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 Wheeling Nailers

Riley Brace Becomes 68th Former Nailer to Reach NHL

April 15, 2024 - ECHL (ECHL)
Wheeling Nailers News Release

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce that a 68th former Nailer/Thunderbird has made his National Hockey League debut. Riley Brace reached the NHL on Saturday night, as he was a referee for the game between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.

Brace played two full seasons with the Nailers from 2014-16, and was the team's leading scorer in both campaigns. Riley's Wheeling career got off to an incredible start, as he netted a hat trick in his first game with the club on October 18, 2014. That got the ball rolling on an 18-goal, 67-point season, which also saw him earn a spot in the starting lineup of the 2015 ECHL All-Star Classic. Brace continued his stellar play the following year with 26 goals, 41 assists, and 67 points, which earned him All-ECHL Second Team honors. However, it was what Riley did after the regular season that earned him a permanent spot in the memories of Wheeling fans. The forward tallied 27 points in 26 playoff games, and his goal in overtime of game seven against Reading lifted the Nailers to the Eastern Conference Final, which they ultimately won against South Carolina.

The 32-year old played eight seasons of professional hockey from 2013-21. In addition to his time in Wheeling, he also played for San Francisco and Ontario in the ECHL, while appearing in AHL games with Worcester, Iowa, and Chicago. Brace spent his final five seasons playing in various European leagues in Germany, Italy, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Riley began his officiating career in 2022, splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. He had the opportunity to referee two Nailers games in Reading on November 4th and 5th, 2022.

Brace had his dream of reaching the NHL come true in incredible fashion on Saturday night, as he got to work his first career game in his home province of Ontario.

Riley Brace becomes the 68th Nailer/Thunderbird to reach the NHL, and the second to do so as an on-ice official. The first was Kyle Flemington, who currently works as an NHL linesman.

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