CINCINNATI, Ohio – After beating the Fort Wayne Komets on Tuesday to the end the Central Division Semifinal series, the Toledo Walleye got right back to work Thursday night, kicking off the Central Division Final against the Cincinnati Cyclones. Following a very odd 1-3-3 series schedule, Toledo had no trouble with the short layoff, taking a critical game one by a score of 3-2.
The Walleye were able to get on the board first as A.J. Jenks scored on a deflection out in front with only 49 seconds left in the first period. While Jenks set up a screen in front of Houser, he deflected Kevin Tansey’s wrist shot from the right point over the Cincinnati goaltender’s catching glove.
Toledo would open the second period on a full two-minute power play, with Alex Wideman sitting in the box for hooking. Dylan Sadowy continued his strong playoff scoring, putting Toledo up 2-0 in the second period on the power-play as the puck went behind Cincinnati goalie Michael Houser on the play. For Sadowy, it was his team-leading fifth goal of the 2019 playoffs.
Cincinnati would mount a charge, however, putting up 14 shots in the final frame. The Cyclones broke through when Ben Johnson tapped in a failed Justin Vaive wraparound attempt at 15:31 of the period. Shortly after that, the Cyclones were able tie it when Judd Peterson pounded a puck by Nagle during a scramble in front with two minutes left in regulation.
But, on this night, Toledo had the last laugh. With Cyclones unable to clear there own zone, David Pope pounced on a loose puck near the left goal line and backhanded a centering pass to Shane Berschbach at the left circle for a sharp wrister off the inside of the left post and past Michael Houser.
The biggest reason why Toledo was victorious was in large part because of the play from Walleye netminder Pat Nagle, who stopped 38 saves on the night. Nagle was solid all night stopping a variety of shots and faced pressure from the start. The Walleye special teams were also successful, holding Cincinnati to 0-4 on the power-play while scoring a power-play goal of their own.
The series will now shift to Toledo for the next three games, beginning Saturday night.