The Kelly Cup Playoffs are here. 16 teams will compete for the ECHL’s holy grail, the Kelly Cup. Beginning Thursday night, history will be made. I will be covering games that do not involve the Cincinnati Cyclones. I will be tackling the series that pits the Brabham Cup Champion, Toledo Walleye against the underdog, Wheeling Nailers. I will do my best to remain as neutral as possible. That being said, let’s not waste any more time and get right into it…
Toledo is a team coming into this series with a ton of expectations. Head Coach, Derek Lalonde was just named Coach of the Year. Tyler Barnes was named Rookie of the Year. And on top of that, they’ve got a North Division Title and Brabham Cup Title (League’s best team) under their belt. As stated earlier, Wheeling is a full blown underdog, but don’t count the Nailers out. As they’ve proven, they’re a very physical team and will make you pay if you take them lightly. Also, if you remember all the way back to the 2013-2014 season: South Carolina’s Spencer Carbery won Coach of the Year. Yeah… Wheeling swept them out of the playoffs in Round 1. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to make Toledo fall to the same fate.
Some pre-series numbers to look at…
2014-2015 Regular Season Head-To-Head:
Toledo’s Overall Record: 50-15-7 for 107 points
Wheeling’s Overall Record: 37-33-2 for 76 points
Head-To-Head Records: Toledo (6-1-0); Wheeling (1-5-1)
Head-To-Head Home Records: Toledo (3-0-0); Wheeling (1-2-1)
Head-To-Head Away Records: Toledo (3-1-0); Wheeling (0-3-0)
Top Scorers: Toledo – Kyle Bonis (7 points vs WHG); Wheeling – Derek Army/Riley Brace (Tied with 7 points each vs TOL)
Top Goaltenders: Toledo – Jeff Lerg (3-0-0, 2.00 GAA vs WHG); Wheeling – Franky Palazzese (1-2-1, 3.45 GAA vs TOL)
All-Time Playoff Head-To-Head:
Meetings: 5 (1993, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2015)
Toledo Playoff Record vs WHG: 11-7
Wheeling Playoff Record vs TOL: 7-11
Series’ Won: Toledo – 3 (1993, 1994, 2006); Wheeling – 1 (1998)
Game 1 – Thursday April 16th, 2015 @ Toledo – 8:15pm EST
Game 2 – Saturday April 18th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
Game 3 – Wednesday April 22nd, 2015 @ Wheeling – 7:05pm EST
Game 4 – Friday April 24th, 2015 @ Wheeling – 7:35pm EST
*Game 5 – Saturday April 25th, 2015 @ Wheeling – 7:35pm EST
*Game 6 – Tuesday April 28th, 2015 @ Toledo -7:35pm EST
*Game 7 – Wednesday April 29th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
Home ice is definitely going to be a strength point for the Walleye in this series and throughout the entire Kelly Cup Playoffs. During the regular season, they were tied with Fort Wayne for the most wins on home ice. Both clubs won 26 of 36 games played in their respective barns. Wheeling on the other hand, by numbers, is not the greatest road team. Wheeling has a combined record of 15-21-0 when away from WesBanco Arena.
But, if you flip flop, Wheeling is a much better team on home ice at 22-12-2 at WesBanco Arena. Toledo however, is still a dominant force on the road at 24-9-3 away from the Huntington Center. But, if you’re going to expose the Walleye’s flaws, it’s going to be when they’re in your barn. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, the numbers don’t lie, it is almost near impossible to beat the Walleye on their home ice. My Cyclones are a terrific example of this, having played five games of the seven-game season series against the Walleye in Toledo. Of those five, Cinci only won once, wayyy back on Opening night in October. But, they were a perfect 2-0-0 against them on U.S. Bank Arena ice in Cincinnati.
Toledo has run into a bit of affiliate trouble heading into this 1st round clash. Scott Czarnowczan, Jake Paterson, and Alden Hirshfeld were all called up by Grands Rapids just after the season ended. This is where Toledo’s depth comes into play. Even without those key weapons such as Czarnowczan and Hirshfeld, the Walleye are still an incredibly dangerous team. And if the Walleye get the likes of Jared Nightingale, Martin Frk, etc back, that just makes them even more dangerous.
If you’re the betting type, I’d go all in on Toledo. Dakota’s Prediction: Toledo in 5.
Coverage for Game 1 begins Thursday night at 8:15pm EST on Twitter @SinBinCyclones. Hope you’ll join us.
Who wins this series? Let your voice be heard!