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After falling short in Game 5 on home ice to the Toledo Walleye by a final of 2-1, facing elimination, the Nailers battled back in Game 6 to force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night. The winner will advance to the North Division Finals to face a Fort Wayne Komets team that knocked off the Kalamazoo Wings in five games.
Wheeling dictated the play from the moment the puck dropped. They got some puck luck just four minutes in as Jeff Lerg misplayed the puck behind the net and gave it right to Zack Torquato who cashed in on the empty net to put the visiting Nailers up by one early.
We didn’t see much action after that until the 2nd period. Toledo was given a powerplay chance midway through the middle frame with a chance to tie the game. Instead, they gave it away to Jarret Burton who went in shorthanded, dropped it for Morgan Ellis who fed Riley Brace in the slot who put one through the legs of Lerg to make it a 2-0 game on the shorthanded tally. Something to take note of: Toledo only allowed ONE shorthanded goal during the entire 72 game regular season. They’ve allowed two already in this series. Another terrible bounce for Toledo would put them down by three late in the 2nd. On the previous play, Lerg lost his stick. He went to retrieve it but a heads-up play from the Wheeling netminder, Eric Hartzell with the long stretch pass on the money for Sahir Gill who put one in the empty net before Lerg got back to make it 3-0 Nailers.
Toledo would get some life in the 3rd period courtesy of Joe Stejskal. Just after their power play expired, Stejskal fired a rocket from the top of the right circle to pull the Walleye within 2 at 3-1 seven minutes into the frame. At the 15 minute mark, the Nailers would make Toledo’s life a lot harder as a scramble effort in front of the Toledo net led to Zack Torquato poking home his second of the night to make it 4-1 Wheeling. The Walleye wouldn’t go away though as not even a minute later, another scramble effort, this time in front of Eric Hartzell, saw the ECHL’s rookie of the year, Tyler Barnes, poke home his 1st goal of the postseason to make it 4-2 Wheeling. But, in the final minute, the Nailers would put the final “nail in the coffin” (GET IT?!?!) as Zack Torquato would complete the hat trick with an empty net goal to seal a 5-2 victory for the Nailers.
Video Highlights of Game 6:
If you’re a Walleye fan, you can’t help but be disappointed at the effort from their guys. They were just flat from the get go and I think they expected Wheeling to just tap out and give in. As I stated earlier in the series, that is the last thing you want to do against this Nailers team. And because of this, the Brabham Cup Champs are on the verge of being bounced in Round 1 and heading to an early tee time. If Toledo wants to advance, they’ve got to go back to playing like they did in Games 4 and 5 in Wheeling. That Walleye team dominated and if they can get that mojo back, Wheeling would really be in trouble.
Wheeling on the other hand, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, they’re doing exactly what they need to. They’re physical, they’re fast, and when they’ve got that spark, they’re a very dangerous team as we’ve seen in this series.
Of of these teams is going home tonight. One thing’s for sure, whoever wins tonight is who gets to adopt me in Round 2. My name will unofficially change to either Sin Bin Walleye or Sin Bin Nailers because… well, you know my feelings towards Fort Wayne.
Game 7 gets underway from the Huntington Center in Downtown Toledo on Wednesday night at 7:35pm EST.