TOLEDO, Ohio – Hockey returned to the Huntington Center Friday night as the Quad City Mallards flew into Toledo to take on the Walleye. The game was the beginning of a seven-game, in ten-day stretch for the Walleye, and Toledo looked to get off on the right foot. The Mallards were looking to end a three-game, skid as their latest loss came at the hands of Wichita on Wednesday night. Starting goaltenders for the contest were, Eric Hartzell for Quad City and Pat Nagle for the Walleye.
As the game got underway, both teams started off rather slowly. After seven minutes of play, there were only a total of five shots on goal, three for Quad City and two for Toledo. Almost two minutes later the game saw it’s first penalty call of the night when Gergo Nagy was sent to the box for a slashing call to put Toledo on the power play. Less than a minute into the penalty kill, Travis Armstrong made a critical mistake when he sailed the puck cleanly over the glass for a delay of game, giving Toledo 1:14 of 5-on-3 hockey. This mistake would pave the way for Toledo’s opening goal as?Mike Borkowski would roof it past Hartzell thanks to a Shane Berschbach pass across the slot.
Now down 1-0, Quad City attempted to respond with some pressure against Nagle, but fanned-on shots and solid saves would spoil their chances. The Walleye would strike again with 2:44 remaining in the period when fellow Detroit prospect, Zach Nastasiuk, received the pass through, the crease from a falling, Christian Hilbrich to once again beat Hartzell. The period would end shortly after with the same score of 2-0.
Unfortunately for the Mallards, the game did not get easier as time went on. The Walleye were on the attack early in the period as they blitzed Hartzell and the Mallards defense. After only 3:06 of play, Borkowski extended Toledo’s lead with his second goal of the game to make it 3-0.
Not wanting to be left out of the scoring, Austen Brassard made his presence known by picking up a terrible rebound from Hartzell and scoring 30 seconds after Borkowski for a 4-0 Walleye lead. A little over six minutes after his previous goal, Brassard would make Hartzell’s night a little worse as he would beat the Mallard netminder for his second of the night and Toledo’s fifth goal of the game at 9:51. The rest of the second period only saw four more shots on goal, as there were a few fanned Mallard shots and Walleye attempts that went wide of the crease. None of those four shots found the back of the net, so Toledo held a 5-0 lead after two periods of play.
Toledo would continue their dominance in the third period by once again putting on early offensive pressure. Hartzell was able to ward off the first two shots, but not the third from, Colin Jacobs at the 2:28 mark. The new Walleye forward was able to collect another bad Hartzell rebound out in front and slam it home before the netminder had a chance to react.
Now up 6-0, Toledo kept their foot on the gas with continued pressure. For their continued offensive zone presence the Walleye were rewarded with yet another goal at 4:21, this time compliments of Kyle Bonis. In the time it took Quad City to register their first shot on goal in the period (at 5:22,) Toledo had already put five on Hartzell. Quad City would get another power play opportunity when Beau Schmitz was called for tripping but failed to convert as they would finish the night 0-for-2 on the power play. In total, the Mallards would only challenge Nagle with four shots throughout the third period. Toledo, on the other hand, had 14 shots on goal in the third and managed to score their eighth and final goal on the twelfth shot from Shane Berschbach?with four minutes left in the game. Quad City was simply unable to respond in any way, resulting in an 8-0 route of the Mallards.
Once Toledo scored their first goal of the night they never looked back. After the first period, the shots on goal were relatively even at 11-9. The Mallards would only manage eight more shots throughout the next two periods (four in each period) while Toledo would add on 23 additional shots for a final tally of 34-17 shots on goal in favor of the Walleye. Pat Nagle made a few solid saves but overall was not challenged too greatly on route to his 29th win of the season for an overall record of 29-4-3-1 and his third shutout of the year. Eric Hartzell would like to forget this night, as he falls to 0-7-0 with Quad City.
For the Mallards, it was their worst loss since a 12-2 loss to Thunder Bay on Jan. 3, 1998, back in the United Hockey League.
With the win, the Walleye became the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff berth, joining Florida and South Carolina in the 16-team playoff field.
Toledo and Quad City will play again Saturday night at the Huntington Center to conclude their two-game series.