TOLEDO, OH – Have you ever heard of the Toledo Goaldiggers? They were a minor league hockey team that played from 1974-1986 in the International Hockey League and won four Turner Cup Championships during their existence.This weekend is Toledo’s Hockey Heritage Weekend, the Walleye paid tribute to the old time hockey club by donning their jerseys for Friday and Saturday’s games. Friday’s contest had the Walleye turned Goaldiggers square off against the Atlanta Gladiators. Pat Nagle took the crease for Toledo, while his counterpart for the night was Dan Vladar.
Tyler Barnes opened the scoring 7:22 into the contest by following up on a Shane Berschbach shot that came out in front of the crease, which Barnes was able to tip past Vladar to put Toledo up 1-0. Atlanta responded well to the goal, as they took control of the shot counter and shelled Nagle. Over the course of nine minutes, the Gladiators outshot Toledo eight to one, but could not get one past the Michigan native. Toledo brought some pressure near the end of the period but had it stamped out once Mike Embach was caught hooking with thirteen seconds remaining. Toledo took a 1-0 lead into the first break of the night.
Toledo flexed their muscle early and often, in what proved to be a dominant second period of hockey. After killing off the Embach penalty Toledo had their second chance on the power play when Alexandre Carrier earned a two-minute break due to a slash. It would prove to be a costly penalty, as Dylan Sadowy would make Atlanta pay with a power play goal at the 3:41 mark. Following the goal, Toledo would control the pace for most of the period. Two more power play opportunities would present themselves for the home team, but Atlanta’s penalty kill unit would prevent additional goals. After the starting faceoff for the fourth Toledo power play, Austen Brassard and Rick Pinkston decided they had to resolve some issues with each other by dropping the gloves. After all, what’s a Goaldigger game without a good fight? Both forwards would land some solid punches before skating over for a five-minute rest in the sin bin. By the time the teams went to their locker rooms for intermission, Toledo had outshot Atlanta 21-7 in the second period and held a 2-0 lead.
Once again, Toledo put Vladar to the test to start the period, but the Gladiators weathered the storm and brought pressure of their own. Atlanta played a solid first period and a shaky second but finally found pay dirt at the 3:45 mark. Taylor Doherty got the Gladiators on the board when he scored from the slot to end Nagle’s shutout hopes. Now 2-1, the intensity increased as both teams battled to limit shots on their netminders. Only six shots would take place in the twelve minutes following the Gladiator goal, that is until Patrick McCarron iced the game. Kyle Bonis came into the Gladiator zone with a two on one, but couldn’t get a shot away before going past the net. Instead, he threw the puck to a waiting McCarron who ripped it past Vladar with a nasty shot from the slot. The Gladiators pulled Vladar with 2:50 remaining, but Toledo’s defense would only allow one shot on goal during that final segment of time to secure a 3-1 victory.
Shots on goal ended up in favor of Toledo 36-24. With the win, Nagle improves to 24-4-2-1 while Vladar drops to 14-15-1-0.
With the win, the Walleye kept pace with the Fort Wayne Komets in the race for the ECHL’s Central Division. Toledo has 74 points, one back of the Komets, who have 75.
Toledo continues their Hockey Heritage Weekend tomorrow night with a rematch against the Gladiators before closing out the three in three on Sunday against the Swamp Rabbits.