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Walleye finish 2021 with first Winterfest victory

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye capped off 2021 with a victory Friday night, defeating the Indy Fuel, 7-2, for their first ever Winterfest victory at Fifth Third Field.

The Walleye’s first New Year’s Eve home game featured seven different Walleye scorers and six players tallying multiple points. The Fish finish 2021 with a 17-6-2 record and are unbeaten in regulation during their last eight home contests.

It took just over 16 minutes of action before the first goal was scored, courtesy of Indy’s Karl El-Mir. His equal strength goal, assisted by Keegan Iverson and C.J. Eick, gave the Fuel a brief 1-0 lead before TJ Hensick responded with 17:00 gone to tie the contest at one goal each. Hensick’s 16 goals this season are tied for best in the ECHL. Chris Martenet and Cole Fraser assisted Hensick on the score, which became the first of six unanswered Toledo goals over the first and second periods. 

Just 34 seconds later, Randy Gazzola gave the Walleye the 2-1 lead on his third goal of the season. Gazzola’s goal was his first in regulation after hitting two overtime game-winners earlier this season. Brady Tomlak and Keeghan Howdeshell were credited with the assists, their sixth and 12th of the season, respectively. Neither team collected a penalty in the first 20 minutes, and the Fuel held the shot advantage with 16 to Toledo’s ten.

The Fish found the back of the net frequently in the second period, netting four straight goals during the frame. Keeghan Howdeshell netted his fourth goal of the season with 2:20 gone on assists from Brady Tomlak and Adam Parsells, extending the Walleye lead to 3-1. John Albert quickly followed with a short handed goal 1:26 into Brett Boeing’s elbowing penalty to bring the score to 4-1. Mitchell Heard provided his first assist of the period on the goal, and Albert’s season goal tally increased to 13.

Tensions boiled over in the middle of the period as Cole Fraser and Riley McKay fought in front of the Walleye bench with 11:34 gone. Both players received matching fighting penalties while Fraser was handed an instigating minor, which was served by Brandon Hawkins. Indy’s Keegan Iverson was called for holding Brett Boeing with 13:13 gone, ushering in 21 seconds of four-on-four hockey before Hawkins returned to the ice. The Walleye could not score on the power play, and the Fuel returned to full strength.

With three minutes left in the second period, Randy Gazzola and John Albert assisted Brandon Hawkins on his second goal of the season to extend the lead to four. Gazzola and Albert were two of six Walleye players to record multiple points during the contest.

The Walleye and Fuel continued to play a chippy contest as Chris Martenet and Riley McKay got in an altercation near Billy Christopoulos at 17:55, resulting in two-minute roughing penalties for each player. Just under a minute into the four-on-four penalty time, Adam Parsells scored his first goal in a Walleye uniform to give Toledo the 6-1 lead. Mitchell Heard and Brett Boeing were credited with the assists.

Indy looked to undo some of the damage, scoring once late in the second frame on an unassisted goal from Spencer Watson. The second period ended with the Walleye leading, 6-2, after the Fish outshot the Fuel, 16-12, in the frame. 

Steve Oleksy capped off the Walleye’s 7-2 victory with an equal strength goal with help from Randy Gazzola at the 16:26 mark. The goal was Oleksy’s second of the season, while Gazzola picked up his third point of the night on the assist. The win marks the first ever Walleye victory at Fifth Third Field.

The Fuel held the 36-33 shot advantage during the contest while the Fish had three power play opportunities to Indy’s two. Neither team netted a power play goal in the contest. John Albert scored a short handed goal for the Walleye in the second frame.

Billy Christopoulos earned the victory in net for the Walleye, saving 34-of-36 shots in his 11th victory of the season. His record moves to 11-2-2 this season. Michael Lackey was credited with the loss for the Fuel. He saved 26 shots during a full 60 minutes on the ice.

What’s Next:

The Fish will return to the ice on Wednesday, Jan. 5, for their first road contest of 2022 against the Fort Wayne Komets. Puck drop from Memorial Coliseum is set for 7:30 p.m.

Three Stars:

  1. Toledo – Keeghan Howdeshell (game-winning goal, assist)
  2. Toledo – Randy Gazzola (goal, two assists)
  3. Toledo – Adam Parsells (goal, assist)