TOLEDO, OH – Coming off a rout from the previous night which saw Toledo clinch a Kelly Cup playoff berth, the Walleye and Mallards met once again for a rematch at the Huntington Center. In front of Toledo’s 23rd sellout crowd of the season, a new franchise single-season record, the Walleye partook in their yearly Zombie Night as they looked to stay atop the Central Division. Starting goaltenders were the same tonight as they were Friday, with Pat Nagle manning Toledo’s crease and Eric Hartzell looking to redeem himself after giving up eight goals on Friday.
Quad City began the game looking nothing like the team that showed up in Friday’s game with early and sustained pressure against Nagle and the Walleye defense. Their efforts were rewarded after 5:26 of play, when former Walleye Alex Globke stole the puck and then overpowered Parker Reno after he broke his stick to roof a close-range shot over Nagle’s left shoulder for a 1-0 Mallard lead. Toledo would respond with offensive pressure of their own but would not strike until five minutes after Quad City’s goal. Hartzell was handling himself well and withstanding the Walleye attack until Mike Borkowski connected with Kyle Bonis, who was able to squeak the puck past Hartzell to tie the game at 10:58. Deju Vu would occur in the worst way for Quad City, as it only took 36 seconds for Kevin Gibson to make it a 2-1 game after collecting his own rebound in the slot and catching Hartzell down and out. That makes two straight games the Walleye have scored two goals within 40 seconds of one another. Quad City would mount a counterattack on Nagle, who made some huge saves and got some lucky breaks from Mallards shots that would miss the net. As the period was winding down Ryan Obuchowski caught Quad City napping, as he entered the zone facing three Mallards who did not make an effort to contain him. With the given space, Obuchowski fired a shot that slipped past the outreaching blocker of Hartzell to make it 3-1 with 37 seconds left in the period.
Fresh from the locker rooms the teams took the ice for a second?period that ended up being the most evenly matched session of the two-game series. After just a 1:10 of play Quad City’s Gergo Nagy was guilty of a faceoff violation and went to the penalty box. Matt Pohlkamp nearly turned to tables on Toledo when he had a breakaway chance shorthanded but was unable to beat Nagle. Despite the poor start to the man advantage Toledo managed to get some pressure on Hartzell but could not cash in on the power play. After several minutes of back and forth hockey that saw chances for both teams, Toledo went on the power play when Alexander Kuqali was called for interference at 9:35. Unfortunately for Toledo Colin Jacobs would be caught holding with 59 seconds left on the man advantage, which lead to 4-on-4 hockey and a short power play for the Mallards. Toledo was able to kill off the penalty to keep it a 3-1 game. Once both penalties expired Quad City would press the attack. In the second half of the period, the Mallards would fire off nine of their twelve shots on goal as they peppered Nagle. Unfortunately for them, Nagle would prevent any puck from getting past. Toledo put up seven shots of their own during that same timespan but were also unable to find the back of the net. As a result, the period would conclude with a score of 3-1.
Toledo would have some early pressure to keep Quad City at bay, but the Mallards would eventually take control of the pace. During the first six minutes of the period, Toledo outshot their opponent four to one. Quad City would respond after the initial Toledo push by countering with nine shots over 11 minutes compared to Toledo’s three. This count could have easily been a larger gap were it not for the Mallards’ shots missing the net, a problem throughout the game for them. It would take 17:36 of hockey, but Quad City was rewarded for their efforts with an odd goal. Jamie Tardif drove the net and took a shot on Nagle which he was able to stop but not freeze, and as Connor Reilly went looking for the rebound Reno went to clear him out of Nagle’s way. Unfortunately for Reno, Nagle got caught up with Reilly and also got his stick caught in the outside of the net. All while this was happening the puck found it’s way to the blue line on Greg Amlong‘s stick. Unable to get back into position in time, Amlong was able to rip the puck past a sliding Nagle to make it 3-2. Quad City would try to get Hartzell off the ice a minute after Amlong’s goal but could not gain and keep Toledo’s zone and forced the netminder back to the crease multiple times. Finally, Hartzell was able to skate to the bench with a little over 30 seconds left, but Quad City was punished for the move as Tyler Barnes iced the game via an empty-net goal with 16 seconds left on the clock. Toledo would go on to win with a final score of 4-2.
Despite a somewhat sloppy game in their own end, Toledo was able to come away with another good win at home for their third straight victory. Nagle continues to show how valuable he is by stopping 32 of the 34 shots he faced, which gave the Michigan native his 30th win of the season. Hartzell comes away with two more losses (now 0-8-0) and 11 goals allowed after the two games in Toledo. All three starts of the game were from Toledo, and are as follows: Pat Nagle comes in as the Third Star, Mike Borkowski earned Second Star with two assists, and First Star honors go to Ryan Obuchowski with the game-winning goal at the end of the first. Toledo closes out the three in three at home Sunday afternoon against the Indy Fuel, puck drop is set for 5:15 EST time.