TOLEDO, Ohio – Heading into Thursday night’s contest, Toledo was looking for its first sweep of a playoff opponent in franchise history, while Indy tried once again for its first playoff win. Both coaches made no change when it came to goaltending, as Pat Nagle and Etienne Marcoux each made their fourth straight start. Garrett Clarke made his return to Indy’s lineup after serving his suspension in game two and not making the game three lineup.
Indy would get off to a similar start as it did in Wednesday’s game, with early offensive pressure. Toledo would respond with a counterattack, but Indy would weather the storm and strike soon after. Alex Wideman would get the feed from Garrett Clarke to beat Nagle after 4:32 of play for an early lead.
Less than a minute after assisting on the Wideman goal, Clarke would earn his first penalty of the game to put Toledo on the power play, which would be killed off. After leaving the box for his first penalty, Clarke would find himself back in the box soon after for a cross-checking call that put Toledo back on the man-advantage. On this power-play, it looked like Connor Crisp tied the game when the puck went off of his skate and past Marcoux. The referees conferred and determined there was kicking motion though, so the goal did not count and the Indy lead remained intact.
At least until Simon Denis came into the picture.
After a fantastic offensive series, Denis ripped a one-timer from the top of the faceoff circle to beat Marcoux and tie the game up at one after 12:50 of action.
Despite some 4-on-4 hockey later in the period, along with another Toledo power play due to a Michael Neal boarding call, no other goals were scored before both the first intermission arrived.
The second period was one that yielded 44 minutes of penalties including a game misconduct for Ryan Rupert when he threw a water bottle at the referee after becoming frustrated with the number of calls going against Indy. Within the first ten minutes of the period, three penalties had gone against the home team, but Toledo’s power play unit failed to score on any of them. Following the Rupert ejection, Brandon Anselmini was called for Indy’s sixth penalty of the period and would give Toledo a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Indy would successfully kill off the first leg of the 5-on-3 and went to work on the second. Toledo kept getting great looks, but Marcoux kept making phenomenal stops to keep the game tied up. It looked as though Indy would escape the power play unscathed, but Austen Brassard dashed the hopes of the home team late in the penalty kill. Brassard battled his way to the front of the net and redirected a Patrick McCarron shot to put Toledo ahead and finally grab a power-play goal with 4:24 left in the second.
Less than a minute after the goal Indy would go on its first power play of the game when Colin Jacobs was caught slashing, and shortly after that Christian Hilbrich and Darian Dziurzynski would drop the gloves as a physical game boiled over. Both players received offsetting minors and fighting majors, and the Jacobs penalty would expire with consequence for Toledo. The period would come to an end with a 2-1 Toledo lead.
Now fighting for its life, Indy brought the pressure as the third began. Around the five minute mark is when Nagle and the Walleye felt the height of the offensive push due to an A.J. Jenks penalty, and soon shot after shot put the visitors on their heels. Toledo killed off the infraction, but a few minutes later Indy made its move. Digging behind the net, Alex Wideman got the puck to Nathan Noel who tipped the shot past Nagle’s five-hole to tie the game up at 9:45.
Over the course of the next six minutes, both teams had another power play opportunity but were unable to capitalize on them despite both having chances. Pat Nagle and Etienne Marcoux made save after save to keep their respective teams in it. Neither team registered a shot on goal during the last four minutes of regulation and went into overtime tied up at 2.
For the second time in the series, overtime began and the first stanza was played evenly. Nagle and Marcoux remained sharp throughout, especially the Indy netminder.
Early in overtime, Anselmini and Jenks had penalties within 40 seconds of one another, but no other calls were made. As the period went on one team would have a good offensive series, to which the opposing team would respond afterward, but it was essentially a stalemate at this point. Both goaltenders were just too sharp to be beaten. The first overtime would end with 14 shots on goal for Indy and 13 for Toledo.
As double overtime began, it was obvious that Toledo came out with a second wind as it gained control early of the pace of play. Within the first five minutes of the fifth period, Toledo had put six shots into Marcoux, while only allowing one to find its way to Nagle. Keeping the pressure up, the lethal line of Bonis-Hilbrich-Barnes found their way into the Indy zone and went to work. Ryan Obuchowski jumped in on the play and got the puck to Kyle Bonis, who up until this point had rung it off the pipes but failed to score in this game. Instead of taking the shot, he passed it over to Hilbrich, who ripped it past Marcoux to end the game and Indy’s season with a 3-2 Toledo victory at 7:45 of the second overtime.
Despite the series being a sweep, both teams played fantastic hockey. Marcoux was without a doubt Indy’s MVP of the series even though he went 0-2-2. Without his excellent performances in each game, the scores could have been much uglier. Hilbrich and Bonis overshadowed Nagle’s performance in net, as the forwards combined for eight goals and five assists during the first round.
Toledo will face either Fort Wayne or Cincinnati in the Central Division Finals starting at home on April 28th. Until then, Toledo will rest up and prepare for the next step in its quest for the Kelly Cup.