TOLEDO, OH – After an up and down stretch of games last weekend from Toledo, the Walleye continued their home-stand this weekend with three critical games against division opponents. Toledo started it off Friday night with a game against the Fort Wayne Komets, a team that Toledo has struggled with all year and seems to have a lot of cornering games against them.
Toledo started the game well and had their best period of the year getting 21 shots off while Fort Wayne only had 7. Connor Crisp would get the scoring started early at 16:46 into the period as Komets netminder Michael Houser didn’t play it right. Still, give credit to Houser as he kept the Komets in the game with how many stops he had to make.
Much like Houser stopped everything in the first, Toledo’s Pat Nagle had to do a lot of work stopping 12 shots as Fort Wayne attacked all throughout the period. Toledo only had three shots in the second which was a season-low to date.
As the third period wore on, Komets forward Garrett Thompson would be called for an inference call, Toledo’ Shane Berschbach would score on a great pass on the power play from Mike Borkowski. In his first game since coming back from the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, Luke Esposito would score late on an empty net at 16:25 as Houser was pulled. Shawn Szydlowski would spoil Nagle’s fine performance though with an ugly goal at 18:46 for Fort Wayne, a shot Nagle should have had. Toledo would respond well on shots outshooting Fort Wayne 12-6 in the third and 36-25 for the game. Besides the second period, it was a very solid effort all around from the Walleye.
Following Friday’s win, Toledo played host to the Kansas City Mavericks at home, Kansas City’s first trip to Toledo since 2015. Much like how Friday’s game started, Crisp would score Toledo’s first goal of the night at 8:33 after centering the puck out in front that would bounce off Mavericks defenseman Patch Alber. After a bad tripping penalty from Toledo’s Austen Brassard, Greg Betzold would score on a tip from an Alber shot to get the Mavericks on the board. Only nine seconds after the Mavericks goal, Toledo’s Christian Hilbrich would find an open back of the net as Dylan Sadowy collided with Maverick’s netminder Mason McDonald on the play. Toledo’s offense wasn’t done for the period as Erik Bradford would score on a rebound off a Zach Nastasiuk shot at 15:22 in the period to make it 3-1 Walleye.
Toledo offense got right back to work in the third as Hilbrich would score again only 52 seconds in after chipping away at the puck on the Mavericks’ netminder, a period that saw the Walleye putting up the shots by outshooting the Mavericks 14-8 in the second.
Toledo’s offense got off to more hot starts as Crisp would score again for his second of the game only 1:04 in the third after more good passing, this time from Bradford. Toledo defenseman Kevin Gibson would score his first of the year at 10:19 just getting it over the goal-line to make it 6-1. The goal had to be talked about and was awarded very late and it lead to Kansas City coach John-Scott Dickson getting tossed after throwing water bottles.
Toledo would outshoot the Mavericks 35-22 for the game as the offense really clicked Saturday Night and was as good as it gets. For the first time in awhile, Toledo played the full 60 minutes and the Mavericks looked more and more lost as time went on.
Capping off the weekend of hockey, the Cyclones returned to the Huntington Center for a Sunday matinee after they shut out Toledo 3-0 last weekend. Starting goaltenders for the game were Nagle for the Walleye and Jonas Johansson for Cincinnati.
Toledo started the game strong, controlling the pace of play throughout the period with 13 shots to Cincinnati’s three. It didn’t take long for the Walleye to get on the board, as Sadowy ripped a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle which was tipped past Johansson by Kyle Bonis for his 11th goal of the year two minutes in. Cincinnati would respond five minutes later when Shawn O’Donnell tipped a shot from Arvin Atwal to beat Nagle and tie the game up at 1. Toledo had more great chances throughout the period, but Johansson made save after save to keep the Cyclones in the game.
Now for a second period that saw its fair share of chaos. The Walleye offense came out shooting once again, with five shots on goal in the first five minutes of play to Cincinnati’s one. Although the game had been physical, it exploded at 7:45 when Cyclones forward Brandon McNally gave a dangerous hit right into Esposito’s back as he played the puck in the corner. Borkowski took exception and immediately slashed McNally hard in the legs, who in turn retaliated against Borkowski and drew everyone on the ice together in the corner. Crisp jumped in to help Borkowski and get his own shots in on NcNally to add to the chaos. Once the dust settled, McNally was assessed a five-minute major penalty for boarding, but was not given a game misconduct. Crisp was given a double minor for roughing and a ten-minute misconduct penalty for continuation as he tried to go after McNally once the referees stepped in to stop the skirmish. Thankfully, Esposito was able to get up from the hit on his own and continue playing. Brassard served Crisp’s penalty. 4-on-4 hockey took over while the penalties were served until Justin Danforth was sent to the Cyclones box for slashing at 11:04. Once the double minor against Crisp wore off, Toledo had a 5-on-3 power play, but passed the puck too much and couldn’t get shots off on Johansson. All the penalties expired without any goals, but Davis Vandane was called for holding as he took down a Cyclone driving the net 20 seconds after Cincinnati returned to full strength. The Cyclones power play went to work and got some 5-on-3 time for themselves when Nastasiuk tripped a Cyclone while killing off the Vandane penalty. The results were the same as the Walleye man advantage though, as the Cyclones shots were all turned away by Nagle. By the time the period ended, each team had an additional penalty given, one to O’Donnell and one to Hilbrich, which the penalty kill units handled to keep it tied at 1. After the period ended, Kevin Tansey had a mix up with some of the Cyclones that produced some pushing and harsh words. As a result, Tansey was given a 10-minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Toledo started the third period killing off Hilbrich’s penalty, which they were able to do without incident. Offensively, the period started off much more even than the prior two, as both teams exchanged shots until Vandane stepped in. At the 4:56 mark, Vandane gained possession of the puck and skated into the zone to blast a shot from the left faceoff circle and finally beat Johansson to regain a 2-1 lead. The Cyclones were unable to answer, as Nagle held down the fort as his defense kept Johansson in his net until 36 seconds remained. With such little time left with an extra attacker, Toledo was able to withstand the pressure and come away with the 2-1 victory.
After the weekend, Toledo now has a four-game winning streak and a five-point lead in the Central Division over the Komets. The Walleye have also climbed up to third place in the league, trailing only Colorado and Florida who are first and second respectively. Toledo looks to carry the momentum into the coming weekend, as they travel to Kansas City for a three-game road series.