TOLEDO, Ohio – After a quick first round for both teams, Toledo and Fort Wayne once again meet in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Central Division Finals will play host to the next installation of one of, if not the best, rivalries in the ECHL.
Fort Wayne had the advantage over Toledo in the regular season and looks to continue its strong postseason play.
Coming off its first sweep in franchise history, Toledo will attempt to make the Conference Final for the third time in four years.
With hot offenses and strong goaltenders, fans are in for one incredible series between two of the best teams in the league.
Final Regular Season Records:
Toledo Walleye: 50-17-3-2, 105 points (Central Division & Western Conference regular season champs).
Fort Wayne Komets: 46-20-5-1, 98 points (2nd in Central Division, 3rd in Western Conference).
Central Division Semifinals Results:
Toledo Walleye: Swept the Indy Fuel 4-0.
Fort Wayne Komets: Eliminated the Cincinnati Cyclones 4-1.
Game 1 – Saturday, April 28- Fort Wayne at TOLEDO 7:35 pm ET
Game 2 – Sunday, April 29 – Fort Wayne at TOLEDO 5:15 pm ET
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 2 – Toledo at FORT WAYNE 7:30 pm ET
Game 4 – Friday, May 4 – Toledo at FORT WAYNE 8:00 pm ET
*Game 5 – Saturday, May 5 – Fort Wayne at TOLEDO 7:35 pm ET
*Game 6 – Tuesday, May 8 -Toledo at FORT WAYNE 7:30 pm ET
*Game 7 – Wednesday, May 9 – Fort Wayne at TOLEDO 7:35 pm ET
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
Top-seeded Toledo was on the wrong side of the season series as it went 2-5-0-1 against Fort Wayne. Of those losses, four were by two or more goals. Fort Wayne was able to improve drastically after last season when it only won a single regular season game against Toledo.
How Toledo Wins:
Toledo cannot allow Fort Wayne’s offense to pressure Pat Nagle the way it did Cincinnati in the first round, as it scored 19 goals on 229 shots on goal throughout five games. Nagle’s importance in the series goes without saying by the way.
Defensemen Simon Denis and Ryan Obuchowski lead Toledo’s blueliners with a postseason plus/minus rating of plus-6 and plus-4 respectively and must continue this trend against Fort Wayne. Toledo’s best defense may be its offense, however, with the line of Barnes-Hilbrich-Bonis dominating the previous series. Together the three forwards have 23 points in four games with 38 shots on goal as well. If Toledo can keep Fort Wayne pinned back with an offensive barrage, then it stands a good chance to come out of a hard-fought series and return to the Western Conference Finals.
How Fort Wayne Wins:
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the mindset Fort Wayne needs to have in this series. Shawn Szydlowski led the ECHL in the regular season with 79 points and 31 goals, has one goal and five assists so far in the playoffs. Should he stay hot against Toledo, along with Gabriel Desjardins and Phelix Martineau, the top seed may be in trouble.
Perhaps the most important skater will be Fort Wayne’s starting netminder, Michael Houser. The netminder played in every regular season game against Toledo this season with a record of 6-2-0-0, a goals allowed average of 2.13, and a save percentage of .923. If Houser continues that level of success in this series against the Walleye, it may make the difference in what is sure to be a long series.
Michael Scott and Kristen Wooten will have it covered for you. Be sure to throw us a follow on Twitter! @SinBinWalleye will have the latest on the Walleye and @SinBinCyclones will cover the games in Fort Wayne.
This playoff preview is a collaboration between Michael Scott and Alex Wolff.