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If Game 1 was any indication on what this series was going to bring, boy, is this going to be a tight one. The Toledo Walleye were able to even this series up at 1-1 in Game 2 on Saturday night after falling to the Wheeling Nailers in Game 1, 3-2 last Thursday. As a result, the Walleye have forced at least Game 5 this upcoming Saturday in Wheeling at WesBanco Arena.
It was another physical battle on Saturday. All it took was 25 seconds of the 1st period to get things going with the rough stuff. An absolute melee broke out and Josh Holmstrom dropped the gloves with Wheeling’s Shane Bakker. We didn’t get our first goal until six minutes later when Toledo’s defense kind of went bye-bye. David Gilbert found a loose puck behind Walleye netminder, Jeff Lerg, and centered for Adam Krause who was there for the tap-in. There was nothing Lerg could do about it and the powerplay goal put Wheeling up 1-0 early.
After Krause’s tally, it became a battle of the goaltenders. Jeff Lerg and Franky Palazzese exchanged mind-blowing saves on both ends of the ice. Some of these saves were even SportsCenter worthy, but we know since LeBron James isn’t a hockey player, that’s nothing but a pipe dream.
As a matter of fact, we didn’t see any scoring again until the 3rd period. About halfway through the final stanza, Toledo was finally able to break the levee and put one past Palazzese. Cody Lampl fired a shot from the blue line that was redirected (apparently unintentionally) by the arm of Troy Schwab and past the Wheeling goaltender to even this game up at one. Oddly, I thought for sure that would be Schwab’s goal but they gave it to Lampl instead.
You all know my feelings towards shootouts. Playoff Overtime is on pretty much the same boat. Beneficially, my Cyclones weren’t a dog in the fight so it was just a tad less painful… just a tad. I’m still amazed I survived their Kelly Cup Final run in 2014 without going through a heart attack. But, back to the subject, Game 2 needed the extra session to decide a winner. I originally though “Oh crap, I’m going to be here until 2 in the morning”. Troy Schwab ended it 1:35 into OT. Wheeling’s defense was nowhere to be seen, Shane Bershbach wrapped it all the way around the cage, Schwab was all alone in front, and presto, easy tap in, and Toledo takes the 2-1 OT Win to tie this series at one game a piece.
In case my descriptions of what went down don’t do it for you. Here’s some video highlights of Saturday night’s Game 2:
I must say, they got the win, but I’m just a little disappointed in the way the Walleye have played to begin this North Division Semi-Final series. They really just do not look like the same dynamic team we saw during the regular season. And I’m telling you, it all goes back to winning that Brabham Cup. That trophy carries a curse. Some are immune to the curse, but in most cases, it curses the team that has been able to win it. I’ve been preaching it for the past week, they need to forget they even won it if they want to win this series and any future series for that matter. Overlooking the Wheeling Nailers is a very dangerous thing to do, as proved in Game 1. I’ll give them credit, as soon as they were able to get on the board, they got some of their mojo back, but last minute heroics like that aren’t always going to happen. They’ve got to be ready from the puck drop and take it to Wheeling from the first second on. They did it so well during the regular season, and could really be a Kelly Cup Contender if they’re able to carry that into the playoffs.
Wheeling on the other hand, has done exactly what I expected them to. They know Toledo’s weaknesses and have exploited them in the first two games. The Walleye do not like the physical stuff. The Nailers love to play the body and that’s how they’ve gotten into Toledo’s heads. My only thing is, I think they’re too concerned with the rough stuff. I think that’s why they lost on Saturday. Too caught up in trying to set the tone physically and not getting some offense going. I get that’s “their thing,” but they need to be smarter with it. They do that, and they have a pretty damn good chance of sending another Coach of the Year home early. As stated before, the Nailers play their best hockey at home. With all 3 games this week being played in Wheeling, the Nailers have an excellent chance to really grab a hold of this series and run with it.
After a few days off, Game 3 gets underway from Wheeling, West Virginia inside WesBanco Arena on Wednesday night at 7:05pm EST.