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Walleye open Central Division Finals with 5-1 victory over Wheeling

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye used a three-goal first period to cruise past the Wheeling Nailers, 5-1, on Friday night at the Huntington Center, taking a 1-0 series lead in the Central Division Finals.

Patrick Curry scored two goals and an assist, and Matt Berry added three helpers to power the Walleye offense as the Fish earned their third straight win. Billy Christopoulos only allowed one goal in the contest, making 23 saves to earn his fifth victory of the playoffs.

Brandon Hawkins put the Walleye on the board early in Game 1 with an equal strength goal just 1:09 after puck drop. TJ Hensick and Josh Dickinson assisted as Hawkins notched his seventh goal of the playoffs and first of the series.

At 3:51, Josh Maniscalco responded for the Nailers with a power play goal to tie the game. The goal came after a Brett McKenzie tripping minor at 3:18, the first penalty of the contest. Tim Doherty and Dylan MacPherson assisted.

With 6:18 gone, Patrick Curry went to the penalty box for high-sticking as the Nailers took the man advantage for the second time. This time, the Walleye killed off the penalty to return to full strength at the 8:18 mark.

In the second half of the frame, the Walleye scored two goals to take the lead into the first intermission. Patrick Curry found the back of the net at 12:49 off the rebound of Matt Berry’s shot. Mitchell Heard added a secondary assist.

At 15:26, Gordi Myer extended the lead, taking the puck coast to coast for a goal from the right circle. Ryan Lowney and Randy Gazzola recorded the helpers, giving the Fish the 3-1 lead. Wheeling outshot Toledo, 8-6, in the opening frame.

The Walleye built on their lead two minutes into the middle frame as Patrick Curry rebounded another Matt Berry shot, shooting past a diving Louis-Philip Guindon for his second goal of the game. Berry recorded the lone assist as the Walleye took a three-goal lead. Guindon was replaced by Mitchell Weeks following the goal.

The Walleye outshot the Nailers, 14-7, in the second period and took the power play three times to Wheeling’s one. Following Curry’s goal, Toledo and Wheeling skated for the next 18 minutes in a stalemate, allowing the Walleye to maintain their 4-1 lead as the second period game to a close.

5:22 into the third period, Chris Martenet extended the lead to four with a goal from behind the left circle, his first of the playoffs. Berry tallied his third assist with the primary helper while Curry added one of his own to increase his point total to three during the contest.

The period became increasingly chippy following the goal as Randy Gazzola was called for cross checking at 8:07. Then, at 13:53, Tyler Drevich was called for roughing, resulting in a two-minute penalty. He was also given a game misconduct for continuing the altercation while Sean Josling also exited the game for the same offense.

Cédric Desruisseaux collected the final Wheeling penalty of the game at the 16:15 mark for roughing, putting the Fish on the power play for the fifth time. The Nailers held off the Walleye to earn the penalty kill, and the Walleye held Wheeling scoreless for the remainder of the contest to earn the 5-1 win and take the 1-0 Central Division Finals lead.

The Walleye took 29 shots in the game to Wheeling’s 24 while edging the Nailers, 5-4, on power play opportunities. The Nailers scored the lone power play goal of the game at the 3:51 mark in the opening period.

Billy Christopoulos earned his fifth win of the playoffs and third straight victory in net for the Walleye, saving 23-of-24 shots. Louis-Philip Guindon recorded the loss for the Nailers, making five saves on nine shots in 21:41 of ice time. Mitchell Weeks relieved Guindon and make 19-of-20 saves in 38:00 of play across the second and third periods.

What’s Next:

The Walleye will look to take the 2-0 series lead against the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday night in Toledo. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is set for 7:35 p.m.

Three Stars:

  1. Toledo – Patrick Curry (two goals, assist)
  2. Toledo – Matt Berry (three assists)
  3. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 23 saves)