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On the brink of elimination, the Brabham Cup Champion, Toledo Walleye were able to sneak past the surging Wheeling Nailers in Game 7 of the North Division Semi-Finals in dramatic fashion. In a back-and-forth contest that needed Overtime to decide a winner, Wheeling was headed to their first Power Play of the night. It didn’t look like the Nailers could buy a power play. They were harping for one all night until they finally got one. Be careful what you ask for, kids, because not even halfway through the power play, Toledo’s Kyle Bonis stole the puck and went high blocker side on Eric Hartzell to win the game and send the Walleye to the Division Finals against Fort Wayne.
Although it took Toledo 7 games to knock off the 4th seed, Fort Wayne had a much easier time getting to the 2nd Round. It was quick series and a short-lived postseason for the Kalamazoo Wings as Fort Wayne was able to bounce them in five games to advance to the 2nd Round for the second consecutive season. This is the first time in Walleye history they have advanced beyond the 1st Round. The last time Toledo did so was in 2006 back in the Toledo Storm’s ECHL days.
Both Clubs have coaches who have won titles in the lower levels of hockey as well. Toledo’s Derek Lalonde led the Green Bay Gamblers to the United States Hockey League title back in 2011-2012. In 2012-2013, Fort Wayne’s Gary Graham was able to take the Pensacola Ice Flyers to the SPHL title.
Some numbers to look at before this series kicks off…
2015 Playoff Leaders:
Points: Toledo – Troy Schwab (9); Fort Wayne – Mike Embach (7)
Goaltending: Toledo – Jeff Lerg (4-3-0, 2.29 GAA, 0.922 SAV%); Fort Wayne – Roman Will (4-1-0, 2.21 GAA, 0.934 SAV%)
Regular Season Records: Toledo (50-15-7); Fort Wayne (48-18-6)
Overall Head-to-Head Records: Toledo (4-1-2); Fort Wayne (3-2-2)
Toledo Home/Away vs Fort Wayne: Home (2-0-1); Away (2-1-1)
Fort Wayne Home/Away vs Toledo: Home (2-0-2); Away (1-2-0)
Point Leaders: Toledo – Justin Mercier (7); Fort Wayne – Brett Perlini (5)
Goaltending: Toledo – Jeff Lerg (4-1-0, 2.53 GAA, 0.924 SAV%); Fort Wayne – Roman Will (2-0-0, 1.92 GAA, 0.947 SAV%)
Kelly Cup Playoff History:
Appearances: Toledo – 16; Fort Wane – 2
Kelly Cups: Toledo – 0 (Note: The Toledo Storm won 2 Jack Riley Cup Titles in 1993 & 1994); Fort Wayne – 0
Conference Titles: Toledo – 2 (1993 & 1994); Fort Wayne – 0
Division Titles: Toledo – 7 (1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, & 2015); Fort Wayne – 0
Regular Season Titles: Toledo – 3 (1992, 2003, & 2015); Fort Wayne – 0
Previous Playoff Run: Toledo – 2013 (Lost to Cincinnati 4-2 in Round 1); Fort Wayne – 2014 (Lost to Cincinnati 4-2 in Round 2)
Overall Playoff Record: Toledo (64-57); Fort Wayne (10-6)
Toledo and Fort Wayne’s historic rivalry goes back way further than the ECHL. For more: Click Here
This season was definitely a 360 from last season. In 2014, in the Eastern Conference, all four higher seeds were bounced in Round 1. In 2015, all four higher seeds in the Eastern Conference advanced to Round 2. The winner of this series will meet the winner of the East Division Finals between the Florida Everblades and South Carolina Stingrays in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was also the first time in the ECHL’s 27 year history that there were three Game 7’s on the same night.
North Division Finals schedule (*** = If Necessary):
Game 1 – Friday May 1st, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
Game 2 – Saturday May 2nd, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
Game 3 – Tuesday May 5th, 2015 @ Fort Wayne – 7:30pm EST
Game 4 – Thursday May 7th, 2015 @ Fort Wayne – 7:30pm EST
***Game 5 – Saturday May 9th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
***Game 6 – Sunday May 10th, 2015 @ Fort Wayne – 6:00pm EST
***Game 7 – Wednesday May 13th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
If you thought the 1st Round was bonkers, the 2nd Round is going to be even better. Especially this series between the Komets and Walleye. During the regular season series, four of the last five games between these two teams went to either overtime or those “oh-so-wonderful” shootouts. They met seven times during the season total, and five of them were decided by just one goal.