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Albert seals hat trick, Walleye beat Cyclones in overtime to open playoffs

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye opened their 2021-22 Kelly Cup Playoff campaign in dramatic fashion Friday night, earning a 3-2 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones thanks to John Albert’s game-winner 14:55 into overtime.

Albert took care of scoring matters for the Fish, scoring all three Walleye goals to secure his second hat trick of the season. Billy Christopoulos reeled in 34 saves on the defensive end, holding the Cyclones to just two goals. Toledo leads the Central Division Semifinals series, 1-0, with Game 2 set for Saturday night at the Huntington Center.

The Walleye skated out to an early lead on an equal strength goal 4:36 after puck drop. Conlan Keenan took the puck down the ice toward the side of the net, finding John Albert straight on for the first goal of the night for the Fish. 

Toledo held that lead for nearly ten minutes before Zack Andrusiak countered with an equal strength goal at 14:20. Louie Caporusso provided the lone assist to bring help the Cyclones tie the game at one.

35 seconds later, John Albert found the back of the net again, this time on the power play to put the Fish ahead for the second time. Dajon Mingo was called for slashing at the 14:30 mark, giving Toledo the man advantage, and Albert scored from the right side of the net at 14:55. Matt Berry and TJ Hensick assisted, putting the Walleye up, 2-1.

Toledo held its lead after going down two skaters late in the opening period. Ryan Lowney was called for slashing at 16:17, and Brett Boeing joined him in the penalty box with 17:26 gone for tripping. The Walleye returned to full strength with 34 seconds left in the frame to close out the period with a one-goal lead. Toledo outshot Cincinnati, 14-6, in the period.

The Walleye and Cyclones each picked up multiple roughing penalties in a chippy middle frame, starting just under six minutes into the period. Zack Andrusiak and Matt Berry headed to the penalty box at 5:58 after a scuffle near the Cincinnati net, and Dominic Franco and Cole Fraser were each penalized for roughing behind the Toledo net with 10:22 gone.

With 16:31 gone in the period, Lukas Craggs tied the game for the Cyclones with an equal strength goal. Sean Allen assisted as Cincinnati pulled even for the first time in the frame. The second period ended in a 2-2 tie, setting up a third period showdown to decide Game 1 of the series.

Each team had one opportunity with the man advantage midway through the third period as they looked to take the lead. Lukas Craggs was called for interference at 10:51, and Patrick Curry received a tripping minor at 12:32. Toledo went on the power play first, with the penalties overlapping by 19 seconds before Cincinnati took its turn with the man advantage. The Walleye earned the penalty kill to return to full strength with just over five minutes to play.

The Walleye and Cyclones each had their opportunities in the final minutes of the third period, but the two teams ended regulation tied at two, sending Game 1 of the Division Semifinals to a 5-on-5 sudden death overtime.

The 20-minute overtime period saw back-and-forth action as each team had big opportunities to score. The Cyclones outshot the Walleye, 10-7, across nearly 15 minutes of action, but John Albert played the hero for Toledo with the game-winning goal at the 14:55 mark. Albert shot from the left circle, and the puck bounced off the glass, hit goaltender Michael Houser in the back, and went into the net. The unassisted goal capped off a hat trick for Albert, his second of the season, as the Walleye earned the 3-2 win to take the 1-0 series lead.

The Cyclones outshot the Walleye, 36-35, and held the edge in power play opportunities, 5-3. The Walleye scored once while Cincinnati came up empty on the man advantage.

Billy Christopoulos earned the win in net for the Walleye, saving 34-of-36 shots in his second career playoff victory. Michael Houser recorded the loss for the Cyclones in a 32-save performance.

What’s Next:

The Walleye look to earn another home win on Saturday, April 23, when they host the Cyclones for the second time in as many nights. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is set for 7:35 p.m.

Three Stars:

  1. Toledo – John Albert (three goals, hat trick, game-winning goal)
  2. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 34 saves)
  3. Toledo – Conlan Keenan (assist)