The North Division Semi-Finals is now a Best-of-Three. On Friday night in Game 4, in a must-win situation, the Toledo Walleye got the job done with a 4-1 victory over the Wheeling Nailers to even the series at 2 wins apiece. As I’ve said in the past, and I was right… most of the time, whoever wins Game 5 with the series tied at 2 will go on to win the series. Saturday night’s Game 5 is without a doubt the biggest game of the series, especially if you’re Wheeling. Nobody wants to go to Toledo needing back-to-back wins. You’d much rather win tonight and only need to take 1 in Toledo next week.
The Walleye, needing a huge bounce back after their not-so-great performance in Game 3, did exactly what they needed to do. Given an early power play just 2 minutes into the game, all it took was 6 seconds of that power play for Toledo to strike. Right off the draw, Shane Bershbach found Troy Schwab in the slot who cashed in to make it 1-0 in favor of the visitors.
Schwab’s tally would hold us off until the 2nd period, where for the 2nd straight game, Toledo tore up the middle frame. 4 minutes into the 2nd, the ECHL’s Rookie of the Year, Tyler Barnes centered a pass perfectly to Shane Bershbach, Eric Hartzell couldn’t get from post-to-post fast enough, and it’s 2-0 Walleye. Not even a minute later, Toledo would increase their lead. Joel Chouinard’s shot was stopped by Hartzell, but the rebound popped to Justin Mercier who buries to make it 3-0 Walleye. Wheeling didn’t make life any easier for themselves as a terrible turnover late in the frame gave it right to Kyle Bonis whose sharp angle offering found its way through to make it 4-0 Walleye. 2nd periods have been Toledo’s periods in this series. In the 4 games played so far, Toledo has outscored Wheeling 8-3 in 2nd periods.
Wheeling would get some life midway through the 3rd as Sahir Gill’s point shot slipped through Lerg to break the shutout bid and get Wheeling on the board. But, it would be all for not as Toledo would walk out of this one with a convincing 4-1 Win.
I’ve been a heavy critic of the way Toledo has played in this series, but, their play in Game 4 completely shut me up. It was the type of play I’ve been expecting to see from them since Game 1. And if you’re the Nailers, that is not something to be typically happy about. If Toledo has indeed found their groove again, Wheeling is in trouble.
The Nailers on the other hand, seemed like the off team in Game 4. After they really dictated the play in the first three games, I think they got a little ahead of themselves and let Toledo take over last night. Their physical presence that has made them infamous wasn’t really present last night and that spark they usually have, wasn’t there, and I think that killed them in Game 4.
A lot on the line Saturday night. It’s anybody’s series. Come Tuesday night, one team will be facing elimination, the other will have a chance to close things out. Game 5 gets underway from Wheeling’s WesBanco Arena at 7:35pm EST.