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Walleye complete series comeback with 4-2 Game 7 victory over Cyclones

TOLEDO, Ohio – Brandon Hawkins tallied a three-goal hat trick, Billy Christopoulos made 26 saves, and the Toledo Walleye cruised to a 4-2 Game 7 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to advance to the Central Division Finals.

Toledo scored 13:28 after puck drop and led for the remainder of the contest as Hawkins and John Albert combined for four goals. For the second night in a row, the Walleye played in front of a record-setting crowd as 8,600 fans watched the series-clinching game from the Huntington Center.

Brandon Hawkins helped the Walleye jumped out two a two-goal lead in the first period, scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs. After neither team took a shot for nearly six minutes, the Walleye and Cyclones played back and forth in a scoreless tie until Hawkins scored at 13:28. McKenzie assisted on the equal strength goal as the Walleye took the 1-0 lead.

With 13:43 gone, Sean Allen picked up a tripping minor to send the Walleye to the power play for the first time. Just over halfway through the man advantage, Hawkins scored again from the left circle as TJ Hensick assisted. 

The Walleye carried the 2-0 lead into the first intermission after outshooting Cincinnati, 12-8, in the opening 20 minutes.

Toledo and Cincinnati skated to an evenly matched second period, with the Cyclones taking 11 shots to Toledo’s ten. Each team netted a goal in the frame, starting with the Walleye at the 16:33 mark. Brett Boeing took a shot on net, and John Albert scored off the rebound to increase the Walleye lead to three.

The Cyclones got on the board at 19:09 on a Dajon Mingo goal that snuck past Billy Christopoulos at equal strength. Lukas Craggs and Dominic Franco assisted, cutting the Walleye lead back to two heading into the second intermission.

Cincinnati trimmed the Toledo lead to one just 1:25 into the third period on a Luc Brown equal strength goal. Nick Boka and Dominic Franco assisted on the Cyclones’ second goal of the game, putting Cincinnati within striking distance with 18:35 to play.

Brandon Hawkins extended the Toledo lead back to two less than two minutes later as TJ Hensick passed across to Hawkins, who scored from the right circle to complete his second hat trick of the season. Hawkins tallied six goals in the series while Hensick added eight assists.

With 16:11 gone, Matt Berry was called for holding, putting the Cyclones on the power play as they looked to tally a couple late goals. At 17:10, Sean Bonar skated to the bench and an extra Cincinnati skater replaced him, giving the Cyclones a 6-4 advantage for the remainder of the power play. 

The Walleye returned to full strength with just under two minutes to play and limited the Cyclones to just one more shot. The Fish captured the 4-2 victory to win the series, 4-3, and advance to the Central Division Finals.

The Walleye took 30 shots on goal to Cincinnati’s 28 while the Cyclones earned three power play opportunities to Toledo’s one. The Walleye converted on their lone power play while the Cyclones failed to score on the man advantage.

Billy Christopoulos earned the win in net for the Walleye saving 26-of-28 shots in a full 60:00 of ice time. Sean Bonar recorded the loss for the Cyclones, making 26 saves on 30 shots in 57:10 of play.

What’s Next:

The Walleye will open their Central Division Finals series at home against the Wheeling Nailers on Friday, May 6. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is set for 7:35 p.m.

Three Stars:

  1. Toledo – Brandon Hawkins (three goals, hat trick)
  2. Toledo – TJ Hensick (two assists)
  3. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 26 saves)