelly Miller, who remains with the team and has six goals in 16 games. “We’re getting these guys coming in and playing their hearts out for us.
“They have no reason to come in here and battle for us,” he added. “I think we’ve got a good enough locker room where the guys come in and they understand that we welcome them right away. “
The organization impressed Tallari during his brief stay.
“I told them I’d take it game by game but I have a job now,” said Tallari, who is employed at Fastenal Co. in downtown Johnstown. “I have other commitments so traveling is going to be difficult.”
Tallari scored 50 goals and 88 points in 121 games with the Chiefs from 2004 to 2006. He later spent parts of two seasons in the AHL, a year with Las Vegas in the ECHL and two seasons in Europe.
“I have a family. That’s the reason I retired,” Tallari said. “We have a little girl. She was here. She’s 5 ½ months and this is the first time she saw daddy play. She had a sign. Even though she’s too young to know what’s going on here I’m just glad I can say I played in front of her.”