Sadowy's hat trick sends Walleye to Central Division Finals
Dylan Sadowy scored three third-period goals as the Walleye eliminated Fort Wayne with a 4-1 victory in Game 6 of the Central Division Semifinals. (Photo: Scott W. Grau)

FORT WAYNE, Ind.Dylan Sadowy’s third-period hat trick powered the Toledo Walleye to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in five years, as the visitors earned a 4-1 victory that completed a 4-2 series win over the Fort Wayne Komets on Tuesday at the Memorial Coliseum.

With the score knotted at 1-1 after 40 minutes, Sadowy exacted revenge on Fort Wayne with his second natural hat trick of the season, matching his three-goal opening period in a 5-3 win against Kalamazoo on Feb. 17. He also surpassed Zach Gallant for the team lead with eight points (4-4-8) during the six-game series. 

After exorcising the demons of last season’s Central Division Finals and claiming their third series triumph against the Komets in four tries, the Walleye will meet the Cincinnati Cyclones in the second round under a 1-3-3 format. Cincinnati will host Game 1 at U.S. Bank Arena on Thursday at 7:35 p.m, before the series shifts to the Huntington Center for Games 2, 3 and 4 on Saturday, April 27, Wednesday, May 1 and Friday, May 3, respectively. All three games in Toledo will start at 7:35 p.m.

Though the Walleye held a significant shot advantage to begin the contest, the Komets nearly broke through prior to the halfway mark. Anthony Nellis split the Toledo defense and appeared to have a clear-cut breakaway, only for Sadowy to go for broke and dive head first to swat the puck toward the right half-boards before Pat Nagle could be tested.

Shane Berschbach scored the opening goal with 1:19 remaining in the first frame. Chris Crane stole the puck from Chase Stewart near the right corner, circled behind the net and centered the puck to Berschbach in the slot for a one-timer past the left pad of Zachary Fucale for his second goal of the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club.

Twenty-two seconds into Fort Wayne’s first power play chance, Jamie Schaafsma boarded A.J. Jenks in the Toledo zone, but the hosts remained on the man advantage when Jenks was simultaneously handed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor 9:53 into the second period. As the power play continued, Nagle turned away J.C. Campagna’s shot from the top of the left circle, but Brady Shaw restored parity when he raced in to lift the rebound into an open cage at the 10:38 mark.

The Walleye smothered the Komets to start the third frame and re-established their one-goal lead at 3:57. After taking a backhanded pass from Crane at the left circle, Sadowy’s first attempt was juggled by Fucale, but he followed up by chipping his own rebound into the top right corner over a sprawled netminder. 

Fort Wayne failed to level the score on a mad scramble in front, but Toledo doubled its advantage with 7:16 to go in the third. Sadowy pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone before entering the offensive end on the left wing and wristing a shot from just above the left circle that ended up in the lower right corner.

As some of the 5,478 in attendance made an early exit, Tyler Spezia unselfishly set up Sadowy for an empty-netter that capped the natural hat trick with 1:22 left.

Fort Wayne finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while Toledo did not score on its only opportunity. Nagle turned aside 23-of-24 shots in a winning cause, while Fucale was saddled with the loss despite blocking 41-of-44.

Three Stars:
1. Toledo – Dylan Sadowy (hat trick)
2. Toledo – Shane Berschbach (goal)
3. Toledo – Tyler Spezia (assist)