TOLEDO, OH – Toledo played the first part of their first home-and-home series tonight as they took on formal division rival Wheeling in a battle of top ECHL teams. In what proved to be an action-packed third period, it would take overtime hockey to decide a winner between these two powerhouse franchises. Your starting goaltenders for tonight’s game were Pat Nagle and Sean Maguire.
Toledo recorded the first shot of the game, but had trouble registering shots consistently throughout the first. After some back and forth hockey, Wheeling was sent to the box when Nick Sorkin was called for holding 3:44 into the period. Kyle Bonis had a chance during the man advantage, but Maguire and the Nailer’s penalty kill unit kept Toledo off the board. A couple minutes later Wheeling got their first power play after Kevin Gibson got caught hooking at 6:20, but Toledo’s penalty kill took care of business after Nagle turned away all challengers. In an odd turn of events, a dump-in caused Nagle to go behind the net to play the puck, but the puck bounced off the boards straight into the slot. A Nailer got to the puck first, but missed the empty net and sent it to the corner, much to Nagle’s relief. Wheeling controlled the pace for the majority of the period, but the netminders both kept it a scoreless game. Mike Borkowski was called for tripping with 3:23 left in the period, but the Walleye killed off the penalty and the period expired with no goals and an 8-4 shot count in favor of Wheeling.
The second period was a tale of two halves, as Wheeling controlled the first ten minutes with Toledo taking over on the back half. Early in the period, there was some back and forth hockey as Toledo and Wheeling both had three shots on goal within the first four minutes of play. After that sequence, Wheeling finally broke through, when Hunter Fejes took it from his own blue line down the ice and put it past Nagle to put the Nailers up 1-0 at 5:54. Less than two minutes later, Wheeling was once again pressuring Toledo, when Cody Wydo had a shot stopped by Nagle but the rebound found its way to the slot where Reid Gardiner blasted it past the Walleye netminder for the second goal of the game at 7:39. From the 10-minute mark forward, Toledo controlled the shots, with 10 shots in the second half of the period compared to Wheeling’s three. None of those found their way past Maguire though, as he continued to stonewall the Walleye. Upon conclusion of the second, Wheeling led the Walleye 2-0 but trailed in shots 19-16.
Now here is where fans got to see some exciting hockey! Once again both clubs came out firing to begin the third as the teams alternated shots on goal during the first three minutes of play. A Kevin Schulze high sticking call at 3:35 put Toledo back on their fourth power play, but once again the Wheeling penalty kill prevented a goal. The Walleye would end up finishing scoreless on for attempts with the man advantage. A lack of success on the power play didn’t discourage Toledo, as they kept attacking and were finally rewarded when rookie defenseman Patrick McCarron ripped a shot that was deflected by Maguire to make it a 2-1 game at 6:43. Less than a minute late though Austen Brassard earned a roughing call after the whistle, which dampened the momentum shift gained from the goal. Although Toledo killed off the penalty, they gave up a goal at 10:33 when Cody Wydo got free on the far side of Nagle and buried the pass from Riley Bourbonnais. Now up 3-1, Wheeling had a chance to seal it with their fourth power play chance when Shane Berschbach was caught tripping at 13:38. Toledo didn’t roll over and die though, as they killed off the power play and managed to create offensive zone pressure while a man down, as Christian Hilbrich and Alden Hirschfeld almost managed to get one past Maguire. After the power play, Toledo came screaming back into the Wheeling zone, trying everything to get another past the Wheeling netminder. At 17:29 the Walleye struck again, this time thanks to Connor Crisp’s third goal of the year to pull Toledo within one. Just over a minute later Kevin Tansey blew a shot past Maguire to tie the game at three with his third goal of the year, and the final 1:25 of the third ran off without another shot.
At the start of overtime Walleye coach Dan Watson put out the line of Berschbach, Borkowski, and Tansey to get things going. The first two minutes of OT were spent largely with the puck on the blades of the Nailers, as they had three shots on goal during that time. A.J. Jenks tried to place a shot top shelf but was denied by Maguire at 2:16, and afterwards is when we had some controversy. Around 2:50 or so into overtime the Walleye entered the zone lead by Berschbach who cut to the net, was hooked and taken down, but no penalty was called by the officials. Wheeling had a 3 on 2 the other way, which resulted in Gardiner’s game-winning goal to end Toledo’s four-game winning streak with a final score of 4-3 after 3:12 of overtime hockey.
The three stars from the game ranking from third to first are as follows: Patrick McCarron from Toledo with a goal and an assist, Cody Wydo of Wheeling who also had a goal and an assist, and first star goes to Reid Gardiner who had two goals including the game-winner in overtime. Pat Nagle gets the overtime loss to put his record at 6-0-2-0, while Sean Maguire earned the win to improve to 4-1-0-0. Both teams play again Saturday at the Huntington Center, as Toledo will look to rebound at home.
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