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The Sin Bin’s Kelly Cup Playoff coverage is brought to you by Kalwei Law Firm

Is it safe to say the “Brabham Cup Curse” is real yet? It became quite obvious Thursday afternoon. Want to know the immediate red flag I saw? Well, In case you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyways.  Before the game, Toledo Blade reporter, Mark Monroe sent the following tweet out:

That immediately says “We’ve got this in the bag, we can get away with looking ahead to Round 2.”

Boy, did Wheeling make them eat their words. It was physical bout from the beginning, and there was no love lost between these two clubs. As a matter of fact, I knew in the first ten minutes this was going to be an entertaining series to cover.

The 1st period, was a defensive battle. Jeff Lerg and Franky Palazzese were both just “on it” last night. It took 15 minutes to get us our first goal of the night. With Wheeling’s David Makowsi in the box for slashing, the Walleye made him pay. Shane Bershbach set Cody Lampl up for the howitzer, and Palazzese never saw it for the 1-0 Toledo lead. In fact, it was such a bomb, I never saw the puck until it came out of the net. But. it only took the Nailers 21 seconds to answer back. Kind of a busted play, Mike Slowikowski dumped it in, Sahir Gill retrieved it, centered it and it banked off a Walleye defenseman and through the legs of Lerg. David Gilbert was credited with the equalizer.

A bit of false hope for the Walleye at the beginning of the 2nd frame. Justin Mercier got behind the Wheeling defense at roofed one over the glove of Palazzese… BUT, it was ruled a no goal. A too many men penalty behind the play against Toledo negated the goal and a monumental break for the Wheeling Nailers. But, the Walleye would get it back The ECHL’s top Power Play would once again convert as Shane Bershbach buries a perfect centering feed from Troy Schwab to make it a 2-1 Walleye game. And as if on cue, the Nailers answered right back in the final seconds of the 2nd. Some horrific puck luck for Toledo saw a bounce go right to Sahir Gill who had a wide open net and didn’t miss an inch to tie the game at 2 heading into the 3rd.

Wheeling would put this one to bed late in regulation as David Makowski’s headman pass was on the money, David Gilbert got behind the Toledo defense and went five-hole on Lerg to make it a 3-2 Nailers game. They would hold on to the buzzer and come out of Game 1 with a huge victory on the road.

Toledo just seemed off last night. Usually their passes are tape-to-tape and near perfection. They didn’t have that last night. They were constantly turning the puck over and letting Wheeling really dictate the play. Overall, just some really sloppy play from the Walleye. If they want to avoid being upset early, they need to dump the mentality that “We have the trophy to prove we’re the best team in the league, this is easy” and get back to playing like they’re still fighting to even be in the postseason. Can’t imagine Head Coach, Derek Lalonde was too pleased with his team’s effort last night. In an interview after the game, Lalonde stated “We got exactly what we deserved. We didn’t do enough of the little things.”

And if you’re Wheeling, just keep doing what you’re doing. They did exactly what they needed to do last night. They kept the Walleye on their heels almost the entire game and really got into their heads with that physical style the Nailers bring. They forced the Walleye to make mistakes and made them pay for it. They did something not many have been able to do, and that’s beat the Walleye in Toledo. How monumental would it be for the Nailers to take both games in Toledo and head back to Wheeling with a 2-0 series lead?

Game 2 of this 7-game series is set for Saturday night from the Huntington Center in Downtown Toledo at 7:35pm EST.

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