The 2019 ECHL Western Conference Final is set between the Toledo Walleye and Tulsa Oilers. The series opener will take place at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio on Friday, May 10. The Walleye owe a large amount of their success to veteran netminder Pat Nagle, who has shouldered the load for Toledo both doing the regular season and playoffs. The Sin Bin caught up with Nagle this past January during his series against the Idaho Steelheads.

Goalies tend to have specific pre-game routines and prep. Any certain things you do before a game?
To be honest, especially since I’ve gotten older, it’s been a lot less. You can’t really predict things necessarily on the road, like a certain meal or a certain type of dish you enjoy. But, I keep it pretty simple, just like anybody else — eat a nice pre-game meal, take a nap if you can, relax. You do what you can…get a skate in in the morning. Luckily, I’m not too superstitious. As you get older, you kind of try to veer away from those things as much as possible.

You’ve had a long career: eight years, four ECHL and four AHL teams played for. What are some of your favorite arenas to call home, and some of your favorite to play in?
It’s funny you say that…some of the toughest barns I’ve played in — here in Idaho, Fort Wayne, and Toledo — happen to be some of my favorite places to play, as well. As a player, you look forward to playing in buildings that are packed every night, have good fan bases, and obviously it’s great when you’re on the home team, as well. I’ve been pretty fortunate, from that aspect. Florida, as well, was always fun. There’s some tough ones we see often — Indy, Kalamazoo — some of those teams that lately I’ve seen a lot being in Fort Wayne and Toledo when it becomes your rivalries. Definitely, the teams I’ve played for have been a blast.

Nagle makes a pad save on Fort Wayne’s J.C. Campagna during the shootout round on January 20, 2019. Toledo emerged victorious in the Sunday matinee, 3-2. Photo Credit: Diane Woodring / The Sin Bin

What’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to in the All-Star Classic and weekend in general?
For us, it’s nice that we’re home…saves you a couple days of travel, etc. Last year I was fortunate enough to go to Indy, which wasn’t too far, so from that standpoint it’s nice. But, I think everyone will enjoy seeing the rink and the facility, and see how well you’re treated in Toledo. For guys that maybe haven’t been out there or played in that rink, it’s a fun rink to play in with great crowds — very supportive, very into hockey. Whether it’s around the town or in the facility, I think guys will really enjoy that. (Editor’s Note: Nagle started in goal for Toledo’s Team Fins in the All Star Classic, losing in the championship game to the Eastern Conference All-Stars).

During the All-Star Classic, normal teammates Nagle and defenseman Matt Register were pitted against each other on Team Fins and Team Hooks, respectively. Photo Credit: Sarah Hobday / The Sin Bin

You went from Fort Wayne to join Toledo after the 2016-17 season. Why jump to a Central Division foe like that?
I was fortunate enough to sign with (AHL) Grand Rapids. Just like I’d been on a contract here with (AHL) Texas and Idaho, it worked out great. I went to Fort Wayne, kind of bounced around a little bit, and was ready to be stable again. I signed with Grand Rapids, ended up with Toledo, and here we are today. It was a pretty interesting transition that first year — going back, seeing a lot of your buddies, and yet playing against them. They actually ended up knocking us out of the playoffs, which is unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes sometimes (Editor’s Note: Toledo exacted some revenge on Fort Wayne, defeating the Komets in round one of this year’s Kelly Cup Playoffs).

You played with the Steelheads in 2013-14. It took you five seasons to find yourself back here in Boise. How would you describe your time here in Idaho and the reception you’ve received?
I’ve gotten a lot of nice messages; it’s great seeing some people. It’s crazy how many people you still run into today in the game, which is awesome. The hockey world is pretty small at the end of the day…it’s a blast. You forget how pretty it is. It’s just fun to be back here, walking around — it’s sunny everyday, the mountains, downtown just continues to grow…which is pretty neat. It’s amazing what’s happened in five years. I was excited to come back, especially with us being here for almost a week, which was great. I definitely hope to get back out here.

In his first game back in Idaho since playing for the Steelheads in 2013-14, Pat Nagle faced a tough Steelheads offense that included rookie forward Robbie Payne (13). Photo Credit: Noah Saucerman Pitts / The Sin Bin

Nagle takes some league-leading postseason stats into the Western Conference Final: an 8-2-1 record, 1.68 GAA, and .941 save percentage with just 19 goals allowed in 11 games played. As previously mentioned, the Toledo Walleye will host the Tulsa Oilers for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Friday night. Puck drops at 7:35pm ET.

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